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.
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.
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.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Montreal Canadiens (15-8-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (8-14-2) tonight at the Prudential Center. It’s the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Devils lead the current season series, 1-0-0.
The Last Canadiens Game: The Habs blew a third period lead and lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, last night in Montreal. Down, 3-1, in the third period, the Oilers began the comeback with a goal from Ales Hemsky at 10:09 of the period. Sam Gagner tied it in the third, and Dustin Penner scored the overtime winner.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in a shootout Saturday afternoon at the Rock. Adam Mair struck first, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead in the first period. New Jersey held the lead until the third period, when Daniel Briere tied the game on a powerplay goal. Travis Zajac scored the shootout winner, beating Brian Boucher high to the glove side for the win.
The Last Canadiens – Devils Game: The Devils blanked the Canadiens, 3-0, on October 21 at the Bell Centre. Zach Parise, Jason Arnott and Matt Taormina provided the offense, and Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for the shutout.
Brotherly Love: Stephen Gionta will face off against ex-Devil and brother Brian Gionta tonight, the first time they’ve faced each other in their professional careers. Stephen wears number 14, the same number Brian wore while with the Devils. Brian is the better goal scorer and will probably have a greater impact on the outcome of the game. Regardless, it’ll still be fun to watch. Maybe they’ll get into a few battles along the boards.
Tonight’s Matchup: After winning three of four games last week (and playing four out of the seven days), the Devils earned a well-deserved four day break. But those breaks can take a team off their game, especially one that’s just beginning to develop some momentum. The biggest key of tonight’s matchup will be intensity. If the Devils play fast and smart, they can wear down the Canadiens early. Remember, the Canadiens did play last night and travel to New Jersey. The Devils will hold a decisive edge in rest, and they need to take advantage of that tonight.
Intensity will only get them so far. The Devils need to finish their scoring chances tonight. As we all know, that’s been the biggest challenge this season. The Canadiens, however, usually provide the remedy to cure the Devils’ problems. Carey Price is having a great season (14-7-2, 2.04 goals-against average and .932 save percentage), but hasn’t played well against the Devils. New Jersey should find a way to beat the Habs tonight. It’s almost like clockwork against them.
Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Corrente both return tonight for the Devils. Alexander Vasyunov and Olivier Magnan are healthy scratches.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN 660AM. Here is the projected lineup for tonight’s game:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Dainius Zubrus – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Mark Fayne – Matt Corrente
GOALIES: Johan Hedberg; Mike McKenna
It’s finally gameday, as the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens face off tonight at the Prudential Center. A game preview will be up soon, but to hold you over, here’s today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:
Ilya Kovalchuk still searching for goals as pressure mounts (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Devils turned a profit in 2009-10, but lost value (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jason Arnott, David Clarkson back for Devils practice (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Emotional journey for Devils right-winger David Clarkson (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils’ Stephen Gionta hoping for chance to play against brother Brian (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Langenbrunner, Arnott, Corrente feel ready to play; MacLean to make decision on Gionta in morning (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jamie Langenbrunner ready to return to an upbeat Devils squad (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Bourne Blog: How Kovalchuk can salvage dismal offensive season (Justin Bourne/PuckDaddy.com)
Forbes magazine says Devils are 11th most valuable NHL franchise (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Penguins Take Down Devils, 5-1 (AlbanyDevils.com)
Devils powerless against league leading Penguins (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Davis breaks franchise record for points (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils notes ‘n’ quotes: Frazee doesn’t start, but he plays (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils Angle Past Walleye, 4-2 (TrentonDevils.com)
Trenton Adds Chase Watson (TrentonDevils.com)
Devils Acquire Connelly; Lerg To 21-Day IR (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
Lerg Out With Fractured Thumb (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
It’s gameday today, as the Devils continue their road trip tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Be sure to check out the game preview later in the day. In the meantime, here’s some links to get you ready for tonight’s game.
Devils’ Taormina sidelined with a sprained ankle (Mark Everson/New York Post)
Devils hope to take step forward after latest step back (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Arnott attends memorial service; Brodeur goes to Celtics for help with elbow (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils practicing before flying to Toronto; Arnott missing (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Langenbrunner and Taormina improving, but won’t accompany team to Toronto (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils seek turnaround in Toronto (Eric Martin/NJDevils.com)
Gionta Making Good Impression (Eric Martin/AlbanyDevils.com)
Chasing Milestones (AlbanyDevils.com)
Kowalksy on Devils’ home woes: ‘I feel bad for fans’ (Pete Dougherty/Times Union)
Three Unanswered Royals Goals Sink Devils, 3-2 (TrentonDevils.com)
Tough Come From Ahead Loss For Devils (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
The New Jersey Devils continued to trim their roster today, assigning 11 players to Albany of the AHL.
The 11 players to be assigned were defensemen Tyler Eckford and Olivier Magnan-Grenier and forwards Patrick Davis, Stephen Gionta, David McIntyre, Brad Mills, Tim Sestito, Mike Swift, Alexander Vasyunov, Chad Wiseman and Vladimir Zharkov.
Magnan-Grenier, Davis, Mills, Sestito and Gionta were all placed on waivers yesterday, which could allow another team to attempt to acquire them. If those players pass through the noon deadline, they will join the other six players and join Albany.
The players will practice with the Albany Devils in Albany after noon today. Albany has a preseason game against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Wednesday, so some of these players may start right away.
There’s nothing really surprising in these moves, but it once again heats up competition within camp. With the number of roster spots quickly shrinking, I’d expect to see some hard fought battles for positions. Remember, general manager Lou Lamoriello still needs to clear cap space, so some veterans are also playing for a spot on the roster.