clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Do The Devils Have Enough NHL Forwards?

New, comments

I give you a peek into my brain as I run through what the opening day forwards will look like as of right now. Hint: Right Wing was a problem.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After Shero saying Bernier and Gomer will not be re-signed and waiving Zubrus, I began to think to myself; "Are there even enough players on this team to play anymore?" Normally when I'm trying to research an issue for an article or answer a question like this I go online and find a bunch of data. Then I sift through the data and make sense of it. In this more-informal-than-usual-for-me article, I will take you through my thoughts as I try to piece together a legitimate NHL team based on what Shero has given me.

Who Played Last Year?

From Left Wing Lock, this is what the Forward combinations looked like in the last 10 games of last year

Forward 1 Forward 2 Forward 3 Frequency Total
STEVE BERNIER REID BOUCHER SCOTT GOMEZ 13.82% 13.82%
MIKE CAMMALLERI TRAVIS ZAJAC JORDIN TOOTOO 13.51% 27.33%
MIKE CAMMALLERI TRAVIS ZAJAC STEFAN MATTEAU 9.63% 36.96%
STEVE BERNIER ADAM HENRIQUE SCOTT GOMEZ 9.01% 45.97%
PATRIK ELIAS DAINIUS ZUBRUS STEPHEN GIONTA 8.22% 54.19%
PATRIK ELIAS ADAM HENRIQUE STEPHEN GIONTA 7.75% 61.94%
JORDIN TOOTOO JACOB JOSEFSON TUOMO RUUTU 6.65% 68.59%
PATRIK ELIAS DAINIUS ZUBRUS ADAM HENRIQUE 4.71% 73.30%
TUOMO RUUTU DAINIUS ZUBRUS JACOB JOSEFSON 4.29% 77.59%
TUOMO RUUTU REID BOUCHER JACOB JOSEFSON 2.62% 80.21%

As you can see on the rightmost column, this adds up to about 80% of the even strength ice time and it also covers any line combo that happened at least 2.6% of the time so if you want to nit pick then you can tell me what I forgot in the comments. You shall be rewarded with a possible mention in the article if you're right, or a playful reprimand if you're wrong.

Also noteworthy is that first line. The most commonly played line over the course of the last 10 games is composed of two players that will not be re-signed and one player who was not originally presumed to be on the opening day roster. The fourth line has a similar problem. A huge issue with our forwards this year is going to be how to replace the production of Steve Bernier and Scott Gomez. I know this sounds deranged considering what is probably thought of these players, but these were our 2 best forwards at the end of the year by any per-minute metric.

However, we are replacing less bodies than I had previously thought. By the end of last year we were already playing without Jagr due to trade, Clowe due to injury, and Ryder due to .... Ryder. So we are really only replacing three bodies and we traded for one in the draft already.

Who's on the Team Now?

This next chart is from War on Ice. It is all of the forwards under contract for the 2015-2016 season.

Forwards Pos Status 2014-15 Cap Hit 2015-16 Wing?
Travis Zajac
C Major
$5,750,000
$5,750,000 NO
Patrik Elias
CL
Major
$5,500,000
$5,500,000 YES
Mike Cammalleri
LC Major
$5,000,000
$5,000,000 YES
Ryane Clowe L Major
$4,850,000
$4,850,000 YES
Tuomo Ruutu
LR
Major
$3,800,000
$3,800,000 YES
Adam Henrique CL Major
$4,000,000
$4,000,000 YES
Kyle Palmieri RL Major
--
$1,466,667 YES
Stephen Gionta CR Major
$850,000
$850,000 YES
Jacob Josefson CL Major
$800,000
$800,000 YES
Jordin Tootoo R Major
$550,000
$825,000 YES
Stefan Matteau L Major
$117,769
$612,500 YES
Mike Sislo R Minor
$57,460
$562,500
YES
Ben Johnson
CL Minor
--
$616,667
YES
Ben Thomson
L Minor
--
$626,667
YES
Graham Black
C Minor
--
$650,000
NO
Reid Boucher
LR Minor
$117,070
$692,500
YES
Blake Coleman
C Minor
--
$680,000
NO
Sergey Kalinin
F Minor
--
$925,000
YES
Ryan Kujawinski
C Minor
--
$692,500
NO
Jim O'Brien RC Minor
--
$575,000
YES
Blake Pietila
L Minor
--
$662,500
YES
John Quenneville
C Minor
--
$842,500
NO
Paul Thompson R Minor
--
$575,000
YES

Now, as John mentioned in his article, we are not doing well at the wing position (particularly right wing). So the next goal is to figure out if we have the bodies to fill in that time. This is why I included the right column which includes whether or not that player has played wing.

Creating the Roster

I generally start down the middle and try to make sure my centers are competent before moving on anywhere else.Now, Henrique is generally accepted by most I speak with as a better winger than center. Unfortunately for him, the only other centers on this team are:

Possible Centers: Zajac, Elias, Gionta, Josefson, Cammalleri (sometimes)

Cammalleri will spend most of his time on the wing, and really so should Elias and Gionta. Unfortunately they would need to both play center in order for Henrique to be an exclusive winger. So, it seems as though the best way to solve this is the throw Gionta on the 4th line as usual and hope he can handle center duties there as we let Henrique and Elias split the job on a higher line.

Centers

Zajac

Henrique/Elias

Josefson

Gionta

Next, we need to figure out the winger situation. Cammalleri we know is a first line left winger Also, we assume Kyle Palmieri will take on first line duties as our only natural right winger that can produce offensively.

First Line

Cammalleri  -  Zajac  -  Palmieri

Ok, this is going well. Let's make a second line now...

Um .... (reading roster)

We must have someone else that can play right wing other than Jordin Tootoo...

Well you know what Reid Boucher played on a top line at the wing in the last 10 games of last season and has played both sides so let's give him a real shot. Whichever one of Henrique and Elias isn't centering will take the other slot

Second Line

Henrique/Elias -  Henrique/Elias  -  Boucher

Now we are going to once again, inevitably, screw over Jacob Josefson by giving him nothing to work with. Jordin Tootoo was the first RW signed by the 2015 Devils and Shero and he spent some time inexplicably in the top 6 last year so this shouldn't be overwhelming for him. And just for the sake of this being allowed again, We'll shove Ruutu in that LW slot.

Third Line

Ruutu  -  Josefson  -  Tootoo

So now we put people with Gionta on the checking line and we need to put bodies around him. Stefan Matteau is on a One-Way contract now so we've got to put him somewhere. I guess this is as good a spot as any. And the right winger will beeeee ..... (closes eyes and points to a minor league winger) ... Mike Sislo. Or the new guy; Kalinin.

Fourth Line

Matteau  -  Gionta  -  Sislo/Kalinin

So as it turns out we do have a legitimate ... ish ... starting lineup.

Starting Lineup

Cammalleri  -  Zajac  -  Palmieri

Henrique/Elias -  Henrique/Elias  -  Boucher

Ruutu  -  Josefson  -  Tootoo

Matteau  -  Gionta  -  Sislo/Kalinin

You know what, if I'm being totally honest, I thought this was going to be way worse. Every guy on this roster has played at least 24 NHL games. We do not need to bring up Zacha before he is ready in order to ice an NHL team. We have 13 guys that are either NHLers or in the position to prove themself to be one. There are guys that would make the jump like Joseph Blandisi or Graham Black as well. For more info on the young guys, check out Brians post on our forward prospects.

What else is there?

If we decide this isn't enough, are there other options? I got into it a bit with skly27 and Triumph44 because I considered it a no-brainer to sign Steve Bernier. He is 30 years old so he's not done yet, and I ran through some stats about how he was the best per-minute Devil at even strength and productive in the powerplay as well. However, looking at this roster all at once, I can see that if Shero just wants this to be an evaluative year for the forwards, then Bernier should not be taking up the spot that Matteau, Kalinin, or Boucher would have had. For the future of the Devils I would much rather see what they have to offer than let Bernier be marginally productive.

However, if we do decide we need to sign someone. Bernier is among the best available. At 30 he is one of the younger guys with any positive NHL experience. I could also see us going after a guy like Tyler Kennedy who was a very solid possession player while with the Penguins under Shero. He's only 28 right now, he's available for not much after a rough 2013-2015 stretch, and Shero seems to like bringing in his own guys.

It's tough to really see what's out there in FA, but Shero has said the Zubrus cut was to make room to add a forward through either trades or free agency.

Your Thoughts

Do you think Shero is not done moving pieces? Is there anyone you think he should go after? Are you cool with this as an opening night roster? What changes would you make to it? Which young guys do you expect to make the jump?

Is Elias still able to fill a top 6 role? Can Palmieri move straight into a first line after playing only 14 minutes per game last year? Is Boucher on the second line asking too much?

Leave any answers to these questions an whatever else you like in the comments section below.