New Jersey Devils season preview: Hynes takes over team in transition

New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson has reason to celebrate after signing a six-year, $25 million contract extension over the summer.
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Plus: New Jersey goaltender Cory Schneider jokingly said in a recent interview that he’d like to play all 82 games this season. While new coach John Hynes won’t expect that type of workload from his netminder, Schneider showed that he could handle a lot in 2014-15. The 29-year-old posted an impressive 2.26 goals-against average and matched a personal best with five shutouts while making a career-high 69 appearances.

Minus: Schneider’s overall record (26-31-9) would have been better had the Devils mustered more on offense last season (NHL third-worst 176 non-shootout goals). The franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer Patrik Elias was limited to 13 in 2014-15 and is already hobbled by a sore knee. Travis Zajac dismissed trade talk to Toronto in the offseason, but needs to involve his name in the conversation of scoring goals after recording 11 in 2014-15. Improving the offense is a must for a team in the midst of transition, as long-time general manager Lou Lamoriello headed to the Maple Leafs in the summer.

X-Factor: Adam Larsson

Larsson signed a six-year, $25 million contract extension in July on the heels of a career season in 2014-15, during which he had personal bests in goals (three), assists (21), points (24) and average ice time (20:58). The minutes are expected to increase this season for the 22-year-old defenseman, who has formed a steady pairing with veteran Andy Greene. "I think (Larsson’s) maturity and mentality this year coming in is showing he can possibly earn all that ice time," Hynes told recently.

Prediction: The first season since 1987 without Lamoriello at the helm is expected to feature plenty of growing pains. Although Adam Henrique will take a step forward after a pair of 43-point campaigns, the Devils will descend toward the cellar of the Metropolitan Division and miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season.