Yes the season hasn't started and yes, neither has the preseason. But scrimmages have begun and we were finally able to catch our first glimpse of potential line pairings for next season. After our extremely painful, roller coaster ride of a season last year, many of us spent the summer playing computer chair GM. Many arguments were had over each of our proposed line combos and everyone thought they knew what would work out best.
Even though it is just the beginning of preseason, I am very optimistic about the lines coach DeBoer has utilized so far and will explain my reasoning after the jump.
When I think about the combination of Ilya Kovalchuk and Jacob Josefson one thing sticks out in my mind more than any other: it is possible that these two players could spend the next 10 years on the same team. Last season Josefson joined Mattias Tedenby in making their NHL debuts as the Swedish duo shined a small light on a dark season with their dazzling skills and potential. If Josefson continued to excel and show the type of scoring prominence he displayed in the Swedish Elite League, there is no reason to expect he won't be a regular NHL player for many years to come.
Kovalchuk of course needs no explanation. His 60 points last year were the lowest of his career since 2001-2002 when he put up 29 goals and 22 assists for 51 points in only 65 games played as a rookie. Every Devil fan is aware of how long our relationship is scheduled to last with Kovy, and I don't believe many are looking at his struggles from last year (considering the entire team's struggles) as a reason to be pessimistic.
By combining Josefson with Kovalchuk, we can immediately begin to assess the potential lethality of this duo. It is not far fetched at all to assume both will be Devils for a long time, so why not see if they can begin to demonstrate chemistry and effectiveness now? If Josefson can grow up in the NHL while learning and playing consistently along Kovalchuk, Devils fans will have a ton of fun watching them as they get even better and more comfortable together as time goes on.
As much as I can hope for Kovy/Jo to become one of the most dominant pairings in the league, it is of course all wishful thinking with no results to show from it so far.
With that in mind, I want to also explain my other reasoning behind why DeBoer's lines make most sense.
Zach Parise is on a one year deal (and should be named Captain and resigned immediately) and Patrik Elias is aging. Furthermore both have played well together in seasons past. Because of the doomsday situation in which Parise is on another team next year, and since Zajac is injured, it doesn't make sense to pair Parise with Josefson before first trying Kovalchuk with Josefson. Allow Kovy and Jo to work together on building chemistry and a relationship that could prove prosperous for years to come. Meanwhile, Parise and Elias can rebuild on their past sequestered successes and match up with another winger to combine for a second line which is far from something to scoff at.
Finding a right wing for these lines will be interesting. Thus far DeBoer has promoted David Clarkson to play alongside Kovy/Jo and it is yet to be determined whether this is wishful thinking or Clarkson's former coach expecting to be loyal and turn him around. Personally I am hoping Clarkson embraces a Alex Burrows type role as the gritty player still able to play hockey (and as we know wrap-around) while also discouraging liberties from being taken on his linemates through his physical presence.
The right wing for Parise and Elias is hard because I still like Dainius Zubrus and feel he is absolutely amazing along the boards and would be able to cycle and make responsible decisions with the puck while allowing Parise and Elias to utilize their speed and get open in the offensive zone. However Zubrus is a center on a team with an injured center I also have high hopes for Mattias Tedenby and don't want to see him on the third line. Even though Tedenby is a LW I would like to see him move to RW and attempt to find success alongside Parise and Elias. For me, just imagining a line of Parise/Elias/Tedenby that was comfortable with each other puts a massive smile on my face. The only unfortunate thing is that this is a small group of players and could very well be susceptible to being pushed around.
Overall, I can't stress this enough but I don't want to get flamed too hard for it: I know it is still early but after last years disappointment I am ridiculously excited for this season and these are just my opinions (more like hopes) so far. I will be there on Friday to cheer against our hated rivals and I truly do hope that with the help of the Devils Generals and Supporters Section that we are able to transform the Rock into an awesome atmosphere to watch Devils hockey in.
Best case scenario, the Kovy/Jo experiment exceeds all expectations and Parise will be resigned, allowing him and Zajac to be reunited together for years to come.
Please let me know what you think, and as always.. GO DEVILS