(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For $50, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Joey Kolatch.)
So the New Jersey Devils present their fans, and hockey observers at large, with a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, the numbers say they should be really, really good. They’re currently fifth in the league in corsi close at 53.3 percent, after all. That follows a season in which they finished third at 55.3 percent.
But at the same time, they are currently 21st in the league with just 75 points from 72 games, after they grabbed 48 from 48 and finished 22nd a year ago.
So what, in short, is wrong with these guys? The simplest answer is the most obvious one: Martin Brodeur. He had a .901 save percentage last year and followed that up with a .902 this time around. Hockey-Reference says he cost the team a little more than seven goals in the lockout-shortened season (which amounts to more than four points in the standings), and more than 10 goals this time around (about six points). He’s been awful, and it’s the direct result of Lou Lamoriello not being able to say no to him.
But Cory Schneider hasn’t been his usual self behind the Devils this season in Brodeur’s stead, and that’s when he’s been able to stay healthy. Obviously his .914 is slightly above league average, but at the same time, it’s below his career norm.
It also doesn’t help that this team doesn’t score a lot of goals to support their mediocre goaltending, while other squads have certainly done so and made the playoffs doing it. The Devils’ shooting percentage the last two years were ranked 27th and 22nd, respectively, meaning that even though they’re dominating possession they’re not getting the puck into the back of the net. One would have to imagine that Ilya Kovalchuk needed a bit more help than he got last season, and the Devils have certainly not spent money as wisely as they could have (see: The Zajac contract) in trying to help fill the void left by Zach Parise’s departure for Minnesota.
One wonders how, with new owners and maybe a new take on things — thanks to the team seemingly poised to bring aboard an analytics guy against Lamoriello’s apparent wishes — whether the team will be able to spend actual money, and do it more judiciously, going forward.
If so, and if they spend on actual top-six forward talent, the problems that have plagued them the last two years might become a thing of the past.
As long as they get goaltending.
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