First Kyle Palmieri, then Marcus Johansson (again) and now Taylor Hall; injuries are starting to plague the New Jersey Devils to the point where even after inserting players who were previously healthy scratches, they’re still short a forward. To have enough eligible players (without playing 11 forwards and 7 defensemen) the team recalled forward Nick Lappin from Binghamton of the AHL.
After seeing the Lappin Experiment for half of last season, it’s confusing as to why New Jersey would have him be the one to slot in for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. Lappin fills more of a Bottom 6 role, and the Devils are currently short an entire line of Top 6 talent; wouldn’t it make sense to call up someone with a higher ceiling? If only the Devils had someone, who could fit that bill...oh wait, that’s right, they do; his name is John Quenneville.
Maybe the fact that Lappin gets the nod is due to the team knowing that it will only be a short stint; Hall should be back relatively soon from his contusion, and Palmieri is practicing as well. Additionally, Marcus Johansson probably won’t be out very long either, and the move to place him on injured reserve was probably just to gain a roster spot without having to deactivate Hall.
Still, if the Devils are trying to win as many games as possible (as they are currently right in the thick of the Metropolitan playoff race), then it should not matter how many games the player is going to play. You want the best man for the job, and whil both have limited sample sizes at the NHL level, Quenneville has already proven he can perform at least at the same level as Lappin, and he has done so in fewer games.
So far in his NHL career, Lappin has managed a meager 7 points in 43 NHL appearances (roughly .16 points per game) and this was spread over half of one season, not just few game call ups here and there. Meanwhile in his short stint last season, Quenneville scored more than half of Lappin’s career NHL points (4) in only 12 games (.3 ppg pace) while also being a more definitive piece for the future. The Devils should be making the call to bring up the player who was drafted to be part of the team’s future, and has performed better in the NHL.
While neither player had a great Corsi (or SAT) last season (Lappin was 47.5% while JQ was 45.3%), or Fenwick (USAT) for that matter, the Fenwick wound up having them a lot closer (JQ 46.8%, Lappin 46.2%) to even with each other, even nudging Quenneville ahead by a small margin. Possession has been the bane of New Jersey’s existence this season, and unfortunately neither player will really help in this aspect. Still, this means that again Jersey should be looking at offensive results, especially with the team’s leading scorer now sidelined.
Could Quenneville’s recent return from a shoulder injury be the reason he was passed over to be the fill in? It’s possible, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. He has been healthy enough to participate in recent AHL games, and while the NHL game can be tougher, if someone is healthy enough to play, then they’re healthy enough to play, no matter what league it is.
From all accounts Nick Lappin is a great team guy, and the Devils are fortunate to have him in the organization should they need a body to replace an injury in the Bottom 6. All of the current injuries, however, are to Top 6 players as noted earlier; in this case, the Devils should be looking for someone who can help to make an impact on the ice. John Quenneville has the ability to be that player; Nick Lappin? Not so much. Again, maybe the call up is just a game or two, but it’s still a smarter strategy to call up the best player possible.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on the call up going into tonight’s game: do you think JQ should have been given the promotion over Lappin? Are you happy to see Lappin get the nod? How much stock do you put in their previous NHL stats? Do you think there is anyone else the team could have called up? Let us know in the comments below; thanks as always for reading!