Risk Factors: New Jersey Devils edition

3 Comments

From the same bunch of pessimists who brought you “Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup,” PHT presents a new series called “Risk Factors,” i.e. three reasons to be worried about each NHL team in 2014-15.

New Jersey Devils

1. Not getting younger

A 28-year-old player told me last season that it’s a “young man’s game now” imagine what said player thinks looking at the roster of the New Jersey Devils. The Devils have nine players on their 23-man roster released Tuesday who are 32-years or older.

New Jersey entered the 2013-14 as the oldest team in the NHL and in the offseason they went out and got older. Despite 42-year-old Martin Brodeur not returning, the Devils went from an average age of 29.83 last season to 31.23 this season. Leading the way of course is 42-year-old future hall of famer Jaromir Jagr. The Devils also went out and added 33-year-old Martin Havlat and 32-year-old Mike Cammalleri in the summer. In goal, to replace the aging Brodeur, GM Lou Lamoriello went out and acquired 37-year-old goaltender Scott Clemmensen to backup Cory Schneider.

New Jersey also made news last month inviting several aging veterans to its’ camp. Despite cutting Ruslan Fedotenko (35), Tomas Kaberle (36) and Mike Komisarek (32), Jordin Tootoo (31) was signed on Tuesday and Scott Gomez (34) remains on a “taxi squad” awaiting a contract offer.

Without even counting Gomez, the Devils forward group carries an average age of 30.8.

2. No training wheels for Schneider

For the first time in his career Schneider enters the season as the clear-cut No.1 goaltender in New Jersey.

In years previous he had the comfort of knowing Brodeur or Roberto Luongo were around, but this season he’ll be expected to carry the load and start 60-plus games for the Devils. If last season is any indication, he can handle a heavier load. Schneider appeared in a career-high 45 games for the Devils finishing with a third-best 1.97 GAA and his .921 save percentage was better than both Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick.

There’s no reason to think Schneider can’t start 65 or so games, but we haven’t seen him do it and until we do, the jury is still out on whether Schneider can handle the workload of a No. 1. If he falters, or heaven forbid suffers serious injury, the Devils will have to rely on Clemmensen, who is back in New Jersey after tours in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers organizations.

Is there cause for concern with regards to Schneider as a No. 1? There could be if the Devils fail in the goal scoring department and put further pressure on Schneider to be near perfect every night.

3. Where are the goals going to come from?

Relying on a 42-year-old to carry your offense is a recipe for disaster – the Devils did just that in 2013-14 as Jagr led the team with 24 goals, 43 assists and 67 points.

This isn’t the early 90’s, the Devils cannot continue like that.

Lamoriello signed Cammalleri and Havlat this summer with the hopes of adding to the offence. Only three teams finished with a worse goals-for per-game (2.40) than New Jersey last season. Not surprisingly neither of the three were playoff teams.

Cammalleri’s 26 goals in 2013-14 with the Calgary Flames would’ve led the Devils, but it was also his highest output since the 2009-10 season when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens. The former L.A. Kings second-round pick hadn’t reached the 20 goal plateau in four seasons prior to last year so expecting him to score 25-plus again, might be asking for too much.

Havlat was bought out of the final year of his contract with the San Jose Sharks in June after scoring 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games last season. His tenure in the Bay Area was mired by injuries and the hope in New Jersey is that reuniting Halvlat with his countrymen Patrik Elias and Jagr will help the former Ottawa Senators first-round pick get closer to the 22 goals he scored while a member of the Minnesota Wild in 2010-11.