Bryce Salvador may as well have already hung up his skates; the current captain of our New Jersey Devils remains on the sidelines since he was injured all the way back on November 10th. Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice recently reported that according to General Manager Lou Lamoriello, there is a, "very, very remote chance" that Sal will be able to resume his career this season. With that being said, Bryce Salvador may have played his final NHL game; he is an unrestricted free agent at season's end, does not appear to be in New Jersey's plans going forward and has missed 100 games (will be 118 if he does not play again this season) from the past 3 seasons.
I'll admit, I was never the biggest fan of Bryce Salvador's; his puck possession was never that strong and he seemed to almost always make inopportune passes that would get picked off and converted into goals. Even with his strong run in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I thought giving him a 3 year deal was a bad idea. Conversely, I don't like to see careers end in injury in any sport, whether it's someone I root for, or someone on a rival team that I strongly resent. Bryce's case is even a bit sadder as the injuries that he accrued are due to his physical style of play; like him or not he did sacrifice his body for the team.
Bryce on the Ice
I'm going to attempt to use the "brand new" NHL Enhanced Stats section for the purpose of showing how Bryce's play hasn't been the best over the last few seasons. To start his Shot Attempts (SAT - I still want to call it Corsi) differential was a -23, which at first glance of Devils' defensemen, is not that bad. However if you move into the adjusted SAT Relative, he falls to last place among Devils defenders with a -87; our team generated 87 more shots on goal in games that Bryce appeared in when he was off the ice.
His Unblocked Shot Attempts (USAT or the Artist Formerly Known as Fenwick) also had him initially ranked highly among our defense; however adjusting for USAT Relative (again for having him on the ice versus not having him there) was not favorable. He falls all the way to last (even under Mark Fraser) at a -55. His stats last season were really bad as well, with a SAT Relative of -214 and a USAT Relative of -137. In the age of advanced stats, numbers don't lie: Bryce Salvador just isn't good anymore.
The Good Times
While he may no longer be an NHL caliber defenseman (healthy or not) I don't want to remember Sal just for the bad, so I found a couple of recent video clips of with moments featuring Bryce that we Devils fans should always remember him for; first, the goal that got us started on our way to 3 straights wins over Our Hated Rivals:
After we dispatched them, we ran into the freight train that was the 2012 Los Angeles Kings; while we all know the result of that series, Bryce was able to give us some hope during Game 5:
I will always have fond memories of those moments if only for how excited, energetic and positive our team looked; despite being down in both series at this point (and on the brink of elimination against LA) the players believed they could win. Bryce won't be remembered as one of the best defensemen in history, but if his career is indeed finished, he should at least be remembered as embodying some of the traits that the New Jersey Devils stand for: self-sacrifice, perseverance, and integrity.
As a Person
We've all heard the boos for him; we've all seen the comments about him on message boards, blogs, websites, and anywhere else you can analyze the Devils. If we step away from hockey for a moment, everything I've seen and heard about Salvador makes him out to be a stand up guy. When he was announced as the Devils' captain, the respect from his peers was apparent. From every interview and video I've seen of him, he seems like a good family man that appreciates his career and all of his fans. He hasn't been the most effective hockey player, but if he was playing sheltered third-pairing minutes on a winning team would there be as many complaints about him? Pushing hockey back to the side again, Bryce is the kind of person I would like to see go gracefully into retirement, as he does seem to be a genuinely nice person; he deserves one last ovation from the rock whether he's in uniform or not. As a person who fought proudly while wearing our colors, we owe him that.
How do you feel about the possibility that Bryce Salvador will never play another NHL game? If he's healthy for next season do you think another team picks him up? What memories do you have of Bryce in the red and black? Leave any and all comments below and as always thank you for reading!