It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: New Jersey Devils
How they did last season: 38-36-8 (84 points), 7th in the Metropolitan, 12th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.
Notable acquisitions: C Vernon Fiddler, D Ben Lovejoy, LW Taylor Hall, RW Beau Bennett, D Brandon Gormley
Notable departures: D David Schlemko, D Adam Larsson
When they will play the Caps: Dec. 29 in Washington; Dec. 31 in New Jersey; Jan. 26 in New Jersey; March 2 in Washington
Analysis: The New Jersey Devils have finished in the bottom four in terms of goals per game in each of the past four seasons and finally bottomed out in 2015-16, finishing dead last with only 2.22 goals per game. So the Devils’ priority this offseason was no secret, they needed to get better offensively.
To address that, the Devils pulled off one of the biggest heists of the offseason, acquiring Taylor Hall, a player who has registered 50 or more points in four of his six NHL seasons, for defenseman Adam Larsson.
That’s a steal. With all due respect to Larsson, the fact that general manager Ray Shero was able to get Hall without giving up more than just one player is stunning.
There’s also hope that prospect Pavel Zacha, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, will be able to make the jump to the NHL this year. Don’t expect the Devils to turn into the 2010 Caps, but there’s no reason to expect them to remain among the league’s worst offenses either.
As good as the trade for Hall was, the downside is that the defense in New Jersey will likely take a step back. Larsson was among the team’s top defensemen last season and was second on the Devils in ice time. Having a goalie like Corey Schneider, however, will certainly help. While a team never wants to rely on a goalie to carry a defense, it’s easier to mask a bad defense with a good goalie than it is to mask a bad offense with...well, a good goalie.
Season prediction: New Jersey had no scoring last season in John Hynes' first season as head coach, but that was a roster issue, not a coaching one. In fact, the Devils were much more competitive than I anticipated given the team’s roster and finished just 12 points out of the last playoff spot.
There’s no question the defense has taken a step back, but the offense has taken a major step forward. It’s up to Hynes now to show what he can do with it.
This roster is still not good enough to reach the playoffs, but the Devils look like they are headed in the right direction.
2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS
— Anaheim Ducks
— Arizona Coyotes
— Calgary Flames
— Edmonton Oilers
— Los Angeles Kings
— San Jose Sharks
— Vancouver Canucks
— Chicago Blackhawks
— Colorado Avalanche
— Dallas Stars
— Minnesota Wild
— Nashville Predators
— St. Louis Blues
— Winnipeg Jets
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
— Montreal Canadiens
— Ottawa Senators
— Tampa Bay Lightning
— Toronto Maple Leafs
— Carolina Hurricanes
— Columbus Blue Jackets
— New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
— New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
— Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
— Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
— Washington Capitals (coming Aug. 30)