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.

Merrill practicing, Gomez to get another look in New Jersey

There’s good news on the injury front for the New Jersey Devils as defenseman Jon Merrill returned to practicing with his teammates Sunday.

Merrill, who has been out since Sept. 19 after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko, had been skating on his own according to GM Lou Lamoriello.

“He’s cleared. We’ve been over-protective,” Lamoriello told the Star-Ledger.

Merrill was left feeling woozy after his collision with Fedotenko and needed help off the ice.

The 22-year-old won’t be in the lineup Sunday when the Devils host the Philadelphia Flyers in preseason action, but veteran camp invite Scott Gomez will.

Gomez is expected to center a line of Tuomo Ruutu and Damien Brunner according to Devils beat reporter Tom Gulitti.

Report: Devils to lose money in 2014-15

16 Comments

Despite having new owners in Josh Harris and David Blitzer, the New Jersey Devils are scheduled to once again lose money in 2014-15.

According to the report from Tom Gulitti of The Record, Harris and Blitzer — who purchased the team from Jeff Vanderbeek a year ago for $320 million — are still fixing previous financial issues.

The Devils missed the playoffs for a second straight season in 2013-14 and according to Blitzer the team will not turn a profit in 2014-15 even if New Jersey qualifies for the postseason.

“We’re not going to make money this year. Let’s be clear,” said Blitzer. “I don’t know the exact numbers, but our view is to get it to the right place and we know over a longer period of time we do believe we can get it to be a profitable team on the business side or the equation. It is not today. I don’t expect it to be next year, but over time you can’t have a business that over 30 years it doesn’t become a profitable team because that just doesn’t work.”

According to the report, the team had debt issues and was “under invested in” on the business side.

Devils CEO Scott O’Neil points out the team was severely understaffed on the business side with just 76 employees when the new group took over. Since then, the staff has nearly doubled.

The team’s debt isn’t expected to factor into the Devils and GM Lou Lamoriello’s ability to spend money. As it stands, New Jersey sits with less than $5 million to play with.

Lamoriello compared the situation under previous ownership to that of the Phoenix Coyotes saying that he had to report to the league as a result of the team’s financial struggles.

“It was like Phoenix from a hockey standpoint. That was fact,” said Lamoriello. “You had to do things in a different way.”

Lamoriello pointed to the signing of unrestricted free agent Mike Cammalleri and contract extensions to Cory Schneider and Andy Greene as ways things have changed under the new group.

The GM said things are “status quo”  with unrestricted free agent Ryan Carter. According to Gulitti, Carter seems to be waiting for the Devils to move a forward before re-signing him.

When asked about restricted free agent Eric Gelinas, Lamoriello said, “We have a month to go. We want to get him signed.”

New Jersey finished the 2013-14 season with a 35-29-18 record and in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Related: Devils GM shakes off 0-13 shootout record, pumps up free agent moves

Devils’ Larsson plans to re-sign in New Jersey

14 Comments

If you’ve been wondering about how New Jersey Devils prospect defenseman Adam Larsson is doing, he’s up for a new contract this summer.

After spending parts of the past two seasons in the AHL with the Albany Devils, there were questions as to whether he would head back to Sweden.

As it turns out, he’s still eager to crack his way into the Devils’ top six as his agent J.P. Barry shared with Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice.

“We’re talking to Lou [Lamoriello] and just trying to figure out what his role would be for next year and what’s best for him developmentally,” Barry said. “I don’t know where that (the talk of him going to Sweden) came from.”

Larsson played in 26 games in New Jersey this season and had a goal and two assists. He fared a bit better in Albany with three goals and 16 assists in 33 games.

To say expectations are high for him is an understatement. He was the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft by New Jersey and got a taste of success in his rookie year when the Devils made the Stanley Cup Final. Safe to say the Devils don’t want to see him going anywhere other than training camp in September.

Schneider/Brodeur redux? DeBoer ready for it just in case

11 Comments

If the New Jersey Devils bring back future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur next season, coach Peter DeBoer is prepared for it just in case.

For the first time in his career, Brodeur was outperformed by a teammate. In this case it was Cory Schneider who put up superior numbers and earned more starts. Brodeur spoke often about how he might need to go elsewhere next season if the Devils don’t want him back.

If Brodeur does return to Newark, the coach won’t be caught off guard as Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger shares.

“Those decisions are made above me, but if Lou (Lamoriello) and Marty decide that it’s best for everybody, absolutely we’d welcome him back,” DeBoer said.

“If those two decide it’s in the best interests of everybody that he comes back, of course we’d welcome him back. I mean, why wouldn’t we? He’s a great teammate, a great pro.”

It’s clear at this point in his career that Brodeur, 42, is more of a backup than a starter. His numbers compared to Schneider’s last season bore that out. Brodeur stopped pucks at a decidedly average .901 clip while Schneider did so at a .921 save percentage.

Brodeur still has the desire and the wont to start, but it might make more sense for the Devils to give Schneider more starts than he had last season if they want to return to the playoffs.