Coming into this season, many seemed to believe that the Devils basically a bunch of 2nd and 3rd liners on this team. As the season has progressed it seems we couldn't have been more wrong. We have top-end talent in our roster and we are filled out with fringe NHLers. This has made us completely and utterly dependent on those top guys. The top guys we are talking about are listed in the WAR-on-Ice output below:
The Top 5
|Top 5 Total||26||34||60|
That is in all situations. That is an absurd proportion of the production. It is especially evident in the Goals where the top 5 players have produced 26/35 goals or 75% of our teams offense. No player outside the top 5 has registered more than a single goal.
However, it's probably true that a lot of this is inflated by the time on the Powerplay that our top 5 get. They are our 5 highest scorers with the man-advantage. So then let's look at even strength. and compare it to the other NHL teams.
The Devils get more of their even-strength production from their top 5 players than any other team in the league. It is by a significant margin too. The league average is 42.3% and there are no outliers on the lower end nearly as drastic as the Devils at the top end. We are nearly 15% higher than the #3 team in the NHL.
Something I noticed about this grouping as I was assembing this article was that we also have our top 3 scorers all on the same line. That single line (Camm, Stemper, and Rico) is responsible for 36% of our points. This is 2nd in the NHL only to the Blackhawks.
What's troubling is how precarious that top lines grasp on it's own production is.
The Top Line
Despite what you may have heard from other sources, we don't actually have a stellar top 2 lines. This perception probably comes from the idea that Zajac and Palmieri are good producers and they play on the same line. However, according to Puckalytics SuperWOWY Table, the 2 incarnations of a 2nd line that have thrown Sergey Kalinin and Jiri Tlusty into the Palmier/Zajac pairing have put up a combined 1 goal in 100 minutes. There is no second line. Or at least not a particularly good one.
At even strength the first line is our only line. And a curious thing is happening with them as you can see from the Puckalytics Table below.
As you can see, the threesome listed above have been lost without each other. Alone they are all minus players in goal differential and they are sub-50 possession players. Stempniak in particular has been the definition of JAG (Just a Guy) without his linemates. Now they do seem to be very unlucky in PDO, but even that isn't enough to fully right off how madly this group needs one another.
What Does This Mean For Us?
This means that we are in a precarious position. We are completely dependent on 2 things offensively: the man-advantage, and a top line. The top line looks like it is not only a tad lucky, but one injury from torpedoing the individual players even-strength effectiveness. John has been saying to look to last year. One year ago tomorrow, the Devils were 8-7-2. As of this writing, the Devils are 8-6-1 going into a tough Chicago matchup.
I'm not saying to not enjoy the season. I'm not even saying that this team isn't for real. But this was a tweet that I sent just before we beat the Canucks.
#NJDevils have an SRS of -0.01. Our S%, Sv%, and obviously PDO are all average. We have an even GF/GA. We are 100% average. And thats OK.— CJTDevil (@CJTDevil) November 8, 2015
This is still my opinion. I believe we are an average team. However, I believe we are exactly 1 injury away from being a bad team.
What do you guys think of my analysis? Do you think we are too top-heavy to sustain? Is it fixable and if so, how? Leave any thoughts you might have on the subject in the comments below. Thanks for reading!