The Devil's haven't made the playoffs 3 of the last 4 years. The last time that was true was 1989 -- 3 years before I was born. The holdovers from the glory days are almost all gone. The last player that was on our team for all 3 cups was Marty and regardless of what happens with him, the age of Marty is gone. After Patty, the longest tenured Devils are Zajac and Greene who, despite being on the team for 8 years, are clearly pillars for the future as opposed to totems of the past.
Despite being at the end of an era and a team in transition, the Devils are the leagues oldest team.We have a well-documented dearth of young forward talent outside of Henrique and Boucher. The young defenders are encouraging, but none have proved themselves over extended periods of time. We have the marks of a team in the early stages of transition. Hell, even our announcers from the glory days have both bolted. I'm still not used to never hearing the word "careen" in games. Now I have to listening to Devils games without blatant Goalie biases too? Say it ain't so!
That all being said, I am still excited for this year.
1. The Beginning of an Era
The end of an era sounds better when you phrase it this way doesn't it? Sure the most prolific goalie of all time has moved on to ... something, but we have an extremely encouraging guy between the pipes right now fully capable of ushering in his own era. DeBoer is still young and if he sticks around through the end of next year, that will constitute the longest run ever for a New Jersey Devils coach. If this new era could have a sustained presence behind the bench that would be a nice change. And of course there's the young defenders.
2. The Big 3
If the NBA has taught us anything at all, it is that great things must come in 3s. We have one of the deepest defensive prospect pools in the league topped off with 3 encouraging blue liners. We at ILWT have discussed Larsson, Merrill and Gelinas ad nauseam so I don't feel the need to add to the pile. What can I say that you haven't seen yet? Did you know that Adam Larsson is an anagram of Salamandros? You're welcome.
3. The Stats
In a couple different articles (here and here) I have expressed why the Devils are already performing well offensively and with Marty's exit will improve in goaltending. Furthermore, in my audition article, I show how the Devils were due to regress to the mean in both shootout and non-shootout points. Alex wrote an article this off-season about the unluckiness (yes that's a word) the Devils endured. The Devils are extremely due for improvement statistically. And if we even improve only just enough to make the playoffs we could make noise. Even ESPN considered us a "dangerous bubble team" on April 7th. Yes we were still mathematically alive that late. Only mathematically though.
4. Who Cares?!?!
Sometimes teams suck. As hard as it is to believe, sometimes even your favorite team sucks. I'm sure there's plenty of Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, and Yankees fans reading this and all of those people have either recent or current experience with this phenomenon. And we're fortunate because if we are just bad enough we can get the golden boy.
It's still hockey dammit. And it's still the Devils. I hear Hell's Bells in my sleep. I pray to Lou every night. I opened up Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari, Opera, and something called Sea Monkey just so I could vote the Devils the best logo in Sports on a site I hadn't even heard of until the poll. I bleed red. Like Devils-red not just normal red from the hemoglobin... The point is! It's been another long offseason. And the boys are finally coming back. Who else is ready for some hockey?!
What do you think?
I forgot another reason I'm excited. It's my first regular season as a writer for ILWT which wouldn't be possible without you guys. So what do you think? Are you excited for this year or just biding time until the future is here? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? What do you want to see? Leave a plethora of comments below as my self-worth is directly tied to the attention I receive from you all.