Last season the New Jersey Devils had a magical run that was ended, by the LA Kings, just short of there ultimate goal. The Devils were a very balanced team last year, being 11th in goals scored and 8th in goals against. With reports circulating that the teams leading goal scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk, might stay in Russia, the question of Devils fans minds is: How good can the Devils be in 2013?
The season out look for the Devils was already a bit sketchy after their captain, Zach Parise, left the Devils for a monster deal this off-season and with key players getting older. The Devils resigned key players from last year’s playoff run, but they didn’t sign or trade for any big time players.
If Kovalchuk is to leave the Devils to continue his career in Russia, the Devils scoring attack would be greatly impacted from last year. As a team, the Devils scored 229 goals last season with 68 of them coming from Kovalchuk and Parise. The Devils have some younger, inexperienced guys, like Adam Henrique, that they would have to rely on heavily to score plenty of goals.
Along with losing production, losing both Kovalchuk and Parise would leave the team with a huge need for leadership. Parise was the Devils captain and was a leader in the locker room and on the ice. Kovalchuk, one of the Devils’ alternate captains, had the ability and the talent to carry the Devils through their scoring droughts and lead them to victory.
If Kovalchuk does leave for the KHL, look for the Devils to explore trade options (Bobby Ryan?) before the season starts, to try to compensate for the lost on ice production. If Kovalchuk is out of the picture, I don’t see the Devils making the playoffs, even if they acquire another offensive piece because of the on and off ice leadership that the Devils would be losing. The Devils organization and their fans need to hope and pray that Kovalchuk does return to the NHL because with out him there once promising season could quickly evaporate.
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**@NHLFANCHAT Update -- AReporter our of Russia said that Kolvachuk WILL play in the NHL this season but wants to play in the KHL All-Star Game on Sunday, no decision has been made yet on whether or not he will play.
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