Cory Schneider is most important, but he's a goalie.
Mike Cammalleri is probably next, but he's injured--has been for a while now. Actually a lot of people either are currently injured or have been injured this year.
In fact, there have only been 5 guys to play every game for the Devils. They are Adam Larsson, Andy Greene, Stephen Gionta, Kyle Palmieri and Lee Stempniak. Larsson and Greene. Larsson and Greene certainly have a claim to the most important players having been given such massive defensive responsibility. The total lack of offensive contribution from them and the significant decline in GAA when Kinkaid is in net implies that Schneider deserves the lion's share of the credit for our 6th-in-the-NHL-as-of-this-writing defense. Palmieri is a true momentum-driver and puck-mover. But he is still young and can't be the do-everything man quite yet. Still getting used to his minutes as well.
Stempniak was a revelation in the beginning of the year, but much to my chagrin, that seems to have faded. A guy like Bobby Farnham gets his own goal song, but Lee Stempniak is left to take his 10 goals and 20 assists in quiet anonymity.
You may think that this has a lot to do with his linemates and to some degree that may be true. Take a look at his scoring chance differential over time.
As evidenced by the top time series graph, Stemper saw his numbers drop significantly when Henrique was injured in the 2nd week of December. However, since Cam has been injured, Stemper almost seems to be trying to make up the difference. His numbers have shot back up. As shown in both graph, Stempniak has been a consistent positive force on a team that, especially after injuries, has been starved for contributions.
In fact, if you adjust for zone-starts, a personal regression formula of mine shows Stempniak to be 2nd on the team behind Jacob Josefson in Zone-start-independent scoring chance ratio.
Oh, and we're paying him less than $1 million.
Stempniak is like Farnham -- and unassuming producer. Except instead of having 8 points he has 30. Stempniak is like Adam Henrique except we're paying him 1/5th the salary. Stempniak is like Palmieri except he logs 19 minutes (almost 2 more than KP21), 2 of which are spent shorthanded on his role as the 2nd shift penalty killer.
In fact there is no equivalent man to Lee Stempniak on this roster. Getting an all around positive impact player for chump change is the most the #1 reason we are seemingly overperforming.
What are your thoughts on this short ode to Stempniak. How long will we keep him? How much will the market deem him worth? Is his production likely to continue? Leave thoughts below and thanks for reading.