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A Decade of Necessary Changes Part 4: The 2013 New Jersey Devils

The 2010s are ending and so will end a decade of New Jersey Devils hockey where past glories ended and difficult necessary changes were to be made. This is the fourth part of the series which looks at the lockout-shortened 2013 season and the two big changes in the 2013 offseason.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New Jersey Devils
Little did we know then that this would be Kovalchuk’s last game as a Devil at the Rock.

The 2010s will end on January 1, 2020. It was a tumultuous ten years for the New Jersey Devils franchise. Big trades, a player controversy, and massive changes in ownership, management, coaches, and players surround seasons where the Devils fell from past glories. It is not a decade that will be fondly remembered with some exceptions. It is a decade that forced the Devils to make some difficult, messy, and necessary changes. And as this decade closes, we can only hope that the changes that continue to be made will lead the Devils back to making the playoffs regularly, challenging for Stanley Cups, and perhaps being the model franchise for others once again. Before it ends, let us look back one more time at the 2010s with a mostly daily (this day will have two) series of posts summarizing each of the previous ten seasons up to New Year’s Day.

In the fourth part of this series, this post will summarize the 2013 season. Technically it is the 2012-13 season. However, thanks to the Incredibly Stupid Lockout of 2012, there was no actual NHL hockey in 2012. After a tentative agreement was reached in early January, the NHL and the NHLPA agreed to hold a 48-game season from January 19, 2013 through to the end of April. Therefore, I am calling this the 2013 season. And this is a lost season in that it was so short that it is hard to remember exactly what happened. It was not a good season. Unlike 2010-11, there was no shocking collapse from the get go. Or any wonderful turnaround. It was a season filled with good streaks following bad streaks for a team that tried to replicate what they did in 2011-12 without Zach Parise and without good goaltending. The Devils have had worse seasons since then but the shortened 2013 season has been out of sight and out of mind for me. Out of all ten seasons for this series, this is the one I with the fewest memories. The 2013 offseason, well, that is another story.

So I am pleased that I am doing this series to refresh my own memory with this overview of that season and sort-of reliving that eventful offseason. I hope to capture all of the major events. And if you feel there were things I missed or there was someone or something that you really liked (or disliked) that should have been highlighted, then feel free to share it in the comments.

The 2013 Season

The Record: 19-19-10, 48 points, Fifth in the Atlantic Division (Source: Hockey-Reference)

The Head Coach: Peter DeBoer

The Team Captain: Bryce Salvador

The Top Scorer: Patrik Elias - 14 goals, 22 assists, 118 shots, 36 points

The ILWT Season Preview: We did it on short notice but we did do one ahead of the 2013 season. Here are the predictions from the staff, which links back to the other posts in that preview.

The Biggest In-Season Move: Big is a relative term. The Devils made four trades in this season and most of them were not big ones. Among them, the one that was the most interesting was the Devils sending a fifth rounder to Los Angeles for Andrei Loktionov. Loktionov was a forward with an offensive skillset that never really got enough credit. I mean, his name was left off the Cup in 2012. That’s cold. He seemed good and you would think on a Devils starving for offense he would thrive. Apparently not with just eight goals and four assists in 28 games. He would return next season but he would be dealt then. While the Devils gave up a little more to bring back Alexei Ponikarovsky from Winnipeg; he did do so well in his second go-around in New Jersey.

Playoffs?: No. This would be the final season with three five-team divisions and a playoff qualifying format where the three division winners would get #1 through #3 and the best five records of the remaining teams would fill out the five remaining seed. The re-alignment to the current division, schedule, and playoff format would take place in 2013-14. I was not a fan of it when it was approved in March 2013. Now we live with it. With that aside out of the way, let us get back to 2013 season. The 2013 Devils would finish one point behind Philadelphia for last in the Atlantic. The team would miss the playoffs by seven points. I wonder if the Devils would have righted their ship in an 82-game season but it was not like they missed it by a game or two either.

The Months in Review: Here is a link to each of the Months in Review for the season - which includes the Devil of the Month (DotM).

  • January 2013 - DotM Honorable Mention - Martin Brodeur; ILWT DotM - David Clarkson
  • February 2013 - DotM Honorable Mention - Martin Brodeur; ILWT DotM - Patrik Elias
  • March 2013 - DotM Honorable Mention - Adam Henrique; ILWT DotM - Ilya Kovalchuk
  • April 2013 - DotM Honorable Mention -No one ; ILWT DotM - Andy Greene

I did not do one in April since it was so short of a month. It was kind of silly to summarize a handful of games. So it goes.

The Player Awards by the Blog: While the blog platform was called United, were still In Lou We Trust back then. Here were our choices for player awards for the regular season.

  • MVP: Patrik Elias
  • Best Defenseman: Andy Greene
  • Best Goaltender: Martin Brodeur
  • Best Rookie: No one (the options were 17 games of Stefan Matteau or a handful of games from Harri Pesonen.)
  • Best Defensive Forward: Patrik Elias
  • Best Offensive Forward: Patrik Elias
  • The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Patrik Elias

The 2013 Season Stats: This is similar to the charts in the By the Numbers sections in the current month in reviews. For this series, I put 5-on-5 stats, expected goals for 5-on-5 and all situations, power play, and penalty kill stats all in one chart for the season. Rankings in green were top ten in the league in 2013; red is for stats in the bottom ten. The stats primarily come from Natural Stat Trick with special teams stats being pulled from

2013 New Jersey Devils Stats and NHL Ranks
2013 New Jersey Devils Stats and NHL Ranks
Natural Stat Trick and

2019 Thoughts About the 2013 Season: There were just a number of odd things about this shortened season. First and foremost, I was not kidding about the streaks. Check out the team’s game log at Hockey-Reference for 2013. This was the season: A 3-game winning streak, a 4-game losing streak, a 5-game winning streak, a run of 2 wins out of the next 11 games, 3-wins in the following 4, 3 straight losses, 2 straight losses, a winless streak of 10 games where the team went 0-6-4, and the team ended the season with a 4-2-0 run. Capitalized by a terrible loss to Our Hated Rivals in Game #48. At least that happened in the World’s Most Overrated Arena. If we want to go over what went wrong with this season, the stunning lack of consistent success sticks out like sore thumb. That 11-game run with two wins from February 12 to March 5 hurt a lot. The 10 game winless streak from March 25 to April 15 hurt even more. While the Devils missed the playoffs by 7 points, even cutting those two bad streaks in half would have put them in contention to still make it.

This 48-game season also showed the inherent flaw in how the Devils took care of business in the run of play. In 2011-12, the team allowed so few opportunities to attack that their limited offense and not-so-hot goaltending was good enough to win a lot of games. In 2013, the defensive effort was still great. But the goaltending got worse and the offense was weaker - both with the loss of Parise and the team collectively shooting with cold sticks. The 6.3% shooting percentage plus the relatively low shooting and attempt rates equaled too few goals. So while they were still doing well in the run of play, more games became losses and post-regulation losses that would have been wins with last season’s team.

Amid all of this, there were positives to the season - something Mike summed up well in the wake of the regular season. The Devils did make Pittsburgh and Philadelphia suffer a lot. Loktionov looked like a find. Perhaps Reid Boucher could be a player. The team was still coming out ahead in Corsi, Fenwick (unblocked shooting attempts), Shots, and Chances For percentages. However, looking back now, the low for-rates really hurt since the aging tandem of Brodeur and Hedberg were not stopping enough pucks to make the few goals scored count (and it undercut an otherwise well-performing penalty kill). Even then at the time, I thought Brodeur played well for two of the four months as Hedberg was just heinous in net. But Brodeur would fade; and I think Lou recognized that given what he did in months to come.

Getting back to 2013, the player that may represent how odd it was at times could be Stefan Matteau. During the lockout, Matteau left the USNTDP and went to Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL. When the season would start for the Devils, they called him up to play in the NHL. Matteau looked like, well, an 18-year old getting baptized by fire in the NHL. After 17 games, one goal, two assists, and his entry level contract already started, it was clear he was not ready for the NHL. So he was returned to the Armada. Then in April he quit on the Armada while they were in the playoffs. It was just a weird campaign. Matteau would stay in the organization for a couple of more seasons before the Devils moved him on. I wonder if things would have turned out better for Matteau had he stayed in juniors and did not have incidents at all. What about his game made the Devils think he was worth burning his ELC slide years right away? I could not tell you - just like I could not tell you much about the 2013 campaign. It was a failed season and, unfortunately, a harbinger of things to come.

The 2013 Offseason

There is quite a lot to go over in a offseason after a truncated regular season. There were several pending free agents too. Here are the main points:

The Ilya Kovalchuk Drama Part 2: Part 1 was a long trip in 2010. The Devils traded for him, made a huge offer to sign him, had to wait for that offer to be signed, get it signed, have the league reject it, go through arbitration, the arbiter sustains the rejection, make a second similarly huge offer that the NHL would approve, wait longer than usual for the approval, and then he is finally re-signed and you get punished by a fine and draft picks after it. A lot was spent to keep Kovalchuk. Three years later, Kovalchuk got right to the point. On July 11, Kovalchuk announced that he was retiring from the NHL. He left. Seriously. He quit. He officially retired.

To quote Mike Stromberg’s classic headline, “What?”

Everybody in the hockey world was stunned by this news. Right in the peak years of his long-term contract, Kovalchuk straight up retired to get out of it. Kovalchuk passed up $77 million over the next 12 seasons with $11.6 million due to him for 2013-14. He wanted out that badly and so he did. He went back to SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. Kovalchuk played there during the Incredibly Stupid Lockout of 2012 and I presume someone there made him offers he did not want to refuse. And so in the matter of a report on a July afternoon, it was over. All of the work, effort, and cost paid to get Kovalchuk in a Devils uniform and keep him here was all for nothing. It was a bitter end to his time as a Devil. On July 11 To this day, Devils fans have not forgotten and understandably jeer him at all opportunities. After all, he literally quit the team to get out of a lucrative contract the team went above and beyond to give him.

It is easy to say now that this turned out for the better. It was unlikely that Kovalchuk could be a significant contributor deep into his 30s. No one misses that contract or its hit on the salary cap. Still, he was not there yet. He just turned 30 in 2013. He had plenty left in the tank as a scorer, as a player, and as a face of franchise. With Parise gone in 2012, the Devils lost the other highly skilled offensive player under the age of 35 that they had on the roster. And like with Parise’s departure, it was so deep into the offseason that the options to replace him were not good on paper. In the long term, its an arguable blessing in disguise. In the 2013 offseason, it was a crushing blow to a team that already was lacking on offense.

OK, now back to your regularly scheduled bulletpoints in chronological order for the 2013 offseason.

Goodness, gracious, no wonder I forgot a lot about the 2013 season. The offseason was way bigger than it. Kovalchuk retiring was massive and really hurt the roster. More important than that, new owners came in and bought the team. That would go on to change the whole organization in time from who is in charge to the how the game presentation is carried out. This amid all of the other player and coaching changes that frequented these summers. And this is not even the halfway point of the decade! The title of this series, A Decade of Necessary Changes, was suggested by Dan Rozel when I told him my idea before an episode of Garden State of Hockey. As he pointed out, a whole lot happened to the organization. While the 2013 season may not be memorable, this is up there with being the most impactful offseasons of the decade. Only one could outshine - and we’ll get there.

The 2013 NHL Draft: In 2013, the Devils hosted the NHL Draft. I was in the press box on a media credential, sweating profusely through my suit as it was a very humid and hot day in New Jersey. I eventually found my spot, which ended up being between Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter and Brian Johnson of Puck Buddies. Unlike other drafts, all seven rounds would be happen on that day. The Devils fans came out in full force booing the Rangers, the Flyers, the Kings, and Gary Bettman. The latter of which, when he came out for the 9th overall pick for the New Jersey, stated: “I think you’re going to want to hear this.” He announced that the Devils traded their first round pick to Vancouver for goaltender Cory Schneider.

As stated (way) earlier in this post, goaltending was an issue in 2013. Hedberg and Brodeur were aging ungracefully and their save percentages showed it. Schneider was a very talented backup who just needed an opportunity but instead had one of the best goaltenders of his generation in front of him - Roberto Luongo. While it stunk that after months of draft preparation, the ninth overall pick would not be used; the Devils filled a very important short-term and long-term need. I liked the trade when it happened. In retrospect, I still think it was a good trade. The Devils needed a goalie that badly. It would only be five years before it would go awry anyway. And also because it annoyed Travis Hughes as he wanted Philly to make such a trade to solve their perpetual goaltending problems.

The Devils made five selections in the 2013 draft. Steve Santini became the top man of the class at 42nd overall. He would eventually crack the NJ lineup and show that when he was on the ice, the Devils played a lot of defense and not much else. He would also be part of the package that would bring P.K. Subban to the Rock in 2019. The other picks, in order: Ryan Kujawinski, Miles Wood, Myles Bell, and after a late seventh round swapping of picks with Los Angeles, Anthony Brodeur. I was satisfied - and tired - after the long day. Little did I know that only Santini and Wood would be the successful picks out of that class and only Wood remains in the organization. It was a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, personally. I got to ask the Boston College-bound Santini an awkward question after his post-selection presser (no, he did not know what it meant to Be a Dude). And I also witnessed a Lou press conference. I was very happy and grateful for the experience even though I have no real desires to play journalist. I thank SB Nation and the NHL for making that possible.

Site Notes and Etc.

Rarely do I need to make a staff change in the middle of the season. However, it was necessary as Kevin opted to leave in March. I scrambled to find a long-term community member who was willing to volunteer and contribute in a lot of different ways with their perspective on the game. Enter Mike Stromberg. He officially came aboard in March and has been an important part of the site ever since. I am grateful to have Mike as a crucial part of this site. I also decided to have someone from the community take care of the gamethreads to ease up me from doing them. JT Sroka offered to do so and I gave him the opportunity. He has served that role for a number of seasons and I thank him for volunteering to put up the posts that consistently yield the most comments and real-time reactions to Our Favorite Team playing.

A Short Preview of Part 5, the 2013-14 Devils: Why can’t you win a dang shootout? Why can’t you give Schneider more starts? Why why why why why.

Thank you for reading. Part 5 will be up to- no. 2013 was a short season. Let’s do 2013-14 later today! You deserve a full season covered on Boxing Day.