With the entire New Jersey Devils roster now healthy, the team currently sits with an active roster of 24 players including those who were eligible to play but watching from the press box last night. The holiday roster freeze is over, which means that Jersey will have to either place a player on injured reserve, send down a waiver exempt player, or waive a non-exempt player.
The first option is extremely unlikely, as the Devils don’t have any players on the active roster that qualify as injured. The second option, to send down an exempt player, is just as unlikely to me. The waiver-exempt Devils are Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, Jesper Bratt, Steven Santini, and Will Butcher. Considering that all of those players have been playing better than all of the personnel in the press box, it would be foolish to send down a contributing player just to keep an extra body around.
The only remaining option would be to waive one of the above mentioned “extra bodies” and attempt to send them down to Binghamton. With Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout, Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes all currently occupying press box purgatory, the only question remaining is which one is the odd player out?
While I’m not putting every stat for the season so far in this section, I figure games played, points, Corsi/Fenwick and average time on ice should play a part in this discussion. For the four players, this is what we have to work with so far this season:
Jimmy Hayes: 23 GP, 3G, 6A, Corsi 42.6%, Fenwick 43.25%, 13:01 ATOI/game
Drew Stafford: 30 GP, 5G, 3A, Corsi 46.54%, Fenwick 44.98%, 14:48 ATOI/game
Ben Lovejoy: 17 GP, 1G, 3A, Corsi 49.17%, Fenwick 48.89%, 17:04 ATOI/game
Dalton Prout: 4 GP, 0G, 0A, Corsi 52.38%, Fenwick 52.22%, 13:59 ATOI/game
The numbers speak for themselves here; Prout has been the only player with a positive Corsi and Fenwick, though Lovejoy came close as well; neither forward has been particularly good at driving play forward while on the ice, though you could argue Stafford has been a bit better due to his higher Corsi.
That said, results have to factor in as well, and Hayes has had the most success with 9 points in his 23 appearances, followed by Stafford’s 8 in 30 games. Lovejoy comes in with a respectable 4 points in 17 games for a defender while Prout is the only skater to have suited up for New Jersey and not recorded a point. While points aren’t everything, you want the players on the ice to be contributing.
The Eye Test
In terms of watching the games and seeing who is performing and who isn’t, I think it’s only fair to give Prout a pass here; he has only appeared in four games, and from my memory, he had one that was a stinker, but didn’t appear out of place in the rest. Either way, a four game sample isn’t really a fair assessment of a player, especially when the four games weren’t consecutive, but he’s still not safe due to how limited his usage has been.
Lovejoy meanwhile has become more of a numbers casualty than anything else. If you include both he and Prout, the Devils have five right-shooting defenders. Lovejoy wound up looking good in limited minutes(he was finally on the bottom pairing where he belongs at this stage of his career), but he hasn’t seen much ice since Sami Vatanen came over from Anaheim. At this point in time, Lovejoy is the guy I keep around as a spare defender in case of injuries or poor play; he’s safe.
Stafford and Hayes have both been underwhelming this season, yet Hayes hasn’t been all that bad in limited action in my opinion whereas Stafford has just flat out looked awful many times. Stafford was also being given over 1:30 ice time per games more than Hayes, appeared in 7 more contests and somehow produced 1 less point then Jimmy. I watch Drew play, and I get flashbacks to Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, Jiri Tlusty, Tuomo Ruutu and a few others who wound up seeing New Jersey as the last stop on their NHL journey. I keep Hayes for sure; Stafford isn’t safe.
So it boils down to Stafford and Prout at this point; sadly this decision would be easier if Mirco Mueller was healthy, because then you just waive them both. Binghamton could use some more scoring and at this point in time, I’ve seen more than enough of the Stafford experiment; waive Drew and hope he clears (he should) to improve Bingo. Prout gets to stay for now, but again, once Mueller is healthy, he’s the next body to be sent down.
Who do you think the Devils should choose to waive if they haven’t already chosen by the time this is published? Is it one of the four I’ve mentioned or do they choose a different player? Do they find a way to go the injured reserve or waiver-exempt player route? Leave your thoughts on this below and thanks as always for reading!