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New Jersey Devils - A Mid-Season Review Written by habsfan93 - January 20th, 2009

Since winning the Stanley Cup in Season 3, it's been a tough ride for the New Jersey Devils. Falling short of the playoffs in Season 4 amidst some terrific goaltending, the Devils came into Season 5 in good spirits and with high hopes. Neither of those elements have faded yet as the Devils march forward in Season 5, their heads high.

It was a tough pill to swallow. No one likes going 2-8 in the preseason, particularly not Devils GM Marty. A fierce competitor, with a swift trigger finger when the time comes, everyone in New Jersey knew that no one was safe. This is a team that didn't like to lose...or win! The Devils concluded 5 of their first 9 games in ties. Considering they only put up 5 ties in ALL of Season 4, fans in New Jersey were left scratching their heads.

Remember what I said about that trigger finger? GM Marty didn't sit on his hands, dealing star goaltender Martin Brodeur one game into the season, along with Sami Salo, to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Andrew Raycroft, Dean McAmmond and future Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom. Financial concerns partially motivated the deal, but many in New Jersey saw this as a significant downgrade, even with Lidstrom coming to town. After all, Lidstrom can't play 60 minutes. But he can play well, and he has to date, earning a ticket to the All-Star Game as the Devils sole CMHL representative.

Raycroft, on the other hand, has not been spectacular. Not bad either, but he's no Marty Brodeur. In fact, on some nights, he's been outshone by backup Dan Cloutier. After also bringing in big time goal scorer Teemu Selanne, the Devils proceeded to win 8 of their next 11 games, and for a quite a while during this stretch, were in control of the Atlantic Division. Things were looking very good.

But as with all good things, they don't last forever. Since that streak, the Devils have played below average hockey, posting a 7-11-3 record in that time. The fact that they were in such a good position early on has allowed them to keep pace with the rest of the East, which is surprisingly deep this season. The Devils currently hold the 8th place in the conference...by a thread. The 6 teams below them are all within 6 points of the Devils. They will need a strong second half to stay in the hunt, and by strong, I mean above .500. If they can do that, then we may see a return to the post season after only one season out.

From a personnel point of the view, the team's best player has been the aforementioned Teemu Selanne. Although brought in to score goals, he's become the team's best playmaker, leading the squad with 26 assists and 37 points. A free agent at the end of the season, this may be his swan song and he'll want to go out on a high. Niklas Hagman leads the team with 15 goals as he is already having a career season. The really big question for this team is how they will look next year. Its expected that both Selanne and Nedved, the team's top two scorers this season, will be elsewhere or retired. Players like Hagman, Chuck Kobasew and Jeff Carter will be relied on to step up their game.

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