I was going to write an article about possible trade candidates or trade history for the Devils because it's Black Friday and I wanted to do something about shopping. I decided that was too much of a stretch, but I wanted credit for trying so I'm mentioning it now.Instead I looked elsewhere for inspiration.
Yesterday, Gerard told us all what to be thankful for. So today I get to be the Thanksgiving Scrooge and tell you what I want more of. Call it greed, call it naivitee, call it delusional, call it whatever. I'm asking for more from Damon Severson because the Devils need more in order to succeed again. We will look at 3 things: Severson's recent performance, Severson's stats without Greene, and Severson's work on the powerplay.
Severson's Recent Performance
I tweeted before Winnipeg game that I was looking for Severson to have a good performance because he had run cold since his hot start. I bring this up because I want credit for being among the first to recognize it. Severson started off hot with 7 points in his first 8 games which incidentally led the team at that point. He was firing on all cylinders and the Devils were 4-2-2 as a result. Since then Severson's on-ice goal differential at evens is 4-8 or a minus-4 which is better than only newly-maligned Patrick Elias. Not to mention he also has managed a single point in the last 14 games.
Now he has been firing a lot of shots, in fact he leads the team, but recently, at evens he's hit the net 19 times and missed completely 9 times. That ratio is lower than everyone on the team other than Tuomo Ruutu who must not look at the net as he's almost as likely to miss a shot (10) as he is to get it on net (14). He doesn't counter this with shot prevention very well either as he is last among all NJ defensemen in shots blocked per game over this span. This pair of stats, among other things, has contributed to him having the 3rd worst Fenwick% (ratio of unblocked shots for and against) among defenders on this team, better than only Salvador and Helgeson in this period (last 14 games).
All of those stats were found using War on Ice's date filters.
Severson Without Greene
This is a pretty simple case to be made and a particularly unsurprising one at that. Just like Fayne last year, Severson depends on Greene for his possession statistics. If we look at the 5v5 ZS% adjusted possession, we see that Severson's possession statistics fall to below 47% without Greene while they settle at a health 52.4% with him. Greene is not nearly as hurt by skating stag as he has a virtually identical 52.5% without Severson.
Severson has only skated 68 minutes without Greene as opposed to 308 with. Despite that startling disparity, there have been as many goals scored against Severson with Greene (5) as without. That amounts to about a 4.5 goal against per game pace without greene and a 1 goal against per game with him. The team is a minus-5 with a Greene-less Severson on the ice.
Severson on the Powerplay
The Devils powerplay started very hot but, like Severson, has dwindled somewhat recently. On the year, the Devils have the 3rd lowest CF60 (shots attempted per 60 minutes) in the league at 74.78. Severson is among the culprits. He is actually below the team average with a rate of 68 flat. This is good for 12th on the team and 5th among defencemen. Furthermore, he is responsible for less of the production on his own. He has a lower iCorsi/60 (individual shots attempted per 60 minutes) than both Marek Zidlicky and Eric Gelinas. Gelinas has been an occasional defensive liability, but on the powerplay over the past two seasons he has proven to be very valuable. Severson is a falloff from that production with regards to attempts and he has yet to score a goal on the powerplay this year despite leading the team in PP TOI.
Severson's ability to play the point has allowed us to reserve Andy Greene for the intense amount of ice time he demands throughout the rest of the game. It has also given us the luxury of telling Gelinas to take a seat as we have become less dependent on him for the powerplay. It is for precisely these reasons that Severson needs to perform better on the powerplay. The worse he does, the more likely we are to keep Gelinas in the lineup or go back to overworking Greene (he had more points per 60 mintues last year than Severson does now).
There's no denying Severson has been a welcome surprise. Just because someone is a welcome surprise does not mean it is unfair to ask for more. While it may be naive to expect that "more" to actually come from someone who played their first NHL game less than 2 months ago, that doesn't change what we need. We started the season hot and went cold as Severson did. To improve from our current sub .500 pace, we need to get exceptional performance from our exceptional talents.
Severson needs to be able to survive without Greene at evens. He needs to make us confident in him at the point on the powerplay and not just count the moments until Zid comes on the ice. And lastly he needs to get of this schneid and put up some points again.
He's a rookie. He fell off his Calder pace from earlier this season, but he still plays more than anyone on this team not named Greene and although he doesn't always provide the extra spark he once did, he doesn't make the mistakes that the other young guys and Zid are prone to. He's not the best on the team at anything, but he is the worst at nothing and his well-rounded play is something that the Devils would most likely suffer greatly without. It might be nice for him to go back to early season production, but to say we need something that we never planned on having in the first place is just ridiculous.
Am I expecting too much from the rookie? Was the early season splash a bit of a fluke and has he now settled into the defender that we can expect from now on? What IS reasonable to expect from Severson? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.