The New Jersey Devils are that team that manages to fly under the radar, with little or no fanfare, but always finds ways to stick around. Whether it’s a surprising end-of-season run or a resilient stretch while decimated by injuries, the Devils tend to be a sleeper team you can never quite count out. Despite the loss of top offensive weapons Ilya Kovalchuk (KHL) and David Clarkson (Toronto Maple Leafs), the Devils are still hanging tough with the pack of Eastern Conference teams fighting to earn a spot in the playoffs this spring. Here are the top three questions facing the Devils in the new year:
1. What to expect out of Jaromir Jagr?
The 41-year-old graybeard is leading the way for the Devils, with a team-high 13 goals and 34 points in what could be his final NHL season. The way he’s been playing, though, it’s hard to envision the future Hall of Famer hanging up the skates anytime soon. Jagr has arguably been the Devils’ most consistent performer and, from the top of the circles down, remains one of the most dangerous players in the league. He’s put on a lot of hard miles during the course of his 19-year career, however, leading many to wonder what we'll see in the second half from the well-respected vet. Jagr's been limited to just two goals in the entire month of December, though he has chipped in with 10 assists. Will he continue to pace the Devils into the spring?
2. What will happen in goal?
In a stunning draft-day trade that sent shockwaves throughout the league, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello acquired an heir apparent for goaltender Martin Brodeur in Cory Schneider. But who should get the bulk of the starts this season has been an interesting topic for debate. Brodeur has been awarded 22 of 40 possible starts, and has posted an 11-8-3 record with a 2.31 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. Meanwhile, Schneider has dealt with a befuddling lack of offensive support from his Devils teammates through the first half of the season. Schneider has posted only five wins on the year, despite better numbers than Brodeur (2.13 goals against average, .914 save percentage). Which netminder will grab the reins in the second half?
3. What will Lou do?
As he proved once again with his surprising acquisition of Schneider in June, Lamoriello always seems to have a few tricks up his sleeve. He’s made some shrewd moves in the past leading up to the trade deadline (i.e. Marek Zidlicky, Alexei Ponikarovsky, etc.) and will have some interesting decisions this time around as well. One situation to keep an eye on? Though Brodeur has spent his entire career with the Devils, there remains the possibility that he could be traded should the team fall out of playoff position. When pressed about that potential scenario early in the season, Brodeur didn’t rule out heading to a contender if the situation made sense.