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Wait, But What If We're Good?

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Just saying. It is still possible that we don't suck this year. The Devils could be good. What would that look like anyway?

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Fun fact #1 about the NHL: more than half of the teams in it make the playoffs. It's true. Do the math.

Fun fact #2 about the NHL: luck matters a lot.

No, really.

For those who are already familiar with the stat, PDO is generally considered to by the "luck" statistic in the NHL. It is calculated as the Sv% (save percentage) + Sh% (shooting percentage).

Now many take issue with calling an individual player's PDO luck. They have been proven wrong time and time again and almost all of the evidence that we have on the topic indicates that a player cannot drive their on-ice shooting percentage to be noticeably higher than the league average. Even if you are unconvinced of this though, itshouldn't be too troubling to imagine that the PDO statistic is primarily luck-driven on a team-wide scale.

Luck Can Drive Success

So now just as a quick exercise, let's look at the PDO of teams the last few years.

Team 2014 PDO 2015 PDO Difference
CGY 98.8 101.1 2.3
NYR 99.7 101.9 2.2
N.J 98.6 100.7 2.1
NSH 99 101.1 2.1
OTT 99.5 101 1.5
FLA 98.2 99.6 1.4
BUF 98.2 99.5 1.3
WPG 99.4 100.7 1.3
MTL 100.5 101.6 1.1
NYI 98.4 99.3 0.9
CHI 99.9 100.4 0.5
T.B 100.6 101 0.4
WSH 100.2 100.5 0.3
L.A 100.1 100.2 0.1
PHI 100.3 100.3 0
PIT 100.1 100 -0.1
VAN 99.5 99.4 -0.1
STL 100.7 100.5 -0.2
DET 100.2 99.9 -0.3
COL 101.8 101.4 -0.4
DAL 100.3 99.7 -0.6
S.J 99.7 99.1 -0.6
MIN 101.1 100.2 -0.9
CBJ 100.7 99.7 -1
EDM 99.1 97.3 -1.8
TOR 101.2 99.4 -1.8
ANA 102.3 100.2 -2.1
CAR 99.4 97.1 -2.3
BOS 102.5 100 -2.5
ARI 100.2 97.2 -3

Now this is a luck-based statistic so there shouldn't be a rule that applies somewhere across the board, but it shouldn't be shocking to see the Flames -- this year's most pleasant surprise -- at the top of the list and the Bruins -- this year's biggest disappointment -- at the bottom of the list. PDO could explain that experts and fans may not have terribly misjudged these teams. It's possible that luck just determined their fate.

So maybe the hockey gods will smile on us and we will be one of the lucky ones this year. We had an average PDO last year and our 2-year PDO is 9th worst in the NHL, our 3-year PDO is 7th worst, our 4-year PDO is 5th worst, and our 5-year PDO is 3rd worst. Seen in one chart:

NJ PDO NHL Rank
20142015 100.7 7
20132014 98.6 26
20122013 97.5 27
20112012 99.5 18
20102011 97.7 28

So basically we are due.

The Unknown

Will Pavel Zacha play? If so how good can he be? I actually lobbied for him to stay in Sarnia but the AAtJ community voted that 74% of us want him to either play in the NHL automatically or let him earn the spot. If he plays, he has the talent to be a next-level producer.

Kyle Palmieri could be really good. According to Hockey-Reference he was a plus-possession player who put up 29 points in only 14 minutes per his 57 games. He did this while having an average PDO and sub-50 zone starts. If we prorate those stats over an 18-minutes per 80-games schedule, he ends with a 53-point season. Now that was with a higher scoring team and prorating is dangerous even without that caveat, but he is also a young, improving player.

The young defenders could be special. Adam Larsson could be next-level good. And what if our guys all take a step forward. What if only Severson and Merrill take steps foward. It is difficult to envision a situation in which our defenders do not improve on the whole at least slightly considering their age. And we also got David Schlemko. So there's that.

Jiri Tlusty was a very popular signing based mostly on the deal we got him on. But he is a legit possible contributor. The guy has had 4 consecutive 30-point seasons in the NHL. And normally we have to account for the Devil factor to bump those numbers down, but there's two reasons why we shouldn't in this case. First, these Devils are not your father's Devils. We are supposed to be fast, attacking, and supportive. I expect our GF numbers to rise actually. Secondly, he was with the Hurricanes who are just as bad as we are.

Quick. Name the current Devils who scored 30 points last year. You probably got Adam Henrique, Mike Cammalleri, and maybe Patrik Elias, and then stopped to think and scratch yourself while looking pensive. There's no one else. If you rank the current Devils based on last year's production, he is 4th and he is getting paid less than $1 million. That's a true deal with the Devil...Sorry... I'll leave.

The Known

Cory Schneider. That is all.

But seriously, last year I wrote an article on if Schneider could be enough to make us good. In it I had posted a comparison. Below are the NHL ranks by stat from 12/27 (the coaching change) until 3/20 (Off is the average ranking of offensive categories, Def does the same for defensive):

Team GF GA G+/- CF% CP60 OFOn% OSh% OSv% FO% PDO ZSO% Off Def
Team1 24 1 9 25 9 14 25 1 15 6 26 22 1
Team2 24 2 11 27 30 17 8 2 27 1 29 22 1

Team2 was your New Jersey Devils, and Team1 was the Montreal Canadiens. This was with 10 games left and the Habs were tied with the Rangers and Ducks in the President's trophy race. The similarity is daunting isn't it? Yes, the Canadiens have more talent then us, but that doesn't matter, their on-ice stats  were nearly a mirror image of ours. Carey Price won the Vezina trophy, and took an otherwise slightly above average team to the top of the standings. If he can do that, I bet Cory could take a bottom dweller and take them to the playoffs.

I don't think the set of circumstances I've outlined in this article are all that outlandish. Regardless, in composing this piece, I've reminded myself that the year has yet to start, and I am going into this year rooting for my team to win every game they can and give us every chance of playing in May.

Thoughts?

I wrote this article because no one has even considered the fact that we could be good. I did my best to show was a good team would look like. The new players pan out, the young players improve, and Schneider wrecks the NHL. Is that impossible? Are there any optimists our there who think I maybe even left out something good?