Having won 8 of their past 11 games, the Devils are currently the hottest team in the NHL.
Their return to "New Jersey Hockey", as our good friend Doc always puts it, has been long awaited. A year after the Kovalchuk deal, the Devils were expected to be competing for a Cup this season. However, that is not the case.
I do not expect the Devils to make the playoffs, even amidst their hot streak. In hockey, too many things have to go right on a nightly basis to go on very long winning streaks. The Devils last game vs. Florida proved this. The Devils were probably the better hockey team (in terms of getting quality chances), but Florida won because Vokoun stood on his head for most of the night despite two crazy goals the Devils scored.
Regardless, I am happy that Jacques has the team playing the way they were expected to from the beginning of the year. He has found four lines to rely on, something that he could not find last year, and the team works hard even in their losses.
With the Devils recently newfound "success", and the trade deadline looming, questions have arisen as to who should be traded. Despite that the Devils will most likely not make the playoffs, I do not believe the team should be major sellers at the deadline.
Each of these players brings value to the Devils. Rolston, after being waived, has found a line he can work with and has been putting up points on a consistent basis. White, after a few down years, has also improved his play. His cap hit is not the best, but strong defense in the NHL is the backbone to success. Zubrus and Arnott are the only two on this list that I could see being traded. There is no reason to unload them at the current moment, with the Devils recent hot streak, but a trade is always possible.
Some say locker room presence is overrated, I say the opposite. I believe the Devils are a team in transition right now that are rediscovering the importance of young talent mixed with veteran leaders. All of the players on the list above bring leadership to the team.
Cap room is everything in today's NHL. The importance of finding younger pieces that can do a job better than overpriced talent leads to victory. The Devils will not have an easy job in unloading these players because of their cap hit.
Some will say "get what you can in return". I say that if the Devils continue their hot play for the rest of the season, regardless of where they finish in the standings, they can be proud of their work and be ready to challenge for a Cup next year.