I missed you last week. Luckily Ryan was able to fill in for me and give you an article that was 10-times as important as anything I would have had to say. Regardless, here I am! I'm back after a 2-week hiatus. And I am asking one question. What would the Devils be like if the season started in 2015?
In my last article, I talked about Schneider's transformation from early this year into solidifying his case as an elite goalie. Specifically his stats at the turn of the new year have been absolutely superb. So that got me thinking, have the Devils been okay in 2015? We've been on a couple runs on homestands lately. What position would we be in if the season started 1/1/2015. Well here's what it would look like:
'What If' Standings
Note: All standings were retrieved through ESPN.com and through ESPN.com on Jan 1st via the Wayback Machine. Calculation were completed in the Excel File below
The Devils would be 13th in the NHL in standings points per game. That being said we would still either not be in the playoffs or barely be in the playoffs. More importantly, Carolina, Pittsburgh, and us have nearly identical records since the calendar turned. Like, huh?
THAT BEING SAID, this probably has more than a little to do with the fact that only 8 of those 26 games played were somewhere other than The Rock. And the underlying stats aren't encouraging either as our Corsi ratio would be 3rd to last in the NHL.
The fact that three quarters of our games were home and we still only barely squeak into the playoffs isn't all that encouraging, but we'd be proudly above NHL average right now had the season started 1/1/15 so let's investigate further. How about the players.
'What If' Players
According to WAR on Ice's handy date-filter tool we can look at stats like relative scoring chances in the new year. Let's look at some of the players that would be discussion topics in a 2015 season.
As linked above, SCF%Rel (how much the team scoring chance ratio improves when the player is on the ice) is one of the closest WAR approximates we have right now and Andy Greene would currently be 15th in the NHL and 1st on the Devils (Jagr and Larsson were next at 24th and 25th respectively). He also would be top 20 in the NHL in TOI/GP. After a struggle early in the season, he has returned to form as the Devils best defender and one of the most reliable defensive blueliners in the league. Side note: Expect a Greene Devils Advocate in the future saying he is a top 10 defender in the league.
According to WAR on Ice the NHL goals leaders right now if the season started 1/1/15 would be as follows: Ovechkin (26 ... wow), Stamkos (16), Pacioretty (16), Tavares (15), Nash (15), Pavelski (13), Perry (13), Cammalleri (13). He is 8th in the NHL and in some stellar company. Ovechkin is a demigod, but Camm is keeping pace with the best of the mortal men in the NHL. Combine that with his 18 minutes a game and positive relative corsi and he would be the offensive hero of a bubble team.
I was hesitant to put Larsson here because I already put Greene in, but Larsson deserves to be here completely in his own right. He LEADS THE TEAM in even strength points in 2015 fueld by his team-leading 11 assists, and his runner up 33 shot attempts (trails only Camm). Larsson is logging serious minutes at 23.5 per game in 2015 and Larsson is realizing his offensive potential and has become the PERFECT compliment to Greene and along with Severson looks to anchor a strong Devils defensive corps for years to come.
As long as I'm mentioning who would be getting positive attention, it'd be unrealistic to assume that a quality blog manager like John would be fine with none of us being critical of any players so here's the goat section. Merrill has been awful. He has provided no offense (5 assists in 25 new year games) and has been an atrocity in possession (40.9% Corsi) despite starting most shifts in the offensive zone (6.9 OZS%).
Adam has only 6 even strength points in 2015. This is the guy that currently is 2nd on the season long boxscore in real life so this would be a good example of a player we'd be viewing very differently. Maybe even more depressing is that his defense isn't making up for it. The rate of scoring chances against the Devils while each player is on the ice is called a SCA60 stat and Henrique trails only Eric Gelinas in futility in the stat in 2015. No offense, no defense, what's my boy doin????
So what if the season started on 1/1/15? We would be in the playoff hunt ... but only superficially because our massively one-sided home/away schedule and poor possession would do us in before long. Furthermore, DeBoer might still be the coach in which case everything I said about Larsson would be null and void. We'd still have Jagr and Zid at the moment, but they'd probably be gone before long. What am I even saying anymore? This is a ridiculous question. Sorry I wasted 1325 words of your time guys. Oops.