The first restricted free agent that the Devils re-signed this summer was Andy Greene, now a New Jersey Devil for the next two seasons. He was signed on July 1 for $1.475 million per Tom Gulitti. As it currently stands, he was the #6 defenseman on the Devils last season and will look to be there again for another season.
Last season was rough for Greene. For starters, Anssi Salmela started the season ahead of him. Yet, Greene was not deterred and eventually got back into the line up in the middle of October. In his first 6 games, Greene put up 1 goal, 5 assists, and even had 2 games where he played more than 19 minutes. Then he suffered a hand injury which sidelined him for the next 25 games. When he returned, he was literally just "there" on the third pairing only scoring 1 more goal and 2 more assists for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, he stayed up in New Jersey all season and did get a new deal.
Since he was the Devils 6th best defenseman, this isn't a big deal. But considering puck movement and offensive awareness are his key skills, it makes you wonder. Now that he's signed a deal where he's being paid just less than Mike Mottau, what can we expect from the 26 year old defenseman in 2009-10?
|2008 - Andy Greene||49||2||7||9||3||22||0||0||0||0||38||5.3|
Before answering that question, let's go more in depth into Greene's 2008-09 season. For starters, did you know that while Greene only averaged 16:13 of ice time per game last season, he had the second highest average power play time among defenseman? That's right, Brent Sutter chose Greene as the lone defenseman on the second unit more often than not, and so he averaged 1:43 of power play time per game.
How did Greene do? Not well! While I won't harp on the on-ice/off-ice numbers on the power play, as the first unit well outperformed the second unit, Greene contributed absolutely zero points on the power play! No assists, no goals, and only present for 7 power play goals. I know he missed a big chunk of the season and it's also a function of the power play unit he was on, but seriously - zero points. Johnny Oduya managed 5 points in his limited power play time, and as a result - I said that Oduya should be considered to be on the power play. Based on last season, it's really a no-brainer to choose Oduya over Greene.
Defensively, Greene did as well as you'd expect from a third pairing defenseman. He didn't take too many penalties - only 22 minutes. As expected, according to Behind the Net's even strength stats, Greene faced the lowest relative quality of competition on the team at -0.093 and the lowest relative quality of teammates at -0.113. In terms of on-ice/off-ice stats, when Greene came onto the ice, the shots against per 60 minutes shot up from 25.0 to 30.0; yet the goals against per 60 minutes dwindled from 2.13 to 1.49. Offensively, goals for per 60 minutes dropped from 2.67 to 1.93 and shots for per 60 minutes dropped from 29.7 to 27.7 when Greene came onto the ice. While I'm not thrilled to see an increase in 5 shots per 60 minutes when he's out there, that the goals against per 60 dropped suggests that they weren't very dangerous shots. Still, for a third pairing defender, it's not awful defending. I'd say Greene's pretty good on the puck, his poise and movement is all right. But that is not to say he's all that great at passing, decision making, or shooting - outside of some spurts.
Greene was at his best last season when Anssi Salmela was directly competing for his spot on the team, both offensively and defensively. He knew he was being pushed and he rose to the challenge. Yet, when he came back, his role was static and he wasn't pushed as much in my opinion. That should change for 2009-10, with Cory Murphy and Rob Davison signed to the Devils and prospects Matthew Corrente and Tyler Eckford looking to make their mark in training camp. There's going to be a lot of competition for that #6 spot (at least) and it could very well give Greene the incentive to raise his game. He'll have to if he wants to keep playing! Even if Jacques Lemaire decides to keep 7 defensemen on the active roster, I think Greene will have to continually prove he's worth the ice time given.
Therefore, I expect Greene to have a better 2009-10 season. Hopefully, he won't get significantly injured like he did last season, ruining any momentum gained as the season goes on. While I don't think he should be on the power play, I do expect him to contribute a little more on offense - hopefully 10 points or more - and to take more shots. Defensively, I don't want to see the shots against per 60 minutes rise by 5 when he's out there; his positioning and decision making to step up on a forward needs to get better. Greene's not a physical player, he's not big, and he's not going to develop into a stud defenseman. But that's OK, all he has to do on the third pairing is play well enough at both ends such that he and his partner can spell the top 4 and work over the opposition's bottom lines. I think Greene can do it, and he'll pretty much have to perform better to stay as the Devils' #6 defenseman.