How do you solve a problem like Patrik Elias?
This is such a dense story with so many elements to it. A 40-year-old all-time Devil, beloved by fans, on a rebuilding/transitioning team with a forward glut trying to change their identity makes for a hell of a narrative. There are so many strong arguments on either side and and so I’m going to break this down into three sections. First we will look at the pro and con arguments. Then based on those arguments, we can look at a final list of the fundamental questions that Shero & Co. need to answer to make their decision. Based on those questions, I will make my assertions and my recommendation and Invite you to make your own.
Why Should We Sign Patrik Elias?
The ‘Pro’ argument for the signing, to me, breaks down to 3 elements:
- Patrik Elias is a good mentor for younger players, specifically Pavel Zacha
- Patrik Elias is one of the 12 best forwards we have the ability to put on the ice.
- Patrik Elias is Devils royalty.
Patrik Elias as a mentor
Patrik Elias is a model player for everyone to follow. I’m not just guessing this because I like him either. He is respected enough to be named to a leadership role routinely. He has been an alternate captain for the Devils 13 years. He was captain for a year. He was also a captain for the Czech National team and an alternate captain twice. Furthermore, he has registered votes for the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship in 8 separate years.
He has done all of this while also being a premier forward in the NHL. In 2001 he was 3rd in the NHL in overall scoring. Not only does he produce on the offensive side of the puck, but not long ago, I made the case for Patrik Elias as a Hall of Famer due — in no short part — to is defensive and postseason contributions — both of which are all-time.
Ignoring his status as an objective leader and role model, he has use to this specific team as a mentor for our huge crop of young forwards. Brian just finished our Top 25 Under 25 Series that included a huge portion of encouraging forward prospects. As someone who has a history of relating to countrymen such as Bobby Holik, Jaromir Jagr, and Marek Zidlicky, Elias could have a profound effect on the development of Pavel Zacha. They already wowed everyone in the final game of the season where the combined for 1 goal, 4 assists, and a +8 rating.
Patrik Elias is a Top 12 Forward
The Devils have a long list of forwards at camp. There are 33 forwards in attendance, around 18 (give or take) of whom could see legitimate NHL time. However, very few have a strong claim to being able to produce at Elias-level. Last year was marred by injury for Elias, but he still posted 8 points in 16 games. Remember that he had 3 in the last one so he had 5 in the previous 15, but regardless that puts him at a 30-40 point pace, which would have made him inarguably a top 6 forward last year.
He is aging, but how much could one more year matter? Take a look at a couple of these graphs of Corsi versus age from former SBNation contributor and current Carolina Hurricans employee Eric Tulsky and you’ll see that NHL players plummet in production from around 26 to 34, but then plateau. Many players do not drastically decrease in effectiveness after their mid-30s. There is some survivorship bias that was calculated into this graph and there is also an undiscussed “cliff” element. Peyton Manning was able to keep father time at bay by compensating mentally, but at a certain point his mind wasn’t enough and he fell of a cliff. But, it’s not unreasonable to expect a 30-40 point season if fully healthy.
Elias has been with us through 2 cups. He is by far the most tenured Devil and he is the last true holdover from the glory years. He is the Devils franchise leader in Goals, Assists and Points, PP Goals Game-Winning Goals, Shots, Hat Tricks, and Offensive Point Shares among other things. With 44 games played this year, Elias would pass Marty and Ken Daneyko for most as a Devil. And it was evident when he was the 1st star of the season finale that he is loved by all Devils fans. Elias’s agent said he “desperately” wants to play one more year with New Jersey and Elias’s supporters will absolutely lobby for him to be treated with enough respect to get it.
Why Shouldn’t We Sign Patrik Elias?
I was originally going to make a list of 3 elements for the team signing him, but reall it all boils down to one thing:
- Elias is not the future
There could be subcategories to this statement, but the true answer should not be complicated. Elias is clearly not a part of the future and that is the biggest knock against him. This is not at all to say that the ‘Con’ argument is not every bit as strong as the ‘Pro’ argument. Not being a part of a teams future is essentially why every player gets cut (aside from possibly financial nuances).
The Devils are a team in transition. We may be competent/contending this year, but that doesn’t change the fact that this team still experiences huge year-to-year turnover and has not yet established an identity. Elias is a symbol of the old Devils from which the team is attempting to move on. That might be a consideration. It might not. What is inescapably a consideration is the fact that Elias would be taking up a roster spot for one of our young budding forwards.
Giving a roster spot to someone clearly in their last year during a period of transition is problematic for two reasons. First, there are a lot of young players that we need more comprehensive scouting reports on. We need to find out if the games of guys like Miles Wood, Sergey Kalinin, John Quenneville, and Nick Lappin translate to the NHL. The other reason is that, for guys who are definitely future or present NHLers, the experience of playing other teams at the highest level is an invaluable asset. With the amount of forwards we have, its likely that a player like Zacha, DSP, Blandisi, or Boucher would be edged out of some games to make room for Patty. That’s not fair to those players, to the franchise, or to Elias who would loathe being patronized in such a manner.
What Questions Do Shero & Co. Need to Answer to Make This Decision?
Based on the issues I’ve discussed in the ‘Pro’ and ‘Con’ arguments above, I think that the decision to sign Patrik Elias will boil down to the following:
Below is a tweet from my account. Offer your opinion before reading mine below. Also feel free to leave comments below to expound upon your thoughts. I’m really curious what the community thinks about this situation.
For the All About the Jersey readers:— CJTDevil (@CJTDevil) September 27, 2016
Should the Devils re-sign Patrik Elias
The Devils should resign Elias. I think that we are playoff contenders and I think that he can help us. For a team in transition, a playoff appearance can offer incomparable value. For the young guys, the playoff experience is of immeasurable importance. For the fans, 5 consecutive seasons and 6 out of 7 seasons with no postseason is just miserable regardless of the state of the franchise. Also I love him.