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Lockout Over! A Brief Outlook on the Devils in 2013

Posted By Mike Mastrandrea On Jan 7 2013 @ 7:14 pm In New Jersey Devils | 1 Comment

After the longest bargaining session of the 2012-2013 NHL lockout, a grueling 16 hours of negotiating between the NHL and the Union starting on Saturday, January 5th, the players and fans finally got their wish. Right around 5 a.m. on Sunday, January 6th, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr addressed the media together announcing they had come to an agreement on the framework of a new CBA.

Phew.

After 112 days of a world without hockey, the players and fans let out a sigh of relief as they finally got what they were waiting for. Although some things still need to be accomplished, such as majority approval from the Board of Governors this Wednesday, the feeling around the league is that the puck will finally drop this season. The hero to thank for this, in many eyes, is mediator Scot Beckenbaugh, who met with both sides throughout the later stages of the process to tackle the remaining issues and find common ground to work with.

Some main points of the new CBA include:

  • 10-year deal with an opt-out clause after 8 years
  • 50-50 split of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR)
  • Player contract limited to maximum of 7 years, 8 years if player is resigning with same team
  • Teams can spend $70.2 million on salary cap in the first year, but in year two, the upper limit will be $64.3 million with a lower limit of $44 million
  • 2 player buyouts per team instead of 1
  • Draft lottery will give the 14 teams that missed the playoffs a chance at the top pick, instead of the bottom 5 teams.

With the framework of a new and lengthy CBA in place, players across the league are rejoicing, including some from the New Jersey Devils. Right-winger David Clarkson told Devils writer Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, “It’s just that you’re glad that it’s over, glad that it’s back to work.” Veteran and Hall-of-fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is nearing the end of his career, was especially happy about the ending of the lockout and the chance to continue his career for another season, at least.

“I was itching to come back, listening to the news and just getting bored and trying to find things to do,” Brodeur told Gulitti. “I know when you retire and you move on it’s a lot different. I’m really excited about the game and to get back at it and try to build it back up a little bit.”

All Devils fans can be happy that Marty has another crack at a title run, and in general, the fact that he is still around after all these years and numerous work stoppages. What has been concerning to some players however is that with the short season and little time to get in a game mindset, injuries may be more apparent.

“I think that is going to be an issue,” Devils veteran forward Patrick Elias said to Gulitti. “Not because of a short training camp. Having that many games in so few days is going to be a factor, no question. There is not going to be enough rest.”

Among injuries, this shortened season will certainly cause more parity to ensue and make just about every game as important as an elimination game. For the Devils, a shortened season is something they have had past success in. In the last half-season, 1995, they won the Stanley Cup in dominant fashion. Since then though, the game has changed in almost every way and has become immensely more competitive.

During that ’95 season, the Devils didn’t fare too well in the regular season, going 22-18-8 in a 48 game season, good for a 5 seed. This time around however, they will probably have to do better than that to contend and make the playoffs. That may be a solid record in such a short span, but over the past decade, the Atlantic division has been among the best, if not the best division, and to finish with that mark will simply not cut it in the new NHL.

With what New Jersey has returning, nothing less is expected, but they will have to fill the voids left by the departure of former captain Zach Parise and role player Alexei Ponikarovsky. Players will have to step up and contribute in ways they haven’t before. The electric 4th line of last years Cup run, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta, and Ryan Carter, will have to continue its production on a daily basis. Travis Zajac will have to step into Parise’s shoes and contribute consistently, both offensively and defensively. Patrik Elias, the ageless wonder who was good for 10th in the league last year in points, will have to somehow keep that going as well. A new captain will also have to be named and do what Parise did so well in his one-year stint.

Most of all, the team will have to stay healthy. Any injury to a major contributor could spell doom for the Devils in a season such as this one, kind of like what happened with Ilya Kovalchuk in the Stanley Cup finals last year. He had a lingering injury in his hip and it seemed to take a toll on him as the playoffs continued. He was a huge factor in getting New Jersey to the finals, but as that series dragged on against Los Angeles, he contributed next to nothing and was a noticeably different player than what we saw earlier in the playoffs. The Devils went on to lose in 6 games.

Speaking of Kovalchuk, he is currently still in Russia playing with SKA and is believed to be taking part in the teams next game. According to GM Lou Lamoriello though, there is no reason to believe he won’t be returning when the season starts. Now healthy, he has had quite a year in the KHL, producing 18 goals and 22 assists in 34 games played, as well as being named to the KHL All-Star game. Kovalchuk’s role will increase dramatically with the loss of Parise and will be looked upon to shoulder the load for the Devils this year, and possibly the Captaincy.

Many think that hockey won’t return to what it was and repeat the success of last year. The fans are certainly angry about the situation and don’t exactly like the idea of a half season due to a work stoppage, but they will be back. Hockey fans are unlike any other, which may be why a work stoppage in the NHL is different than in any other sport. Once the puck drops, the memory of what has happened the past few months will slowly fade. The players are happy hockey is back and are ready to play after all the waiting.

Now, let’s play some hockey!

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