By Steve Silverman
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It’s not enough to counter the loss of Zach Parise, but the signing of Scott Stevens and Matt Shaw as assistant coaches figure to help the New Jersey Devils improve in a couple of areas of need next season.
Stevens, of course, is one of the Devils’ all-time players. He was a dominant NHL player for 22 seasons and he played 13 years in a Devils uniform. Stevens was a skilled puck carrier, defender, passer and he could blast the puck. But more than anything else, he was known for his ability to lay the lumber and bring the pain to his opponents.
The Devils need to become a more physical team and bring hard hitting to their game. Defenseman Anton Volchenkov led the Devils with 177 hits last season and forward David Clarkson added 169 hits in 2011-12. They were the Devils biggest hitters and Stevens may add a more aggressive attitude and help them become more consistent in that area.
Shaw is thought of as something of a power play specialist. He was with the San Jose Sharks prior to signing with the Devils and San Jose had the second-ranked power play in the league last year, connecting on 21.1 percent of its opportunities.
The power play was an area of need for the Devils for most of the season. Last year New Jersey connected on 17.2 percent of its power play opportunities and ranked in the middle of the pack at 14th.
No matter how effective and logical Shaw is in his power play design and planning, the Devils are going to have a tough time improving their power play if they don’t make at least one or two moves during free agency to improve.
The loss of Parise is probably too big for them to overcome, but they could mitigate that stinging departure by going after a potential 35-to-40-goal scorer like free agent Alex Semin of the Washington Capitals.
Semin has been enigmatic throughout his career and has been criticized for his inconsistent defensive play. However, he appeared to come a long way in that area in playoff series against the Boston Bruins and the Rangers.
Worrying about Semin’s defensive play is probably foolish. Semin has been a 40-goal scorer with the Capitals and the Devils need goal scoring following the loss of Parise.
By bringing in Semin as a free agent and letting him know that they respect his offensive skills, and that could rejuvenate him. Semin was unhappy under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter. However, a new home could bring him back to where he was in 2009-10 when he scored 40 goals and added 44 assists.
That would take a major sales job by GM Lou Lamoriello and head coach Peter DeBoer. They would have to be convinced that Semin wants to stay in the NHL – he could decide to play in the Russian KHL – and that he would play hard every night.
Lamoriello really doesn’t have many other avenues to go down if he wants the Devils to remain a playoff team that has a chance to do something in the postseason. It’s not enough to rely on Martin Brodeur and the defense. In some cases, you need a sniper who can put the puck in the net with a spectacular offensive effort.
Clearly they will depend on Ilya Kovalchuk for that, but he can’t do it alone. Bringing in Semin and repairing his damaged psyche could mean even more to the team than bringing back a former hero in Stevens to fill an assistant coaching slot.
Is Semin the answer the Devils are looking for? Sound off with your thoughts and send your tweets to @ProFootballBoy…