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The New Jersey Devils have been very quiet this summer.
Fresh off their first playoff berth since 2011-12, they have not added any NHL players to their roster. They actually lost a few, though you could argue in some cases it was addition by subtraction (looking at you, John Moore).
While it's reasonable for the Devils to bet on their impressive stable of young players to help the team take the next step, there are certainly some question marks that could prevent that from happening.
Let's take a look at a few.
1. Will Cory Schneider bounce back?
Last season was an absolute disaster for Schneider. Everything that could have gone wrong, did. His game fell off a cliff less than halfway through the year and he never really recovered. He didn't win a regular season game for months. He completely lost his confidence and allowing weak goals became as predictable as the sunrise.
Though injuries no doubt played a part in his struggles, it's a little optimistic to say that's all it was. Schneider's save percentage, high-danger save percentage, and GSAA (goals saved above average) dipped across the board at 5v5 for the third consecutive season.
Not so coincidentally, his numbers really began to crater when he turned 30. While goaltenders *can* age a little better than skaters, research done by Garik16 suggests that's about the time decline really becomes noticeable
Schneider's best days are almost certainly behind him, however, I think it's reasonable to say he'll be better next season at full health. How much better will play a big part in determining whether the Devils get into the playoffs again.
2. Secondary scoring?
Taylor Hall recorded 93 points last season. Nico Hischier (52) and Kyle Palmieri (44) were the only other forwards on the roster to record *more* than 35.
Scoring wasn't a problem on the surface – the Devils finished 14th in goals – but it was the odd time Hall had an off night or was out of the lineup. If he wasn't creating goals, the team wasn't scoring. At all.
They boosted their offensive depth at the deadline by acquiring Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner but both players have already moved on via free agency. Now the Devils are back to the same cast of characters that struggled to produce consistently last season.
Marcus Johansson will help the cause if he is healthy. Unfortunately, that's a big if after suffering multiple concussions last season.
With no outside help coming in, the Devils are *really* banking on Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha and some of their young players contributing a lot more offensively.
3. Is the defense good enough?
The Devils ranked 23rd in 5v5 goals against/60 last season. It'd be easy to blame goaltending – Keith Kinkaid started the year slowly and we all know about Schneider's struggles – but the Devils also ranked 22nd in expected goals against/60.
It's not as if they were a sound defensive team sunk by goaltending (hello, Carolina). They were shaky on many nights and completely exposed by Tampa Bay in their playoff series.
To this point, the Devils have not made any moves to patch up the defense. Their 'changes' will be allocating more minutes to Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, and Steven Santini. Butcher taking on a bigger role should be a good thing. I'm not sure the same can be said of the latter two.
If they can't step up, the defense won't be any better this year. And the Devils really need it to be.
On Hischier and Butcher
One model projects the Devils to take a small step back in 2018-19
Devils sign Ty Smith to entry-level contract
On Taylor Hall and his chances of winning the Hart in consecutive years
On Miles Wood and his next contract
Devils sign Steven Santini to three-year extension
Nick Shore an ideal PTO target
On the Devils' defense and an optimal top-4
Power play dominance, and a little luck, behind Hall's big spike in production
The Devils should give Miles Wood an opportunity in the top-6
Damon Severson should benefit from John Moore's departure
Hynes might have found something in Coleman - Zajac - Noesen line