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Devils Dearth of Depth

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The Devils are once again relying on the same sources for offense, despite offseason moves to attempt to get more sources for production. How bad is it on a league-wide scale?

Minnesota Wild v New Jersey Devils Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The Topic

I’ve been relatively outspoken this year about the issue of the Devils offense and the lack of depth scoring in particular. I wrote about the offense problem recently. This is particularly troubling for me because I wrote about it last year as well and the shallow roster came back and bit us in the butt when we got hit by injuries. So the reasons that I have decided to hone in on this issue are three-fold:

  1. Lack of offensive depth doomed us over time last season
  2. Depth was something we supposedly addressed in the offseason
  3. I thought we did so successfully and I’m very surprised it hasn’t turned out that way.

The Data

The Devils have 7 multiple goal scorers this year and they are basically exactly who you would expect. In fact, those 7 are also the Devils top 7 in points, and they are, in order: Damon Severson, Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Michael Cammalleri, PA Parenteau, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique. Some may be a bit surprised by Parenteau — I personally am not.

I looked into two separate things to examine the top-heavy appearance of those stats — top 7 skaters and top 6 forwards. My logic was that there was a clear dividing point to me here as to who the Devils top 7 point producers are right now and presumably will be. The only wildcard is that Zacha may unseat Parenteau. Other than that I’d be surprised to see any forward infiltrate the top 5 or any defender top Severson.

A couple caveats here: the tables were created by finding the top 6 of each category rather than summing the same 6 players. The coding was easiest that way, with more time I would have figured out a better way to do it. But the only player that was ever swapped out was Parenteau. Zacha, Moore, and DSP made appearances in the top 7 in various categories. Also I’m referring to “top 6” meaning the best 6 forwards as opposed to the more colloquial sence of the top 2 lines.

This table shows the percentage of all production from forwards on the team contributed by the top 6. The categories are Time on Ice, Goals, First Assists, Points (excluding secondary assists), iCorsi (Shot attempts), Expected Goals, and Scoring Chances.

From this, you can see that the Devils reliance on our top 6 is among the most severe in the league. The only statistic the Devils are not completely reliant on the top 6 for is assists. The Devils play the top 6 more than any other team, and they are more reliant on them for goals than anyone but the Hurricanes and more reliant on them for points than anyone but Toronto. The Devils are simply not getting — or even trying to get — production from the lower end of the depth chart.

But Damon Severson is our leading scorer! Surely that changes things. Well....yes and no. Getting production from a defender is good, but a lot of teams get that. If you account for an extra skater, then we still lack depth. The chart below shows results as percentage of total team production from top 7 skaters.

The time on ice took a hit because we are very even with our Defensive playing time. Andy Greene leads us with 22:21 minutes per game which is only 47th in the NHL. However, when it comes to depth, we still suffer. Yohann Auvitu has garnered praise for his creativity in particular and his play overall, but has no goals and 2 assists despite significant playing time overall and on the powerplay.

So while our utilization is more evened out throughout the roster when the blueline is included, the production is still so shallow. Our top 7 scored 90.9% of our goals — a higher number than any other team in the league.

Conclusion

The Devils seem tragically headed towards another season of seeing the same names over and over again on the scoresheet.

On the one hand it’s fun for recognition because those guys are all going to be really fun to root for and might even get mentioned on the league-wide scale occasionally. However, we saw last year that depending on a few guys is not a recipe for success because slumps and injuries can render you impotent.

Your Thoughts

Do you guys think we have solved the depth problem? Last year we had 5, this year we have maybe 6 or 7, is that enough? Who needs to take the step up to make our offense more productive? Do any of the top 6 need to improve performance as well? Leave your thoughts below and thanks for reading.