The contrast between the New Jersey Devils‘ defense in 2012 to 2013 is astounding.
You could blame the fact that they were coming off a lockout, or you could blame the pressure they felt because of the lack of scoring from the offense. You could say that the defense looked a lot worse because of the underwhelming performance from Johan Hedberg.
I understand everything seemed to go awry when Martin Brodeur got injured, I feel the way Peter DeBoer handled the back end had a lot to do with how the Devils’ season ended up.
It seemed that there was never any chemistry with the defensive corps last season. There were no D partners, there were just eight defensive players who were on the ice at different times. With the players, you need to have pairs that complement each other.
Adam Larsson is a big bodied defenseman. ou shouldn’t put him with Anton Volchenkov, who plays a similar style. Marek Zidlicky is great because of his offensive prowess. If you put him with Andy Greene, then there will be a disadvantage when you get beyond the center ice line. It seemed that the styles of the team’s defensive pairs contradicted themselves.
Henrik Tallinder was traded to the Buffalo Sabres for peanuts just so they could turn the eight NHL caliber defenseman to seven. Now the logjam is much smaller than it was. They won’t have to scratch healthy players who are used to playing every day and ruin their flow. Now, DeBoer has to establish lines and let them establish chemistry.
In my mind, the three perfect lines would be Larsson-Greene, Zidlicky-Bryce Salvador, Mark Fayne-Volchenkov. They could use Peter Harrold and Alexander Urbom as their healthy scratches and injury replacements.
Last season made this unit look really bad. They looked old, slow and out of position all the time.
Greene seemed to be the only player who had a positive season. Pairing him with the young Swede would make a very underrated, but very good pairing. Adding the scoring touch of Greene with the defensive mind of Larsson would be a big positive for this Devils team.
Putting Zidlicky’s shot with the team’s captain makes for a good second line, as long as Salvador improves from last season. Fayne and Volchenkov will change the pace of the game and will slow it down back to where the Devils like to keep it.
These don’t necessarily need to be the lines for the Devils to be successful defensively, but they do need to be consistent. The team is going to lean on this unit, along with their goaltending, to win some games when their offense goes quiet.
They have the talent to feel like they can do that. This was supposed to be the team’s strength last season, and it never ended up being that way. This season will be a different story.