Sunday, September 07, 2008
Previews: The NHL.com Version
Given that the preview is from NHL.com, it's a very optimistic preview. I don't see the league's website being blunt about it and just say that a team is going to be outright bad. But it's definitely worth reading. Consider the New Jersey Devils' preview - Kimelman correctly points out that the offense needed addressing in the offseason because they have been so bad at it. And as a result, he has more written about the forwards than the defense or the goaltending. Essentially, he doesn't expect the defense to be an issue and he points out what milestones Martin Brodeur will likely break this season. Not just the obvious - career wins - but also in games played and possibly in total saves and minutes. There's not much to say about the defense; so let's consider his section on the forwards which is a cause of some skepticism.
Apparently, Kimelman thinks that Brian Rolston will play at center for New Jersey, with Zach Parise and Brian Gionta on his wing, and all three will therefore have great seasons. That would be great and I agree that Rolston will provide a boost to the offense. However, I'm still not sure Rolston should be placed at center. I've expressed this concern back in July; but for all I know, the Devils will make it work. Also, I'm not sure that Brian Gionta will get a big boost by playing with Rolston and Parise. Gionta was shuffled all over the place last season and he seemingly forgot to crash the net like he did in 2005-2006. He wasn't carrying an offensive burden as much as his (and the team's) inconsistency was a burden on offense. Don't get me wrong, I hope Kimelman is right in this regard; I'm just not as hopeful.
He also touches on Patrik Elias, saying that with Rolston at center, he can go back to left wing. In Kimelman's scenario, that's true. However, he'll be on the second line with, I guess, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus? Or Jamie Langenbrunner? He may be more comfortable at left wing, but I don't know whether that will lead to more points. While it'd be amazing, I am further skeptical that Jay Pandolfo and John Madden will repeat their production from last season. It's going to be up to the top six forwards to improve on their production because if New Jersey is looking to Madden and Pandolfo for scoring, the team's offense clearly has problems.
His reasons for optimism at the end of the column are mostly sound. Martin Brodeur will remain being magnificient. Sutter now knows what he has to do and we'll likely see fewer line-up changes, which in turn can allow for more stability and allow chemistry to develop. But Zach Parise hitting 100 or more points? That's a rather bold prediction, Kimelman. Patrik Elias came close in 2000-2001 with 96 and that's from having a monster season while playing the whole season on the storied A Line. To hit triple digits I would think that Parise would have to have a monster season like no other in Devils' history and have the right chemistry with his linemates and stay with the same linemates and stay healthy and hope opposing defenses can't figure him out. Brian Rolston and Parise's development alone won't be enough. I'd love to be proven wrong about this, but I don't think we're going to see that yet.
Kimelman's preview, as I said earlier, is optimistic and the preview itself is worth reading as it's a decent, to-the-point summary of the Devils. The additional articles linked in the preview are also worth your time. However, I think the more optimistic parts should be taken with grains of salt, so to speak. If you're looking for a comprehensive Devils preview, this alone won't do it.