John MacLean starts first season as Devils coach
Except for the new coach, a couple of defensemen and having
$100-million superstar Ilya Kovalchuk around for a full season, the
New Jersey Devils haven’t changed much.
Martin Brodeur is in goal. The nucleus up front still features
Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Jamie Langenbrunner and
the expectations, of course, are very, very high.
The Devils enter the 2010-11 season looking for their 14th
straight postseason berth. They are also under a little more
pressure after being eliminated in the opening round of the
playoffs for a third consecutive year.
”Obviously, you don’t forget something like that,” veteran
Brian Rolston said of the embarrassing five-game loss to the
Philadelphia Flyers. ”We all have a memory. But this is a new team
and a different approach. We certainly can be one of the best teams
in the East, but we all know ultimately what’s important. This team
has been one of the best teams in the NHL for a considerable amount
of time, but we’ve faltered when it counted.”
The job of turning things around belongs to John MacLean, the
former Devils who rose through the coaching ranks and was selected
to replace the retired Jacques Lemaire.
It’s a big job.
Since winning their third Stanley Cup in 2003 – the others were
in 1995 and 2000 – the Devils have not made it past the second
”I’m excited, anxious, ready to go,” MacLean said. ”I think I
have controlled emotions right now. I’m trying to keep everything
in check. I think we have some good lines, some good depth. I think
we have good speed. We’re able to do some damage offensively. We
have great enthusiasm. I think we’re all anxious to get it
During training camp, MacLean has tried to get his team to play
a transition game, while continuing to stress responsibility in the
The 38-year-old Brodeur continues to be the backbone of the
team. He had 45 wins and nine shutouts in helping the Devils allow
a league-low 191 goals and win a second straight Atlantic Division
”We have a high level of excitement,” Brodeur said. ”That’s
the best way to describe it. I love this locker room, because we
have a bunch of guys who want to be here. No one ever wants to
leave here. It’s great. Everyone wants to be a part of this team.
This could be a lot of fun, because we have a great atmosphere.
It’s a lot different than in other years.”
One major change is the fallout from the Kovalchuk signing. The
15-year deal that the Russian forward signed put the Devils over
the NHL salary cap and they will be starting the season on Friday
night against Dallas with a league-minimum 20-man roster.
That means everybody plays, every night, unless president and
general manager Lou Lamoriello makes a deal or two to cut
New Jersey got under the league’s $59.4 million salary cap on
Wednesday by making roster moves with injured defensemen Bryce
Salvador and Anssi Salmela.
Even with 20 players, there is a lot to like about the Devils,
starting with the new top line of Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk, who
has moved from left wing to the right side to fit on the line.
”I can’t wait to get going,” said Kovalchuk, whose original
17-year, $102 million contract was rejected by the NHL because it
tried to circumvent the cap. ”I know we’re going to have a great
year and I’m excited about that.”
The Devils, who were fined and lost a future first round draft
pick because of the illegal signing, have added some size. They
signed free agent defensemen Anton Volchenkov (6-foot-1, 226
pounds) and Henrik Tallinder (6-3, 214) and acquired Jason Arnott
(6-5, 220) in a trade with Nashville.
A member of the Devils’ Cup winner in 2000, Arnott is centering
the No. 2 line with Elias and Langenbrunner on his wings, while the
No. 3 line has Dainius Zubrus centering for Rolston and David
Gone from the defense is Paul Martin, who signed as a free agent
with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, Volchenkov is a big hitter in the Scott Stevens mold
and Tallinder is a solid defender.
”We expect to go all the way every year,” said Parise, who had
38 goals last season. ”It’s just the expectations that are placed
on us. But we have a new team and it’s the start of something new
with new leadership. We have to move on from last year. We have a
good atmosphere this year. We all understand that what happened the
last few years is unacceptable. We have high standards here and we
have not met those standards in a while.”
If the Devils fall short again, there might be a lot more
changes next season.