Friday, September 16, 2011
Training camp preview: Devils
By Katie Strang
The Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since 1995-96. Along the way, franchise forward Zach Parise was lost to injury and rookie head coach John MacLean was fired. The team had a remarkable surge after stalwart Jacques Lemaire appeared back behind the bench, but it wasn't enough to score a postseason berth. Can they pick up the pieces with new coach Pete DeBoer at the helm?
1. Will Parise stay? That will be the question in everyone's minds all season, even though the 27-year-old winger can't resign with the Devils until Jan. 1. If he opts to test the market, it would be a devastating blow to the organization and the team's future. Teams will be clamoring after the franchise forward in what could be the biggest free-agent sweepstakes the NHL has ever seen.
2. New regime: In his first year as head coach of the Devils, DeBoer will be charged with juggling several sensitive issues. What type of relationship can he forge with Parise and fellow marquee player Ilya Kovalchuk? How will he allot playing time between the two players -- both of whom play the left wing? And how will he manage veteran NHL icon Martin Brodeur between the pipes? Every move will be scrutinized and a misstep could prove costly.
3. Filling the void: The loss of first-line center Travis Zajac to a torn Achilles tendon leaves the Devils with a gaping hole down the middle. Zajac, who suffered the injury in August during an offseason workout, is expected to be out until December. Who will step up in his place? Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson and Dainius Zubrus are all candidates to fill the void.
• D Adam Larsson: The Devils selected the 18-year-old Swedish defenseman fourth in this year's draft and hope he can step in and contribute right away. Larsson (6-2, 209) played in 37 games for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League last season and finished with one goal and eight assists.
• LW Eric Boulton: One of two signings this summer made to bolster the team's toughness, 35-year-old Boulton will battle it out with Cam Janssen for a role as the team's enforcer.
• RW Cam Janssen: The former Devil (2005-07) signed this summer on a two-way deal. The 27-year-old winger returns to New Jersey after racking up 370 penalty minutes in the past three-plus seasons he spent with the Blues.
Former Devil Petr Sykora, who won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2000, is attending camp on a tryout. There will be no guarantees of a roster spot and the veteran will be likely fighting for his last chance to play in the NHL.
The 2011-12 season is a pivotal year for the franchise. Many questions integral to the team's future need to be resolved so the Devils can move forward and re-establish themselves as a perennial postseason lock.