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Is My Optimism Misplaced?

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I, the writer, am asking you the reader for help. I can't help but be optimistic. Maybe that's because I've been spoiled, maybe it's because I'm generally a happy person, but maybe it's because I'm right. You be the judge.

Larsson, Cammalleri, and Greene could be 3 pillars of the Devils future.
Larsson, Cammalleri, and Greene could be 3 pillars of the Devils future.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

When I tried working out regularly for the first time, I was convinced I'd be able to keep it up 5 days a week. I was wrong. When that Hooters waitress told me I was cute and I was her favorite customer, I believed her. I was wrong. When we rolled out healthcare.gov, I was like "Finally, easily accessible healthcare for everyone," I was at least temporarily wrong.

I suffer from too much faith in whatever team I'm rooting for whether it's me, or the USA, or the Devils. So I no ask for help from the ILWTers to tell me if I'm crazy. I think the Devils will be good very soon.

How Do You Build a Team

I've always heard that it's best to build a team "down the middle." I've actually heard that phrase described two different ways to me though -- center depth; or center(s), top D-man, and a goalie. In the last offseason I did a quick study on the validity of these notions. I noted that to succeed, a team needs two really good forwards (one should be a center), one stellar defensive pairing, and a solid goalie.

Just to further verify this notion, I did a quick analysis of the positional results by team of some statistics and their correlation to standings points (File: Correlation Study ). A quick summary of the findings is below. The top row is the list of stats used, the first column is the positions that are being evaluated, and the percentages in the cells are the correlations each stat/position pairing has with standings points.

Note: For the statistics sticklers, this is merely correlation not causation. Furthermore, the more accurate way of describing these percentages is "the percentage of variation in the standings points that can attributed to variation in the position statistic."

iSC iHSC Goals Assists CF%
L 38.5% 32.8% 52.5% 41.9% 68.5%
C 31.0% 25.9% 52.2% 61.9% 47.4%
R 25.9% 25.7% 52.6% 42.1% 53.9%
D 27.7% 20.0% 51.4% 63.0% 53.4%
Total 57.6% 53.2% 85.9% 82.5% 54.5%

There are a few things I'd like to point out before moving on. First of all, I'm not entirely sure why LWs seem clearly more important than RWs, but this is reminding me of why I chose to go with Max Winger in my last study. Second, the significance of the correlation between offensive contributions from the defenders with a teams overall point totals is really surprising to me. It is on par with the others in all but iHSC (high danger scoring chances) which is to be expected. The actually had the strongest correlation in assist totals. Now this could be a result of them happening upon some secondary assists due to better overall teams, but that wouldn't explain why their Goal numbers are so high as well. It's importance of offense coming from the blue line is inescapable. And as my previous study had highlighted, a great defender at the top isn't enough. Depth is key.

Where the Devils Stand

In a word, shaky. None of the stats in that table are good news for our Devils. But I love the way we are set up. The way it stands right now, we have a very solid potential core of Centermen composed of:

Travis Zajac

Adam Henrique

Pavel Zacha

Jacob Josefson.

Now granted, JJ is on the last year of his contract with no guarantee for an extension, but he's the fourth liner of this group. And Adam Henrique could slide to a wing, but he's just as useful to us there. Regardless, the drafting of Zacha makes our future for the position immediately encouraging. Next we examine the defensive corps composed of:

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Jon Merrill - Damon Severson

Eric Gelinas - John Moore.

Larsson needs a contract. He led our defenders in WAR this past year and that resonates with reality as at many times, he was the best blue-liner on the team. Gelinas might get one or he might not. If he doesn't we have 90 other prospects more than equipped to fill a bottom 4 role. The top 2 pairings will only improve with time. John Moore is already a clear NHLer and and underrated one at that ... and he's young too.

Also ... Cory Schneider.

I wrote an article during the year asking if he alone was enough. Clearly he wasn't, but the corollaries I drew to the Canadians were valid. Goalies can carry teams to the playoffs and further. Cory is already one of the best, and with an improving defense and a young, fast offense, his job will get much easier.

Conclusion

I can't help but see the positives. When the Devils were good, we started with Marty, then got one of the best groups of defenders ever assembled, then put together a unit of forwards to complement them. I don't know exactly how good this group of D-men can be and they probably won't be generational the way Stevens, Niedermeyer, Rafalski, etc. were. However, of the ones who have been called up, there haven't been many clear misses. The Centers are solid though unspectacular at the moment. And Schneider is elite. Furthermore, all of these units are composed almost entirely of players 30 or younger. If we can keep this core together, why can't it succeed?

Your Thoughts?

Assume 2-3 years of development. How many players away do you think we are from being legitimate contenders? Do you think the core is good as it is? Where do we need improvement? Do you think we need a generational talent in order to compete for a cup in today's NHL? Leave your thoughts below.

Correlation Study