With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We stay in the Southeast Division today for a look at the Florida Panthers.
You could the Florida Panthers’ 2011-12 season The Surprise of Sunrise.
No one figured the Panthers would contend for a playoff spot, nevertheless a division title. With rookie coach Kevin Dineen behind the bench, and a lineup featuring a collection of interesting pieces to strengthen the roster. Florida burst out of the gate, led by the trio of Kris Versteeg, Thomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss. Brian Campbell, who waived his no trade clause to come to the perennial sub-.500 club, collected 53 points along the blue line. They held off the Washington Capitals late season charge, securing the organization’s first division title and first postseason trip since 2000.
They gave New Jersey their best shot, bowing out in a seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. With a pool of young players ready to make an impact, and the core largely intact from a season ago, the Panthers may once again be a competitive team in the Southeast Division.
With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at two Northeast division teams, but today we’ll move south for our preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.
There’s a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes.
Despite missing the postseason for the third straight season, and finishing last in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes were one of the teams itching for the lockout to end. A draft-day trade for Jordan Staal gives the team a big weapon down the middle, and the addition of sniper Alex Semin could turn into one of the best bargain signings by general manager Jim Rutherford.
Kirk Muller took over after a 4-10-2 November swoon last season, and brought the Hurricanes back from dead. At one point, the team sat just five points out of the playoffs before losing four of their last five games.
Carolina had a ton of momentum carrying them before the lockout. Can they find it again and contend for a spot in the top eight?
Starting today, The Devils Den will give you a detailed look at the New Jersey Devils upcoming opponents this season. We’ll run it down in alphabetical order, giving an in-depth look at each team.
Despite being on opposite coasts, the Anaheim Ducks and New Jersey Devils are pretty familiar with one another. Just nine years ago, the teams squared off in the Stanley Cup Finals. An upstart J.S. Giguere matched Martin Brodeur save for save, yet couldn’t will his team to a win. And while New Jersey skated off with their third Stanley Cup championship, Giguere would take home the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Since then, Devils fans watched Scott Niedermayer win a Stanley Cup with the Ducks and rooted for his brother, Rob, who spent one season in the red and black. But without much postseason success – Anaheim hasn’t made it past the second round since the 2006-07 season – the two teams haven’t played many meaningful games.
The New Jersey Devils stockpiled impressive depth up the middle. The team’s brimming with talent, and many players are ready to take the next step to the NHL.
Travis Zajac leads the brigade, firmly entrenched as the team’s top center. Patrik Elias, a converted left-winger, seems destined to finish his career as the team’s number two center. Jacob Josefson‘s solid rookie debut will undoubtedly lead to a roster spot next season. Rod Pelley will look to fend off Adam Henrique, Tim Sestito, and others for a spot on the roster.
That talent flows right down into Albany. Seven of Albany’s top ten scorers were centerman, an astounding number that shows the true talent in the position. Most won’t develop into first line scorers. But the depth is pretty amazing, and should provide the team with solid players for the future.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Matt Anderson – 76 GP, 55 points (23 G, 32 A), minus-3 rating
Anderson was an All-Star this season, netting a goal in the midseason showcase. He led all centers in every significant category despite never playing with a consistent line. In his three AHL seasons, Anderson improved his performance, posting a career high in points last season. Henrique will get the call first, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson get a look in the prospect camp this summer.
Adam Henrique – 73 GP, 50 points (25 G, 25 A), minus-3 rating
Henrique had one hell of a rookie season. While his 50 points aren’t overly impressive, he managed to produce offensively without a consistent line combination. His 25 goals are a rookie record. He shifted to left-wing for the second half of the season, which probably helped his numbers. His 50 points put him sixth among rookie scorers. He won’t need any more time in the AHL and should compete for a spot next season.
Steve Zalewksi – 81 GP, 44 points (15 G, 29 A), minus-8 rating
Zalewski came to the Devils organization in a February trade, where he found his game. He posted 11 goals and 17 assists in 31 games after the trade. He’s had a taste of the NHL, playing three games with the San Jose Sharks last season. He’s had AHL success, but never found a foothold. He seems destined to be AHL fodder who may get a few games here and there.
Stephen Gionta – 54 GP, 30 points (10 G, 20 A), plus-7 rating
Gionta gained fame for playing against his older brother, Brian, this season. Other than that, he didn’t do much with his NHL callup. He found some success in the AHL, collecting 30 points. He’ll never be a scorer and probably wouldn’t move past the fourth line on the NHL level. He provides good depth but isn’t the first choice for a roster spot next season.
Brad Mills – 53 GP, 24 points (15 G, 9 A), minus-2 rating
Mills made his NHL debut this season, scoring a game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in November. He’s a decent centerman, but nothing to write home about. His 24 points ranked pretty low, which is odd considering he anchored the team’s top line. Like Gionta, he’s a depth player at this point.
The New Jersey Devils forward strength seems focused on one position: left wing. On the NHL roster, the position runs three deep, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and converted center Patrik Elias. Rookies like Mattias Tedenby will only strengthen that position in the future.
The one position where the team lacks depth is right wing. David Clarkson represents the team’s only veteran right-winger, and his offensive potential is limited. Nick Palmieri showed a ton of promise this year, but his offensive success was helped by playing on the first line.
While Albany does a fantastic job of breaking down the forwards by position, the Trenton Devils do not. Since all the forwards are clumped together on the website, this will be a review of all the forwards. Some seem good enough to take the leap, and others seem destined to be ECHL-lifers.
And here we go:
Ryan Ginand – 68 GP, 75 points (29 G, 46 A), plus-1 rating
Ginand was one of the few standouts on the Trenton Devils this season. He was the team’s lone All-Star representative, leading them in every offensive category. He also fired 402 shots on net, the second most in ECHL history. Ginand enjoyed a brief callup to Albany this season, and should find a permanent spot on their roster next year. His offensive skill seems promising, and he could be a can’t miss prospect for the organization.
Ryan Hayes – 63 games, 50 points (23 G, 27 A), 0 rating
Hayes is right behind Ginand in terms of offensive potential. In his first professional season, the forward recorded 50 points, good for second on the team. His transition from the Plymouth Whalers of the CHL (where he played with Tyler Seguin) went better than expected. He’s also big into humanitarian work, which is a plus for any professional athlete. Hopefully he’ll play in the Devils prospect camp this summer so we can get an extended look at him.
Jeff Prough – 48 games, 42 points (25 G, 17 A), minus-13 rating
Prough suffered through some minor injuries this season, playing just 48 games. He still produced 0.88 points per game, which is pretty solid. He’s been with the Trenton Devils for three seasons, so he’s reaching the limits of potential flameout. He twice recorded 30 goals and 60 points, so he’s shown he can produce. Hopefully he gets a shot to move up the organization’s ladder next season.
Matt Lombardi – 66 GP, 33 points (20 G, 13 A), minus-10 rating
Like Hayes, Lombardi made his Trenton debut this season, playing in 66 games. There was no shortage of offense on this team, and Lombardi was the fourth forward to record at least 20 goals. He came from Boston College, working his way from walk-on to assistant captain of two national champions. It was a solid debut season.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining offensive players.
Throughout the course of a season, teams will count on players to fill in games. The New Jersey Devils were no different. Nine different offensive players skated in less than half of the Devils’ games this season. Some were fourth-liner fill ins, and others were rookies who couldn’t find a consistent spot. One was even a team’s cornerstone who missed significant time due to injury.
We’ll take a look at all of them, in order of games played. And here we go:
Vladimir Zharkov – 38 GP, 4 points (2 G, 2 A)
After playing 40 games last season with New Jersey, Zharkov once again got his opportunity in the NHL this season. He spent most of his time playing on the third and fourth lines. He almost exclusively played during even strength situations, pulling down a minus-0.59 rating. He only helped produce eight goals this season, and the team’s offensive numbers improved with him off the ice. He provided little value, recording a minus-0.2 GVT.
I believe the numbers unnecessarily belittle Vharkov’s effort. We finally saw some offense, as Zharkov managed to score his first two NHL goals. He’ll never be a big scorer, but I believe he’ll hang around as a solid third or fourth line player.
Tim Sestito – 36 GP, 2 Points (2 A)
Sestito helped fill the fourth-line center role early this season. The seven-year pro filled in well, but couldn’t really contribute offensively. He helped produce just three goals, assisting on two of them. The team expectedly played much better offensively with him off the ice. He didn’t really help much defensively either, with the shots against per 60 improving with him on the bench.
Predictably, Sestito didn’t finish with a positive GVT. His minus-1.3 rating ranked him in the bottom three of all players. He could probably be replaced by a rookie next year, and the organization may go that way. His cap hit wasn’t large this season (just $500,000), so he could also be brought back on a low cost, one-year deal.
Jacob Josefson – 28 GP, 10 Points (3 G, 7 A)
Josefson entered the pre-season as one of the most talked about rookies in camp. Everyone knew the organization would closely watch the development of their young Swede. After watching him this season, they can only be excited about his future in a Devils sweater.
Josefson recorded a plus-1.42 rating, fourth-highest among all skaters. He helped create offense (2.08 goals for per 60 on-ice) and prevent it (1.31 goals against per 60 on-ice). Those numbers both worsened when he was on the bench. Surprisingly, the GVT ratings put him at a minus-0.3. It’s not terrible, but it shows an area he must improve.
Josefson earned high praise from Jacques Lemaire, who doesn’t easily praise rookies. Look for him to stay in the lineup next season and keep developing into a solid center.
Admittedly, one of my weaker points of hockey knowledge is the prospect pool. With so many players in several countries, I haven’t had the time to catch up on the big names and the late-round steals.
Thankfully, Jared Ramsden does this all the time. Ramsden writes for Hockey’s Future, specifically covering the New Jersey Devils. He found some time to answer a few questions I sent him about the Devils’ prospects and this year’s draft. Here is the interview: