Archive

Archive for May, 2011

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 Best Of The Rest: Offense

May 29, 2011 1 comment

Zharkov finally scored the first goal of his NHL career this season. 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 offensive players.

Throughout the course of a season, teams will count on players to fill in games. The New Jersey Devils were no different. Nine different offensive players skated in less than half of the Devils’ games this season. Some were fourth-liner fill ins, and others were rookies who couldn’t find a consistent spot. One was even a team’s cornerstone who missed significant time due to injury.

We’ll take a look at all of them, in order of games played. And here we go:

Vladimir Zharkov – 38 GP, 4 points (2 G, 2 A)

After playing 40 games last season with New Jersey, Zharkov once again got his opportunity in the NHL this season. He spent most of his time playing on the third and fourth lines. He almost exclusively played during even strength situations, pulling down a minus-0.59 rating. He only helped produce eight goals this season, and the team’s offensive numbers improved with him off the ice. He provided little value, recording a minus-0.2 GVT.

I believe the numbers unnecessarily belittle Vharkov’s effort. We finally saw some offense, as Zharkov managed to score his first two NHL goals. He’ll never be a big scorer, but I believe he’ll hang around as a solid third or fourth line player.

Tim Sestito – 36 GP, 2 Points (2 A)

Sestito helped fill the fourth-line center role early this season. The seven-year pro filled in well, but couldn’t really contribute offensively. He helped produce just three goals, assisting on two of them. The team expectedly played much better offensively with him off the ice. He didn’t really help much defensively either, with the shots against per 60 improving with him on the bench.

Predictably, Sestito didn’t finish with a positive GVT. His minus-1.3 rating ranked him in the bottom three of all players. He could probably be replaced by a rookie next year, and the organization may go that way. His cap hit wasn’t large this season (just $500,000), so he could also be brought back on a low cost, one-year deal.

Jacob Josefson – 28 GP, 10 Points (3 G, 7 A)

Josefson entered the pre-season as one of the most talked about rookies in camp. Everyone knew the organization would closely watch the development of their young Swede. After watching him this season, they can only be excited about his future in a Devils sweater.

Josefson recorded a plus-1.42 rating, fourth-highest among all skaters. He helped create offense (2.08 goals for per 60 on-ice) and prevent it (1.31 goals against per 60 on-ice). Those numbers both worsened when he was on the bench. Surprisingly, the GVT ratings put him at a minus-0.3. It’s not terrible, but it shows an area he must improve.

Josefson earned high praise from Jacques Lemaire, who doesn’t easily praise rookies. Look for him to stay in the lineup next season and keep developing into a solid center.

Read more…

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Anssi Salmela

Hey look, Salmela is letting the other team shoot. Surprising. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/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 our final review, we focus on Anssi Salmela.

Anssi Salmela entered the 2010-2011 regular season as one of the biggest question marks on the New Jersey Devils’ roster. After tearing his ACL in the World Championships, no one knew exactly what he could contribute. As the season progressed, it seemed the rookies would force Salmela from the lineup. But the defenseman found his way back, contributing solid minutes.

That’s about all he’d contribute. Salmela played 48 games this season, but didn’t post great offensive numbers or really stand out. He flew under the radar, which was simple considering his relatively bad play. He ranked second-to-last among all skaters in even-strength plays, and contributed little to special teams. He never stood out this season, and never quite met the already low expectations.

Salmela At Even Strength

Salmela almost exclusively played even strength this season. The defenseman averaged 17:23 of ice time and 23 shifts per game. He only 0.31 points per 60, and managed to pull down a minus-1.26. The rest of the numbers aren’t pretty either.

The Devils’ defenseman didn’t help the offense at all. On the ice, Salmela helped New Jersey score 1.47 goals per 60 (19 total) and put 23.7 shots on net. Off the ice, both of those numbers improved. Goals for per 60 shot up to 2.12, and shots for jumped to 25.7.

Defensively, he wasn’t much better. Opponents scored 2.33 goals with him on the ice and averaged 25 shots on net. With Salmela on the bench, goals against per 60 dropped to 1.72 and shots against fell to 20.6. It’s no wonder that his rating sat so low. On the ice, Salmela’s plus/minus rating was a minus-0.85. Off the ice, the rating jumped to a plus-0.40.

The Corsi numbers wrap his ineffectiveness up nicely. On the ice, Salmela recorded a minus-3.18, one of five skaters with over 40 games played carrying a minus rating. Off the ice, the team recorded a plus-9.13 rating. On the ice, Salmela didn’t help this team offensively, and couldn’t prevent scoring chances. Off the ice, they simply played better.

Conclusion

Salmela wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t look at the numbers and give him credit for being solid anywhere. He finished fifth among defenseman in overall points (seven), but that isn’t impressive considering the offensive ineptitude of most blueliners. He finished behind a rookie, Mark Fayne, and the offensively challenged Anton Volchenkov.

Overall, Salmela finished with a 0.9 GVT rating. That ranked him third last among all defenseman, above replacement rookies Olivier Magnan and Alexander Urbom. He once again finished behind Fayne in this category. Yet he still skated in 48 regular season games. He provides some type of value, but not much.

Salmela enters the offseason as one of the Devils’ restricted free agents. He was outplayed by one rookie this season. The organization expects other young defenders, like Urbom and Matt Taormina, to play significant minutes next season. Salmela may be squeezed out of a roster spot.

If the numbers from this season are any indication, Salmela isn’t a great defenseman. The Devils can, and should, upgrade their blueline. Salmela barely fit in last season, and with better prospects coming through the system, he may need to find a new team soon.

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Nick Palmieri

Palmieri, slotted on the top line, meshed well with both Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. 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 Nick Palmieri.

Heading into the 2010-2011 regular season, Nick Palmieri found himself a mere name among the New Jersey Devils’ prospects. The rookie right-winger, who played in six regular season games during the 2009-10 campaign, found himself buried underneath new rookie faces like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson. Being overlooked wasn’t a surprise, as Palmieri managed just one assist in that brief stint with the Devils. But he totalled 36 points, including 21 goals, with the Lowell Devils. The organization knew the talent was there, and Palmieri rewarded them for their trust.

Palmieri’s presence helped fill a major hole on the team’s first line. After the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey needed a right-winger to move up to the top spot. In came Palmieri, who developed chemistry quickly with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk. He scored the “dirty goals,” crashing the net and battling for pucks in the corners. He collected 17 points in 43 games, becoming an important piece of the team’s offense. Like rookie counterpart Mark Fayne, Palmieri exceeded expectations last season, helping stabilize the top line and providing solid secondary scoring.

Palmieri At Even Strength

Palmieri helped generate offense on the ice, outproducing several veteran players. After his call-up on December 30, the rookie right-winger averaged 14:19 of ice time. He made the most of his limited opportunities, compiling a plus-0.40 rating. Surprisingly, he finished in the green despite his quality of teammates (minus-0.006) ranking lower than the quality of competition (plus-0.029).

Palmieri was one of the few players to make a positive on-ice impact during even strength. On the ice, New Jersey averaged 2.54 goals for per 60 (25 total) against 1.73 goals against per 60 (17 total). His on-ice plus/minus of plus-0.81 ranked first among skaters with 40-plus games played. Off the ice, all three numbers declined. Goals for per 60 dropped to 2.03, and the goals against per 60 dropped to 1.62. His off-ice plus/minus rating also fell to plus-0.41.

For all his help producing offense, Palmieri didn’t effectively create or defend shots. While on the ice, the team averaged just 22.9 shots for per 60. Opponents were able to put 23.1 shots on net. Off the ice, the offensive shot numbers improved.  New Jersey 24.7 shots for per 60, but still allowed 23.7.

The Corsi ratings exemplify Palmieri’s effectiveness. On the ice, Palmieri collected a plus-3.20 Corsi. It’s not a large number, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Playing with the top line helped improve this number, but he contributed as well. He managed to put 66 shots on net, which isn’t easy considering the talent around him. Off the ice, the rating declined to plus-2.54. The split isn’t huge, but it shows the positive impact Palmieri brought on the ice. He wasn’t a game changer, but he provided some solid play.

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 Retired Numbers Debate

Scott Stevens became the first Devil to have his jersey retired during the 2003 season. Photo Credit: NJDevils.com

When Brian Rafalski announced his retirement today, it signaled yet another Devil from their glory days to retire. As the team gets further and further removed from their dynasty days, when they won three Stanley Cup championships in eight years, more and more players will leave the game.

The departures already included some big name players. Over the last six years, we’ve seen most of the Devils vaunted defense retire. Ken Daneyko, arguably the heart and soul of the defense, retired after winning the Stanley Cup in 2003. Scott Stevens soon followed, retiring in 2004 after battling post-concussion syndrome. Scott Niedermayer went next, retiring last season. The list continues, with forwards like Jay Pandolfo and Sergei Brylin hanging up their skates.

All of these former players helped produce the most successful eight seasons in team history. They all deserve recognition, both individually and as a collective whole. There’s no bigger individual recognition than retiring a player’s number, and there are a few Devils who deserve the honor. But it shouldn’t go to everyone, and the franchise needs to tread carefully when considering players worthy of that honor.

Currently, only two Devils have seen their number retired. Scott Stevens became the first player in team history to have his number retired. The team honored him in a pre-game ceremony on  February 3, 2006, acknowledging his immense importance to the team. Stevens racked up the honors, including a Conn Smythe Award during the 2000 Stanley Cup championship. His mere presence along the blueline made skaters think twice about where they were on the ice. His hit on Eric Lindros during the 2000 Eastern Conference was a turning point in the series. His resume continues, with the crowning achievement being his tenure as captain, which is still the longest in team history. Clearly, he deserved the honor.

Daneyko became just the second player whose number hangs from the rafters. “Mr. Devil” played for 20 seasons, all with the Devils. His gritty play and gap-toothed grin came to embody the Devils “trap” game. He sacrificed his body game in and game out, blocking shots and doling out hits. He’s never been an “offensive defenseman,” recording a career-high 21 points during the 1989-90 season. He almost never missed a game, holding the Devils “ironman” streak until this season. His contributions, both on and off the ice, earned him the honor.

Niedermayer and Rafalski both make great arguments to earn the honor. But before the team makes them one of the honored few, they need to realize not everyone deserves a spot. That’s where the difficult decisions begin. What criteria will the organization use to judge a player’s worthiness? Both Niedermayer and Rafalski were great Devils, and belong among the best to wear the jersey. Both also spurned the organization to play elsewhere, with Rafalski leaving near the tail end of his prime years. It doesn’t diminish their accomplishments with the Devils, but it may dilute them in the eyes of some observers.

We already know that, when he decided to retire, Martin Brodeur will watch his jersey number retired. But for others, like Niedermayer and Rafalski, the honor should take time to be decided. Players refused to wear Stevens’ number four and Daneyko’s number 3, but others wore numbers 27 and 28.

I don’t believe other players, like Rafalski and Niedermayer, should be shunned from having their jersey numbers retired. The franchise should practice caution, however, to keep it an honor and not a right.

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Martin Brodeur

Brodeur once again battled injury, failing to start 60 games for the second time in three seasons. Photo Credit: Jonathan Klein/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 Martin Brodeur.

Despite the immense amount of change throughout the organization this summer, one constant remained – Martin Brodeur. The New Jersey Devils goalie entered his 17th straight season as the unquestioned number one goalie, looking to break (and extend) more records. After finishing a healthy 2010 campaign, one in which he finished third in the Vezina voting, many expected Brodeur to continue his dominance. As a matter of fact, I wrote this in my season preview:

Year in and year out, the Devils never stress about one position – goalie. We all know Brodeur will stand between the pipes and play most of the team’s games this season. While the question has been asked this preseason as to whether or not Brodeur will rest more, we all know what he’ll do this season. Pencil Brodeur in for around 70-75 starts and a possible Vezina trophy.

There’s no real expectations for Johan Hedburg this season. He might get 12 to 15 starts, and he only needs to play well enough to keep the Devils in each game. But we can’t forget two years ago, when Brodeur went down with an injury. We don’t expect Hedberg to contribute much, but the possibility is still there.

Damn great job of foreshadowing. Brodeur once again suffered through an injury-plagued season, his second in the past three years. Terrible defensive play helped wreck his numbers, giving him his first ever sub-.500 season. It seemed he lost some of his luster, and I questioned whether or not Brodeur showed decline during the first half of the season.

Brodeur wouldn’t go down without a fight. Despite his abysmal first half, the future Hall-of-Famer rebounded during the team’s second half surge. He looked like the old Brodeur, snagging shots with his glove and making jaw-dropping saves. But even that second half couldn’t propel him to Brodeur-like stats. In the end, the Devils’ goalie slogged through one of his worst regular season campaigns.

Brodeur At Even Strength

Brodeur’s even strength numbers were the worst in four years. He can’t shoulder the blame for everything, as his performance directly ties into his stats. Still, the numbers aren’t pretty. In 56 games, Brodeur allowed 92 goals. That’s just 32 less than the 124 he allowed in total during the 2009-10 regular season, and he played in only 11 more games. He received little offensive support, with the team scoring 75 goals.

Predictably, the averages weren’t very good. The team averaged 1.78 goals for per 60 with Brodeur on the ice, but allowed 2.19 goals against per 60. That left the Devils’ goalie with a minus-0.4 rating. All three numbers are the worst in four years. It didn’t improve with him off the ice, as the team scored more (2.43 goals for per 60) but also allowed more goals (4.86 goals against per 60).

How much blame should Brodeur shoulder for his miserable even strength numbers? There were plenty of times when his defense left him out to dry this season. During the first half, it seemed every mistake became a goal. But it’s not completely the defense’s fault. Like every other player, Brodeur had a subpar first half of the season. He allowed several second chance opportunities game after game, and his glove hand looked slow.

Even the stellar second half couldn’t improve those numbers. From January to April, Brodeur played in 27 games (26 starts), posting a 1.72 goals-against average and a .964 save percentage. Yet that push still couldn’t get him to even average numbers. It’s amazing just how much he struggled during the first half of the season.

Read more…

Ex-Devil Brian Rafalski To Retire

May 24, 2011 1 comment

Rafalski, skating against the Ottawa Senators in the 2007 Eastern Conference semifinals, will retire with three Stanley Cup championships. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Former New Jersey Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski will announce his retirement in the coming weeks, according to several media reports.

Rafalski, who signed a five-year, $30-million contract with the Detroit Red Wings after the 2007 season, will forgo the final year of his contract. He’ll leave $6 million on the table after retiring and open a big hole along the Red Wings blueline.

After going undrafted out of the University of Wisconsin, Rafalski spent four seasons in Europe – one in Sweden and three in Finland – before signing with the Devils before the 1999-2000 season. He finished with 32 points in the regular season, ranking third among the team’s defenseman, and averaged over 21 minutes of ice time in the playoffs. He helped lead the Devils to their second Stanley Cup championship.

He continued to take on a more prominent role on New Jersey’s defense throughout his seven-year stay. He led all defenseman in points five of the next six seasons, becoming the most consistent offensive threat along the blueline. He routinely topped 25 minutes of ice time in the playoffs, playing in all situations.

He won yet another cup during the 2002-2003 season, totaling 11 points and once again averaging over 25 minutes of ice time.

Rafalski became a main cog on the Devils blueline, an achievement considering the defense’s tremendous depth. In an era where Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Sheldon Souray all donned a Devils jersey, Rafalski found a way to stand out and make a name for himself. That’s no small feat, especially for someone who couldn’t catch on in the NHL for four years after college. His offensive skill and no frills play made him a fan favorite and one of the most successful Devils’ defenseman.

Despite leaving the team four seasons ago, the Devils have yet to fill the void left by Rafalski. Several replacements, from David Hale to Paul Martin, all failed to deliver the same offensive production. It’s possible that some prospects, like Alexander Urbom and the ever-present Jon Merrill, may fill that void. Rafalski remains one of the best to ever patrol the Devils’ blueline.

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…

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Patrik Elias

May 15, 2011 1 comment

Patrik Elias led all New Jersey Devils skaters with 62 points this season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/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 Patrik Elias.

Patrik Elias entered his 15th season looking to rebound. During an injury-filled 2009-2010 season, Elias collected his lowest point total (48) since the 2005-06 season, and he only suited up for 58 games. The trade to re-acquire Jason Arnott made that goal even easier to reach. With John MacLean taking over and promising a more up-tempo style, the pieces for Elias all seemed to fall into place.

Things, as we know, didn’t go according to plan. But with everything falling apart, Elias continued to produce. He was the only Devils’ player selected to the All-Star game, the third of his career and first since the 2001-2002 season. He finished first in assists (41) and second in goals (21). He stepped up and became the de-facto team leader, answering every tough questions time and time again. After the team dealt Jamie Langenbrunner to the Dallas Stars, I argued the team should give Elias the captaincy.

Elias finished the first half of the season as the Devils’ best player. Even with Ilya Kovalchuk’s amazing second half, respect needs to go to the Devils’ center. He stepped up when his team needed him the most. It was a great bounce back year for Elias, and arguably was the team’s best player.

Elias At Even Strength

Elias continued his strong two-way play this past season. We all know he’s penciled in on the second line every season, but it’s usually a question of where. He split time on both the left-wing and center this season, transitioning back into the center position as the season wore on. That didn’t hurt his production, as his rating of plus-0.58 put him fourth on the team. Playing within the top six forwards allowed him to average 2.13 points per 60. That quality of teammates (plus-0.081) outweighed that of opponents (plus-0.049), a rarity this season.

Elias played a huge role in producing even-strength offense this season. On the ice, he helped the team produce 2.68 goals per 60 (48 total), tops among all skaters. He also helped put pucks on net, bumping the Devils shots for per 60 average to 27.9, also tops among all skaters. Off the ice, those numbers dropped. The team averaged 1.58 goals for per 60 with him off the ice, and the shots for per 60 dropped to 25.6.

As expected, Elias continued his strong defensive play. The goals against per 60 didn’t look so good, as the team allowed 2.68 goals against with him on the ice. Off the ice, that number dropped to 2.16. However, he did help limit shot opportunities. On the ice, teams averaged 20.6 shots per 60. Off the ice, that number rose to 24.2, almost a four shot increase.

The Corsi numbers show the balanced, two-way skill of Elias. On the ice, his Corsi rating of plus-14.09 led all skaters. He not only helped produce shots and scoring opportunities, but limited opponents chances. Off the ice, the Corsi tumbled to plus-0.92. That difference was the biggest drop among all skaters. If his production on both ends was ever in doubt, the Corsi helps to prove his value. It was yet another successful season at even strength for Elias.

Read more…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.