Even with a full week off, our New Jersey Devils are still in a strong position in the Metropolitan Division standings. The team has a game in hand or more on everyone except Carolina, and even that will be evened up by the time we return to action tomorrow night. A strong team effort has been the catalyst for the great start this season, along with strong individual efforts by players such as Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and the subject of today’s discussion, Steven Santini.
News broke before the Devils’ game last Friday against the San Jose Sharks that for the first time this season Santini would be a healthy scratch, along with Dalton Prout (who was more deserving of sitting) in favor of Ben Lovejoy and Mirco Mueller. All I could think when reading that was, “Well, here comes a loss.” At the end of the night, I was right; the Sharks won the game 3-0.
Now myself and others here have written enough about Lovejoy; the fan base in general seems to have soured pretty heavily on him. Instead, I’d rather focus on Santini and his role; Prout deserved to sit last Friday, as he played a pretty poor game on Thursday against the Ottawa Senators, and I would have even been fine if just Lovejoy came in for him. To sit Santini in favor of either Mueller or The Rev is asinine at best. I understand the idea of scratching a player, especially a young one, every so often to rest them when they’ve played a lot of heavy minutes, but to do it with one game right before a week off is just bad roster management, especially when said defender has been arguably one of your top 2 on the back end every night.
Steve may only have 2 points through his 7 appearances so far this season, but it’s his decision making and his defensive prowess that makes him worth a nightly spot on the right side. That’s not to say that he’s incapable of helping out the offense; let’s look back at his 2 assists so far this season:
Steve makes a smart play here: he gets the puck on net, Miles Wood is crashing towards the front, and he tips the puck right by the goalie to tie the game.
I like this assist even more; Santini places the puck in a position for it to bounce right in front of the Lightning net, where Brian Gibbons arrives to jam the puck home. It shows the intelligence of Santini’s choice-making in the offensive end of the ice.
Defensively, Santini has been solid like a rock; many times this season, he’s been paired with Andy Greene and assigned to play against the top lines of opposing teams. He hasn’t looked out of place either, which is the most important thing to keep in mind. While he may not be a bona fide top pairing shutdown guy (at least not yet), he’s thriving in a role that relies on him keeping opposing players from putting pucks behind either Cory Schneider or Keith Kinkaid.
With the way that Mueller has played (small sample size notwithstanding) as well as Lovejoy (large sample size), there shouldn’t be a night that Santini is given off unless he is hurt or absolutely needs it. Does he make mistakes every so often? Yes, but he’s not consistently being pinned back in his own zone the way that Mueller, Lovejoy and even John Moore at times are. Santini has been a positive force on the ice every night, even if he does make the aforementioned occasional mistake or is on the ice for the occasional goal.
Now I’d like to know how you feel about Steve Santini; do you think he should ever sit if he’s healthy? Do you ever see there being a situation where Lovejoy or Mueller for instance should be in over him? Anything that you’ve seen from Santini in particular that you like? Anything specific you dislike? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!