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Madness on Defense

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After reading a report from Amanda Stein, which included a picture of yesterday’s practice lines, I take a look at the questionable calls our staff is making for our defenders.

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Calgary Flames
Sitting Damon Severson for a second game after Tuesday’s setback is the definition of madness.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

As an initial disclaimer, I’m not an NHL coach, executive, player, or anything other than a passionate fan who has a voice through a weekly article here at All About the Jersey; those final two pieces, however, give me the ability to at least write about what I perceive as madness among our team’s coaching staff. Yes our New Jersey Devils have had a fine (and unexpected) 9-4-1 start, which ties them for 4th best record in the conference, and 6th best in the entire NHL, with 3 games in hand on Toronto and Pittsburgh who are each only a point ahead. The start has been excellent, the play on the ice for the most part exciting, and this is without an entire line’s worth of Top 6 forwards.

Being down Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson hurts, but it doesn’t excuse the madness of other lineup decisions that hurt the team even more. Amanda Stein wrote an article and tweeted out a picture of the Devils’ practice lines from yesterday:

I’ll excuse “Parcel Zacha” as auto-correct probably won that battle; what I won’t excuse has nothing to do with Amanda, and everything to do with John Hynes and probably Alain Nasreddine. Our John mentioned in his game review from the Devils’ loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday that he wasn’t a fan of Damon Severson sitting, as it made a weak defense even weaker. I completely agreed with that sentiment and it showed when Mirco Mueller and John Moore hit the ice. Steven Santini didn’t have a spectacular game either, but he was facing the toughest competition the Blues had to offer; M&M don’t have that as a reason to keep them in on a nightly basis.

Just to reiterate stat-wise as well, Severson has been the best Devils defender overall this season in terms of moving play the right way; the prior link is the same one from John’s game review, but I think it needed to be re-posted because fans need to see it. If anyone from the Devils’ organization is reading this, YOU of all people need to see it. While we have one player whose numbers look awful (Santini) quality of competition needs to be taken into account; Steve has played multiple games on the top pair with Andy Greene even with Sevs in the lineup. Mueller had one game where he saw some top pair time and correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that was rectified by the end of the game. Moore has been a staple of the team’s lineup for the past few seasons, but he has a number of instances per game where he is out of position and helping the other team.

Maybe Hynes and Nasreddine legitimately think that the team played well on Tuesday, and that Zacha was the forward who under-performed the most, resulting in his spot being taken by Palms. I agree with that decision up front (Zacha needs to get his head on straight back to preseason Pavel), but to honestly say that the defense should remain the same is insane. Out of all of our defenders against the Blues, I’d say Andy Greene played well and that’s about it. We have been doing so well this season in part because Severson, Butcher and to a lesser extent Moore are getting pucks to the net, and the forwards are cashing in on rebounds and tips. Without Sevs in the lineup, teams have an easier time shutting down the other two.

When does the staff realize that Moore is nothing more than a slightly older Butcher with arguably worse defense who puts a couple of pucks into nets here and there? When do they admit Mueller isn’t all that good, and cut their losses by attempting to send him to Binghamton? Does it take all of forwards getting healthy at the same time so that we’re forced to be unable to carry 8D? If I’m on the coaching staff, I put Severson AND Dalton freaking Prout into the lineup tonight and glue Moore and Mueller to the press box; for those who did not see Tuesday’s game, they were THAT bad and I’m tired of players like Moore getting a pass and players like Severson being scratched on a whim.

If Severson draws back in tonight, maybe my rage and inability to understand will quell, but nevertheless our coaching staff continues to make decisions that baffle the minds of the team’s fans (ourselves included) that watch the games, track stats, or both. I would think they would be a bit more sensible with their decisions in a contract year, but alas maybe that is not to be. What do you think of the roster decisions being made by this staff, particularly on the back end? Do you think Severson should be sitting for a second straight game? Who do you think needs to take a seat on the back end? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!