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Where Are the Goals Coming From? Trying To Project the Devils Scoring for Next Year

The Devils, coming off a substandard scoring year, will have a fairly different look heading into next season. Most notably, David Clarkson moved on to Toronto and the Devils acquired Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder in free agency. So how does the scoring stack up now?

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Hopefully many Ilya Kovalchuk fist pumps are in our future.
Hopefully many Ilya Kovalchuk fist pumps are in our future.
Bruce Bennett

This offseason, one of the top priorities for the New Jersey Devils was to address the need for more scoring in their lineup (as well as their orgainization as a whole). With the free agent frenzy having passed, and the Devils' roster being mostly settled, I decided to try and figure out where the team is scoring-wise now. It's far from comprehensive, but these projections should at least give us an idea where the team stands, with respect to their scoring.

To figure out goal-scoring rates for each of the Devils' players, I used the following approach:

  • Took the shots-on-goal/game rates over the past four seasons for each player (or career if they haven't been in the league 4 years)
  • Adjusted the shot rate slightly based on age: Under 25 were given a 5% bump for growth, 25-29 were held at the same rate, and 30 and over were decreased 5% for aging.
  • Took the adjusted shot rate and multiplied it by the player's career shooting percentage to project their amount of goals for an 82 game season.

Four years seems like enough to project a reasonable current trajectory, production-wise, and the adjustments for age should help account for some growth/decline. I decided to use shots/game instead of goals/game for the projections to try to avoid excess skewing by a year of particular high or low shooting percentage in the last four. Like I said, it's a pretty simple calculation, but hopefully it should provide some decent guidance on what to expect (feel free to critique my methodology in the comments if you are so inclined).


So the forward corps is where the most notable shakeups have occurred on the Devils' roster. Clarkson is out and Clowe and Ryder are in. Deadline pickups Sullivan and D'agostini are out as well. For the purposes of the projection here, most of the incumbents were held over if they are still around. That means that Rostislav Olesz, Stefan Matteau, and Reid Boucher are not included in the projections at the moment.

So, at first glance, the forwards production doesn't seem so bad. Five guys project to 20+ goals and 9 project to 10+ goals. The one issue is that the only top-end scorer on the team is Kovalchuk. So overall scoring depth may not be a problem, but the lack of more than one big scorer still means that the forwards are only middle of the pack in production.

Player Age SOG/G L4 Adjusted SOG/G Career Sh% Proj Goals/82
Travis Zajac 28 2.16 2.16 10.2 18
Andrei Loktionov 23 1.54 1.62 11.2 15
Jacob Josefson 22 0.97 1.02 6.8 6
Stephen Gionta 29 1.20 1.20 6.8 7
Ilya Kovalchuk 30 3.57 3.39 14.1 39
Ryane Clowe 30 2.35 2.23 11.2 20
Michael Ryder 33 2.31 2.20 12.8 23
Steve Bernier 28 1.47 1.47 11.3 14
Adam Henrique 23 1.80 1.89 12.8 20
Patrik Elias 37 2.35 2.24 12.4 23
Dainius Zubrus 35 1.42 1.35 11.8 13
Ryan Carter 29 0.99 0.99 7.7 6

Total Forward Goals/82 = 204


Next up, we'll look at the defenders. As it stands now, scoring from the Devils' blue line is not going to strike fear into many goaltenders around the NHL. For now, I'm not counting on one of the possible call-ups to contribute. I just went with the current set of sure NHL defensemen on the roster. That means no Marek Zidlicky either. The results, as you can see, are far from impressive.

Four goals projects to be the top contribution from the blue line, based on past performances. That's not a pretty number. Heck, two goals a piece might be a generous projection for Volchenkov and Salvador. It starts to paint a picture of why some folks have come around on re-upping Zidlicky a bit. He couldn't entirely solve this problem, but his projected 8 goals look awful nice juxtaposed against the remaining Devils defensemen.

Player Age SOG/G L4 Adjusted SOG/G Career Sh% Proj Goals/82
Andy Greene 30 1.11 1.05 5.0 4
Adam Larsson 20 0.96 1.01 2 2
Mark Fayne 26 1.21 1.21 4.4 4
Bryce Salvador 37 0.71 0.67 4.4 2
Anton Volchenkov 31 1.02 0.97 3 2
Peter Harrold 30 0.89 0.85 4.9 3

Total Defenseman Goals/82 = 17

Injury Adjustment

These projections do not take into account when a starter goes down with an injury and needs someone to step in for them. All projections are for full 82-game campaigns, which, if last season taught us anything, is just not going to happen for an entire roster. According to James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail, the average NHL team loses about three man-games per game to injury each year. With 18 skaters, that comes out to about 16.67% of the starting roster being injured on a given night. Obviously the caliber of players injured and the level of guys replacing them makes a big difference, but I think saying replacements will provide half-production is a reasonable assumption. That means final goal tallies should be reduced by about 8.3%. That gives the Devils a final total of 187 goals for forwards and 16 goals for defensemen, resulting in 203 total.

203 Total Goals; 187 from Forwards / 16 from Defenseman


So where does that 203 goals put the Devils overall? Unfortunately, the answer is "somewhere in the bottom third of the league." In 2011-12, they would be between 22nd and 23rd, and prorated to 48 games for 2013, they'd be between 21st and 22nd. So it would appear that the Devils will still have some issues scoring.

It would appear that the defenders are the ones primarily to blame in this situation. In the NHL today, goals are apparently split about 85/15 between forwards and defenders. In this projection, the Devils' forwards are putting up 92% of the goals. Since the average amount of goals scored for an NHL team over a season is currently about 217, that means an average forward corps should contribute 184 of them. So the Devils' group of forwards actually projects to be a bit above average. The real issue is the blue line, where their current projection of 16 isn't even in the neighborhood of the average 33. The Devils will have to hope for a breakout year from Jon Merrill or Eric Gelinas to help out in the absence of a Marek Zidlicky return. Looking at the numbers, maybe the Devils need both of those things.

So what is your opinion on the Devils' scoring outlook for this year? Can one of either Rosti Olesz, Reid Boucher, and/or Stefan Matteau help the forwards be even better? Can a young D step up and make a difference on the blue line? Does this change your feelings at all regarding the potential re-signing of Zidlicky? Any other issues with the projections? Sound off below and thanks for reading.