When I look back at the Devils history, ever time we have won the Stanley Cup we have had some young players step up and become superstars or above average NHL players:
1994-1995: Marty Brodeur was in his second year and we all know what he has done in his career, Scott Neidermeyer in his 3rd year scored 11 pts. in 20 playoff games, Guerin in his 3rd year was third on the team in goals, Brian Rolston as a rookie scored 18pts. in 40 games and Sergie Bryin scored 14pts. in 26 games.
1999-2000: Scott Gomez in his rookie year led the team with 51 assists and second on the team with 70pts., Brian Rafalski in his rookie season was second among Devils defensman with 32pts., and John Madden in his first full season scored 16 goals and was great on the penalty kill.
2002-2003: Brian Gionta in his first full-season netted 12 goals, let us not forgt Mike Rupp who did not produce much but came up big in Game 7 (4pts. in 4 playoff games) and newcomer veterans Jamie Langenbrunner and Jeff Friesen each netted 20-plus goals.
So where are our young guns that need to come through this year if we have any chance of making the playoffs?
Zach Parise, in his 3rd year needs to be the leader on offense and have another 30-plus goal season.
Travis Zajac, is someone who we have waited to blossom into the number two center he has been tabbed as. We wil need to see 50-plus points from him this year if we are to drink from the cup.
David Clarkson, like John Madden in 2000 he needs to stop worrying about dropping the gloves and pissing people off and get to the net and help make the Madden-Pandolfo line a line that can put the puck in the net. Anything less than 15 goals is a dissapointment.
Paul Martin, he will never be Scott Neidermeyer but he can be a Brian Rafalski. He needs to be the leader on the powerplay and the shut-down defenseman we have lacked since Neidermeyer and Rafalski ventured west.
Andy Greene, dubbed as the next Brian Rafalski he has shown flashes but is still young in his development. He has played great this preseason and seems to feel comfortable in the Devils system. Eiether him or Salmella will need to become an important factor on defense this season.
The Devils need to take a longer look at players like Salmella, Corrente and Halischuk. These are three players who can play in the NHL and Corrente and Halischuk will probably start the season at Lowell, while Salmella has been given every opportunity to make the team. His great shot from the point and potential to move the puck quickly is an advantage we would like to have but his weakness in his own end may see him start at Lowell or head back overseas.
We will see, but hopefully our youth will prevail us to our 4th Cup.