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An Elias Return Would Not Be Terrible

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Sooner rather than later, Ray Shero and company will need to decide what to do with pending free agents. One decision may revolve around Patrik Elias if he does not retire. While his age is a factor, I want to argue that a return would not be bad.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

After the end of the season, one in which Patrik Elias scored the final goal of the final game, and saw a standing ovation from the crowd, many have thought that he would most likely retire.  I even wrote a little off-color award for it in the AATJ Award Post.  It was a sad thought to me that Elias' last season would have him playing only 16 games and not contributing to a New Jersey Devils postseason run.

In many ways, retiring makes sense.  Elias just turned 40 last month, and very few players play productively into their 40s.  Of course we have been spoiled recently from seeing Martin Brodeur and especially Jaromir Jagr play effectively into their 40s, but most players simply do not do it and really cannot do it.  Their bodies cannot handle it.  And there is nothing wrong with that, father time catches up to everyone, and hockey is a very physical sport that takes its toll on players' bodies.

For the Devils, many might even argue that it would be better if Elias retires.  Bringing him back for another year may not necessarily be a positive.  His production has to certainly continue its decline since the cup run of 2011-2012 when he scored 78 points in 81 regular season games.  Since then, he did have the 53 points in 65 games when he made the all-star game in 2013-14, but last year he had 34 points in 69 games, and this year he was largely hurt.  Will the production continue to decline? It is a very real possibility, at 40 years old. Plus, there is no way there can be any reasonable expectation that he play more than 70 games.  He will need days off simply to rest, and that is if he stays healthy.

However, I do not want to argue today that Elias should retire.  Instead, I believe that there could be positives to gain from his coming back and playing another season in the red and black. First off, and perhaps the most obvious, is that he would be a strong locker room presence.  He has been there, he has won cups, and he knows what it takes to make a strong run to the postseason and then what to do when you get there.  He would be a fabulous mentor to the younger forwards on the team, especially guys like Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, and perhaps even Pavel Zacha should he become a NHL regular as early as next season.  They would gain invaluable knowledge from having Elias around, and that would boost their development, something that the Devils would love to have happen.

Another reason is that some of his numbers from this past season, while they may not hold considerable merit because they only encompass sixteen games played, are not all that terrible.  He did manage to produce 8 points in 16 games which is a half point per game.  That is not excellent, but if brought back on a reasonable contract, would be decent enough back end production.  And that was with only a 9.5% shooting percentage, which was one of the lowest of his career.  He is a career 12.4% shooter, so you would assume that his PPG would go up a little as well.

Also, of all the players on the team with at least 100 minutes played at 5 on 5, Elias had the second best Goals For of anyone on the team, behind only Michael Cammalleri.  Elias had a very positive 60% Goals For percentage at evens, which means that when he was out on the ice, the Devils scored 6 out of every 10 goals seen.  That's a winning percentage right there.  Only 7 guys on the team were over 50% this year, which says that most players did not see positive goal production out on the ice.  Elias did, and that is something to consider.

Furthermore, he had the fourth best 5 on 5 Corsi of anyone on the team with at least 100 minutes played.  He was just under the break-even point with a CF% of 49.8.  Only Tyler Kennedy, Jacob Josefson, and David Warsofsky had better numbers.  David was very sheltered which helped his numbers, but Patrik was not, as he had a fairly even distribution of zone starts.  So he was arguably one of the three best on the team this year in possession.

This is further seen by the fact that no forward on the team had a better Shots For percentage than Elias, and the only player with a better SF% was again Warsofsky, who was sheltered and started many shifts in the offensive zone which led to shots.  Patrik had a Shots For percentage of 50.4 this year, which is positive.  When he was out there, the Devils took more shots on net than gave up on shots.  And this is coming from the worst team in the league in terms of producing shots on net.  The Devils had less shots than anyone, yet Patty still managed to have a positive SF%.  That is a very positive thing.

Now once again, I do realize that he only played 16 games, so these numbers may be skewed by outside influences a lot more than they would be if he played a full slate.  However, they are not completely irrelevant either.  They do say that he still has something left to give this team, something more than just a locker room presence (and a strong locker room presence is a solid reason on its own).  He may be able to give this team positive shifts on a nightly basis.  He may have to have his minutes shortened for sure, and he certainly won't be the Elias he was in 2003, but he could be someone to help this team move forward.  For sure, at least for me, it would be really nice to see Elias play one more productive season and go out in a much better fashion than being hurt most of the year.  It would even be more amazing if he got to go out on a playoff team, not on a bottom feeder.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on a possible Elias return?  Do you think it would be a benefit to the Devils, or do you think it would be better off if he retired? Why do you feel the way you do?  How productive do you think he could be if he was brought back?  What should Ray Shero look to pay him, if he were to bring him back? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.