The New Jersey Devils have lost a lot this offseason, including star center Zach Parise and two assistant coaches in Larry Robinson and Adam Oates. And while the subtractions have outweighed the additions so far, the Devils did make a move that can definitely be considered a positive and means they could still have value as part of our NHL picks for the upcoming season.
The Devils have replaced the two departed assistant coaches and one of the men joining Peter DeBoer’s staff will be a familiar face: Scott Stevens. He’ll take over Robinson’s duties and oversee the defensive units.
Stevens is best known for his bone-crushing hits and fearsome presence on three Stanley Cup winning Devils squads. Some pundits and sportsbook odds makers view the move with a bit of skepticism as Stevens has no coaching experience and this will be his first time on the job. Even so, given his Hall of Fame status, pedigree and intimidating presence on the ice, it’s likely that everyone takes him seriously.
One of the first duties for Stevens will be to help make some key decisions for the team’s blue line. As of right now, the Devils have eight defenseman on the payroll with all of them having played in the recent Stanley Cup run. It’s usually the type of problem that most teams would love to have but the Devils are in a bit of bind since almost all of the players are veterans.
The eight men fighting for six spots include veterans Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Henrik Tallinder, Mark Fayne, Bryce Salvador, Adam Greene, Peter Harrold and Adam Larsson.
Salvador was just re-signed for three years and $9.5 million, so he won’t be the odd man out. Zidlicky is a quality puck-moving defenseman while Greene and Fayne were solid blue liners in the playoffs. Larsson was sparingly used in the playoffs but was a Calder Trophy candidate in the regular season. It’s unlikely that the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft will be the odd man out.
Volchenkov won’t be counted out as he is entering the third year of his six-year, $25.5 M deal, so he’s likely to be part of the six-man unit. Harrold and Tallinder are likely the odd men out but both could see some early season action as Fayne is out three to four months after wrist surgery.
The good news for Stevens is he has the talent in place. Now he’ll just have to make some tough decisions for DeBoer’s staff since the team is overly stocked at the position.