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Devils 2013 Schedule Preview: Carolina Hurricanes

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment
Anton Volchenkov, usually known for his big hits, collected three assists against Carolina last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

Anton Volchenkov, usually known for his big hits, collected three assists against Carolina last season. Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images North America

With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at two Northeast division teams, but today we’ll move south for our preview of the Carolina Hurricanes.

There’s a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite missing the postseason for the third straight season, and finishing last in the Southeast Division, the Hurricanes were one of the teams itching for the lockout to end. A draft-day trade for Jordan Staal gives the team a big weapon down the middle, and the addition of sniper Alex Semin could turn into one of the best bargain signings by general manager Jim Rutherford.

Kirk Muller took over after a 4-10-2 November swoon last season, and brought the Hurricanes back from dead. At one point, the team sat just five points out of the playoffs before losing four of their last five games.

Carolina had a ton of momentum carrying them before the lockout. Can they find it again and contend for a spot in the top eight?

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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.

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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: 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.

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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.

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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 Season Review: An Overview of Failure

April 24, 2011 Leave a comment

The New Jersey Devils season can only be described as a roller coaster of emotions. It began with excited and raised expectations, with a possible Cup run dancing in the heads of fans and analysts alike. But that quickly faded as the team slogged through a miserable first half of the season. The team did turn it around, ripping off over 20 wins in a wild second half comeback. The effort fell short, however, as the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season. Let’s break down the season, phase by phase, in our overview of the Devils 2010-2011 season.

Everything was all laughs before the season started for the Devils. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Offseason – Heightened Expectations

The offseason brought angst, anger and excitement out of the Devils. It began early, with the team bringing back Jason Arnott to fill the second-line center hole. General manager Lou Lamoriello opened the checkbook this summer, filling in his depleted blue line with defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov.  The shopping wasn’t done, as Lamoriello and owner Jeff Vanderbeek went after their crown jewel – Ilya Kovalchuk.

We all know about “The Kovalchuk Saga” this summer. There’s no reason to regurgitate the plethora of summer issues here. Despite several difficulties with denied contracts and “circumvention of the cap,” the Devils and Kovalchuk were finally united in September. Bringing in a potential 40-goal scorer to team up with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac had fans and analysts salivating. The Devils looked like a team with the potential to light the lamp consistently, something that’s always plagued them.

The organization also went with ex-player John MacLean as its newest coach. In one season with the Lowell Devils, MacLean led the AHL-affiliate to a postseason appearance. He promised to stress puck possession and push for a more up-tempo attack. With assistants Adam Oates and Larry Robinson, he seemed to fill out his bench with needed experience.

The moves may not deliver a Stanley Cup to Newark, but the franchise seemed set to continue their stellar play and make a serious run at the Cup.

The Season, Part 1: A Lesson In Disappointment

How quickly the early-season enthusiasm took a turn for the worse. I pinpoint the positive vibes ending in the first period of the Devils first game against the season, against the Dallas Stars. The Devils “Lefty Line” of Parise, Zajac and Kovalchuk already struck for two goals. They threatened to push the lead to three, but Kovalchuk hit a post. It seemed that clang off the iron changed the entire course of the season. New Jersey lost their opener, 4-3, in overtime. They’d win only three times in 11 October games, allowing four-plus goals in three of those losses.

The early-season struggles continued well into November and December. The team’s defense play looked atrocious. Forwards didn’t backcheck, defenders didn’t cover passing lanes, and the goalies were left to dry on a nightly basis. Compounding their swiss cheese defense was a complete inability to score goals. Nobody could find the back of the net, and players like Kovalchuk suffered through career-worst slumps.

Injuries played a major role as well. Parise went down with a torn meniscus on October 30 against the Los Angeles Kings, effectively ending his season. Martin Brodeur battled a bruise on his elbow for close to a month, taking extended breaks. Losing one of the top scorers and their top goalie did nothing for a team searching for positives.

With the Devils sitting at 9-22-2 on December 21, Lamoriello decided his experiment with MacLean was over. He fired the first year coach, replacing him with Jacques Lemaire. The former coach, who retired last April, entered on an interim basis and immediately lost his first three games. But he worked hard to get the team back to basics, and they entered the All-Star Break on a 6-1-1 run.

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