Using a more aggressive forecheck, DeBoer turned the Devils into a more entertaining team, one that now seems capable of vying for the Cup on an annual basis. It's a big change from a year ago, when many wondered whether president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had lost his touch and the once-proud team was on a downward spiral.
The good days are back, though Lamoriello has a ton of work to do before the start of next season. The biggest concern is the future of captain Zach Parise, who can become an unrestricted free agent next month. He is the heartbeat of the team.
''No one expected us to be here. We played hard, and we all believed in each other and what we tried to do,'' Parise said. ''No one expected us to beat the Flyers, to beat the Rangers, and we did. In the end, we just came up short here.''
Brodeur's contract is up, as are those of backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, defensemen Bryce Salvador and Peter Harrold. and forwards Petr Sykora and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Also, the entire fourth line of Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier are due new contracts, if Lamoriello so chooses. That line surprised many in the postseason, though it will be hard to forget Bernier's five-minute boarding penalty early in Game 6 that led to three Kings goals and basically decided the Cup.
Starting defenseman Mark Fayne, who played every game this season, is a restricted free agent, as well, and will likely remain with the team.
As the Kings celebrated on the ice Monday, Brodeur, tucked away in the visiting locker room, made it clear he wants to play next season and his top choice is to stay in New Jersey.
To start, Brodeur likes what he sees, especially if Parise can be re-signed. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who battled an undisclosed lower body injury in the postseason and scored just once in the last round, is under a long-term deal and should be healthy for the start of next season. He appeared to be slowed by a back ailment, and even missed a game in Round 2 vs. Philadelphia.