It’s extremely hard for any defending Stanley Cup champions to repeat, but it’s just as difficult for the the club that fell just short to bounce back in the following campaign. They suffer from the same short summer that the winners have, minus the euphoria that comes with victory.
Since the lockout, the Edmonton Oilers are the only team to outright miss the playoffs after losing in the finals during their previous campaign, but only one team managed to redeem themselves after falling just short one year prior.
That would of course be the 2008-09 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. They got off to a rough start in their comeback campaign, but they got hot after head coach Michel Therrien was replaced with Dan Bylsma and never cooled down.
The Penguins’ story might offer hope for the Devils in more ways than one. After all, Pittsburgh in 2008 had a particularly rough summer too.
Pittsburgh, in its early stages of what has been an ongoing saga to find elite wingers to work with superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, acquired Marian Hossa during the 2007-08 campaign. However, their attempt to re-sign him as an unrestricted free agent that summer failed. Instead Hossa, along with their backup goaltender Ty Conklin, decided to leave Pittsburgh in favor of the team that had just beat them in the Stanley Cup finals: the Detroit Red Wings.
The New Jersey Devils will also be looking to win just a couple more postseason games in 2012-13 despite the loss of an elite player in Zach Parise.
Naturally, the circumstances are different. For one thing, Hossa’s stint with the Penguins was brief while the Devils are losing their team captain and a man they drafted nearly a decade ago. However, like the Cup-winning Penguins, the Devils have a wealth of talent beyond the player they lost.
The New Jersey Devils are clearly worse off without Parise, but they still have Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, David Clarkson, and Travis Zajac to give them a pretty solid offensive core. Their power-play might also get a boost from Adam Larsson, who might take a step forward in his sophomore season, and a full campaign with Marek Zidlicky. Their goaltending is a significant wild card, but even at his age, it’s hard to ever dismiss Martin Brodeur.
I wouldn’t call the Devils’ Stanley Cup favorites going into the playoffs, but they certainly look like a team that can get through the massive blow of Parise signing with the Minnesota Wild.