NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — After missing the playoffs for the second straight season and for the third time in four, New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello wanted to take a step back to ponder the future rather than rip off a list of changes that the franchise needed to get back to the postseason.
It would have been easy to say the Devils need another quality goal scorer, possibly a puck-moving defenseman and someone — anybody — who can score in the shootout, where the Devils were 0-13 this past season.
Lamoriello was hesitant because he knows the difference between making the playoffs and missing them usually isn't big.
The Devils went 35-29-18 in goaltender Martin Brodeur's 20th and possibly final season with the three-time Stanley Cup winners. Their 88 points were five shy of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"This team to me is very close," Lamoriello said Monday after the team gathered for a final picture and cleaned out its lockers. "How close? I am not a believer in what that line is. There is such a fine line between winning and losing. There is a fine line in these playoffs you are going to see right now. There are going to be some outstanding teams getting knocked off in the first round. We're in the playoffs, if this, if that, but it didn't happen. "
Had the Devils won six shootouts, that would have put them in. Had they not lost 16 of 22 in which they were tied after the second period that would have put them in postseason again. A 1-5-4 start certainly didn't help.
"I think it is a very fine line," said Devils coach Pete DeBoer, who will be returning next season despite the recent failures. "We're obviously on the wrong side of it and it's obviously a big jump to get on the right side of it. That's going to be one of the debriefs over the next month on how do we make sure we are on the right side of it."
The Devils, who made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, head into the offseason with a number of decisions to make. Goaltender Martin Brodeur, right wing and leading scorer Jaromir Jagr, defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Mark Fayne and the fourth line of Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier are all free agents.
The easiest one getting back might be the 42-year-old Jagr, who was outstanding with 24 goals and 43 assists for a team-best 67 points playing in every game on the top line.
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