Last month, I put together a post that essentially said Nashville, New Jersey and Tampa Bay's early struggles were all attributable to the fact they were missing key stars: Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan for the Predators, Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White for the Devils, and Dan Boyle for the Lightning.
I'm not buying it in the case of New Jersey. Langenbrunner and White? That's like Leaf fans saying they would be contenders if Wellwood and Colaiacovo weren't hurt. Certainly the Oilers could wish that they'd only lost a second-line forward and slightly-above-average defenceman.Langenbrunner's one of those players who contributions have always been hard to wholly quantify: He's good in so many more areas than simply putting the puck in the net. In fact, his best NHL season so far came last season at age 31, when he put up 23 goals and 60 points for the Devils.
He's been a big-time producer in the postseason before, and was one of the league leaders in game winners during the year in 2006-07. "Clutch" isn't a word I use often, but I think it applies here.
Langenbrunner really got the Devils' kid line going last season, igniting Travis Zajac and Zach Parise, who both has pretty respectable years given their youth. Since his return from hernia surgery, New Jersey is 7-2-0 and Langenbrunner has 11 points, something that certainly made it easier for coach Brent Sutter to name him captain today.
He's been bounced a round a bit on lines lately, but has played the past few games with Zajac and Dainius Zubrus, likely in the hopes of getting those two going. My guess is Langenbrunner, and the Devils, have a strong year.