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Devils Completely Dependent on Top 5

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The Devils have been a surprise this year in large part due to consistent production from our top 5 players. In this article we look at exactly how dependent we are statistically.

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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

Name pos Age AAV G A P TOI/Gm
Mike.Cammalleri LC 33 5 5 9 14 19.23
Kyle.Palmieri RL 24 1.467 5 7 12 16.89
Lee.Stempniak R 32 0.85 3 9 12 19.01
Adam.Henrique CL 25 4 7 4 11 20.63
Travis.Zajac C 30 5.75 6 5 11 21.03
Total 26 34 60

The Others

Damon.Severson D 21 0.606 0 6 6 17.73
Jacob.Josefson CL 24 0.8 0 4 4 16.31
Eric.Gelinas D 24 1.575 1 2 3 12.98
Andrew.Greene D 32 5 1 2 3 23.7
Adam.Larsson D 22 4.167 1 2 3 22.95
Jiri.Tlusty LR 27 0.8 1 2 3 14.7
Bobby.Farnham L 26 0.575 1 1 2 8.48
Sergey.Kalinin F 24 0.925 1 1 2 11.66
Jordin.Tootoo R 32 0.825 1 1 2 14.37
Stephen.Gionta CR 31 0.85 0 1 1 10.32
John.Moore D 24 1.667 1 0 1 19.57
David.Schlemko D 28 0.625 1 0 1 15.94
Reid.Boucher LR 22 0.693 0 0 0 12.45
Stefan.Matteau L 21 0.613 0 0 0 7.81
Jon.Merrill D 23 0.84 0 0 0 15.79
Brian.O'Neill R 27 NA 0 0 0 10.6
Tuomo.Ruutu LR 32 4.75 0 0 0 11.04
Total 9 22 31

The Comparison

Name G A P
Top 5 Total 26 34 60
Others Total 9 22 31

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.

Other Teams

Team Top5 Total Pts Top5%
N.J 25 39 64.1%
CHI 33 57 57.9%
OTT 39 77 50.6%
EDM 34 69 49.3%
DET 26 54 48.1%
COL 32 68 47.1%
S.J 34 73 46.6%
ARI 32 70 45.7%
CBJ 26 57 45.6%
CGY 35 77 45.5%
WSH 33 73 45.2%
TOR 25 56 44.6%
L.A 23 53 43.4%
MIN 34 79 43.0%
WPG 34 80 42.5%
STL 34 82 41.5%
PIT 24 58 41.4%
DAL 38 95 40.0%
ANA 21 53 39.6%
NYI 28 71 39.4%
CAR 16 41 39.0%
MTL 39 100 39.0%
BOS 26 68 38.2%
FLA 26 68 38.2%
BUF 21 56 37.5%
VAN 29 81 35.8%
NYR 32 91 35.2%
PHI 18 53 34.0%
NSH 22 66 33.3%
T.B 21 67 31.3%

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.

Player_Name TOI GF GA GF60 GA60 GF% Sh% Sv% PDO CF60 CA60 CF% OZS%
TOGETHER 127:38 5 3 2.35 1.41 62.5 9.26 93.33 102.6 47.01 40.43 53.8 63.5
ADAM HENRIQUE* 63:03 1 3 0.95 2.85 25 5.26 85 90.3 31.4 34.26 47.8 64.5
LEE STEMPNIAK* 62:28 1 3 0.96 2.88 25 3.7 89.66 93.4 44.18 52.83 45.5 50
MIKE CAMMALLERI* 77:26 2 3 1.55 2.32 40 5.56 89.66 95.2 44.94 47.27 48.7 45

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.

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.

Your Thoughts?

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!