When the New Jersey Devils signed free agent defenseman John Moore this past summer, fans assumed the team's line-up was set, at least in terms of defenders. On September 10th, a mere 9 days before the start of training camp, the team shocked most fans by signing another free agent; this time, it was David Schlemko, a veteran of 5 NHL seasons. Most fans so both of these moves as solid signings, because not only would it bring a bit more experience to a fairly green (no pun intended) blue line, but it also would bring about more competition for the top 6 slots, which theoretically would bring out the best in each player.
Training camp came and went; the Devils NHL defensemen to the surprise of no one, would be Moore, Schelmko, Andy Greene, Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Damon Severson and Jon Merrill. While some had hoped Seth Helgeson would grab a spot, this wound up not being the case.
Schlemko seemed to be a signing that would bring in another solid defender; while 50 points in 231 career games before this season isn't bad, it certainly does not make him an offensive juggernaut of a defender either. His preseason performance was sub-par, but that could be attributed to the fact that he was trying to pick up a new system midway through the preseason due to an injury that sidelined him for the start of camp.
The Season So Far
Statistically, Schlemko has been fairly good; his SAT, or Corsi of 0 while not a great number has him tied for 8th on the Devils (with Adam Larsson) currently, and tied for 2nd out of all Devils defenders behind Eric Gelinas. His USAT, or Fenwick of 2 drops him into an overall tie for 9th (with Tuomo Ruutu) but drops him to 4th in defenders, with Larsson, Gelinas and Andy Greene all ahead of him. While we're looking at a very small sample size on an average to poor team so far, it's worth noting that Schlemko is trailing a pair of players who get much tougher minutes than he does.
While his statistics are passable, we as fans know that stats are not everything in hockey, otherwise plus/minus would be an excellent measure of how effective a player is. The biggest problem I have with Schlemko at the moment is he's failing the eye test almost every time he touches the ice. While certain things can not be faulted to him and are just bad luck (Mikkel Boedker's game tying goal the other night), he seems to be on the wrong side of the puck at many turns. He hasn't excelled anywhere on the ice yet, and while it is okay for a defenseman to focus on defense, the problem is that Schlemko is turning the puck over at numerous inopportune times, including once against Nashville at the blue line of his own zone with the net empty! While the play ultimately (and thankfully) did not lead to a goal, it's concerning to have someone with as much experience as David on the ice with the game on the line making what is essentially a rookie mistake
People were upset at Eric Gelinas last season for being on the wrong side of many plays, and I'm wondering if Schlemko will start to incur the same wrath, if he hasn't already. I'm assuming the only reason he has yet to sit a game is due to injuries/illness (Jon Merill and John Moore both missing time) and other players (Damon Severson at the start of the season and Eric Gelinas) having bad games. My issue is that there has been times when anticipated pairings were announced before games, and Schlemko was slated to play and someone who had a stronger game (or simply made less mistakes) is sat in favor of him.
I understand that a preseason and six season games may be too few games to truly evaluate a player, but I have spoken with and viewed the opinions of some Arizona Coyotes fans. The Coyotes organization signed him as an undrafted free agent, and developed him, so to read and hear so many who have said this is the way he always plays is a bit alarming, especially if John Hynes is hesitant to yank him and gives him the ice time instead of a younger player who could wind up at worst being David Schlemko.
Again, I know it is early in the season, but I wanted to gauge the fanbase's opinion on the defender who I think is the clear cut #7 on this team. What are your thoughts on David Schlemko so far, be it season or preseason action? Is his play a byproduct of the team, or is he one of the problematic players? What parts of David's game have you liked so far? Leave any and all comments below and as always thank you for reading!