If you would have asked me a year ago how the New Jersey Devils could survive without the services of Zach Parise , I would have been dumbfounded. Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season I could not have imagined the Devils sans the budding super-star.
Now that his departure is a reality, how do I feel and who can fill his very large shoes?
Well, first of all a lot has changed in the past 12 months. In fact, the club is in an entirely different frame of reference. That is to say, they have returned to the upper echelon of the NHL. Instead of missing the playoffs and winning the draft lottery, New Jersey competed for a playoff spot all season long and rode a wave of good fortune to the Stanley Cup Final.
Young stars like Adam Larsson, Adam Henrique, Mark Fayne and Jacob Josefson emerged as real NHL talents. It has to be one of the largest influxes of pure talent to grace the Devils roster since the mid to late 90’s when guys like Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Scott Gomez were breaking into the league.
When Parise opted to leave for Minnesota it was as if a tooth had been unceremoniously ripped from New Jersey’s mouth, root and all. However, the sheer volume of young up and coming talent has acted very much like an extra strong dose of Novocaine, numbing the excruciating pain of his absence.
So who will be this years big break out star?
Believe it or not, I think it has to be Mattias Tedenby. One of the few similarities between this off-season and the last is that I said the same thing about Teddy a summer ago. Both Henrique and Josefson proved their NHL worth and solidified their positions within the club, while Tedenby was pushed aside and practically disregarded.
Henrique was a Calder finalist and finished fourth in team scoring with 51 points (16g 35a). Not to mention his rise to stardom during the playoffs. Josefson battled through more injury problems, but he has shown flashes of a maturing game and it’s only a matter of time before he takes off.
In 2010-11, Tedenby, the Devils first-round pick in 2008, appeared on the verge of a break out season of his own. He put up 22 points (8g 14a) in 58 games and you got the feeling he finally had his NHL legs under him.
I guess Tedenby missed the memo.
Last season, the small player with big talent struggled through the first half of the season. Unable to win any brownie points with coach Pete DeBoer’s, the diminutive Swede had a measly six points (one goal, five assists) in 43 games with the big club and was a team-worst minus-15 while averaging 10:45 per game of ice time at the time of his exile.
Tedenby inexplicably regressed and fell out of favor with the coaching staff and fans. The Devils first-round pick in 2008 was buried in Albany in late January. He managed put together a decent season with 20 points (6g 14a) in only 35 games, but his spot on the NHL club was gone.
Here we are in late July and by all accounts Lou Lamoriello appears ready to head into the 2012-13 season with the team he has now. Assuming unrestricted free-agent Petr Sykora re-signs, Tedenby becomes an obvious choice to slide into one of the last remaining forward positions left vacant by the departure of both Parise and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
While he is small in stature, Teddy does posses big-time talent and could be an NHL threat if he can get past his lackadaisical attitude. If Tedenby puts in the time and effort, I mean real NHL caliber effort, he could be this season’s Henrique.
We all know the kind of skill Teddy possesses, but can he finally put it to good use? If he can go for it and finally seize the amazing opportunity in front of him than New Jersey should have no problem forgetting about old what’s-his-name from Minnesota.
Agree or Disagree? Can Mattias Tedenby fill the empty offensive void or do the Devils still need another hired gun?
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