Home > Season Recap > The 2010-2011 Player Review: Anton Volchenkov

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.

Volchenkov recorded 125 hits in just 57 games this season, making Frans Nielsen one of his many victims. Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Volchenkov On The Penalty Kill

We all know Volchenkov won’t man the point on the powerplay. But he was expected to spend significant time on the penalty kill, which he did. His average time on ice (2.06) put him in the top four of Devils defenseman. Once again, he managed to post a plus-4.49 rating despite his quality of teammates (minus-0.382) ranking lower than the quality of competition (minus-0.133).

Volchenkov took care of the most important aspect of penalty killing – goals against – while on the ice. The Devils averaged 2.06 goals against per 60 (four total) with Volchenkov on the ice. With him on the bench, that number skyrocketed to 6.41 goals against per 60. Volchenkov accounted for just .03 percent of powerplay goals scored against New Jersey. That’s pretty stellar considering other penalty killers, like White and Andy Greene, were burned big time this season, each allowing more than 10 powerplay goals.

Once again, the Corsi numbers disagree with his great performance. On the ice, Volchenkov’s Corsi checked in at minus-59.70. Off the ice, the number slightly improved to minus-58.81. It’s not a huge split, but it shows a sliver of improvement with him off the ice. That number takes into account the shots against per 60 differential (38.1 with him on, 35.4 with him off). A three shot difference isn’t large, but it drops that Corsi down significantly.

Volchenkov proved himself an above-average penalty killer. For a guy who prides himself on blocking shots, it’s not that surprising. The numbers are clearly skewed because he only played in 57 games. But if you stretch the numbers another twenty games, they would still rank near the top among all penalty killers.

Conclusion

Expecting Volchenkov to replicate the play of Stevens last season would be unrealistic. The former Devils’ captain was, and continues to be, a once in a decade defenseman, who knew how to drag the line between fair and foul play. His hits made players think twice about going into the corners, and countless opponents laid on the ice after big hits. Volchenkov brought a physical presence, but not that type of play.

We saw the true Volchenkov during the second half of the season. His ability to deliver checks at the right time or block a shot helped the team play better in their own zone. We saw the best of his abilities on display, night in and night out. The fact that he finished a plus-3 this season serves as a testament to his improved defensive play. That play, so visibly missing from the first half of the season, showed his true potential and the value he brings in his own zone.

Volchenkov’s goals versus threshold serves to only further the conclusion. He compiled a plus-2.5 GVT, bringing the Devils an average of 2.5 goals more than a replacement player. More importantly, his 3.5 defensive GVT showed his solid play in his own end.

Some fans hopped off the A-Train after a disappointing first season. If he can stay healthy, I’m sure they’ll find their way back on for the next five years.

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