Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be featuring a few of the New Jersey Devils key players in a series I like to call “A Closer Look.” I figured since I just wrote about Patrik Elias as a possible choice for team captain, I’d start with him first.
St. Patrik, turned 35 this past April (he and I share the same birthday) and is entering his 14th season in New Jersey. Despite his age he remains an important piece of New Jerseys offensive puzzle. His ability to play both wing and center makes his versatility a valuable asset to the Devils new head coach Pete DeBoer. He also plays in all situations but remains most effective while 5 on 5.
The dependable Czech is the organizations All-Time leading scorer with 816 points (335g 481a) and an incredible +/- rating of +194 in 961 career games. His career playoff numbers are just as impressive. In his 138 career post season games Elias has accumulated 117 points (40g 77a) including one of the biggest assists in Devils playoff history. His no look pass in the second overtime of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals found Jason Arnott to clinch the series and the Devils second Cup title.
Barring an injury he will eclipse 1000 career games with one club by next season. Only 44 other players in NHL history can make that claim. Elias finished the 2010-11 campaign a minus player (-4) for the first time in his career but still managed to lead the team in scoring. His 62 points (21g 41a) were two better than the $100 million dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk (31g 29a).
But, it was his leadership that made the biggest difference for a team struggling to find itself halfway through the season. Elias quietly led by example as the team held it together long enough to make a late season surge.
In 2011-2012, Elias can be expected to put up his usual 60 points a season with at least 20 goals. Once again his versatility will afford him the opportunity to play on the top two lines at either wing or center. I’d like to see him centering a line with Kovalchuk for an entire season. I also believe Elias and his teamamtes will have a bounce back season defensively. Last season was an anomaly. Expect a double digit plus in the +/- column for number 26.
Elias is playing out what could be his last NHL contract. He’s signed for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $6-million per year. Even with the cap increasing, that type of money almost guarantees he’ll finish his career in Newark, as he should.
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