In what has been one of the more productive off seasons the Devils have had in recent memory, we have seen moves that were both expected and one not so expected. When Ray Shero took over the reins as GM, it really didnt seem like the Devils had really much to brag about. They have up and coming prospects that are performing well either in the OHL or the AHL, but those leagues are a worlds difference from the NHL. Its often that prospects light it up in the “minor leagues” then coming up to the NHL either get off to a red hot start and fade out, or end up being the real deal. A good example of this last year for the Devils was Bobby Farhnam. Gets called up to the big squad and starts putting the pucks in the back of the net. He was high energy and a good influence in the locker room. However, after a suspension he couldnt seem to get out of his own way to put the puck in the net, and was more of a liability then an asset. Then there was Joseph Blandisi. I personally do not know what to make of this guy. He has the potential to be a prolific goal scorer in the NHL (yes Im talking about that goal against the Flyers) but I worry very much about the diving penalties he had during a few of the games. There isnt a place for that in the NHL anymore, not that there ever should have been, but if he can stop that and focus more on his scoring, there is no reason why he cant be a regular this year.
So now the question becomes, who are the Devils? Are they a playoff team? Are they a wild card team? The honest answer is, not yet. However I wouldnt be the least bit surprised if they were. Think about it, the Devils last year with a significantly worse team, were actually in the running for a spot in the playoffs, all be it a very long shot, right to the last week of the season. Recent additions and subtractions this year though have brought the Devils into the conversation before the season has even started. Flashback to last year if the NHL network was talking about the Devils they were talking about them being a potential landing spot for Matthews. The Devils really didnt have any pressure on them to perform. They knew what they were. And they out performed themselves lets be honest. Cory Schneider was a core factor in the Devils success. Without him I seriously doubt the Devils would have won as many games. Shero knew about this and decided it was time to do some work. First, he got rid of some dead weight by letting Farhnam, Tootoo, Gionta all hit the road so he could create 4 scoring lines. The additions are very promising adding Hall, Cadzic, Fiddler, Bennent, Lovejoy and resigning Palmeri, Smith-Pelly and Merrill. And forgive me if Im forgetting anyone. Obviously the biggest loss this off season was the loss of Adam Larsson. Larsson was starting to impress last year as it finally seamed he was coming into his game. He was quickly one of the better defense man on the team. But sometimes there has to be sacrifice to obtain victory, and even though they lost Larsson they gained a Taylor Hall. Easily one of the top left wingers in the game today. Capable of netting 30 plus goals and just about the same amount of assists, he can turn what was a woefully bad offense into a threatening force. It was quite odd how bad the offense really was considering the Devils had two 30 goal scorers last year in Henrique and Palmeri. Cammalleri if he stayed healthy could have netted 30 as well at the pace he was going. So you figure this year if Henrique, Hall, Palmeri and Cammalleri can all stay healthy and score 30 again and Cory Schneider is the same Veznia caliber goaltender as he was last year, then there is no doubt this Devils team will be in the postseason. Now lets come back down from fantasy land for a second. How many teams around the NHL have 4 players on their roster that net 30 goals in a season? Pretty sure there arent many. And unlike last year where there was no pressure on this team to win, this year Shero is more then likely going to expect this team to make a run. Which now puts pressure on the players and the coaching staff. That can bring a team to play desperate hockey which could lead to turnovers in the neutral zone or just careless errors around the ice. IF the Devils are going to make the playoffs this year then they will have to withstand the pressure that comes with expectations of being good. Not since 2012 have the Devils honestly had a team that brought this much excitement. Hopefully the players will be able to block out all the noise from the outside and focus on the hockey. If they can do that and just play their game, then theres no reason they cant make the postseason.