As I'm stuck searching for a larger topic this week, I decided to bring back an article I've relied on a few times before. I'll discuss five topics and briefly provide my thoughts on them in hopes of sparking some positive conversation about our team which has not been an easy task during this season!
1.) "I Think That We Have to Get a Couple of Offensive Forwards."
GM Lou Lamoriello recently stated this quote in an interview with Tom Gulitti; with the Devils having the third lowest total of team goals scored this season (176 as of this writing), adding scorers should be a no-brainer. Lou also spoke highly of the team's defense, goaltending, and role-players, so he (hopefully) won't be looking into more of those this summer. The Devils also have a number of expiring contracts (some worth quite a bit as well) meaning that payroll won't be a problem for them as it will for other teams.
Getting more offense is integral if our team hopes to succeed anytime in the near future; while our defense is still young and learning, they along with Cory Schneider have kept us in enough games that we would be competitive if we just scored more often. We may have one of the worst records in the league, but we are actually 13th best in terms of goals against, even with a couple of blowouts against us. Lou isn't making excuses either; he recognizes scoring is the problem and seems committed to fixing the issue. Only time will tell if he fixes it or not.
2.) Devils Call-Up Raman Hrabarenka and Seth Helgeson
As fire reported over on Fire and Ice, the Devils have used the last two of their four post-trade deadline call-ups to bring Seth Helgeson back to New Jersey as well as give Raman Hrabarenka a look. The Devils reportedly had wanted to call Raman up before when they had a number of injuries on the blue line, but he was injured himself at that point.
I have to say I liked the snarl "Hulk" brought to the lineup when he was here the last time, and I'm very interested in seeing how Hrabarenka will do; I've heard a lot about him in Albany and was upset that he wasn't playing when I saw Albany play Bridgeport a few months ago. If the Devils go the trade route as mentioned above to get new forwards, they may have to part with one of these two, or one of the youngsters in our current corp. If someone from this season's group is traded, one or both of these guys may be staying in New Jersey next season depending on how they do.
3.) Devils Will Draft 1st, 6th, or 7th
The Devils are locked into the 6th worst record in the NHL, which means that there are only three outcomes for where they will draft. If they win the lottery drawing, they will draft
Connor McDavid first overall. If a team below them in the standings wins they will drop to seventh; if a team with a higher percentage chance wins, the Devils will draft sixth.
No matter what position the Devils are in for the draft, there are a number of forwards ranked highly in this upcoming draft class. If the Devils win the lottery, the pick makes itself. If they don't, prospects such as Pavel Zacha, Dylan Strome, Mitchell Marner, Mathew Barzal, Timo Meier, and (to a lesser extent) Lawson Crouse may still be available. At least one of those names should still be on the board and while it might not be an immediate fix, drafting a skilled forward will certainly help the team in the long run.
4.) Candidates to Bounce Back Next Season
The Devils had a number of players under-performing players this season; Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias will probably be the two receiving the most criticism since they will be back next year. Michael Ryder continued to be a goal scorer that couldn't score goals, and the Martin Havlat experiment was a complete failure. Dainius Zubrus is flat out done; Tuomo Ruutu was also a disappointment, but there weren't nearly as many expectations on him. Ryane Clowe is also done, but in a different way from Zubrus; Bryce Salvador also had a disappointing, injury-riddled season, but is off the books next season. I could go on with this list I'm sure, but you get the idea.
Most of those contracts will be gone by the end of the 2016-2017 season at the latest sans Zajac and Elias. If we get a few more scoring forwards, I could see those two each have a bounce back season in 2015-2016. It's hard to rack up assist totals without players to put the puck in the net; Zajac and Elias are known more for assists than goals, so if we get the scorers we desperately need, those two should rebound offensively. Their defense was fine for the most part, so if they rebound offensively, there should be far less fans frustrated with those two.
5.) Devils Not Giving Out Team Awards This Season
While possibly a controversial decision, the Devils as a team will not be giving out their usual MVP, Unsung Hero, and Player's Player awards this season.
There's a reason for that and his name is Cory Schneider; he would sweep the awards this season based on the fact that he was amazing overall (despite a few bad games) and everyone else well... wasn't.
As always for this type of article, I'd like to hear your opinions on these topics; who will the Devils target both in terms of forwards and the draft? Will Hrabarenka and/or Helgeson make an impact in the last two games? Who if anyone will have a bounce back season?