COMMENTARY | The 2013 NHL regular season ended on a sour note for the New Jersey Devils as they missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. The Devils also became the first Stanley Cup finalist to not make the playoffs the following year since 2007.
This year was a disappointing one for New Jersey, to say the least. The following are grades on each Devils player in 2013.
Defenseman Andy Greene (48 games: 4 goals, 12 assists, +12): Andy Greene has been an underrated player for the Devils over the last three or four seasons. He was the best player on the ice for New Jersey on most nights and helped young Adam Larsson improve his game again this season.
Forward Patrik Elias (48 games: 14 goals, 22 assists, +5): Although Elias may have turned 37 years old near the end of the season, he still led the team in points. He still has it.
Defenseman Adam Larsson (37 games: 0 goals, 6 assists, +4): Larsson was a healthy scratch at times during the season but the young Swedish defenseman continues to improve and should be the team's top defenseman soon.
Forward Andrei Loktionov (28 games: 8 goals, 4 assists, -2): General manager Lou Lamoriello made a great trade with the Los Angeles Kings getting Loktionov for a fifth round draft pick. The young center has a chance to be on one of the Devils' top two lines for years to come.
Forward Steve Bernier (47 games: 8 goals, 7 assists, -7), Forward Ryan Carter (44 games: 6 goals, 9 assists, -2) and Forward Stephen Gionta (48 games: 4 goals, 10 assists, +2): The Devils' fourth line goes in as a group here. They were probably asked to do too much at times but the trio always gives 100%. They are one of the best fourth lines in the NHL.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur (29 starts: 13-9-7, 2.22 goals allowed, .901 save percentage, 2 shutouts): Brodeur's stat line does not really tell the whole story. He played well enough for the most part and was not the reason the Devils were winless in 10 games at one point during the year.
Defenseman Mark Fayne (31 games: 1 goal, 5 assists, +6): Fayne is the definition of a solid defenseman. He did struggle a little more than usual this season, though.
Forward Dainius Zubrus (22 games: 2 goals, 7 assists, -3): It was obvious that the Devils missed Zubrus when he was injured for more than half the season. The versatile forward is a perfect fit for coach Pete DeBoer's system.
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk (37 games: 11 goals, 20 assists, -6): Kovalchuk had one of his worst seasons, yet still managed to finish second on the team in points scored. The team may have made the playoffs if he had not gotten injured against the Florida Panthers.
Forward David Clarkson (48 games: 15 goals, 9 assists, -6): Clarkson led the Devils in goals scored but 10 of those 15 goals came in the first 14 games. The rugged winger struggled when given more ice time and is better suited as a third liner going forward.
Forward Matt D'Agostini (13 games: 2 goals, 2 assists, -1): D'Agostini came over from the St. Louis Blues and was okay for the Devils. His speed can be useful for the team if they decide to bring him back.
Forward Adam Henrique (42 games: 11 goals, 5 goals, -3): Henrique had a sophomore slump in 2013. He will need to bounce back for the Devils next season.
Forward Stefan Matteau (17 games: 1 goal, 2 assists, -1): The 19 year old really should have never played for the Devils this season. That was a blunder on Lamoriello's part.
Forward Steve Sullivan (9 games: 2 goals, 3 assists, -4): The veteran winger came over at the trade deadline and, like D'Agostini, was okay for the Devils. The team should move on, though.
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder (25 games: 1 goal, 3 assists, E): Tallinder was not bad but he got injured once again this season. It is unclear if he has a future with this team.
Forward Bobby Butler (14 games: 1 goal, 1 assist, -6): Butler did not impress in his short stint and was picked up by the Nashville Predators after being placed on waivers by New Jersey.
Defenseman Peter Harrold (23 games: 2 goals, 3 assists, -8): Harrold can provide some offense but played too much for my liking. He should not have gotten in games over Fayne and Larsson.
Forward Tom Kostopoulous (15 games, 1 goal, 0 assists, E): Kostopoulous is what he is: an interchangeable fourth liner.
Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky (30 games: 2 goals, 5 assists, +1): Ponikarovsky was not good in his second stint with the club.
Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (37 games: 1 goal, 4 assists, -1): Volchenkov struggled all season and the Devils should move on from the aging defenseman.
Defenseman Marek Zidlicky (48 games: 4 goals, 15 assists, -12): Zidlicky was the Devils best offensive defenseman but struggled in his own end far too much. He is a high risk, high reward player.
Goaltender Johan Hedberg (19 starts: 6-10-3, 2.76 goals allowed, .883 save percentage, 1 shutout): Hedberg was absolutely brutal for the team after Brodeur was sidelined with an injury. He struggles when he is asked to play more than a couple of games in a row.
Forward Jacob Josefson (22 games: 1 goal, 2 assists, -10): Josefson struggled mightily. Next year should be his last chance with the Devils.
Defenseman Bryce Salvador (39 games: 0 goals, 2 assists, -12): Although he played with a lot of heart and grit, the captain was arguably the worst player for New Jersey in 2013.
Incomplete grade: The following players either did not play enough or did not do enough to warrant a grade.
Forward Matt Anderson, Forward Krys Barch, Goaltender Jeff Frazee, Defenseman Eric Gelinas, Goaltender Keith Kinkaid, Forward Cam Janssen, Forward Harri Pesonen, Forward Tim Sestito, Forward Mattias Tedenby, Defenseman Alexander Urbom.
If the New Jersey Devils are going to be a playoff team then they will need better contributions from players like Henrique, Kovalchuk and Zajac while also getting steady improvement out of Larsson and Loktionov heading forward.
Michael Pellegrini has followed the New Jersey Devils since the mid to late 1990s when they had players like Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk in the later stages of their career.
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