As the offseason moved forward and the overhaul of the New Jersey Devils entered its full swing, there was talk that the way this team played would be different. In the opening 3D light show this season, Ray Shero's commitment to a team that is "fast, attacking, and supportive" is highlighted quite boldly. While he and head coach John Hynes were quick to say that it would not mean simply more shots and goals, it did seem to imply a system and style that would be somewhat different than before, perhaps with some more offense in lieu of a stifling defense.
Well, to start the season, it seems that the low event style of hockey that the Devils have been associated with is back in full force. Through the first three games, at 5 on 5 play, the Devils produced 87 Corsi events and allowed 93 Corsi events. In terms of Corsi For, that was by far the lowest amount for any team. The next lowest, Detroit, had 110 Corsi events through three games. That is 23 Corsi events lower than the 29th ranked team. The top team, Chicago, had 234 Corsi events through 5 games played. Averaged out, Chicago produced 46.8 Corsi events per game, while the Devils produced a lowly 29.
This can be shown in a different way as well, to eliminate the number of games played. A team's CF60 tells us how many Corsi events the team has produced on average over the course of 60 minutes at 5 on 5 play. Right now, the Devils are at 36.1. Detroit, the second lowest once again, is a full 10 events higher at 46.1. In this statistic, Chicago falls all the way to 12th place at 56.1, and the new leader is San Jose, with 64.5 Corsi events per game (none of these numbers include last night's games). This means that the Devils have produced 44% less Corsi events than San Jose. That is an extreme amount.
On the reverse side, to show the positive effects of it, New Jersey has allowed only 93 Corsi events through three games. That is good for 1st place in the Eastern Conference and 2nd overall, behind only Los Angeles (who has allowed 90 events through 3 games). The worst team, Chicago, has allowed 241 through 5 games. So the defending champs are at 234 CF and 241 CA through 5, while the Devils are at 87 CF and 93 CA. Just a little different, huh? While the Devils do not produce many opportunities at all, they have also been excellent at preventing them.
To showcase this using the CA60 stat to remove the variable of games played, New Jersey is tops in the league at preventing opportunities, allowing only 38.6 Corsi events against per 60 minutes of 5 on 5 action. The next best, LA, is at 41.5. The worst team in the league in this statistic, Colorado, allows a whopping 65.8 Corsi events against per 60. That means that Colorado allows 42% more events than the Devils do.
So when you look at it from both sides, it is not completely negative. Through three games, the Devils did next to nothing offensively, generating very few opportunities. However, they are also doing a wonderful job at preventing the other team from generating lots of opportunities as well. Granted their opponents are making the most of their opportunities while the Devils are not, but nonetheless the differential between CF and CA is not extremely exaggerated. Only 6 events separate NJ from being a positive possession team.
In fact, going off of that last idea, through the first three games the Devils had a team shooting percentage of only 2%. That is abysmally low, and will need to rise at some point. Because of this, NJ's PDO sat at 94.0. That is considerably unlucky. If the Devils can continue to prevent the opposition from producing many events, and if their luck can turn around in the form of a higher shooting percentage, then wins will absolutely come to this team.
While I just got to a place where I realized that the Devils could really do much better with better luck, I did not actually start out this article to say that the team is good. I really just wanted to highlight that this team still has the same underlying possession numbers that it did in years past when Lou Lamoriello was the GM. The Devils of 2015-16 are not a team that will blow up the stat sheet in terms of events. They will not produce all that many. To make up for it, however, they will also prevent the opposition from generating their own events. This is classic Devils.
Will it change? That is tough to say. It is still super early in the season. This team has clearly not fully gelled together yet, as lines are changing frequently and no one really seems settled into a set position with the exception of Andy Greene and Adam Larsson. When they become a more cohesive unit, they may begin to generate more Corsi events, and everything that I have said may become null and void. But I would still doubt that this team all of a sudden radically changes. It seems that the character of this team is one that revolves around a strong defense and an opportunistic offense that presses hard.
So for those of you that were nervous that the New Jersey Devils would all of a sudden become a completely different team this year under Shero and Hynes, you can rest easy. This team still plays low event hockey.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you happy that this is still the style of this team, or were you hoping for change? Can the Devils be successful with this style of play, or do they need to open it up more? Can they open it up more? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.