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How the New Jersey Devils Drew and Took Penalties Last Season

Behind the Net is a wonderful site.  If you've been reading here for a while, you may have noticed that I have referenced that site more times I can count.  I find that the compilation and calculation of many statistics based on the raw data taken in games is both fascinating and enlightening.  Why look at raw +/- when you can notice how the shots against change when a player is on the ice to judge their defensive work?  Why not consider CORSI in addition to purely production to measure a player's worth on offense?  Thanks to Behind the Net, we can make the discussions more interesting and without resorting to "Well, I saw the player and I think he's X, Y, and Z - things you can only see live."

In my expectation post about Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, ILWT user Murdoc made a comment stating how he'd like to see a penalties created versus penalties served stat and how Leblond did in that regard.  Well, Behind the Net has an entire section of stats for penalties drawn and penalties taken in even strength situations.  This did the trick and his request was served.   Thinking back on that comment, I took a second look at those numbers for the Devils today.  Here's some highlights about how the Devils did at drawing and taking penalties last season.

  • For all skaters who played averaged 2 minutes of even strength last season and not including Niclas Havelid (I can't split up what he did in Atlanta with NJ), the Devils took 231 penalties and drawn 197.  That's a drawn-taken differential of -34.  I don't know how it stacks up for all teams, so I can't say for sure whether that's good, bad, or just plain mediocre.
  • The most successful Devils at drawing penalties were Zach Parise (28), Patrik Elias (23), and David Clarkson (20).   Seeing Parise and Elias lead the way shouldn't be surprising as the dangerous forwards force opposition defenders to committ an infraction.  Clarkson drawing 20 could be the result of his pestering, gritty style of play.  That may also explain how Mike Rupp drew 19.
  • Not that we should start lauding Clarkson or missing Rupp for drawing calls) Clarkson and Rupp also finished tied for third in most penalties taken with 19 along with Dainius Zubrus (!?).  As you may expect, Bobby Holik led the team in taken penalties with 27; Bryce Salvador finished in second with 21 taken in even strength situations.
  • Seriously, Zubrus and Clarkson has to got to be a little smarter out there.
  • In general, I can understand defensemen taking significantly more calls on even strength play.  It's basically the same reasoning as forwards drawing penalties -  a defender is caught or burnt and has to penalize a player to prevent a worse occurrence (e.g. a goal).   Incidentally, the only regular defenseman to not have taken more than 10 penalties on even strength was Andy Greene (6).
  • Still, I want Salvador to take less calls on even strength.  Colin White can improve there too, as he took 18.
  • Only two Devils who played at least 20 games did not draw any penalties last season: Jay Leach (who took 2) and Brendan Shanahan (who took 9).    I'm really confused as to why Shanahan didn't draw any.   I know he's not fast, but neither is Salvador and he managed to draw 6 (somehow).
  • As far as call-ups go, Leach took 2 and drew none; Leblond took 2 and drew 1; and Petr Vrana took and drew exactly one penalty.  

And this is only from the raw count of penalties taken from Behind the Net.  I find these sorts of stats to be interesting and I hope you got something out of them.  With respect to the team as a whole, I'm confident the Devils will take fewer even strength penalties if only because Holik and Rupp aren't on the team anymore. That's 46 calls right there.  Should Salvador, Zubrus, Clarkson, and White play a little smarter, it can fall even further.  Likewise, the differential will improve as long as Parise and Elias keep doing their thing; should the other forwards play with more speed, I think the Devils will be drawing even more calls next season.

Feel free to have your say regarding how the Devils took and drew penalties last season.  Is this what you expected? Do you think the Devils will do better in this regard?  Please leave your comments and thank you for reading.