NJ Devils Preview: Schneider the New Man Behind the Mask

schneider

After more than 20 years, the Devils have a new #1 between the pipes.

by Drew Sarver

Martin Brodeur has had his face hidden behind a New Jersey Devils’ goaltender’s mask since he made his debut in the 1992-1993 season and won the Calder trophy for Rookie of the Year a year later. In his two decade career, Brodeur has played in 70-plus games a dozen times. But when the Devils acquired Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks prior to the 2012-2013 season, the writing was on the wall.

Brodeur, in the last year of his contract, played in 39 games last season and recorded the second highest Goals-Against-Average (2.51) of his career. Schneider, by comparison, appeared in 45 games with a 1.97 GAA and stopped 92.1% of the shots on goal that he faced. As the 2014 trade deadline approached, Brodeur told the press he wanted to be a #1 goalie. While Devils’ President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello entertained trade offers for his future first ballot Hall of Fame goalie, Brodeur remained a Devil for the rest of the season.

As of this writing, Brodeur is a man without a job. He feels like he could still help a team, but with the NHL opening last evening (Wednesday), a #1 job is not likely without an injury to a team’s top netminder. Meanwhile, the Devils have moved on with Schneider holding down the top spot and former Devil Scott Clemmensen back as the back up.

It’s a huge opportunity for the 28-year old Schneider, who began his career as Roberto Luongo’s back up in Vancouver. The duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy, for least goals allowed, for the 2010-2011 season. Schneider played 25 games and recorded a 2.23 GAA (Luongo held opponents to 2.11 goals over 60 games.).

Despite his excellent GAA last year, Schneider’s record was a mere 16-15-12 as the Devils struggled to score goals. As a result, the team missed the playoffs for the third time in four years. One of the first things Lamariello did to address the team’s issues was to get Schneider signed to a contract extension. The native of Marblehead, MA would have been a free agent after the upcoming season, but agreed to deal that will keep him on the Devils through 2021-2022. (At an average of $6MM per year.)

With his future secure, Schneider can concentrate on playing 60-70 games a year.

Did you know?

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2012 playoffs en route to their first Stanley Cup championship. Down two games to none, then Canucks coach Allain Vigneault started Schneider over Luongo for the final three games. Schneider was simply outstanding, but the Canucks lost 1-0 in Game 3, and after a 3-1 victory in Game 4, lost 2-1 in overtime in Game 5 and were eliminated. Schneider held the Kings to 1.31 goals per game and stopped 96% of their shots.

Hello and Goodbye

To address his team’s scoring problem, Lamoriello signed free agents forwards Martin Havlat (San Jose), Mike Cammalerri (Calgary), and Jordan Tootoo (Detroit). Players  moving on include defensemen Anton Volchenkov (Nashville) and Mark Fayne (Edmonton)

Outlook

With Havlat and Cammalerri, Lamariello picked up good scorers, not great scorers. Cammalleri, in particular, will need to improve on his 26-goal, 19-assist performance of last season. The 32-year old hasn’t produced 30 goals since the 2008-2009 season, but the Devils need him to score between 30 and 35 this season. One of last season’s free agent acquisitions, Michael Ryder, will need to do the same. After putting the puck in the net 35 times for Dallas in 2011-2012, the right wing has slumped the past two seasons. The Devils can only hope that concussion-prone Ryane Clowe can stay healthy and return to his younger form.

The Devils will also need 42-year old Jaromir Jagr to replicate his 67-point season – remarkably playing in all 82 games – and need more consistency from Adam Henrique and veteran star Patrik Elias.

The Devils’ special teams also have to be at least as good as they were last when the team ranked 9th on the power play (19.5%) and were the number one penalty killing unit (86.4%).

With Schneider in the nets and a solid defense (Andy Greene, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky) , the Devils should return to the playoffs, albeit as a wild card team.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

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