Ever since the Taylor Hall trade went down at the end of June, New Jersey Devils fans everywhere have been clamoring about reuniting two Windsor Spitfires alum in Hall and Adam Henrique. The two played on the same line together back in juniors which has led to the obvious speculation that they will be paired together when the Devils open the 2016-17 season. They definitely had some success together but can we be so certain that they wind up together in Jersey?
While everyone seems adamant that Hall will slot in with Rico, I’m going to have to borrow from CJ and play Devil’s Advocate here in saying that maybe Taylor Hall doesn’t play with Adam Henrique. Why would I make such a blasphemous statement? Last season plays a large part in it; when he was healthy, Michael Cammalleri was at his best when playing to the left of Rico. While Cam and Travis Zajac have had some amount of success together in the past, it wasn’t close to the pace that Mike was on last season before he went down with his seemingly inevitable injury.
But what if 2016-17 is different? What if Cam finds a way to stay healthy? The trends are certainly not working in his favor, but perhaps this season is the anomaly in his injury riddled career. Even if he does go down at some point, he’s not going to start the season on IR; Coach John Hynes might decide that he liked the dynamic that Henrique/Cammalleri brought on the ice and might even keep Devante Smith-Pelly on Henrique’s right as he did in the later stages of 2015-16.
So where does this leave Hall? If Hynes decides to keep Cam with Rico (again, big if here, but still a possibility given the chemistry they had last season) Taylor might find himself filling the left wing slot next to Zajac and Kyle Palmieri at least to start the season. With the way Zajac and Palmieri performed last year with a rotating cast on their left (and mainly players that didn’t belong on a second line such as Sergey Kalinin and Jiri Tlusty) having a constant in Taylor Hall could be what they need to give the Devils a dangerous top 6. Imagine a team where Henrique/Cam/DSP perform the same way that the first line of last year (with Lee Stempniak’s in DSP’s place) coupled with Taylor Hall playing with another threatening offensive player in Palms and a competent all around forward in Zajac. That doesn’t even begin to get into the team’s improved depth. Mike already wrote last week about how even mediocre offense would be enough to get the team back into the postseason. If Hynes chooses not to spread the lines out as I’ve spoken about before, and also wants to keep CamRique paired together, these lines could give the Devils a strong top 6 without even getting into the improved depth that New Jersey should be boasting as compared to last season’s.
Now I probably should have stated this at the start, but obviously this entire article is pure speculation on my part; however, the numbers from last season might support keeping Cam up on the top line. While he was limited in the number of games he played, 38 points in 42 games is impressive and had he kept pace and stayed healthy, would have been a 74 point pace across a full 82 games. That number would have been good enough to tie him for 12th in the league with Vladamir Tarasenko and Anze Kopitar. While Henrique finished with 50 points in 80 games last year, if Cam had stayed healthy and at the same pace, Rico may have done better as well. Again, a lot of speculation, maybes and what ifs here, but we have no insight into the mind of Coach Hynes right now (and there hasn’t been a whole lot of noise from the Devils since free agency ended) so it’s impossible to know what the plan going forward is. All I know right now is that training camp and the first preseason contests on September 26 can’t come soon enough.
Now I’d like to hear what you think about the possibility of Taylor Hall playing away from Adam Henrique; do you think it exists? Will Mike Cammalleri start next to Henrique again in 2016-17? Will the lines be completely different from what they were last year? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!