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Schneider Will Be a Liability to the Devils Sooner or Later

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Cory had a rough year last year. Whether or not he returns to form, his age and contract likely mean he will be a liability before long.

Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils
Cory No!!!!!!
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Two days ago, as part of a 3-day Henrique-a-thon, John explained how Adam will soon be expendable. As depressing as it might be to go through this exercise, Devils management will need to make some difficult decisions on who to hold on to in this process. And since the rebuild is taking a little longer than we may have projected, guys who we have been considering our “core” are likely not all going to stay with the team through the entire rebuild.

Henrique is one possibility. I’ve seen some commenters on this blog and elsewhere say that Hall is going to need to get traded eventually. Some people have suggested that even some of our better defenders might not be safe. To me, we are quickly approaching the time where we have to evaluate Cory Schneider’s future with the Devils. I believe he will become a hindrance to the Devils sooner or later — and I’m betting on sooner — for 3 major reasons.

  1. Schneider’s 2016-17 Performance hurt the Devils
  2. Schneider is on the downside of his career
  3. Schneider’s contract is looooooong.

2016-17 Performance

Cory Schneider was below league average last year, and he was the second best goalie on the team. I’m not saying this to be provocative, I honestly think you need to do some impressive logical acrobatics to arrive in a place where you can say he outperformed Keith Kinkaid last season. Lets start with the basic Situational and Danger Zone breakdown. Data is courtesy of FirstLineStats. This is just a sampling, but most ways that you could massage the filters end up with a similar story.

Schneider is lower than Kinkaid in save percentage, adjusted save percentage, low-danger save percentage, and mid-danger save percentage in every one of these situations. He is better than Kinkaid only in the lowest-sample, high-danger shots. In fact, the only filter I found that thoroughly favored Schneider was to include the 1st period only. Schneider seemed to do very well early in games, but from the moment the 2nd period started on, he was inferior to Keith Kinkaid. The Adj. Sv% from FirstLineStats is just one source though. Well, if you look at GSAA as well, you’ll find that Kinkaid finished 23rd in the NHL with 2.33 goals saved above average. Schneider, on the other hand, finished 51st out of 60 qualified netminders with -8.87 GSAA — indicating that he actually cost us almost 9 goals in comparison to a league average goalie. GAR-creator, DTMAboutHeart also has an expected goals stat that applies to goalies. In that statistic, Schneider comes in at 60th in the NHL out of 95 qualified goalies with a -1.72 xGS (expected goals saved). Kinkaid was 22nd with 3.44 xGS. So to sum up: Schneider is worse in adjusted save percentage in every situation except for the first period, he’s worse in GSAA, and he’s worse in xGS. It took me some time to admit it. I even voted Schneider best goalie in our awards post. But I was wrong — Keith Kinkaid was the best goalie last year. Schneider hurt us.

Schneider Is In Decline

This one is more than just 2016-17 stats. He has seen his Sv% and, as a consequence his GSAA and GA%- regress in 4 of the past 5 years. But, that’s not the best evidence for his decline. The best evidence for his decline is one number — 31. Schneider is 31 years old and will be turning 32 during the 2017-18 season. Now there does seem to be a little bit of a margin of error for how different aging models assess the curve of an NHL goalie. Stephen Burtch (creator of dCorsi) says that goalies peak between 23 and 26 and that by 30 they’re “filtering their way out of the NHL”. Garik16 of Hockey-Graphs gives goaltenders a few more years. But there is no model that I’ve stumbled on that would argue Schneider’s best years are ahead of him. We’ve used language to describe the 2018 seasons prospects such as “if Schneider returns to form ...” Well, let’s write this season off as a fluke. It’s still unrealistic to expect a return to 2015-16 level because he’s turning 32 instead of 30. 2016 Schneider plus 2 years may just be okay. He’s certainly not worth $6 million though. Which brings us to....

His Contract Is Loooooonnnng

Schneider is currently signed through the 2021-22 season, longer than any other Devil. He will be 36 at that point. It’s pointless to try and predict what the state of the franchise will be at that point, but let’s look just 2 years down the road. Most cautiously optimistic fans think that our rebuild will be finally getting off the ground at that point. If we’re describing a franchise that is just beginning it’s prime years of contention, how do you think we’d describe the goalie situation? Well it may be different depending on the person, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t say “definitely a 33-year-old signed for 3 years making $6 million.”

Conclusion

Schneider was really fun to root for, but his prime doesn’t line up with the franchise’s. Best case scenario, last year was a fluke and he resumes his previous age curve — maybe he even staves off father time longer than your typical NHL goalie due to the lack of tread on his tires. Worst case scenario, he hit the cliff last year and he’s done. Either way, he’s not the goalie of the future. We re-signed 28-year-old Keith Kinkaid, we qualified the 24-year-old Scott Wedgewood, and we still have the blue chip goalie prospect and favorite to start in Binghamton this year — the 20-year-old Mackenzie Blackwood. No offense to 22-year-old Ken Appleby, but just doesn’t seem like franchise goaltender material.

All of their primes are either now or coming up soon. Schneider’s is in the rearview, yet he’s the one who we have locked in for 5 more years at $6 million a pop with a No-Trade Clause. To the inevitable naysayers and people who think this is just another case of CJ or AAtJ being pessimistic -- I actually think Schneider will have a good season this year. I’d project him to be a top 15 goalie. I’m not saying he’ll be bad or that last year is a sign of things to come. I’m just saying that he’s not young, and the fall off is looming one way or the other. To me, it’s clear that between his performance and his contract, he’s doomed to be a liability soon if he’s not one already.

Your Thoughts

How do you feel about Schneider? Am I off base saying Kinkaid was better last year? Do you think Schneider will see a playoff push in a Devil sweater? A cup push? Do you think his performance is going to be a problem eventually or is already? His contract? Leave your thoughts below and thanks as always for reading!