While I have been a fan of most of New Jersey Devils Coach John Hynes' decision making this season, I have to speak up this week about one decision that I'm not happy about, and that is his decision to scratch Damon Severson as frequently as he has. While I understand Severson has not put too many pucks in nets this season (just 1 goal in 58 games), he still has a respectable 15 points, good enough to tie him for second among defensemen on the team with Adam Larsson, trailing only David Schlemko.
Tom Gulitti broke the news over at Fire and Ice that new Devils Devante Smith-Pelly and David Warsofsky will get into the lineup tonight at the expense of Bobby Farnham (really, not Tuomo Ruutu?) and Sevs tonight. While I'm not going to complain a lot about one of the many bottom 6 forwards on this team sitting, I will complain about a decision that not only sits one of our better defenders, but also one of only 2 right-handed point shots being up in the press box.
Isn't There Anyone More Deserving of This Ire?
In my opinion, there are certainly candidates who should be sitting before Severson this season; without even going into advanced stats yet, does David Schlemko get a free pass for his neatly wrapped present to Nathan Gerbe on Tuesday? Schlemko would not be on this list if not for that horrifying gaffe (he even had John Moore as a pass option across the blue line) but I thought his name should at least be mentioned as we've seen defenders sit for similar mistakes.
Speaking of Moore, when does he gets hit with a healthy scratch this season? He has missed some time to injury, but I believe he has yet to be out of the lineup when available. With some of his decisions in the last few games, I'm starting to wonder if Hynes and Ray Shero are trying to subtly improve the team's draft position by playing Moore every night. I think he's been a good signing, and he should be playing with regularity, but to sit Severson ahead of Moore with all of the mistakes he's made this season just sets a bad example to me.
Additionally, Jon Merrill hasn't looked so hot this season either; many fans attributed some of problems last season to being anchored with Marek Zidlicky, but Merrill has had his fair share of horror show plays this season. While Merrill has been scratched on occasion, I honestly don't think he's been a better defender than Damon on a consistent basis. With Schlemko's strong play on the left, I think the real contest for the healthy scratch comes down to Warsofsky (who gets his chance to show his stuff tonight), Merrill and Moore.
Supporting the Argument
I know advanced stats are not the be all, end all around here (or anywhere) and rightfully so as there are problems with them, however there are some facts worth pointing out. If we take a look at some Devils advanced stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis, we see that Damon Severson is the third highest Devil in terms of ice time this season, meaning that we're not looking at a small sample size compared to the likes of Moore, Merrill, and even Schlemko.
Damon is currently first out of all defensemen who have played regularly this season in individual Corsi, individual Fenwick and tied with John Moore for individual Corsi per 60 minutes. He is also second (behind Schlemko) for individual Fenwick per 60 minutes. Who's in the bottom 2 for all of those statistics? You guessed it, the guy that Severson is playing with, Jon Merrill; the two have not been together all season either, so the argument can't be made that Severson has been anchoring down Merrill; if Merrill had been playing well, he'd be middle of the road, and Sevs would be at the bottom.
The Eye Test
What about watching the games? In all honesty, I've had some moments of frustration watching Severson this season, but he hasn't made me want to throw a remote through my television the way the Jo(h)ns have this season. I'm simply having trouble comprehending why one of the guys who is playing fairly well night in and night out is being scratched in favor of an advanced stats dumpster fire in Merrill who is making more mistakes to the naked eye as well. I'd also be a fan of Moore sitting a game or two to enable him to work some of his boneheaded mistakes out of his system!
A Big Deal Out of Nothing
Now I'd like to hear your opinion about the lineup decisions of our defense; do you think that I'm making a big deal out of nothing? Do you agree with Severson being the guy to sit? Am I on to something with the subtle improvement of our draft position idea? Is there any defender that you think in particular who has been underwhelming/under-performing? Leave any and all comments below and as always thank you for reading!