Last year during Free Agent Frenzy, the New Jersey Devils made very few moves. Apart from a couple re-signings, the only real acquisitions made on that first day of free agency were that of Jim O’Brien and John Moore. The former was a two-way contract with the hopes that at best, Jim would be able to be a fourth line contributor for the big club. Alas, that one did not work out, but it was as much of a zero risk signing as you could ask for.
The other signing was not that much flashier, and at the time seemed to only add to the extraordinary defensive depth that the team seemed to have at that time. John Moore was joining a defensive corps that was very young and had what everyone believed to be considerable depth. Andy Greene and Adam Larsson were of course the cream of the crop, but people were still high on Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill, Damon Severson was seen by many as having the ability to become the next Larsson (and people still do), and the Devils also had just signed Vojtech Mozik who was seen as a potential quality fit in the bottom pairing. This is not even to mention Steven Santini still improving in Boston College, Joshua Jacobs going to play a year with Sarnia, and everyone else down in the system, like Reece Scarlett and Raman Hrabarenka. Heck, there was still Seth Helgeson, who had played 22 games with the big club the year prior, and while he was not all that great, he was not downright awful either, and there was potential for growth. It very much seemed that bringing in John Moore was just adding to the embarrassment of riches that was the young Devils defense.
Fast forward a year, however, and you have to be extremely thankful that Ray Shero had the considerable forethought to add Moore. A lot has happened with this defensive group as compared to a year ago. Eric Gelinas was given minimal playing time and eventually was traded to Colorado. Jon Merrill only played 47 games himself and was seen by most as a disappointment. While there is still a chance for him to grow and develop at 24 years old, many now believe he may only top out as a bottom pairing defenseman, maybe a touch better at the best. Helgeson never made that jump in improvement that we were all hoping for. The other quality defensive signing from last year, David Schlemko, has gone to play for Peter DeBoer. And one of the two cornerstones of the defense, Adam Larsson, was traded for superstar Taylor Hall.
Who does that leave? Well, apart from the team’s stalwart captain Andy Greene and Damon Severson who now hopefully develops into the next Adam Larsson but perhaps with more offensive upside, you might say that John Moore is the next highest cog in the new Devils defensive corps. He will hopefully be knocked down a rung or two soon by Santini and perhaps Jacobs or someone else, but for now it is hard to argue that he is the third best defenseman on the team right now, and perhaps the second best behind Greene if Severson gets hurt or flat lines like Merrill has. And at only 25 years old himself, Moore is not simply just a hold-me-over until the younger defensemen develop; he could very much play a part in the future as well. A quality season this year and next year could get him a long term deal with the club that would keep him around hopefully past the rebuild stage and into the competitive postseason stage.
Now, there are not all roses with the Illinois native. He had a Corsi For of 43.78% last season at 5 on 5, placing him 6th on the team’s defense with at least 30 games played. While that number was about as good as compared to Greene and Larsson, he also played against much easier competition as compared to them, and while they hovered around a 32% zone start percentage, Moore was just over 48%, meaning he was put into easier situations. He also only scored 4 goals on the season, which means that much like the rest of the defense, he is not an offensive threat, and the dire need of the Devils’ blue line to have more of an offensive threat will not be sated because of him.
However, despite what I just said, he was still a very good defensive player for the team. He anchored the second pairing, and will probably do so again this year assuming that Severson gets the majority of the minutes alongside Greene on the top pairing. While he only had 4 goals, he did chip in 15 assists, and his 19 total points were second overall on the defense last year, behind only Damon (and Severson only had 1 goal to Moore’s 4). And although his Corsi was terrible, the entire team’s Corsi was pretty terrible, especially concerning the defense. Apart from Gelinas, whose Corsi numbers are so inflated because of the fact that he was very sheltered, only Severson and Schlemko had a Corsi For above 48% for those who played most of the season. So while he certainly did not help on the possession front, it is not like he was an outlier. The whole team was bad. And again, he is only 25 years old. He has room for growth, and should continue to get better under John Hynes’ system, and these numbers may improve this season and beyond.
In the end, while anyone who is discussing Ray Shero’s value to the Devils should automatically mention Hall and Palmieri first, they should not forget about Moore either. Considering what has happened to the defense from last year to this one, having a solid young defender like Moore is truly a benefit. He may not be flashy, he may not have the upside like a Larsson or Severson or even Santini, but he is consistent, he is available, and he does his job fairly well. Also, there is this other thought as well: while I am sure that Shero would have made the Hall for Larsson trade no matter what, I am also confident that it was a little bit easier to make for Ray knowing that he still has some decent depth at defense with Moore. Without him, after the Larsson trade the NJ defense would look mighty shallow.
What are your thoughts when looking at the John Moore signing a year later? Do you think it was as underrated and successful as I do, or do you think it is largely undiscussed for good reason? Do you look at Moore as a potential solid defenseman for this team for years to come, or do you think that he will end up just being a fill-in during the rebuilding process? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.