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Devils Name Salvador Captain; Elias and Kovalchuk Remain Alternates

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer announced today that defenseman Bryce Salvador has been named

Bryce Salvador, before the Stanley Cup Finals, speaks to the media. He was named the 10th captain in team history. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

Bryce Salvador, before the Stanley Cup Finals, speaks to the media. He was named the 10th captain in team history. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America

captain.

He becomes the 10th captain in Devils history and takes over for the departed Zach Parise, who signed with the Minnesota Wild as an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s the fourth defenseman in team history to be named captain.

Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk will remain alternates.

Salvador returned to the Devils last season after missing the entire 2010-11 campaign battling the effects of a concussion. He played all 82 games during the regular season, recording nine assists. He raised his game during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals, compiling a career-high 14 points (4g, 10a) in the postseason.

This summer, Salvador and the Devils agreed to a three-year, $9.5 million contract.

 

An Evaluation of the Andy Greene Signing

Greene, who recently signed a four year, $12 million contract, will need to improve on his 21 points last season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Free agency opened four days ago, and the New Jersey Devils have yet to sign someone new.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello opted to retain his own players, re-signing both Andy Greene and Johan Hedberg. He managed to re-sign Hedberg for just $1.25 million, a $250,000 reduction from his base salary last season. Greene, however, cashed in big time.

Lamoriello signed Greene to a four year, $12 million deal Friday. He’ll carry a $3 million cap hit, which isn’t terrible considering the other ridiculous contracts handed out to similar players. But he officially took one-fourth of this season’s remaining cap space. Is $3 million a stretch? While it’s not perfect, it’s a contract that the Devils can support – and possibly trade.

Greene had a terrible contract season last year, recording a minus-24 through the first three months of the season. When Jacques Lemaire took over, he turned around tremendously, playing to a plus-1 for the remainder of the season. We all know that plus/minus is a flawed statistic, so that point alone can’t determine the validity of the huge pay increase.

The Devils leaned on Greene last season, putting him in their top three defenseman. His 22:21 of ice time ranked third, with 1:16 TOI on the powerplay and 2:19 TOI on the penalty kill. He turned in decent numbers during special teams play, but his even strength numbers were terrible. He carried a minus-.83 rating, becoming the only defenseman to carry a negative rating. New Jersey averaged just 1.61 goals for per 60 and a 2.66 Corsi rating. Both those numbers jumped with him off the ice, a clear indictment of his play.

There’s no doubt that Greene could be an effective second or third pairing defenseman. But there’s no shot he’ll ever be the team’s best offensive defenseman. He recorded a career-high 37 points two seasons ago. That’s it. He plays in an offensively-depressed system, but that excuse can only stretch so far. Maybe his numbers dropped because of the Devils’ terrible first half, but that’s yet another excuse. If he’s making $3 million to be an offensive defenseman, then he needs to produce.

However, it’s not the worst deal Lamoriello ever made. Greene is overpaid, no doubt about it. But look at some of the other crazy contracts handed out. James Wishniewski will make $5.5 million despite having no long-term, proven success. Christian Erhoff will make $4 million in a ten-year deal with the Sabres. Hell, even Steve Montador will average $2.75 million, and he’s not a great puck-moving, offensive defenseman. When you look at those ridiculous deals (both in cap hit and length), the signing doesn’t seem terrible.

In the next three to four years, the Devils defense will undergo a dramatic change. Both Mark Fayne and Matt Taormina will fight for roster spots next season. Rookies Alexander Urbom and (maybe) Adam Larsson will push veterans. Colin White and Bryce Salvador, two defensive stalwarts, may play their last season in a Devils uniform. Greene will quickly become the veteran among a greener blue line. That leadership could prove invaluable.

If all else fails, Greene’s contract will be attractive trade bait. Apparently, his agent fielded calls from “Stanley Cup contenders” during the opening of free agency.  If Lamoriello needed to trade him, his $3 million cap hit wouldn’t be detrimental.

Greene isn’t an earth-shattering signing, and hopefully will improve. If he slides back down the depth chart, his stats will improve. But Greene will never be the best offensive defenseman on this team. He needs to, once again, become a solid producer in the lineup.

The 2010-2011 Player Review Best Of The Rest: Defense

May 31, 2011 2 comments

Fraser took a step back this season, recording negative numbers in every important defensive category. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining defensive players.

Of all the positions to suffer from injuries, the New Jersey Devils’ blueline was among the most volatile. They lost stalwart Bryce Salvador before the season even started, a major blow to the defensive corps. Injuries to promising rookie Matt Taormina left another hole needing to be filled. Anton Volchenkov and Colin White both missed stretches of games as well.

As a result, seven defenseman filled in, playing at least four games. Below is a list of those players and their performance this season. Some were good, others were just ok, and a few shouldn’t be back next season. We’ll take a look at them, in order of games played. And here we go:

Mark Fraser – 26 GP, 2 Points (2 A)

Fraser entered this season with a new contract (two-year, $1.085 million) and heightened expectations. He played well during the 2009-10 season, skating in 61 games and recording six points. The 2010-11 regular season would represent a major step backward. Fraser broke his hand on October 13, causing him to miss 32 games. He couldn’t consistently crack the lineup, playing in just 12 straight games.

A look at his numbers shows his general ineffectiveness. Fraser only averaged 13:58 minutes a game, managing to pull down a plus-0.18 rating. Despite a low goals-against per 60 rate (1.65 at even strength), his other numbers weren’t strong. His on-ice Corsi rating (minus-2.03) ranked far below his off-ice rating (plus-2.02). Opponents shots against fell from 26.8 with him on the ice to 24.8 with him off.

Despite it all, he still recorded a plus-1.0 GVT. I’m willing to give him a pass for this season. Both injuries and the inability to play consistently showed on the ice. He’ll battle for a spot next season, but could be pushed out with the strong play of Mark Fayne and the return of Salvador.

Matt Corrente – 22 GP, 6 P (6 A)

Like Fraser, Corrente entered the season with heightened expectations. The Devils’ first round pick (30th overall) in 2006 had yet to make his mark and earn a consistent roster spot. Training camp would be his opportunity to finally earn that spot.

Corrente performed worse than Fraser in his limited role this season. He missed 38 games with a shoulder injury, managing just an average time on ice of 13:35. He managed a plus-0.32 rating, higher than Fraser. The goals against numbers didn’t reflect well, with the team allowing more goals against with him on the ice (3.32) than him off (3.03). Shots against followed the same trend. Opponents averaged 29.3 shots per 60 with Corrente on the ice. Off the ice, that number fell to 23.3. The Corsi rating is just as bad. On the ice, the number sat at minus-0.83. Off the ice, the team improved to plus-9.63.

Despite all of that, Corrente recorded a plus-1.3 GVT. His six assists probably helped that cause, and he showed a surprising willingness to contribute offensively. He’s flashed his potential, but time might be running short. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and the organization will probably re-sign him. He’ll find it hard to crack the lineup, especially with some rookies outplaying him over the course of the season.

Read more…

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Mark Fayne

May 26, 2011 1 comment

Fayne played 57 games this season, leading all skaters with a plus-10 rating. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Mark Fayne.

The New Jersey Devils’ defense entered the preseason under one of the biggest question marks in recent history. The organization watched as Paul Martin, arguably one of their best offensive defenseman, left to sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his place came Anton Volchenkov and Henrik Tallinder, and Andy Greene became the top threat along the blueline. Colin White and Bryce Salvador figured to anchor the defense. But things, of course, never work out as planned.

A spot opened along the blueline after Salvador suffered a concussion in the preseason. Ex-coach John MacLean gave several rookies a look. Matt Taormina took the spot, starting the first 17 games of the season. The injury bug would get him too, opening the door for Mark Fayne.

Nobody had terribly high expectations for the Providence product. The rookie made his NHL debut against the Washington Capitals on November 22, and the experience proved to be “nuts.”

“My first game was kinda nuts playing against Ovechkin,” he said to me in an interview. “I wasn’t matched up against him, but a few times I was out when he was at the end of his shift and I thought ‘Oh my God, that’s Alex Ovechkin.'”

Clearly, the experience of playing in the NHL didn’t overwhelm Fayne. He became the best rookie defenseman, starting 57 games and providing solid minutes. He contributed offensively, played smart defensively and took care of his job on the ice. The rookie exceeded expectations, making him one of the best defenseman this season.

Fayne At Even Strength

Fayne finished among the top three in almost every important even strength category. That means he outproduced players like Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson in his first season. Fayne averaged 17:50 of ice time, ranked 14th among all rookie skaters. That number was the highest of all the rookies on the Devils this season. His plus-1.02 rating ranked first among skaters with at least 50-games played. He’s the only player to crack a plus-1 rating, and only one of eight to finish positive. He produced those numbers despite facing better quality of competition (plus-0.04) with lesser teammates (minus-0.071).

Despite a down year for several players, Fayne helped provide scoring and played responsible defensively. While on the ice, the team averaged 2.30 goals for per 60 (35 total). That average tied him for second on the team with Travis Zajac. He only allowed opponents 1.77 goals against per 60, tied for lowest on the team with Mattias Tedenby. His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.52 ranked first on the team and was just one of three plus ratings on the ice.

With Fayne off the ice, the team worsened in every category. Goals for per 60 dropped to 1.73 and goals against per 60 rose to 2.23.  His off-ice plus/minus fell to minus-0.49, almost a full point lower than his on-ice production.

Shot production followed a similar trend. On the ice, Fayne helped the team average 25.5 shots on net. He limited opponents to 22.4 shots against per 60, third best among defenseman with 50-plus games played. Off the ice, both numbers suffered. Shots for per 60 dropped to 23.7, almost a two shot difference. Shots against per 60 rose to 23.8, which is a small yet noticeable difference.

Fayne’s Corsi rating confirms his strong even-strength performance. His on-ice rating of plus-7.7 ranked second among all defenseman, just seven-tenths of a point behind Tallinder. Off the ice, that number dropped to plus-0.6. Fayne exceeded expectations on even-strength play. He helped produce offensive opportunities, limited opponents chances, and became a solid player. Outproducing some of the bigger names on the roster, including Ilya Kovalchuk, shows the potential for him to grow into a top four defenseman.

Read more…

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Anton Volchenkov

Lamoriello signed Volchenkov to bolster the physical play of his blueline, but injuries limited him to only 57 games this season. Photo Credit: Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In today’s review, we focus on Anton Volchenkov.

For the past few seasons, the New Jersey Devils lacked an above-average physical defender along their blueline. They had capable defenders, like Colin White and Bryce Salvador, to provide physical play. But they continued to lack a shot-blocking, earth-rattling hitter like the departed Scott Stevens. Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello hoped all that would change by signing Anton Volchenkov.

Volchenkov came from Ottawa Senators providing the physical presence the Devils sorely lacked. He routinely sat near the top of the league in blocked shots and hits. He wasn’t a scorer, but he wasn’t expected to carry that load. With the signing, Lamoriello finally found that physical presence the team lacked. In fact, he told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record that “we’re going to have that physical presence that we’ve lacked a little bit.”

Of course, Volchenkov wouldn’t completely meet expectations. He skated in only 57 games, his lowest total in four seasons. He only blocked 106 shots, a far cry from the 172 last season. His 125 hits sat far below the 172 he doled out last season. He struggled with the rest of the team, looking like a defensive liability in his own zone. But as the team improved, so did he. In the end, Volchenkov provided a glimpse of the physical defenseman the team expected patrolling their blue line.

Volchenkov At Even Strength

Volchenkov finished with decent numbers on even-strength despite missing several games due to injury. He averaged 18:06 of ice time, sitting fourth among Devils defenseman. His rating of plus-0.68 ranked third among all skaters and second among defenseman, an impressive number considering the overall down year for the team. He didn’t face the other team’s best players (minus-0.031 quality of competition) but didn’t get much help from his own teammates (minus-0.041 quality of teammates).

Despite his lack of offensive production, Volchenkov helped the team’s scoring and goal differential. On the ice, the team averaged 2.14 goals for per 60 (32 total). They allowed 2.21 goals against per 60 (33 total), recording a minus-0.07 on-ice plus/minus rating. Off the ice, those numbers worsened. Goals for per 60 dropped to 1.55 and goals against per 60 rose to 2.30.

Shots for and against followed the same pattern. On the ice, the team averaged 26.2 shots for per 60. He limited opponents to 21.7 shots against per 60. Off the ice, the team did worse in both departments. Shots for per 60 dropped to 25.8 and shots against per 60 rose to 22.2. They’re not big splits, but it shows a positive trend.

The stats look good, but Corsi disagrees with his performance. On the ice, Volchenkov recorded a plus-2.95 Corsi, a respectable (but low) number. Off the ice, that jumped to plus-6.24. He wasn’t a liability, but he clearly wasn’t the best option. For someone praised for their shot-blocking abilities, it’s telling that the team improved their defensive performance with him off the ice. He never really provides offense, and he couldn’t even score a goal this season. That drives down the rating as well. It wasn’t the greatest showing, but Volchenkov proved himself as a positive contributor. But he still left a lot on the table and failed to meet expectations.

Read more…

Devils At The Break: The End Of The Streak

January 27, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the only times this year we saw John MacLean smile. Photo Credit: Andy Marlin/Getty Images

This will be a regular feature during the Devils’ five game All-Star break. In this feature, we’ll look at overall team news, discuss individual player performances, and give expectations for the second half of the season. You can find all these articles under the “Devils At The Break” category located on the sidebar.

The New Jersey Devils made playoff appearances commonplace during the past 13 seasons. This season, however, ushered in a new era, one where fans and players probably won’t see New Jersey in the playoffs.

The Devils, mired in last place, will need a Herculean effort to even position themselves for the playoffs. In their remaining 33 games, New Jersey must go nearly perfect to gain enough points to contend. They’d also need a tremendous amount of help from other contending teams. This perfect storm, unfortunately, won’t occur.

So now, the fans, players and organization enter the post All-Star break as – gasp – sellers. It’s an unknown feeling, one which could determine the direction of the organization for the next few seasons. For many fans, however, the shock and disappointment of this unknown time are over.

The Devils, as we all know, opened this season with great expectations. The offense looked stacked, Martin Brodeur returned to his Vezina ways just a season ago, and new coach John MacLean promised a fresh, up-tempo attack. If only the games were played on paper.

New Jersey’s “super team” fell flat on its face. The offense fell flat, the defense looked miserable and their goaltending was atrocious. Injuries also piled up, shelving important players like Zach Parise, Bryce Salvador and Brian Rolston.

Through it all, MacLean couldn’t resuscitate his team. Players seemed to quit after goals, and no changes worked. Eventually, with a 9-22-2 record, Lou Lamoriello decided to fire MacLean. Lamoriello, known to take control of teams, entrusted former coach Jacques Lemaire to turn his team around.

Lemaire’s time as coach began as MacLean’s ended. In his first three games – all losses – the Devils were outscored 17-3. Even after starting 1-7-0, Lemaire continued to adamantly argue this squad had talent. Then, the Devils started winning. Eventually, they put together a four-game win streak and finished for the All-Star break on a 6-1-1 run.

The recent success won’t bring the Devils to the playoffs, but it shows a return to Devils’ hockey. The team defense is better, the offense scores goals, and it seems Brodeur found his stride. Lemaire re-built a solid foundation within this organization, and the players now have a system that works.

The post All-Star break won’t be fun for the Devils. Their 13-year playoff streak, second to only Detroit’s current 19 season run, will come to an end. Players will be moved, the team will lose, and pride will be the motivation for several players. It’s not the situation many expected for this franchise. But if the past eight games show anything, the Devils won’t go down without a fight.

Hockey’s Need For Better Helmets

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Bryce Salvador, pictured here in 2008 after being hit with a puck, has missed the entire season with a concussion sustained during the preseason. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The rate of NHL players sustaining concussions continues to grow, and the dangerous injury has already claimed several key players. Sidney Crosby hasn’t played in eight straight games. Bryce Salvador has yet to play this season. Marc Savard may have had his career ended with his second concussion in as many seasons.

While analysts debate the need to eliminate all hits to the head, there needs to be an improvement in player’s helmets. While improvements wouldn’t completely solve the issue, improved equipment can possibly soften blows to the head.

Hockey helmets aren’t a piece of complex equipment. The shell of the helmet consists of vinyl nitrile, which helps disperse force from points of contact. The inner shell consists of either the vinyl nitrile or expanded polypropylene foam, which absorbs shock to reduce the chances of concussions. And while those sound all well and good, the helmets aren’t the best. I recently had a two-year old helmet crack straight down the middle while playing a beer league hockey game. There aren’t the most in-shape guys playing in that league, yet the helmet still failed. Luckily I don’t have a concussion, but it shows that their not the most effective piece of equipment.

Unlike most pieces of equipment, helmets are meant to absorb repeated blows night in and night out. Players can replace shin pads, hip protectors, etc. But helmets aren’t usually replaceable. Why, then, wouldn’t they be better designed? The challenge, of course, is creating something without making it overly clunky, etc. Therein lies the problem – how can equipment be safer while still feasible to use?

Any improvement in equipment already has a template to work from. Football, which has its fair share of concusssion issues, continues to develop new helmet technology. One of these, the Xenith X1, uses 18 plastic pieces, shaped like hockey pucks, inside the helmet. Air is forced from these pieces until it’s completely flat. Then, the pieces immediately re-inflate, ready for the next impact.

Is this helmet the best? Maybe not. But it’s a prototype, and it shows progress. Players are faster and stronger than ever before. Hits are more violent, and while other pieces of equipment improved, helmets lag behind. New helmet technology may not eliminate all concussions. But it could be a major piece in the fight to eliminate these injuries from the game.

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For complete coverage of tonight’s Detroit Red Wings – New Jersey Devils game, visit SB Nation New York.

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