Coach Claude Julien
KEY LOSSES F Viktor Kozlov
Listen to Claude
Julien, the club's first-year coach, and it sounds as if this year's Devils are
trying to revert to the Devils of old. "Defensive hockey doesn't have to be
boring hockey," says Julien, who coached the Canadiens from January 2003 to
January 2006 and replaces New Jersey G.M. Lou Lamoriello behind the bench.
"I enjoy having a team that is hard to play against."
prelockout, clutch-grab-and-trap era, the Devils used a defense-first system
long on discipline and short on risk, a strategy that led to three Stanley
Cups. Last year New Jersey opened up its attack and scored 20 more goals than
in the previous season. A return to tactical austerity may not play well with
some of the gifted forwards who have enlivened the team's play, such as right
wing Brian Gionta, who set a franchise record with 48 goals in 2005--06, and
linemate Scott Gomez, who had career highs of 33 goals and 84 points, but the
approach is familiar. "It'll be easier for us to get used to a
[defense-oriented] coach," says goaltender Martin Brodeur. "We know
what's expected of us."
shouldn't have any problems meeting at least one expectation: reaching the
playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
45-26-11, fifth in East; lost in first round to Buffalo
KEY ADDITIONS D
Nolan Baumgartner, LW Kyle Calder, LW Geoff Sanderson
KEY LOSSES LW Donald Brashear, D Eric Desjardins, C Michal Handzus, D Kim
Johnsson, C Keith Primeau
Searching for a
sign of good things to come? Check out center Peter Forsberg's locker, where
you'll find only one pair of skates. Last season, when the Flyers were beset
with injuries, he went through 36 pairs trying to find one that felt
comfortable on his chronically ailing feet. Forsberg averaged only 57 games
played in his last nine seasons because of a variety of injuries, but after
off-season surgery to repair a congenital deformity in his right ankle, he
pronounced himself fit. When healthy, Forsberg is the best all-around player in
the game: creative, fast, rugged and smart. And his impact on teammates is
immense. Playing alongside Forsberg last season, left wing Simon Gagne had 39
goals and 67 points in 51 games; without him, Gagne had eight goals and 12
points in 21 games.
forwards Kyle Calder (26 goals, 33 assists for the Blackhawks) and Geoff
Sanderson (25 goals, 21 assists for the Coyotes), the Flyers added depth and
talent to an offense that should top last season's 263 goals (fifth most in the
East). But Philadelphia is undermined by a slow defense. Those feet--not
Forsberg's--will be the club's Achilles' heel.