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The Offense Problem is Not Going Away.

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The Devils are not scoring a lot. Why is that, and who is to blame? I look at the stats and identify the culprits.

First, a disclaimer. This was written before the Coyotes game on Tuesday. However, regardless of what happens in that game, the Devils objectively have a scoring problem.

The Devils goal totals in the first 5 games have been: 1, 2, 2, 1, 2.

The Coyotes goals allowed in the first 5 games have been: 3, 7, 5, 3, 3

So even if we break out of our never-score-more-than-2-goals rut, that is just as likely a product of the Coyotes defensive ineptitude as us finally figuring it out.

Okay, not that I’ve covered myself in the event of a Devils scoring spree let’s talk reality.

The Scoring Problem

The Devils have a shooting percentage of 5.4 which is the lowest in the league. So that is good news because it is probably due to increase as the season goes on. However, according to Corsica, the Devils 5v5 CF60 (Shot attempts per 60 Even-strength minutes) is 48.18 which is 4th from the bottom of the league. There is no guarantee that that number will improve. Furthermore, the Devils 5v5 xGF (Expected Goals for) is 6.6 which is a significant upgrade over the 4 that we actually have, but still 2nd worst in the league which is in keeping with the 5v5 SCF60 (Scoring Chances per 60) that is also 2nd worst in the league. So the Devils are not only attempting very few shots, but even less of them seem to be dangerous. So why is it that the Devils are continuously refusing to put up points? Is it something about the Jersey air that just deters scoring?

Is it the GM’s fault?

Well, I am going to rule out GM. Shero has gone out and gotten Palmieri, Hall, and Parenteau who are the only 5 Devils with multiple goals this year. In fact, those 4 players which Shero has acquired, have accounted for 7 of the 8 goals we’ve scored. In fairness, Shero has also let Jagr and Stempniak go who have combined for 5 goals and 4 assists. But Shero got Stemper in the first place, and Jagr has to die eventually.

Is it the players’ fault?

Is it the fault of any individual underperforming players? Well, as Gerard pointed out, there are some players like Ben Lovejoy, who has been a Helgeson-esque offensive black hole. In fact, if you navigate to the Corsica link earlier, you’ll see that Lovejoy has the 2nd lowest xGF60 of any player in the NHL. But for the most part, players are doing what we'd expect.

What’s left?

And so the only conclusion left is to attribute at least some, and likely most of the blame, to the staff. As John pointed out, our zone-entries have been largely long passes save for the occasional Hall-the-way zone-entry. To me, it appears that there has been no offense manufactured by the “system.” Most comes on the Powerplay (which is 20th in the NHL...not very good itself) and what doesn’t seems to be on broken plays or great individual efforts.

I wrote an article about Hynes in the offseason saying that there was one thing he needed to do this year to ensure that his employment would remain an unequivocal certitude — improve the offense. The jury is obviously still in session on this issue, but if we had evaluated that today, he’d be given an F on that aspect.

I’d like to clarify that I am not calling for Hynes’ head, and I’m not necessarily even saying he’s done a bad job — I’ll get to that in a second — just that I see no other reason that a roster with 5 20-goal-scorers, a highly-touted offensive prospect in Pavel Zacha, and more depth than we’ve ever had, would still be so offensively inept.

In Hynes and company’s defense (that’ll be funnier in a second), he has succeeded in other areas — as of this article, the Devils have given up a league-low 9 goals (10, ‘Yotes just scored), despite the loss of the top-pairing defender, Larsson. A massive chunk of that praise should go to Schneider though, who, according to point shares, has been the second most valuable player in the NHL (Shea Weber is 1st) so far. But, Hynes surely deserves credit for getting the most out of Quincey and Auvitu. Hynes also deserves credit for his flagship issue of this season — penalties. AG pointed out in the preseason that Hynes was quite the drill sergeant when it came to stick penalties. And the Devils now are a +3 penalty differential which is top 10 in the league. We finished last year a -22 which was good for 5th worst in the league. This is a massive benefit, especially for a team so dependent on the PP for scoring.

Summary

The Devils, aren’t scoring. I see no evidence that this early-season drought is a fluke worthy of more than a goal or two. Hynes is my prime culprit for the dearth of scoring. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he is doing a bad job overall (defense and penalty differentials have been pleasant surprises), I find it hard to believe that he won’t receive any criticism from the community if the Devils miss the playoffs and have the worst offense in the league again.

What do you guys think? Who’s to blame? Leave comment below.

Post-Coyotes-game Addendum:

The 5 goals were nice to see. Two big problems though.

  1. Only two of the 5 goals were even strength. One was just Hall being Hall on a play evidently designed by John Moore (according to Hall’s postgame interview)
  2. As I was live-tweeting at the end of the game, the Devils have been addressing secondary scoring with the likes of DSP and Bennett, while promoting guys like Zacha and Boucher, and getting offensive defencemen like Moore, and Auvitu. Yet, of the Devils 13 goals scored this year, exactly zero have been scored by players other than the top 6 forwards (I’m putting Parenteau in the top 6).

And as I mentioned in the intro, the Coyotes are awful, and it took a questionable late penalty for us to top the season low goals-against total for that team.