New Jersey Devils
Cup Hangover: New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire has to persuade the Devils that their winning the Cup last June was a mirage. That figures to be a daunting task given the four-game smearing of a good Detroit team that New Jersey administered in the Stanley Cup finals. "The toughest thing is not thinking you're great, and it's not going to be easy," Lemaire says. And there's recent evidence that Lemaire knows of what he speaks: The 1993 Montreal Canadiens and the '94 Rangers both fell apart the season after a Cup victory.
Contracts: Restricted free-agent defenseman Scott Niedermayer signed on Sept. 27, and ace goaltender Martin Brodeur finally agreed to a new deal last Saturday. Playoff MVP Claude Lemieux signed a fax of a contract while he was celebrating in a Miami hotel on June 30 and had challenged the validity of the deal. Last Friday an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Devils. A day later New Jersey announced it would trade Lemieux.
The Quote: Veteran center Bob Carpenter says, "I'd like to go around the league and show everyone I'm a winner. In the face-off circle, I'm going to call everyone a loser, which is what they've been calling me for 14 years."
The Kids: The Devils are so deep that one of their two outstanding young defensemen, Rickard Persson and Jason Smith, might start the year in the minors.
Outlook: The obstruction calls won't hurt the Devils, who do less interfering than most teams despite their neutral-zone trap. They have enough time to recover from the contract squabbles to be favored to repeat. That won't happen. Second in the conference.
New York Rangers
Mortgaging the Future: This season it is Stanley Cup or bust. General manager Neil Smith is counting on a core of veterans: 34-year-old Mark Messier, who starts his 17th year in the pros, Kevin Lowe (36), Bruce Driver (33), Ray Ferraro (31), Ulf Samuelsson (31), Pat Verbeek (31) and Wayne Presley (30).
The New Guy, I: Ferraro, a good No. 2 center, gives the Rangers some second-line scoring.