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The 2010-2011 Player Review: David Clarkson

Clarkson, never afraid to drop the gloves, after taking Matt Martin to the ice. 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 first review, we focus on David Clarkson.

David Clarskon seemed on his way to a career year during the 2009-2010 season. The right-winger recorded 15 points in the first two months of the season, looking like the secondary scorer the New Jersey Devils needed. He produced on the powerplay, putting up six points. He continued his physical play, recording 52 hits. But that would all change on November 27, when Clarkson blocked a shot from Zdeno Chara. It fractured his fibula, derailing a promising season and limiting him to just 46 games.

This off season, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello inked Clarkson to a three year, $8 million deal. It seemed a steep price for the right-winger, but the organization expected him to continue improving. He entered the season with the realistic expectation of cracking the 20-goal plateau while providing a tough, physical presence on the ice.

Clarkson brought the physical play, but left his offense behind. He led the team in hits (170) and penalty minutes (116), numbers expected from him. He never came close to reaching his expected offensive output. Clarkson finished with 18 points – the lowest total in his three-plus seasons – despite playing in every game last season. He provided a much-needed physical presence, but ultimately disappointed because of his limited production.

Clarkson At Even Strength

Clarkson managed to play every game last season, his average time on ice of 13:37 ranking him 20th among all skaters. He only averaged 0.98 points per 60, a dip from the 1.81 point per 60 he produced during his last healthy season (2008-09). His minus-0.77 rating follows the downward trend of all skaters this season. It also points to his overall lack of production. If he produced more offense at even strength, that rating would be much better. He should have produced better numbers, as his quality of competition (minus-0.070) ranked below the quality of his own teammates (plus-0.013).

Playing between the third and fourth lines somewhat hindered Clarkson’s production. He helped produce just 1.16 goals for per 60 (19 total) while allowing 2.15 goals against per 60 (35 total). On the ice, the team generated 27 shots for per 60, which isn’t a terrible number. But those numbers pale in comparison to those from his the 2008-09 season, when he produce 2.23 goals for per 60 (32 total). The third and fourth lines don’t need to hinder production, and that can’t excuse the lack of offense.

The goal production improved with Clarkson on the bench. The goals for per 60 jumped almost a full goal to 2.09. But numbers dipped in other areas, such as shots for per 60 (25.9). The defense also slipped, increasing the goals against per 60 to 2.31.

The Corsi numbers tell the ultimate story. On the ice, Clarkson finished with a plus-3.74 rating. It’s not exactly a world record pace, but it’s a nice finish. With him off the ice, the number increased to plus-4.25. Clearly, the offense slightly improved with him off the ice. The team averaged less shots but also allowed less shots against, giving it a better ratio. Against weaker competition, you’d expect him to produce more offense. But in a down season, he struggled like the rest of the team to create and bury scoring chances.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Adam Mair

Despite being alone in front of the net, Mair couldn't score a goal. 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 Adam Mair.

Every team needs role players, from the solid-yet-unspectacular defenseman to the physical fourth-liner. These guys won’t draw praise but avoid criticism, their contributions going unnoticed by the media. The New Jersey Devils expected Adam Mair to be that player. In his seven seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, he was a consistent grinder on the team’s bottom two lines. He produced some points, but mostly did the thankless, dirty work of playing the corners and getting into scrums.

We all forget the sacrifices Mair made during the beginning of the season. He stuck around training with the team despite not having a contract. He paid his own way to hang around. The organization finally signed him on October 12, and the rest is history. But it’s a history met with a shoulder shrug and a see-ya later attitude. In his one season as a Devil, Mair didn’t really do anything noteworthy or special. He remained anonymous, which is neither good nor terrible.

Mair At Even Strength

Mair didn’t have a positive impact on the ice during even strength play. Of all forwards with 50-plus games played, he averaged the lowest time on ice (8.61). That number isn’t very surprising given his skill set and place on the team. Some of his other numbers aren’t shockers either. Mair played with less-than skilled teammates (minus-0.104 quality of teammate rating) and skated against other third and fourth liners (minus-0.137 quality of competition rating). Unsurprisingly, he recorded a rating of minus-1.28, worst among all skaters with the criteria above.

His offensive numbers are uninspiring as well. Mair isn’t a world class scorer – his career highs are eight goals and 19 points. He managed to be on the ice for just six goals for this season (0.64 per 60 rate) and 22 against (2.36 per 60 rate). His on-ice plus/minus of minus-1.71 is neither a shock nor a disappointment. He doesn’t score goals and his line will serve some up every now and then. Off the ice, the difference shrunk considerably. Goals for increased to 1.96 per 60, and goals against slightly rose to 2.40 per 60. The plus/minus rating dropped to minus-0.40, which makes sense. More offensively skilled players will produce more goals, considerably improving that rating.

Other offensive numbers improved as well with Mair off the ice. Shots for jumped from 23.5 per 60 to 27.6 per 60, a four shot difference. That’s pretty considerable, but understandable considering his lack of goal-scoring teammates. Also take into account he started in the offensive zone just 51.3% of the time this season and had equal neutral zone and offensive zone finishes (165).

The tie this up nicely, let’s look at Mair’s Corsi rating. His on-ice rating sat at minus-5.89, meaning he allowed almost six more shots than he generated. That’s clearly a huge negative. The off-ice Corsi jumps to plus-7.72, a complete turnaround from his numbers. The Devils averaged almost two more shots with him off the ice. All it goes to show is this – Mair was the prototypical fourth-liner, playing sparing minutes and doing the dirty work.

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The 2010-2011 Player Review: Rod Pelley

Pelley played mostly a defensive role this season, but did tie a career high with 10 points. 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 Rod Pelley.

For the past few years, the New Jersey Devils raved about the abilities of Rod Pelley. Several team officials believed he could become the next John Madden. Last year, after Madden left the team as an unrestricted free agent, he got his first shot at taking the defensive forward role. Jacques Lemaire wouldn’t play him full-time, so we never fully got to see his potential.

With a new coach this season, Pelley got his chance. He didn’t become an elite checking forward, but he made the most of his chance. For most of the season, Pelley anchored the team’s checking line. His numbers weren’t superb, but they weren’t overly terrible. He ended up proving what he was – a defensive forward who could be used on the team’s third line.

Pelley At Even Strength

As a third-liner, Pelley didn’t see much time on the ice. His time on ice per 60 of 10.24 was middle of the road, which is expected. He put up a negative player rating of minus-0.25, which also isn’t terrible considering his line. For someone who isn’t going to generate much offense (just 10 points this season), his rating will take a hit. It also suffered from his quality of teammates, which checked in at minus-0.317. When you’re constantly centering guys like Adam Mair, that’ll help drive down the rating.

As a third-liner, Pelley’s greatest impact should be defensively. A look at his numbers shows he had an almost neutral (and slightly negative) impact this season. When on the ice, teams scored 23 goals against, an average of 1.82 goals against per 60. He only generated 1.11 goals per 60, leading to a plus/minus on the ice of minus-0.71. It’s not a good number, because you never want any player with a negative plus/minus. Off the ice, however, the numbers increased. Teams averaged 2.51 goals against per 60, but also scored more (2.05 goals for per 60). That drove the plus/minus with Pelley off the ice down to minus-0.46, which seems like an improvement. But Pelley and his linemates aren’t goal scorers, which will obviously put him at a disadvantage in his on-ice plus/minus rating.

The shots against numbers paint a slightly negative picture. With Pelley on the ice, he held teams to 25.4 shots against per 60. With him off the ice, that number dipped to 23.5. That’s almost two full shots less. It’s not a huge number, but it shows he wasn’t the best defensive option on the team’s bench.

The Corsi numbers wraps up this section nicely. Pelley’s on-ice Corsi was a minus-7.92, one of the worst among forwards with at least 50 games played. Off the ice, that number improved to plus-7.06, almost a 180 degree turnaround.

Pelley On The Penalty Kill

Pelley’s numbers on the penalty-kill paint a similar picture to his five-on-five numbers. His time on ice of 1.38 put him within the top nine of the Devils penalty killers, putting him in the regular rotation. Like his even strength rating, Pelley turned in a negative rating of minus-1.36. It was one of the worst ratings among regular penalty killers, but a deeper look at the numbers could expose some flaws.

Penalty killing, of course, isn’t a one man show. Teammates sway the numbers heavily, and Pelley’s teammates didn’t help him one bit. His quality of teammates was minus-0.764, which ranked dead last. Teams scored 10 powerplay goals against Pelley last year, an average of 5.86 goals per 60. That gave Pelley an ugly plus/minus average of minus-5.86. The number improved with him off the ice, dipping to 4.93 goals against per 60 and a plus/minus rating of minus-4.50.These numbers make sense, as better combinations produced better results on the ice.

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Game 26 Recap: Crosby, Pens Continue Devils Road Woes

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

The Devils entered tonight’s game desperate for a consistent effort and two points. The team went up against their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hadn’t lost a regulation game in their past ten contests. While the Devils put forth a consistent effort, it was the same losing effort. The Penguins defeated the Devils, 2-1, sending New Jersey to their sixth straight road loss.

Sidney Crosby celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates during the second period of tonight's game. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sidney Crosby Sinks The Devils

There’s one name that makes Devils fans instantly feel nervous and angry at once – Sidney Crosby. Coming into tonight’s contest, the Penguins captain recorded 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 33 career games against the Devils. Crosby carried a 15-game point streak into the matchup as well. And in only two periods, Crosby collected two points – including the game-winning goal – to sink the Devils.

Crosby’s first point of the night – an assist – helped even the game, 1-1. The Penguins moved through the neutral zone, and didn’t look to have anything developing. A cross-ice pass was tipped by Adam Mair, but Crosby used his back skate to kick the puck to his stick blade. The Penguins’ captain then moved down into the Devils’ zone along the side boards. He passed across the ice to Pascal Dupuis, who fired a one-timer past Johan Hedberg for his eighth goal of the year.

Crosby’s second point of the night proved to be the game-winning goal. With the puck in the Devils’ zone, Alex Goligoski drove to the faceoff circle and shot the puck. Hedberg made the initial save, but the puck caromed off his pads and to the side of the net. Crosby, all alone, dropped to one knee and fired the puck into the open net for his 24th goal of the season.

Crosby was the reason the Devils lost tonight. As much as fans despise him, he’s virtually unstoppable right now.

Brian Rolston scored the Devils lone goal tonight on the powerplay. It was the team's third in their last eight opportunities on the road. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Devils’ Powerplay Shows Life

One of the Devils’ major problems during the season has been the powerplay. It’s been especially dreadful on the road, where the team had one powerplay tally prior to Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. But New Jersey went 2-for-3 against the Flyers, and that solid play continued against the Penguins, accounting for their only goal of the night.

With Dupuis in the box for hooking during the first period, Mattias Tedenby controlled the puck and brought it around the net. The rookie right-winger moved from behind the net and found a streaking Jason Arnott entering the Penguins zone. Arnott one-timed the pass, but the shot went wide right. The puck hit Brian Rolston, but the left-winger stayed with the puck and fired home the shot for his second goal of the season.

For all of the man-advantage struggles, the Devils have shown improvement the past two games. Their 3-for-7, good for about 43 percent. Combine that with better numbers at home, and the Devils powerplay is showing improvement.

John MacLean’s Swan Song?

The Devils needed a win tonight, plain and simple. Another loss meant yet another losing streak and another loss against a quality opponent. As its been all year, the Devils failed to capitalize on opportunities and allowed other teams to dominate games. Instead of stretching leads, the Devils watched them slip away. They couldn’t get anything going, and it might have cost their coach his job.

As I posted here, I don’t believe MacLean should get the axe. Two weeks ago, this team looked like it was turning a corner. But since winning three of four two weeks ago, the Devils dropped three straight. They haven’t shown any signs of a turnaround under MacLean. The team has three days off before they face Ottawa. General manager Lou Lamoriello may feel this is the best time to change coaches.

For the rest of the recap, follow after the jump.

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Game 24 Preview: It’s A Family Affair

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Tonight’s Matchup: The Montreal Canadiens (15-8-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (8-14-2) tonight at the Prudential Center. It’s the second of four meetings between the two teams this season. The Devils lead the current season series, 1-0-0.

The Last Canadiens Game: The Habs blew a third period lead and lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, last night in Montreal. Down, 3-1, in the third period, the Oilers began the comeback with a goal from Ales Hemsky at 10:09 of the period. Sam Gagner tied it in the third, and Dustin Penner scored the overtime winner.

The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in a shootout Saturday afternoon at the Rock. Adam Mair struck first, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead in the first period. New Jersey held the lead until the third period, when Daniel Briere tied the game on a powerplay goal. Travis Zajac scored the shootout winner, beating Brian Boucher high to the glove side for the win.

The Last Canadiens – Devils Game: The Devils blanked the Canadiens, 3-0, on October 21 at the Bell Centre. Zach Parise, Jason Arnott and Matt Taormina provided the offense, and Martin Brodeur stopped 29 shots for the shutout.

Brotherly Love: Stephen Gionta will face off against ex-Devil and brother Brian Gionta tonight, the first time they’ve faced each other in their professional careers. Stephen wears number 14, the same number Brian wore while with the Devils. Brian is the better goal scorer and will probably have a greater impact on the outcome of the game. Regardless, it’ll still be fun to watch. Maybe they’ll get into a few battles along the boards.

Tonight’s Matchup: After winning three of four games last week (and playing four out of the seven days), the Devils earned a well-deserved four day break. But those breaks can take a team off their game, especially one that’s just beginning to develop some momentum. The biggest key of tonight’s matchup will be intensity. If the Devils play fast and smart, they can wear down the Canadiens early. Remember, the Canadiens did play last night and travel to New Jersey. The Devils will hold a decisive edge in rest, and they need to take advantage of that tonight.

Intensity will only get them so far. The Devils need to finish their scoring chances tonight. As we all know, that’s been the biggest challenge this season. The Canadiens, however, usually provide the remedy to cure the Devils’ problems. Carey Price is having a great season (14-7-2, 2.04 goals-against average and .932 save percentage), but hasn’t played well against the Devils. New Jersey should find a way to beat the Habs tonight. It’s almost like clockwork against them.

Jamie Langenbrunner and Matt Corrente both return tonight for the Devils. Alexander Vasyunov and Olivier Magnan are healthy scratches.

Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus or WFAN 660AM. Here is the projected lineup for tonight’s game:

FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Brian Rolston – Dainius Zubrus – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta

DEFENSEMEN: Colin White – Henrik Tallinder; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Mark Fayne – Matt Corrente

GOALIES: Johan Hedberg; Mike McKenna

Evaluating The Devils – Games 11-20

November 21, 2010 1 comment

Many analysts, coaches and front office personnel believe in evaluating their teams in 10-game segments. The ten games give a broad enough spectrum to evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

Through the New Jersey Devils first 10 games, several disturbing trends arose. A lack of consistency and scoring were some of the team’s several issues. They stumbled out of the gate, playing to a 2-7-1 record.

We all know how the last ten games have went. The Devils played slightly better, going 3-6-1 over the last ten games. Not only that, but the play improved dramatically. The results, however, still aren’t there. The team sits near the bottom of the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference. They can’t afford many sub-.500 ten game segments from here on out.

There’s still several issues plaguing this team. Here are some of the main issues during the team’s recent 3-6-1 stretch:

1. Scoring

The Devils currently sit dead last in the NHL in goals for (36) and goals per game (1.8). New Jersey is the only team in the NHL averaging less than two goals per game. The scoring drought hit every single player, from Ilya Kovalchuk down to Adam Mair. Jason Arnott leaves all scorers with six goals, and Patrik Elias leads all scorers with 12 points. Those are abysmal numbers through twenty games. Most of these players are point-per game producers, but they haven’t reached those levels this season.

Despite the bleak scoring output, there have been abundant signs of offensive life. As a team, the Devils have put 628 shots on net. During these past 10 games, New Jersey produced more quality scoring chances. They’re putting quality shots on net, and they’ve been making opposing goalies work. The effort is there, but the results are not. The coaching staff can’t put the pucks in the back of the net. The team’s average goals per game increased (1.7 to 1.9) despite being shut out three times in the ten games. It’s not a great number, but it’s an increase nonetheless. The Devils look close to breaking out of their slump. Hopefully it’ll come soon.

Devan Dubnyk was one of the many goalies to stymie the Devils. They solved him, but not many others, during a 3-6-1 stretch. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

2. The Power (less) Play

MacLean brought in assistant coach Adam Oates over the summer to improve the team’s offense. Oates was expected to improve the team’s powerplay and finally give the Devils man advantage a punch. Through 20 games, the powerplay can only be described as abysmal. The Devils’ powerplay is 6-for-59 this season, ranking it – you guessed it – last in the league. At first, I believed the struggles stemmed from struggles to adjust to a new system. But it’s now laughable, and the Devils powerplay scares no team.

The Devils powerplay began to look better, especially at home. But it’s not up to par, even by Devils’ standards. The team never had a great powerplay, but this is a joke. They’ve shown now creativity and a lack of ability to develop plays. The team flashes that ability, but those instances are few and far between. It’s been difficult to figure out exactly how the team can improve. The players are too tentative with the puck, leaving no passing or creativity with the man advantage. They’ve drilled it in practice and had their opportunities in games. Maybe it’ll click one game, but I’m not sure how the powerplay can improve.

For more analysis of the past ten games, read after the jump!

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Game 18 Recap: Thomas, Bruins Blank Devils, 3-0

November 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The New Jersey Devils traveled to Boston on Monday night, fresh off their first home win of the season. The Devils looked to beat the Bruins and uber-goalie Tim Thomas to start their first win streak of the season. The Bruins, however, wouldn’t allow the Devils the pleasure of winning on their home ice. Boston scored once each period and defeated the Devils, 3-0.

David Clarkson couldn't bury this chance as Tim Thomas made life difficult for the right-winger. Thomas stopped 27 shots en route to his fourth shutout of the season. Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

Tim Thomas Stones The Devils

Entering tonight’s game, Thomas carried impressive season statistics. In ten games, the Bruins goalie was 8-1-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and a .957 save percentage. And while he carried rather pedestrian numbers against the Devils (5-5-0-3, 2.43 GAA, .920 save %), Thomas played stellar hockey tonight. It was two desperation saves that kept the game scoreless in the opening minute and ultimately affected the tone of the game.

The Devils generated two great scoring chances only 40 seconds into the opening period. Patrik Elias broke in on a 2-on-1 with Mattias Tedenby, and held the puck as he cut across the slot. Thomas came out of the net, and Elias looked to have a wide-open chance. But Thomas kicked out the pad to make a save, and stoned Tedenby with the back of his knee on a rebound attempt.

If the Devils score, this game may have ended differently. But a hot goaltender will get lucky, and Thomas made one lucky save to keep his team even early. Thomas stopped 27 shots en route to his league-leading fourth shutout of the season.

“It’s unfortunate,” Devils coach John MacLean said. “We had a chance there early, but we couldn’t bury our chances. They got some chances and put them in. Our stars didn’t bury their chances.”

Checking In To The Sin Bin

The Devils spent 19 minutes in the penalty box tonight, and it seemed like the constant whistles helped stymie whatever momentum the Devils generated. Within those 19 minutes, the Devils faced a 5-on-3 and a double minor. With all those minutes in the box, the Bruins got several advantages, and Michael Ryder took full advantage to score the game-winning goal.

Matt Corrente and Adam Mair took penalties in the first period to give the Bruins a 5-on-3 opportunity. With both players in the box, Ryder received a pass from Patrice Bergeron near the goal line. The right-winger held the puck and fired a shot on Martin Brodeur. The puck snuck through a gap between the Devils goalie and the near post for Ryder’s sixth goal of the year.

The refs didn’t make the best of calls tonight, but the Devils should have found ways to avoid the box tonight. They couldn’t, and it severely hampered any offense they tried to muster.

Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to stretch the Bruins lead to 3-0. Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

These Bruins Are Lightning Quick

The Bruins struck quickly against Brodeur, opening the second and third periods with first minute goals to bury the Devils.

Nathan Horton scored 43 seconds into the third period to put the Bruins ahead, 2-0. Milan Lucic carried the puck into the neutral zone, and passed cross-ice to Horton. The right-winger carried the puck across the line and let go a wrist shot near the top of the circle. The puck beat Brodeur stick side for Horton’s eighth goal of the season.

In a bit of deja vu, Blake Wheeler scored 43 seconds into the third period to extend the Bruins lead to 3-0. With Henrik Tallinder pinching down the boards in the offensive zone, Mark Recchi created a turnover near the blue line. The veteran left-winger carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Wheeler near the Devils’ blue line. Wheeler carried it to the circle and fired a wrist shot toward the net. The puck glanced off of Colin White’s stick and through the legs of Brodeur for Wheeler’s fourth goal of the season.

Continue reading for the rest of the recap!

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