The 2013 NHL season did not go as expected for the defending Eastern Conference Champions. The New Jersey Devils busted out of the gates with a dominant 8-1-3 record in their first 12 games, which was good enough for top spot in the East. When the final horn sounded in game 48, the Devils were on the outside looking in for the second time in three years.
Throughout the season, the Devils had come face to face with adversity on more than one occasion. Injuries began to plague their roster, as their depth continued to diminish game after game. New Jersey had to face many significant injuries to important players such as Dainius Zubrus, Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, and captain Bryce Salvador. Each missing player caused a huge hole in the Devils lineup, but two of the four proved to be most costly to the teams season.
“When Marty and Kovy went down with their injuries, we were right in the thick of a playoff race. We lost two very important players on this team, and were not able to pick up the points we needed,” Salvador said. Brodeur went down with an upper-back/neck injury, and Kovalchuk had gone down with an upper-body injury, presumably his right shoulder. In the time New Jersey was without their most important players, they were a combined 4-18-3. With their season coming to an early end, the Devils are now able to recover from their injuries, and look forward to a full 82 game campaign in 2013-14.
Salvador is one of many who believe this Devils team will return to the ice next season healthier, and hungrier. “Injuries always happen. There’s not much you can do, you just have to be prepared,” Salvador said. Management, along with all players, understands how important it is to come to camp 100% healthy and ready to contend for another Stanley Cup. “We’re excited. We can’t wait to get back to the ice and play hockey again. With a shortened season, we had to rush right into action. It will be nice to settle things down and get our feet moving before the season starts,” Salvador said.
Over the offseason, the Devils front office has a lot of decision making to do. They have many free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. David Clarkson, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique and Zubrus are the big names who could test the market. General Manager Lou Lamoriello has, what could be, of the biggest and most important summers in his historic career.