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Age Is Important in a Rebuild: How Old Are the Devils?

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With the New Jersey Devils probably looking at another tough season ahead of them, the rebuild is on. Ray Shero and John Hynes are looking to build a contender for the future. That means they need youth. How young is this team, however?

Young talent.
Young talent.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With Ray Shero and company looking to rebuild this New Jersey Devils organization back into a contender, one of the more important things to look at and analyze is age.  A rebuild process usually takes some time.  It does not need to take seemingly forever like in Edmonton, but a few years of poor or mediocre hockey is definitely plausible before a rebuilding team can compete again.  With this knowledge in hand, having a young roster is important when rebuilding back into contention.  A roster full of players over 30 will be of no help for a rebuild, as they are not likely to improve, and as they get older, their age will imply a decline that will stunt any rebuild attempt.

Therefore, let's look at the Devils roster from an angle of age, and compare it to the rest of the league.  Is this team young enough to truly rebuild, or does Shero perhaps need to get this team a little younger?

The Forwards

First, let's check out the group of forwards on this team.  The following chart showcases the forwards currently on this team, their ages, and how many years they have played in the NHL.  Information on this chart comes from the Devils main website, as well as Hockey-Reference.

Player

Date of Birth

Age

Years Pro

Mike Cammalleri

6/8/82

33

11

Ryane Clowe *

9/30/82

32

9

Patrik Elias

4/13/76

39

18

Stephen Gionta

10/9/83

31

4

Adam Henrique

2/6/90

25

4

Jacob Josefson

3/2/91

24

4

Kyle Palmieri

2/1/91

24

4

Tuomo Ruutu

2/16/83

32

10

Jordin Tootoo

2/2/83

32

10

Travis Zajac

5/13/85

30

8

Dainius Zubrus

6/16/78

37

17

These are the forwards currently listed on the main website as being on the team and not listed as prospects.  When combined, their overall age averages out to be 30.8 years old.  That is on the older side, and is not a good thing for a rebuild.  While there is no current comparison of teams in the league by age, given that training camps have not started yet and rosters have not yet been solidified, we have to use last year's stats to get an idea of how old or young 30.8 is.  Using a chart by James Mirtle on his blog, last year a team averaging 30.8 years old would have been the next oldest team in the league, behind only last year's iteration of the New Jersey Devils who averaged 31 years old.

Now to give some credit to the offensive age, there should most likely be prospects who start the year on the main roster, and who play most of the season with the big club.  That would lower the average age for sure.  Therefore, let's add in some of the listed prospects and see what that does to the overall age.  I am only adding prospects who could potentially see any playing time in New Jersey, with the main criteria being that they have spent at least some time in Albany (Blake Coleman excepted).  I could miss some people, however, as this is completely my own guess here.

Player

Date of Birth

Age

Years Pro

Reid Boucher

9/8/93

21

1

Stefan Matteau

2/23/94

21

1

Sergey Kalinin

3/17/91

24

0

Jim O'Brien

1/29/89

26

3

Graham Black

1/13/93

22

0

Ben Thomson

1/16/93

22

0

Blake Coleman

11/28/91

23

0

That could potentially be more people than will see the ice for New Jersey this year, but nonetheless I feel that it is a decent list of probable players.  When you average in these ages to the other list, the average age of forwards listed on this article comes to 27.67 years old.  That is a much better number.  Using Mirtle's chart from before, that would make the Devils one of the younger teams in the NHL, albeit not the youngest.

The Defense

Next, we need to check out the defense, which should provide a much younger outlook.  The Devils main website only lists 4 defensemen as being definitively on the NHL roster, but considering there will be more for sure, I am just going to combine the lists this time to make one big chart of defensemen who either will definitely play for the big club, or who have a strong chance to play for them.

Player

Date of Birth

Age

Years Pro

Andy Greene

10/30/82

32

8

Jon Merrill

2/3/92

23

2

John Moore

11/19/90

24

4

Damon Severson

8/7/94

20

1

Adam Larsson

11/12/92

22

3

Eric Gelinas

5/8/91

24

1

Seth Helgeson

10/8/90

24

1

Raman Hrabarenka

8/24/92

22

0

Vojtech Mozik

12/26/92

22

0

Clearly, this is already a younger pool of players without doing the math.  Take Andy Greene off of the list, and no one is even 25 years old.  That is key for a rebuilding team, especially considering the talent that this list of players has.  When we do the math, this list of players has a combined age of 23.67 years old.  That is way younger than the list of forwards, and perhaps could be the youngest defensive corps in the NHL.  If it is not, then it is certainly in the top 3.

As a quick aside, however, it is vital that a player like Greene is on this list, despite his age.  Greene is a boss obviously, and is worth having because of how good he is on the ice.  But he is also the one key mentor figure on that list.  The young players on this defense will all look up to him for advice, and having someone experienced like him should really help the younger players progress at a better pace.  I also think there is a good chance he is named captain, which only strengthens this argument.

Goaltending

Finally, we have Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid to look at.  Quickly:

Player

Date of Birth

Age

Years Pro

Cory Schneider

3/18/86

29

6

Keith Kinkaid

7/4/89

26

1

The combined age of this quality goaltending duo is 27.5.  Not bad at all considering that this duo makes up the one position on this team that is not rebuilding.  Schneider is a beast in net, and is by far one of the best goalies in the NHL.  Kinkaid is still progressing as a player, but showed flashes last year, and I believe he will be one of the better backups in the NHL over the next two seasons.  Schneider and Kinkaid have a different goal than the rest of the squad: whereas everyone else is looking to rebuild and get better for the future, it is the job of these two to keep New Jersey involved in most games for as long as possible this year.  That way, the team can give the fans something interesting to watch on a nightly basis.  We can only hope that Schneider is still awesome once this team is truly competitive again.

Conclusion

In the end, it is clear that the Devils are getting younger from years past.  Last season, they started the year as the oldest team in the league.  This year they will not be so given the extremely young defensive corps.  How young they really get depends on how many of the forward prospects make it on the roster and play for New Jersey instead of Albany.  While I am not advocating that Shero and John Hynes simply start the youngest players and see what happens, the more time and experience that the young players get now, the better it will be for improving the future.  Any playing time that a player like Reid Boucher or even Pavel Zacha could get playing alongside the likes of Patrik Elias could only help their game for the future.  I do want the Devils to try and be competitive this year, and I hope that they ice the best roster available on a given night.  But if that roster is younger, and the players playing are improving on a nightly basis given their playing time, that can only benefit the future.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about the age on this team?  Do the Devils need to get younger still for the rebuild, or should they stick with the older forwards for now?  Did I miss any prospects that deserve to be on these lists as potential starters on this team?  Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.