Many people forget that during the New Jersey Devils run to the Stanley Cup finals last season, they did it without one of their key contributors: Travis Zajac. In order to accomplish that, a number of other parts had to step up and contribute. One such player who exceeded expectations and helped the Devils win the East was Stephen Gionta.
Gionta was an integral member in the Devils depth last season and was in turn rewarded with his first one-way contract in the NHL. Prior to last season breakout performance in the playoffs, Gionta had played just 13 NHL games and spend most of his time in the minors. He didn’t even play for the Devils until the final day of the regular season last year.
But one of the reasons the Devils were so pesky in the postseason was their fourth line, spearheaded by Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. Just ask the New York Rangers, who saw the Devils fourth line score key goals throughout the Eastern Conference final, including the pivotal Game 5.
And while Gionta was surely looking forward to his first one-way contract, meaning that he wouldn’t have to worry about the minors, he’ll unfortunately have to wait a bit longer. The NHL is currently in a labor dispute with their players and has since locked them out. The September preseason games have been canceled and the next key date everyone is eyeing is the start of the regular season.
Unfortunately, Gionta is in the same boat as fans, pundits and everyone else who makes a living off the game: we’re all victims. He’d love to go through the rigors of training camp and preseason knowing that he’s got a spot on the team but unfortunately he won’t get to taste that.
Nonetheless, Gionta will still be a key member of the Devils when the season does start – whenever that may be – and that’s all that matters in the end.
The Devils aren’t currently among many people’s NHL picks to win the Stanley Cup this season – or even make it back to the final – but maybe they’ve got some more surprises in store. After all, nobody believed they’d go so far last season.