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Would we Still Stink if Penalties Weren't a Thing?

The Devil's are not what you would call a "good team." But could the underlying problem be all in the special teams? I investigate this possibility.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Would we still stink if penalties didn't exist?

Well for one think, Jordin Tootoo would be in jail for murdering Robert Bortuzzo so we would have one less of him to deal with. Also we would probably have an extra Stanley Cup in our cabinet and Steve Bernier would be able to sleep at night. But alas, penalties exist, Tootoo is still a Devil, and Bernier has been suffering from sweat-inducing night terrors for 2 years.

But what would the team look like statistically if the "sit in that box and think about what you've done" rules were not enforced? Let's investigate shall we???

Devils at Even Strength

The Devils don't play terrible 5 on 5 hockey. I mean we aren't world-beaters and no one is confusing us with the blackhawks anytime soon, but we hold our own. According to War on Ice, the Devils are 20th in the NHL in 5v5 goal differential and 19th in scoring chance percentage. These are by no means the numbers of a "good" hockey team, but they are the numbers of a bubble team which few consider the Devils to be right now.

There are 5 teams below us in the standings: Edmonton, Arizona, Carolina, Columbus, and Buffalo. The bottom 5 teams in goal differential are Edmonton, Arizona, Carolina, Columbus, and Buffalo. Yet the Devils are all the way up at 20th (that was only meant to be slightly patronizing). What's even more interesting is the Devils 5v5close stats.

In close-game situations (within 1 goal in 1st 2 periods or a tie game in the third) the Devils have a +3 goal differential which ties them for 13th in the NHL. Only 2 non-playoff teams (according to current standings) rank higher -- Dallas and Florida. This means that when the game is still in contention, the Devils are breaking even at evens.

Devils Penalty Problems

The Devils are having penalty problems. On the face of things it doesn't look all bad. We are 20th in penalty kill and 11th in powerplay. The problem isn't as much the efficiency (though that isn't great) as much as the volume. The chart below displays the combined special teams totals of each team. By default it is listed by the time on ice difference with negative indicating more PK time and positive indicating more PP time.

The Devils are 3rd from the bottom of the league in special teams time on ice differential. This is putting all 3 units in a difficult position and it is next to impossible for a team to succeed under those conditions (even Boston can't sustain that strain). But furthermore, our actual efficiency statistics are not strong:

The Devils are 2nd from the bottom of the NHL in CF% (ratio of shot attempts for and against) on special teams.

The Devils are 4th from the bottom of the NHL in GF% (goals for vs goals against) on special teams.

The Devils are 5th from the bottom of the NHL in SCF% (scorings chance for vs against) on special teams.

These are not the makings of a good NHL team.

Now it is worth mentioning that the Devils PK is terrible on a year-wide scale, but using War on Ice's date filter, you can see we have improved to top 3 in the NHL in GA per minute since November 11th. Why does November 11th matter? That was the first game missed by a certain notorious Devils penalty-killer.

What's Changed?

Well the Devils are playing from behind more often this year than last year so that might be forcing us to take a few extra chances that result in penalties. We also are dealing with some inexperience on defence causing some extra penalties to be taken. The constant injuries to forwards leaves us frequently without at least one playmaker that can draw penalties. Also we have one more Jordin Tootoo than we did last year. So there's that.

Another thing ... I'll say it ... I miss Anton Volchenkov. According to War on Ice, of 231 players that played at least 100 PK minutes last year, he was in the top 20 in goals against per minute. Top 20 as in 20 least goals per minute. The loss of him has come tough on the blue line. Although before you declare me the Hockey Magellan for discovering what's been holding the Devils back, I should note that Bryce Salvador, Adam Henrique, and Dainius Zubrus all outranked him as part of that elite unit. So unless A-train was the diagonal jenga block keeping that unit together, there is some other regression.


1. The Devils are not a good team.

2. The Devils are also not a bad team when playing at evens.

3. The Devils are not good on special teams.

4. The Devils are playing a bad ratio of time on special teams.

5. Points 3 and 4 combine to make the Devils into a bad team.

In conclusion, in a world without penalties, other than Tootoo being clapped in irons, I believe the Devils would also be a bubble team.

Your thoughts

What would a world without penalties look like?

Would it be apocalyptic? Would their be blood in the streets? Would the whole system break down? Would their be inexplicable peace?

Would the Devils be good?

Leave comments below!