Life for the New Jersey Devils has not been easy since our All-Star goaltender Cory Schneider was injured during the 3rd period of a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on March 4th. We as writers here at AAtJ have periodically stated how important Schneider is to the team, and it showed immediately during the team's next game 2 nights later when the Pittsburgh Penguins came in and blew the team out 6-1.
Since that game, we've seen exactly what the Devils would be like with a goaltender of lesser caliber in net: mediocre. While Keith Kinkaid followed up the Pittsburgh loss with two excellent performances against the San Jose Sharks (3-0) and the Los Angeles Kings (2-1), he stunk up the joint again (1-7) against the Anaheim Ducks. Kinkaid and Yann Danis also combined for a wonderfully atrocious 6 goals allowed against the Columbus Blue Jackets; Danis was so bad in this game that he was sent back to Albany at its conclusion with Scott Wedgewood called up to replace him.
While we have yet to see what Wedgewood can truly do at the NHL level, he played well in the team's 2-1 victory over said Columbus team this past Sunday. I think we can all agree that even if Wedge brings his A game and rides a hot streak, he's still no Cory. So should the Devils chase their unrealistic playoff dream and bring back Cory, or should they give him some extra time to rest and heal up before next season? We look at both sides of the argument today.
Bring Cory Back!
The Goaltending Has Been Shaky Without Him
As i spoke about above, Keith Kinkaid and Yann Danis have not been solid options in Cory's absence. For the season, Kinkaid has a .899 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average; for a team that doesn't score a lot of goals (especially with Michael Cammalleri injured) those numbers just won't cut it. Danis not surprisingly has played even worse than Kinkaid, posting an astounding .778 sv % and a 4.71 GAA in a mere 51 minutes of action. Danis has never been a particularly effective NHL goalie (save those 12 games he played for us in 2009-10) and his play in a mere 2 appearances this season has already made calling up Wedgewood look like a good decision.
Cory has been a rock behind this average at best Devils team; a large part of their early success was because they had a chance to win each game they played thanks to #35. If the Devils hope to finish the season strong, then Schneids needs to be the man between the pipes for as many of their last 9 games as possible.
The Devils Are (Somehow) Only 6 Points Out of a Playoff Spot
Yeah, honestly your guess is as good as mine on how this is possible; just think, if we had swept the Blue Jackets this season, we would be in the final wild card spot in the East; let that one haunt your dreams. Anyways, the Philadelphia Flyers have a game in hand and are the 8th place team currently, but mathematically New Jersey is still alive.
The Devils will need to string together a bunch of wins to be able to make up lost ground, and keep their fingers crossed for a few losses from the Flyers and Detroit Red Wings as well. If they want to string those wins together, there's only one goaltender on the roster who can do that, and we all know that's Cory Schneider.
Hold Off Until 2016-17
The Playoff Push Realisticially Is All But Dead
Despite the fact that the team is only 6 points out, the fact remains that even when Cory is in and at the top of his game, the team still has a penchant for losing due to the fact that the forward corp is offensively anemic. The point gap realistically is too much to make up at this point unless the Flyers and Red Wings suddenly just fall off the face of the Earth.
While I would love for the last sentence to happen, realistically it probably won't. The team just isn't playing consistently enough to believe they can accrue enough points to capture the final playoff spot. As much as I've been rooting for our preseason prediction about missing the playoffs to be wrong, the team is just running out of gas at this point.
Cory Could Re-Injure Himself
This would probably be a worst case scenario, but while he has been pretty durable in his career so far, the fact exists that injuries happen in hockey; if you don't believe me just take a look at the roster we're icing! A re-injuring, or a setback or anything else that could happen to Cory could put next season into jeopardy. With their salary cap space, some offensive prospects in the system, and a lot of dead weight off the books, the Devils could be back into contention next year with the right moves. Cory being out of the lineup would be a huge setback.
Now I'd like to hear your thoughts on the concept of Cory Schneider playing again this year; do you think it's wise for the Devils to activate him even if he's healthy? Should they allow Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood to play out the remaining games? Leave any and all comments below and as always thanks for reading!