This is certainly common knowledge for anyone who has followed the New Jersey Devils this season, but this team has one of the most anemic offenses in the NHL. Heading into last night’s game against Calgary, the Devils were one of only two teams in the Eastern Conference and 4 teams overall in the NHL to have scored under 100 goals so far. And this was coming from a Devils team that had played 43 games, which means they really did not have games on hand on most teams (some teams had played 44 before last night, and only one team had played 45). And sadly, while the Devils have not scored much, they do let up more than their fair share, posting the worst differential of any team in the East at -30. The next worst, Buffalo and Detroit, each had a -19. That’s a major difference, and it is not good.
While we could bring up the defense and goaltending as issues for that atrocious -30 goal differential, we really need to discuss the offense. I know that many people, me personally, were coming into this season feeling a little more optimistic about the offense than I had in years’ past. I was not all of a sudden expecting a top-of-the-line group, but the team’s top 6 excited me, or at least several guys within it. Last year, both Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri were 30 goal scorers for New Jersey, and Michael Cammalleri may very well have been had he remained healthy. Then, of course, you had the addition of Taylor Hall who is not only a goal scorer, but an even better distributor and who could theoretically improve the goal scoring ability of those on his line. And while Travis Zajac has never been a scorer, he had the potential to be boosted by the improved players around him. Plus, you never knew if someone like Pavel Zacha, Beau Bennett, or another player would break out for some goals. It’s always possible.
Fast forward, however, and where are these guys? The answer? For the majority, goal droughts have played major roles in their decreased scoring capabilities this season, and those droughts have almost certainly cost the Devils in terms of being able to possibly win games that were lost. Let’s just take a quick look at some of the droughts for this offense, especially from the guys who have the potential to really put up points. For each guy listed, I will list their biggest drought, although I will be a little loose with the terminology. For example, if they have no goals in 4 games, but only 1 goal in 9 games, I will list the latter. If they have a second drought I feel is relevant, I will also list that.
Taylor Hall: 12/9 through 1/12 – 15 games – 1 goal scored
10/28 through 12/1 – 9 games – 0 goals scored
Adam Henrique: 11/3 through 12/1 – 15 games – 2 goals scored
12/29 through 1-13 – 9 games – 1 goal scored
Michael Cammalleri: 10/13 through 11/5 – 10 games – 0 goals scored
12/6 through 1/13 – 20 games – 1 goals scored
Kyle Palmieri: 10/22 through 12/20 – 26 games – 2 goals scored
Travis Zajac: 11/5 through 11/29 – 13 games – 1 goal scored
12/3 through 1/9 – 18 games – 0 goals scored
So, there are your top 6 locks for this season. Some of those droughts are pretty eye-popping. Taylor Hall went 9 straight games without a goal, although his injury was in the middle of that drought, but nonetheless that is not an insignificant number of games. Then, at a later date, he had another 15 games with only 1 goal scored. At that pace over a season, 1 goal per 15 games, Hall would end up with around 5 or 6 goals. Henrique was harder to find droughts for. He has scored a random goal here and there throughout the season, preventing any really noticeable droughts, but still 2 goals over 15 games and 1 goal over 9 games are not great.
The other 3 listed, however, arguably have it worse than those two. Cammalleri went 10 games without scoring a goal early in the year, but more recently, had only 1 goal over 20 games. This coming from a guy that was brought here to light the lamp. I could have broken up Palmieri’s one major drought into smaller ones to remove the goals, but I felt it better to just show the entire thing. Over 26 games he scored a measly 2 goals. That averages out to 6 goals a season. Again, this coming from a 30 goal scorer last year. And finally, while Zajac is not a prolific scorer, he is a regular on the top 6 and does chip in here and there. But he also had an 18 games scoreless drought, and another 13 game span with only 1 goal. Those hurt.
I could easily highlight others too. No one in the bottom 6 really scores in any form of regularity with the exception of PA Parenteau, but I would say that he really has become the 6th person in the top 6 along with those 5 listed above. But even Parenteau had a 14 game goalless drought between 11/11 and 12/8, so even he has not been immune to the goal drought this year. After him though, scoring is just hard to come by. The next highest scoring forward on the team after the 6 listed is Miles Wood with 5 goals. Every other forward has less than 3, which in and of itself is pretty embarrassing from the bottom 6. Absolutely no scoring.
So while I could have theoretically done an article on how the bottom 6 is killing this team in terms of offensive production, I think the goal droughts are not something to ignore either. The Devils came into the season with a notion that a large majority of their offense would be coming from the top 6. The bottom 6, while containing some quality guys, never really contained what seemed to be goal scoring dynamos. Reid Boucher never panned out, Pavel Zacha is still adjusting to the game at the NHL level, Joseph Blandisi is still in the AHL, Devante Smith-Pelly scores more at the rate he did in Montreal instead of the streak he had when he first came to Newark, Beau Bennett is a decent contributor but not a scorer, etc. It’s the top 6 where the goals needed to come from. And while those guys have scored, to the tune of 9 or 10 goals each except for Parenteau with 12, that is not nearly good enough to generate a winning formula for this team. For the Devils to have remained competitors this far into the season, they needed consistent, high quality goal scoring production from the top 6. But when Parenteau is the leading goal scorer over the likes of Hall, Cammalleri, Henrique and Palmieri, you know that did not happen. Goal droughts have been killers, and may continue to bring this team down until April.
What are your thoughts about the goal droughts we have seen from the top 6 this season? Do you feel that they have had a major impact on the overall successes and failures of this team? Are you more disappointed in the top 6 for not producing at levels they should, or in the bottom 6 for not scoring at all? Is offense still the major bane of this team? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.