The 2010-2011 Season Review: Once Again, A Powerplay Failure
Another year, and yet another powerplay failure for the New Jersey Devils. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing the team falter with the man advantage season after season. This year proved no different. The team finished near the bottom of the league, a testament to their limited ability with the man advantage. That ineptitude cost them some wins and, in the end, was a major disappointment this season.
The Devils powerplay stood to improve from last season. The team did finish 11th during the regular season, scoring on 18.7% of their opportunities. To rank that high despite being 27th in penalties drawn was a testament to the player’s abilities to finish with the puck. Looking deeper into the numbers showed a flawed ranking. New Jersey ranked tied for 21st in powerplay goals (51) and sat alone in 21st place for powerplay assists. It wasn’t great, but it was a decent powerplay.
The team lost their powerplay mojo come playoff time. In their first round loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, they went a measly 4-for-32 (12.5%). Half of their total came in one game. It showed, in the brightest of lights, the ineptitude of the Devils’ powerplay.
With a new coaching change came the anticipation of an improved powerplay. John MacLean promised a more up tempo, offensive-minded system, which sounded great. More puck possession would lead to more penalties drawn and, hopefully, more powerplay opportunities. Getting the team into an offensive mindset could help develop their finishing abilities on the powerplay. MacLean and Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello brought in Adam Oates to help improve their special teams, a move I thought would drastically improve the team’s performance. It wouldn’t work out the way anyone planned.
In the team’s hellish first half of the season, the powerplay experienced more downs than ups. The first two-plus months of the season were especially futile, with the team going 7-for-74 (9.4%). It followed right along with the team’s overall offensive struggles, never presenting a serious threat to opponents. It fluctuated throughout the season, with a few positive moments. But the team once again struggled to capitalize with the man advantage.
Clearly, the first half of the season affected the Devils numbers significantly. Their offense, stagnant and predictable, couldn’t buy a goal with Donald Trump’s money. That play led to a decreased opportunity for powerplay chances. They ranked last in overall powerplay chances, sitting 20 behind the 29th-place Ottawa Senators. Not drawing penalties and failing to capitalize on opportunities spells disaster. It was the perfect storm of ineffectiveness.
Who knows if the team will improve next year. Improving the powerplay isn’t as simple as plugging in a few spare parts. It takes time and dedication from the players to learn and stick to a plan. If Oates remains, he’ll have another year to improve this anemic powerplay. Hopefully it’ll improve. But with the Devils, powerplay success is never a guarantee.