Despite the rollercoaster win against the Senators, the New Jersey Devils did suffer a loss during yesterday's game. Defenseman Andy Greene did not play in the game to undergo x-rays on a lingering foot injury he suffered a handful of games back. It turns out he suffered a broken toe and will be out four weeks. This is the first injury for the Devils defense where a player will be out quite some time. Four weeks puts his return a week into the new year. Looking at the Devils schedule, he could miss around 14 more games. The Devils did make some roster moves to accommodate Greene's injury - they called up Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom.
The Devils defense overall this season hasn't been what most of us expected it to. It's been inconsistent. At some points, they have shut down teams and made good individual plays yet at the same rate they have left opposing players wide open on the weak side and left goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg out to dry with odd-man rushes and breakaways.
Offensively, the defensive unit has combined for 5 goals and 26 assists in 27 games. They seem to have some trouble getting pucks on net when shooting along the blue line. Hitting bodies and missing the net won't get goals or generate chances.
So what did Andy Greene bring to the Devils and the defense so far this season? What will be the biggest loss in terms of Andy Greene's contributions? What will Taormina and/or Urbom bring to the table? Who else on the back unit has to step up to at least keep the Devils defense inconsistently consistent?
Let's take a look at what the Devils will lose for at least four weeks:
Greene has missed four games so far with his foot injury (2 games) and a hamstring injury in the beginning of November. His nine assists and points put him second behind rookie Adam Larsson. I feel his 19 shots are low for a player of his type. In his last two seasons, he's put 91 and 86 shots in 82 and 78 games respectively (or about 1.1 shots per games). His shot total ranks him 5th out of the seven Devils defensemen (Mark Fraser has played in four games with no shots on goal). Bryce Salvador is only 1 shot behind Greene.
What about some 5-on-5 advanced stats courtesy of behind the net? His on-ice Corsi is -2.41 and his relative Corsi is -1.2. When he's on the ice, the puck usually goes in the opposite direction we hope for. Both his on-ice Corsi and his relative Corsi rank him 4th among Devils defensemen. Nothing stands out here. His opponent's relative Corsi (Corsi Rel QualComp) is 0.184 or 4th best on the the blue line. His teammate's relative Corsi (Corsi Rel QualTeam) is 1.024 or 3rd best on the Devils defense. This means he sees middle of the pack competition and mediocre teammates. For his Corsi to be minus, he doesn't seem to carry play that much.
At 5-on-5 however, the Devils score at a great rate of 3.45 goals per 60 minutes. The next closest is Larsson at 2.67. Evidently, goals against per 60 minutes when he's on the ice are 3.10. A positive difference and a much bigger difference when he's off the ice (-1.15 goal differential per 60). It helps that the devils shooting percentage is a defense high 12.74% when Greene is on the ice. The goalies save percentage when Greene is out there is 2nd lowest at 0.886. He's actually the only defender with a PDO (shooting % + save %) over 1000 at 1013.This means he's seen more benefit than blunder.
So will the Devils miss him? Yes, but not as much as I would have wanted to be honest. Greene's been middle of the pack on a defensive team that has again been inconsistent. He hasn't stood out as the offensive defensemen we hoped for when the Devils re-signed for 4 years, $12 million. He also hasn't been that much of a liability either. He hasn't shot the puck at the same rate as previous seasons, but he's managed to get 9 assists and an even plus/minus. He's been seeing a lot of different ice times as well. He's been on the 3rd pairing, and ranks 5th in TOI per game among the defense. His PP TOI is practically nothing (34 seconds per games) and his SH TOI is average at just over 2 minutes.
Thus, the Devils are losing a player that has benefited with percentages, playing 3rd pairing minutes, and gets some time on the penalty kill. Can the Devils replace him? One of the organizational depths is defense, thus Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom could and can seemingly fit into Greene's spot without a lot of problems. Mark Fraser will be an option. He has done very well on the PK when he's been thrown into games. At 5-on-5, he has not. I don't think he'll see him inmany games, unless both Taormina and Urbom prove to be unready and sloppy in practices.
As far as choosing between Taormina and Urbom - I really don't mind either. Whoever shows to be the best during practice should and will get that last spot. Taormina has more NHL experience (before suffering a season ending injury) and the better stats in Albany this year, so he has the edge.
As far as replacing Greene's minutes, I think this is Mark Fayne's opportunity to show he can play the PK full time. He plays about a minute less than Greene on the kill (58 seconds per game). If Fraser doesn't get into games, I don't think throwing the new guys on the kill would be smart. At least not for a significant amount of time. You may even see Larsson getting some PK time. But I doubt it.
So what do you think about the Devils losing Andy Greene for four weeks? I for one don't think it's that bad and we'll get a chance to see some young guys who have shown some promise last season. What did some of the stats tell you? Who do you think should step up to replace Greene's minutes? Who out of Fraser, Taromina, and Urbom would you want to see?