Through a small sample size of 6 games in 2016-17, New Jersey Devils winger Michael Cammalleri could have his play described as “pedestrian” at best and “flat-out bad” at his worst right now. Cam has just not seemed like his usual self no matter who he has been playing with. He started the season with Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri, wound up with Adam Henrique for a bit, and now finds himself back with Zajac though PA Parenteau is now on their right.
Cammalleri has been an anchor on his teammates in quite a few ways; he’s not doing the main thing which he is paid to do, which is score goals. He’s barely put up any points (2 assists through 6 games) even with his linemates not producing too badly. He has had a few golden chances as well, but the puck just hasn’t collided with the back of the net yet.
So what can the Devils do about this situation? They’ve already tried Cam with the two centers he has played with in previous seasons and so far the results have been unspectacular; how do the Devils wake Cammalleri up?
Option A: Put Him on the Third Line
Right now the Devils are trying to spread out their scoring, and outside of Taylor Hall, Zajac, Parenteau, Palmieri and Henrique(‘s leg), no one has managed to score a goal. Coach John Hynes continues to juggle his players around the lineup somewhat in an attempt to bolster the team’s overall scoring.
While it might not be a popular idea, Mike has played some center both before his Jersey tenure and during; his faceoff abilities were at least comparable to Adam Henrique’s, so why not flip where the two are? In the very least it would not hurt to see if the movement can get either or both scoring with some regularity. Rico and Cam can both be streaky players, but we need to get one or both of them on a hot streak if we hope to sustain any winning streaks (including the 2 game one that we’re on) this season.
Option B: Scratch Him for a Game
Okay, maybe not a popular option and maybe a bit of a shocking choice for the second option on this list; while this isn’t the Peter DeBoer era anymore, we Devils fans have seen players scratched for lesser offenses. The fact is Cammalleri isn’t playing well and at times has outright killed the team’s offensive momentum with bad passes and/or bad decisions with the puck.
While he has looked good at times, there are many shifts (especially in the last couple of games) where he has looked downright lost on the ice. Cam also isn’t the type of player who brings much to the team without scoring, so if he’s not producing, perhaps the team might feel like taking him out for a game to give someone else a shot. At the absolute least, maybe it would be the wake up call that Mike needs.
Option C: Give Him Some More Time
As I already said earlier, Cammalleri is a streaky player and it might just be a matter of getting his timing back as he hasn’t played a whole lot since this past January. Perhaps the amount of line shuffling has not helped as well, as it can be hard to develop consistency on the ice if your linemates aren’t at least somewhat consistent.
Cam is needed on this New Jersey team to provide some scoring and time is something that can be afforded a bit more easily when the season is still young. If his career so far is any indication, Cam will pick up the scoring as the hockey year rolls on; it’s more of a when matter rather than an if.
While there are a variety of options as for what can be done to help improve Mike Cammalleri’s 2016-17, one possibility that I have not touched upon yet (mainly out of fear) is that Cam has finally hit that point in his career where he is slowing down and beginning to regress. While 34 isn’t old at all, he’s not as spry as some of the players in the league, and he has never been the healthiest player; while the Devils need him to contribute in order to be a successful team, the possibility exists that he’s beginning to decline.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on ways the Devils can get Michael Cammalleri going this season; should the team swap him and Henrique at even strength? Should he simply be given more time? Should he come out of the lineup for a game? Do you think that his early season struggles could be a premature sign of regression? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading?