Welcome to part three of our ongoing series of previewing the new 'Metropolitan' Division by interviewing SBN writers and asking some general questions to get caught up on what our divisional foes did this summer, and how their fans are feeling about their chances in 2013-14.
In case you missed the earlier pieces and want to keep up:
- Philadelphia Flyers season preview with Broad Street Hockey
- Columbus Blue Jackets season preview with Jackets Cannon
#1 - Give a 4-sentence preview of your 2013-14 team.
The New Jersey Devils look to rebound from missing the playoffs to making it in 2013-14. They were fantastic in possession last season and could be very good this season. They improved in net and were very active this summer. One massive issue remains: who’s going to score the goals and how many?
#2 - What is your team's biggest addition and why?
Acquiring Cory Schneider on draft day was one of the boldest moves of the summer. Even though the Devils could have pleased a lot of people by drafting a young forward that oozes talent (Valeri Nichushkin), the team thought it best to move their first round draft pick for Schneider. The Devils immediately got younger and better in net. Since Johan Hedberg was lit up quite a bit last season and Martin Brodeur is pushing 42, goaltending was an area of need. Even if Schneider and Brodeur split starts, the save percentage in New Jersey should increase.
#3 - What is your team's biggest loss from last season?
Ilya Kovalchuk voluntarily retiring stunned everyone in July. As much as many fans may not miss his large contract, his departure left a big offensive hole. While Kovalchuk wasn’t a great possession player, he constantly blasted the puck and scored with his killer shot. Their power plays may have leaned on that too much but at least they had a threatening weapon. His offensive qualities are not easily replaced. In the long run, the Devils will be fine but for this season, it further highlights the need that the team collectively scores more as opposed to having one player carry much of the production. The Devils are banking on scoring by committee in picking up Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, and possibly Damien Brunner in conjunction with the roster carried over from last season.
#4 - Which player on your team do you see being a pleasant surprise?
Since so many Devils shot at a percentage below their career percentage last season, there could be several bounce-back years with some luck on their side. I believe that Travis Zajac will come out ahead the most. He signed a massive extension last January that begins this season and didn’t have a particularly superlative 2013. Zajac isn’t going to become a great finisher and rack up loads of points; but he could very well put up plenty with the right linemates while providing excellent defense and possession. Doing that in this coming season will help make that extension look better and several in the league will be taken aback by that.
#5 - What's your biggest worry regarding your team as this season begins?
The biggest worry is that in spite of all the moves made this summer, the team’s shooting percentage is still dismal. Shooting percentage is mainly driven by luck, or, more accurately, factors out of the player’s or team’s control. This was a big issue last season and while I hope it doesn’t happen again, it technically could. There were many games last season where the Devils straight-up outplayed their opponent, but couldn’t score more than one or two goals. The opposition would take advantage of an error or get a good bounce and then go on to beat the Devils. My fear is that this continues for another season
#6 - If you had to predict a finishing position (1st through 8th) in the division for your team today for 2013-14, which place would it be?
Right now, I think the Devils finish just behind Washington for fourth in the Metropolitan. For what it’s worth, my opinion is that the division will finish in the following order: Rangers, Penguins, Capitals, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes, Flyers, Blue Jackets.
#7 - Which player will you revere less after the season is over - Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?
Alex Ovechkin, if only because he’s far more annoying to play against when he’s "on." That usually means 7-10 shots, all with a lot of power, and usually with some in the net. Of course, his jumping hits. Crosby can be dominant but at least he’s not going Pronger into somebody’s body.
#8 - Give me one player in the division (who's not on your team) that you think is poised for a big-time year.
Mikhail Grabovski is going to make a lot of people in Toronto feel incredibly stupid this season.
#9 - As a division rival there's naturally a lot of tension and animosity when the competitive portion of the season begins... So before that, I challenge you to pay a compliment to the Penguins, Sidney Crosby, city of Pittsburgh, its residents, anything you'd like.
The city of Pittsburgh has never done anything wrong to me. I bear no ill will to the land that gave the world Don Caballero.
#10 - If you had to guess, what is a potential division name that was left on the drawing board before the geniuses in the NHL picked 'Metropolitan' as the best idea?
There wasn’t one: I think it was Metropolitan from the beginning, given the fact that most of the teams will play inside their respective cities as opposed to suburban arenas near them.