The Devils road trip comes to an end and unfortunately it leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths after the 6-2 drubbing from the Capitals. This isn't overly shocking as we are in the 4th game of our mercilessly-scheduled season-opening 4-game road trip (is 3 hyphens too many for one sentence?). It's important to remember that this letdown was preceded with a very encouraging 3 game start including a tough win over a great Tampa Bay team, and 2 games in which this offensively-challenged team put up 5 goals. So with that being said let's give out some awards to the gentlemen as a thank you for getting through what had every excuse to be another slow start.
Disclaimer: The sites with good statistics don't instantly update their season totals so some of these statistics might not include the Washington game. I will post in the comments if they drastically change a point I'm making
Most Sheltered Player: Eric Gelinas
Despite making the biggest splash of all the young defenders last year, Gelinas has routinely seen low minutes and high ZS% numbers. For those of you not well-versed in stat terms, OZS% is Offensive Zone Start Percentage which what percent shifts the player takes when the starting faceoff in the offensive zone. Gelinas is playing around 15 minutes per game which is over 4 minutes less than Jon Merrill who has the 2nd least amount of ice time among defenders. Furthermore, Gelinas' relative OZS% is 28%. In other words he is starting in the offenzive zone 28% more often than the average Devil. This is highest on the team and 2nd place is Mark Zidlicky at a distant 21%. If anyone on this team is going to be coming off for Larsson, it won't be the captain, or the shiny new toy, but rather Gelinas.
Honorable Mentions: Marek Zidlicky, Jordin Tootoo
Workhorse: Andy Greene
Conversely, Andy Greene has been logging tons of minutes and they've been the tough ones. Andy Greene has the second lowest ZS% next to Bryce Salvador. He also has logged the second most PK minutes next to Sal. He is also logging 23 minutes a game which, while well below last year's numbers, are still tops on the team by a comfortable amount. My original plan was to give Zajac this award, but in a surprise development to me, he is 2nd in forward ice time to Mike Cammalleri. Cam has been playing on the PK while seriously supplementing the already possession-dominant Jagr-Zajac duo.
Honorable Mentions: Bryce Salvador, Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique
Most Valuable Player: Damon Severson
Full-disclosure, this could have just as easily gone to Cammelleri, but I expected production from him. Both players have been offensive leaders of this team as they are 1,2 in both goals and points. Cammalleri has complimented Jagr and Zajac extremely well. However, Severson has provided and invaluable service. He has been plugged into the role with the biggest question mark on this team coming from last season. He is the answer to the question "Who replaces Mark Fayne?" The thing is, he might be better than Fayne already.
Coming into the Washington game he was on the ice for 7 Devils goals and 0 opponents goals according to War on Ice. Both of those numbers were team leading. This isn't a fluke. Damon Severson leads all Devils in possession numbers. He was the number 1 Corsi defender coming into the Washington game trailing only the Zajac line on the team. Then, in a game the Devils were terrible in, Severson posted an absurd 34-13 CF-CA differential. I tweeted after the first period that the Devils were a "+16 Corsi with Severson and even without #ImpactPlayer". I expected this to even out over the game but it actually inflated to 21 with and even without. He was the best player on the ice for the Devils without caveats. I'm not saying "considering he's a rookie" or "despite how much they've been sheltering him." He is playing tough minutes on a top pairing and has already gotten the better of Ovechkin and Stamkos in possession. It's early, but he's looking like a stud-in-the-making.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Cammalleri, Michael Ryder
Most Improved: Michael Ryder
I had a couple players that I was considering here, but in the end you have to give it to the streakiest Devil who is luckily starting hot after an unbelievably cold finish last year. He has been an offensive leader and has, in my estimation, been the best player on his line surpisingly outperforming Henrique. Henrique is playing more and tougher minutes and is a more complete player, but stritcly speaking about when this line is on the ice, Ryder is leading them. An underrated passer, Ryder is branching out and not only taking shots, but making plays as well.
Honorable Mentions: Martin Havlat (probably a better answer but wasn't a Devil last year), Henrique (new leading penalty killing forward).
Biggest Question Mark: (tie) Bryce Salvador and Jordin Tootoo
John mentioned both of these in his preview for the Washington game and neither got any clarity. Bryce Salvador is posting mind-bogglingly bad possession numbers and going into the Capitals game he had been on the ice for 5 of the 6 goals scored against us and only 2 of the 13 we had scored. He is an offensive black-hole and is actually becoming something of a defensive liability. At least to some degree we can justify the poor numbers by saying he is leading the team in PK minutes and is one of the least sheltered players on the team with opponent quality.
The same cannot be said for Jordin Tootoo. The camp signee has been playing negative-possession competition, and has been losing to them. He is not making life tough for the opposition like DeBoer intended and he is arguably making it easy for them with his team-leading 6 penalty minutes. He has offered little to nothing to this team and is really handcuffing a 4th line that includes the wasted talent; Tuomo Ruutu.
Honorable Mentions: Defensive Youth (2 games with 4+ goals against), Stephen Gionta ( owner of RIDICULOUS -42 Corsi number; Josefson and still-sticking-around Gomez are waiting in the wings for that 4th line center job).
Who do you give the awards to? Do you disagree with any of the awards given here? What different awards would you like to give out? Do you think it is just ridiculous to have an awards article after 4 games? If you do then how did you get this far in the article? Are you still reading the questions that I'm asking? Does anyone even read this part of the article or do you just comment whatever you feel like? Write the word "Aardvark" in the comments if you actually read this section. First one to do so gets a shoutout next article.