It's finally here.
The Devils will open the 2010-2011 season tonight at home, facing off against the Dallas Stars at 7 p.m. Darren already previewed the Devils offense, defense and goalie expectations for the season, so make sure you give those a read. Instead of giving a lengthy preview, Darren and I have narrowed down this season into 10 questions we have about the Devils this season.
And, drumroll please....
For me, I think I would feel better if the Devils moved Jamie to the third line and move David Clarkson up to play with Arnott and Elias. The way that Clarkson goes to the net, which isn't Langenbrunner's game, would open up the ice more for Arnott and Elias. With that said, yes, I do believe that enough scoring from Arnott and Elias will allow the top line to remain in tact. Of course, the other question is can Kovy, Parise and Zajac produce themselves but I will let you answer that for yourself.
2. How Many Games Will Johan Hedberg Play?
Every year we ask this question. Marty is 38 and, realistically, shouldn't be carrying such a workload every season. It's a pretty well known fact that this is Marty's call. If the NHL's greatest goaltender wants to play 70-75 games a season and feels healthy enough to do so, then who is to argue. My hope is that Hedberg gets the call in at least 20 games this season.
In a short answer, no. Volchenkov isn't Pronger. Pronger averages almost a minute and a half more ice time per game then Volchenkov, and Prongers 55 points completely outweighs Volchenkov's 14 points. Thankfully, there is more to the game than that. The Flyers rolled over the Devils defense last spring, but the addition of Volchenov does give NJ an intimidating player on the blue-line. He can certainly lay down the big checks and isn't afraid to give up his body to block shots. So to answer this question, Volchenkov won't do what Pronger does in Philadelphia, but he does make NJ a better and more intimidating defense and that is really what we are looking for.
4. Will the perennial playoff contender get past the first round of the playoffs???
This is the question that I am sure will get asked many more times as the season moves along. On paper, this team is built to go deep into the playoffs. But that is only on paper. This team has to go out there and perform. I do believe in this team and I do believe this team has a deep run in their future.
5. Is Kovalchuk worth everything that happened since July 1st?
I'll be honest, having Ilya on this team makes me extremely nervous. We are tied to this guy for the next 15 years and this deal is not something the Devils do. Well, I guess they do because they did it but, ordinarily, they don't do. They are $35,835 under the cap and carrying 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders, which is the bare minimum. There is no flexibility if a player is ill or suffers a minor injury that sidelines him for a game or two. That would likely force the Devils to play a game with less than 18 skaters or cause them to make a roster move they really don't want to make.
For me, for all this to be a success, Ilya must be a 40 goal scorer (I would like 45 minumum) and must be the first Devil to reach 100 points and it all must happen THIS YEAR.
For the next five questions, follow after the jump!
6. How will the Devils manage injuries?
As Darren stated in question above, the Devils are only $35,835 under the cap, leaving them no room for injuries. For now, Lamoriello is content to stick with 20 healthy players, but it's going to take a stroke of luck to keep the roster completely healthy. There will be minor bumps and bruises, but the team can afford to rest no one (except Brodeur) in the early going. It'll be interesting to see how the Devils deal with injuries until they can clear cap space.
7. What should we expect from Brian Rolston?
We've discussed it time and time again in several posts - the Devils have yet to see the true offensive force they signed two seasons ago. Rolston has dealt with injuries over the past two seasons, and his play suffered dramatically. He's 38 now, and while I don't expect him to score 30 goals again, he needs to be a source of secondary scoring for this team. He's looked better throughout the preseason, and hopefully it'll carry over into the regular season.
8. How will the rookies play?
For the past few seasons, we've heard about several Devils' prospects who are expected to be great - Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, etc. Today begins their proving period. Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina remain with the team, and both will get an opportunity to play extensive regular season minutes. They looked good in the preseason, but the regular season is a different beast. I'm not expecting the next Scott Niedermayer or Bobby Orr to show up this season. But this class of rookies will display the organization's depth and talent.
9. Will John MacLean succeed in the NHL?
The rookie coach will get his first crack at the NHL tonight after serving as a coach within the organization for eight seasons. MacLean has NHL experience, serving as a bench coach for seven years before taking over Lowell. Last season, he led the team to its first winning season in two years. Former AHL coaches have become all the rage in the NHL, and many of them have solid track records. Lamoriello gave MacLean all the offensive tools to have a great team. It'll be interesting to see how he manages the bench and the challenges of being an NHL coach.
10. Is this team hungry enough to win the Cup?
This question will be debated throughout the season. The team seems hungry and wanting to win, and Lamoriello surely has given this team the tools to compete. But as the season drags on, and the Devils endure the typical low points, their mettle will be tested. Can they continue to stay hungry, or will the veterans rest on their previous accomplishments? To get through adversity, etc., this team will need to rely on their drive to win the cup.