It's over. No, that's not call back to Adam Henrique tapping in a loose puck to eliminate Our Hated Rivals in 2012. The 2014-15 season is over. A season that featured a mumps outbreak, a lot of ugly losses, firing one coach to be replaced by essentially three, several ugly wins before even more ugly losses, and securing the sixth worst record in the NHL. A formerly strong possession team demonstrated an aversion to maintaining the puck on their sticks throughout the season, leading to opponents often doing whatever they wanted to the Devils. Key players got old, hurt, or had bad seasons. Recent signings more often than not went bust than boom. The realization for many Devils fans, including myself, was that this team needs an actual rebuild. Needless to say, this was a bad 2014-15 season.
As the Devils were a bad team - and not a fun bad team, just a bad team, Lou stated about a week ago that they would not be having team awards. I can agree with that. Who should be awarded anything from this team except for one or two players? Besides, we do our own awards on this very site anyway. We did the major awards, some not-major awards, and included our own superlatives like last year. The writers here at In Lou We Trust went through the process of naming players for our own annual awards for this season, undeserved or otherwise.
Team MVP: Cory Schneider
Who else could have been the most valuable player on the Devils this season? Cory Schneider was the primary, secondary, and tertiary reason the team didn't wrecked in any other game. Schneider ends this season ranked fifth in the league in overall save percentage with 92.5%, buoyed by five shutouts. His splits feature an impressive even strength save percentage of 93.3% and a penalty kill save percentage of 89.2%. The man was on fire throughout January and February with overall save percentages of at least 94%, and only a three-game April was a blotch on his monthly splits. According to War on Ice, which records save percentage by the danger of the shot location, Schneider's splits are 97.76% for low-danger shots at evens, 94.38% for medium-danger shots at evens, and 85.44% for high-danger shots at evens. Schneider erased all doubts that he could handle the workload of being the starting goaltender of a NHL team by putting up these save percentages in 68 starts and 69 total appearances. Schneider was the brightest silver lining in the dark clouds that were the 2014-15 campaign. The Devils have to rebuild, but they clearly have an excellent goaltender to build around.
Voting Commentary: Schneider was an unanimous decision. To quote Alex, "Do I even need to explain?"
Best Defenseman: Andy Greene
Andy Greene was the sign of consistency on a Devils defense that, per War on Ice, conceded 28.8 shots against per sixty minutes in 5-on-5 play and 30.2 per sixty minutes in all situations. To put that in perspective, per War on Ice, the 2013-14 Devils conceded the fewest shots in both with 23.8 per sixty minutes in 5-on-5 play and 25 per sixty minutes in all situations. Greene played in every game, he had a young defenseman as his partner throughout the season, and still didn't crumble while playing top minutes in even strength and penalty killing situations. Check out this bubble chart of competition based on time on ice versus zone starts from, where else?, War on Ice:
The man at the top left corner is Greene. Greene got the toughest situations, which makes his 48% Corsi For percentage even better than it looks on it's own. Furthermore, the light blue indicates his relative Corsi For percentage was positive. It was, meaning the Devils did better when he was on the ice than when he was not. While the hope is that Damon Severson and Adam Larsson will lead the defense of the future, Greene leads the defense in the present. And he's been a pretty good leader.
Voting Commentary: This one was nearly unanimous. To quote Alex, "I was considering Damon Severson or Adam Larsson, but in the end I have to go with Greene. Both Severson and Larsson thrived alongside Greene, and both of the kids missed time whether due to injury or demotion. Greene is as solid as it gets, and although he was not driving possession like in the past, neither was anyone else on the team. He's still worth his weight in gold for NJ." Only Gerard dissented with Larsson, stating this: " I wanted to pick Andy Greene who has been solid as a rock, I really did, but in the post-DeBoer era, no one stood out more (in a good way) than Adam Larsson. We finally started to see a defender who looked like a #4 overall pick rather than a guy who would rot for weeks on end in the press box." Fair enough.
Best Goaltender: Cory Schneider
Well, duh. See Team MVP.
Voting Commentary: This one was also unanimous. This should not surprise you.
Best Defensive Forward: Travis Zajac
Zajac was maligned throughout the season for such a low amount of production. It's certainly worth criticism. What cannot be criticized was his work off the puck on defense. The Devils consistently went to Zajac to defend penalty kills and go up against top competition at even strength. Patrik Elias was used quite a bit in that role too, but Zajac had a slightly better relative Corsi percentage and played more minutes. Again, a 47.3% Corsi For percentage isn't anything to write home about but given the high level of competition Zajac regularly played against, this is a bit more impressive. I will agree with the eventual complaints that Zajac needs to put up more than eleven goals and twenty five points. I cannot agree that Zajac is some kind of glorified third line center given that he plays an average of nineteen minutes per game and often plays the other team's best players.
Voting Commentary: Zajac was also a nearly unaminous decision. There were two dissenters: CJ picked Stephen Gionta and Mike picked Jacob Josefson.
Best Offensive Forward: Mike Cammalleri
Even though Adam Henrique finished the season with more points than any other Devil with 42, Cammalleri was the standout offensive player. Cammalleri led the team in goals with twenty seven, power play goals with nine, tied with Zajac for the most shorthanded goals with two, and shots with 157. Eight of his twenty seven goals turned out to be game winners as well. I've often criticized Cammalleri when he only generates a shot or two (or even less) in a game because he absolutely should be firing away when he can. Cammalleri has an excellent one-timer, his hands are pretty good, and his instincts with the puck on offense are quite good. While Cammalleri's 45.13% Corsi For percentage is disappointing, when the play is in the other team's end, there aren't any better options as to who should be set up for a shot than Cammalleri. Seriously, there are no other legitimate goal scorers on the team: Henrique and Steve Bernier finished second on the team in goals with sixteen.
Voting Commentary: Everyone voted for New Jersey's leading goal scorer.
The Sergei Brylin Award for Versatility: Adam Henrique
This was a very contentious decision. Ultimately, I had to break the tie for Henrique. The forward was moved throughout the season between left winger and center. He played on lines set up for easier match ups like he did with Scott Gomez and Steve Bernier. He played on lines set to go up against the other team's best, such as lining up with Elias and Dainius Zubrus. Henrique played in front of several different defensemen, per his With Or Without You at Hockey Analysis. He even had a significant amount of ice time with Michael Ryder of all players. Henrique was also featured on the penalty kill and did receive power play time as well. While it didn't always go well for #14 (the 45.8 CF% suggests it didn't), the fact he was moved around as much as he did and still ended up leading the team in points speaks to the notion that the coached felt he was versatile. There weren't really any good options this season, but I would say Henrique fits this category better than the others.
Voting Commentary: Everyone else had a different answer. I was really tempted to go with Ryan's answer of "None," but I decided on naming somebody. I was also tempted to go with Gerard's answer of Peter Harrold as he played both forward and defense. Alas, I didn't think Harrold was all that good in general at either position. Brian picked Bernier, and Alex made a case for Greene given his adaptation with Severson and then Larsson. I ultimately went with Mike's answer of Henrique for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph.
Best Comeback: Scott Gomez
I was doubtful of what Scott Gomez could bring to the table. He tried out in training camp, didn't get a contract from any team until the Devils signed him almost out of necessity back in the beginning of December. This doesn't suggest that the player can provide any significant contributions. Someone would've signed him before then if they thought he could. Well, Gomez proved me wrong to an extent. He went on to average 16:30 of ice time per game and finish tied for third on the team in scoring with seven goals and twenty seven assists in 58 games played. Twelve of those twenty seven assists were on the power play; proving that he provided value in that half of special teams. While the Gomez known for leading breakouts all by himself from end-to-end was gone; the Gomez that would look for passing options and execute them fairly well was present enough times to help out the Devils. Considering that passing has been the team's issue all season long, you could say he addressed a need to a degree. All that and the larger fanbase finally forgave him for signing with the Rangers. Gomez certainly isn't getting any younger, but I'd say he proved that he has something left in the proverbial tank. Something tells me that will likely not need to take a try out and/or wait several months for his next NHL contract.
Voting Commentary: Gomez was another unanimous selection.
Best In-Season Move by the Devils: Trading Jaromir Jagr
The New Jersey Devils are a rebuilding team. As the organization lacks prospects of a certain nature (scoring forwards, namely wingers), it is imperative that they pick up additional draft picks. This means trading someone of value to get picks. As much as I and many Devils fans enjoyed Jaromir Jagr, he was identified as someone to be moved. Jagr was traded a few days before the trade deadline to Florida for a second round pick this year and a conditional third round pick in 2016. Jagr was unhappy under the co-coaching regime and he flourished in Florida, so he benefited from the move. While I would have liked to have seen a better return than just two picks, the Devils will have two fairly high second rounds picks that will help fill the proverbial pipeline. Besides, it's hard to gauge a trade market for a 43-year old winger even if he's named Jagr. The two second round picks this year can become a good part of the rebuild; so that fits a need.
Voting Commentary: I honestly though Gomez being signed would win this in a walk given he was a unanimous pick for Best Comeback. Nope, only Brian and I picked that. Mike, CJ, and Alex picked the Jagr trade. Gerard went with the Keith Kinkaid call-up, which is a good choice. Ryan chose the firing of Peter DeBoer, which I think would've been more popular if the replacements were better.
Best 2014 Offseason Signing: Mike Cammalleri
It's no surprise that the player the writers selected as the Best Offensive Forward would be the best signing from last summer. Cammalleri was not the first player to be given a lucrative and significantly long contract by Lou in recent seasons. Unlike some of the others, the signing immediately paid off with Cammalleri scoring all kinds of goals. I fear that his five-year, $25 million contract will get real ugly in three or four years, but for now, there can be few complaints.
Voting Commentary: All of the writers picked Camalleri, it was a sweep.
Worst 2014 Offseason Signing: Martin Havlat
The Devils signed Martin Havlat to a one year deal in the hopes that he could fill in a position of need (right winger) and provide additional scoring. The main concern at the time of the deal was that Havlat has consistently missed time due to injury, but the Devils weren't taking a lot of risk and hoping for some moderate reward. So most liked the deal when it happened. What ended up happening in this season was the reality that Havlat was just not a good fit with the Devils. Peter DeBoer kept sticking him with his fellow country-man Elias, who was on his own decline based on being 38, and it just didn't work. Havlat didn't produce nearly enough (five goals, nine assists, 47 shots on net) to justify his usual lack of help on defense. As a result, Havlat would end up being in the press box as a scratch more often than playing for the co-coaches and this didn't draw complaints. Lou took a chance on a short-term fix for offense and right wing and it didn't work out at all. This worked out almost completely opposite to Cammalleri's signing.
Voting Commentary: This was another unanimous selection.
Most Surprising: Scott Gomez
The winner of the Best Comeback award certainly was a pleasant surprise in a bad season. The 35-year old came to the Devils after two awful stops in San Jose and Florida. It looked like his NHL career was done as the Devils didn't even sign him out of training camp. But they needed a center in early December, Gomez took his opportunity, and he essentially ran with it to become tied with Elias to be the team's third-leading scorer as well as a regular player. I didn't predict that would happen and I doubt many others did. Therefore, I think it's fitting he would get this award.
Voting Commentary: I chose Gomez for the reasons above, which turned a plurality into a majority. Brian and Gerard picked Jordin Tootoo, which would be a good choice as well. The man was signed to be the designated tough-guy. While it took playing with Zajac and Cammalleri, receiving more minutes than he should, and getting power play time, Tootoo did contribute ten goals this season. That's about eight or nine more than I would've thought. Ryan selected Damon Severson, which is another good choice. It's rare to see a defenseman jump from juniors to the NHL. It's rarer to see that same defenseman make that leap, start with regular minutes on the top pairing next to Andy Greene, and more than hold his own against some of the best forwards in the world.
Most Disappointing: Michael Ryder
This award could go to a lot of Devils, the plurality went with Michael Ryder. Last season, he was snake-bitten by an extremely long cold streak. This season, he played his way out of the lineup with his continued lazy play away from the puck, his disinterest of doing anything on defense, and his one-dimension - shooting the puck - not contributing nearly enough to justify his other weaknesses. There was a stretch of this season where I kept referencing SCTV characters to him; even though I find SCTV funny, Ryder's play has been about as effective in hockey as a sketch comedy show. Today's game requires even the top offensive players to be able to play some defense and position themselves well away from the puck. Ryder is a throwback to an era where players can be one-way and still receive significant minutes. The Devils will almost definitely throw him back into free agency this summer. Any time Steve Bernier and Jordin Tootoo are playing prime minutes at right wing while you sit in the press box, that's a sign you're on the outs. And that's really disappointing given he never fulfilled the hope he would fill in two team needs - right wing, scoring - when he was signed.
Voting Commentary: Again, this was a plurality and cases can be made for the other writer's selections. Mike chose Zajac because of his low scoring. Despite being the team's best defensive forward, a $5 million-plus forward needs to put up more than twenty five points and I can't disagree. CJ went with Jon Merrill, who was always in the lineup when available and posted a 45.3% CF despite not facing really difficult competition. I don't know what Merrill could become in this league; given that he just finished his second season, that's a problem. Gerard chose Mark Fraser, who posted the lowest CF% among the Devils' defense, 41.2%, while demonstrating that he's still slow, not good about staying or getting into good positions to defense, and adding next to no offense to the table. Ryan went with Patrik Elias, who got old, suffered back spasms, and turned in one of his worst seasons ever as a Devil in terms of production (34 points in 69 games) since his rookie season in 1997-98 and in terms of possession (per War on Ice, he's at 48%, previous low was in 2011-12 at 52.2%). All of them (and more!) are right answers. I just went Mike, CJ, and Brian that Ryder was the most disappointing. Like that most people forgot about the genius of Joe Flaherty as Quincy: Cartoon Coroner.
As usual, we went above and beyond for additional awards. Here's what I and the other writers came up with:
Best Prospect (Brian): Joseph Blandisi - Usually I wouldn't go with an overager for "Best Prospect" but in Blandisi's case he was just that much better than his fellow Devils CHL counterparts (especially when using age adjusted points per game from CHLStats). I like the year Alex Kerfoot had but he missed too much time for me to put him in the running for "Best Prospect."
Albany Devil of the Year (Brian): Paul Thompson - I think Paul Thompson is a clear choice for "ADevil of the Year." He leads in pretty much every offensive category and has been one of the top players in the AHL.
Please Come Back in 2015-2016 (Gerard): Tie - Scott Gomez & Jordin Tootoo
Please Don't Come Back in 2015-2016 - or Ever for That Matter (Gerard): Mark Fraser
The Ilya Bryzgalov "Why You Have To Be Mad" Award (Gerard): Michael Ryder - A player that doesn't play Devils Hockey being upset and complaining about being scratched for not playing Devils Hockey? Color me shocked!
Rookie of the Year (Gerard): Damon Severson - While he missed a good chunk of time, and his play declined a bit in his return, he's still been amazing for a 20 year old defenseman, and as long he continues to grow, should be a stud for the Devils for years to come.
Best Goal (Alex & CJ): Patrik Elias' turnaround goal against Evgeni Nabokov - When I explained the format, both of them decided to pick a Best Goal. And they ended up picking the same one:
Best Prospect as in Anyone Under 25 (Alex): Damon Severson - Are we defining prospect as anyone under 25? Then it has to be Severson. He has the potential to be a top pairing defenseman on this team for a decade or more. Serious amounts of talent and great hockey sense. I would buy a #28 jersey.
Best Prospect as in Anyone Not in the System (Alex): Steve Santini - But if you want someone that does not already play with the big club, then I would go with Steve Santini. Despite his lack of offensive production, he is a dominant defenseman for BC, and will be a really good NHL player one day if he can continue to develop that potential.
Worst Goal Allowed (Alex): When Marek Zidlicky tried a no look pass from behind the net against the Rangers on October 21st, was stolen by Kreider, and Nash put in the rebound to make it 3-3. Devils would lose in OT. It was NJ's game to win, and Zid blew it. I still feel the pain. Not Schneider's fault. but still worst goal allowed.
Best Game (Alex): Devils shootout win over Winnipeg on 10/30/14. - I feel that it has to be when the team was still alive and had a chance to do something with the season. So I would say it was the shootout win against Winnipeg at the end of October. Was not the best game of all time, was not very memorable actually. Except that the Devils won a shootout for the first time in like 25 years. THAT was very memorable, and even better that it was in Newark.
Worst Game (Alex): Tie - 3-4 OT loss to Rangers on 10/21/14, 1-6 loss to Rangers on 4/4/15. - I want to say the same Ranger game I used for the worst goal allowed. That was such a heart breaker. But at least the Devils got a point out of it. You could also say this past Saturday, the beat down by New York. What an embarrassment. Either one works.
The "Miraculously Was Never A Healthy Scratch" Award (Mike): Jon Merrill - Merrill had a cover-your-eyes bad sophomore campaign, but neither coaching regime has had it in them to sit him down at all. He needs a big bounce-back next season.
The "Peter Harrold" Award for Excellence in Being Peter Harrold (Mike): Peter Harrold - Good lookin' out, Pete!
The Best Head Coach That is Actually Three People (Mike): Scoudam Stoatesoriello - Also doubles as the award for "Worst Head Coach That is Actually Three People"
Best Prospect (CJ): Reid Boucher
Least Noticeable (CJ): Dainius Zubrus
Iron Man (CJ): Andy Greene - Only Devil to play in every game.
Most Underappreciated (CJ): Stephen Gionta
The Hüsker Dü Prize (John): Damien Brunner - Do you even remember he was on the team this season? I totally forgot. Runner-up: The mumps. This was a season where the mumps was a factor.
The Aubrey Sitterson "You're Getting Worked, Bro" Certificate (John): Anyone who believes what Lou Lamoriello says in public at total face-value.
Least Improved, U-25 Devils Only (John): Tie - Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas
Biggest Decline (John): Patrik Elias - Alas, Father Time always wins.
Worst Fundamental of the Game Executed Night After Night (John): Passing the puck - I'm sorry Ryan chose to track...that...all season.
The Zach Ryder "Are You Serious, Bro?" Award: Devils management raising season ticket holder's prices for 2015-16. - Really, with this team and it's immediate future? You think prices should be raised?
The "Where Was This Last Season?" Medal (John): Shootout wins. - Hey, the Devils won a few in 2014-15. They could've used a few of them last season. Or any of them.
The Best Readers (John): You. You're still here.
I'd like to thank everyone on the site who contributed throughout the 2014-15 campaign: Brian, Mike, Gerard, CJ, Alex, Nate, JT, and Ryan. I'd like to thank SB Nation for still having this site up. I'd like to thank you for reading all season long. The content will continue all year, even though the season is over.
Which awards do you agree with and why? Which ones do you think we got wrong and why? What superlative awards would you give? Please let us know your take in the comments and other thoughts.