The New Jersey Devils have been the definition of disappointing so far this season, but that’s not to say there haven’t been bright spots. The top line is playing well; Keith Kinkaid (and his sidekick the goalpost) has had many strong games this season. And on the blue line, Damon Severson has been having a somewhat quiet, but excellent season.
Yes, the same Damon Severson who at times has been seen as the problem child of the Devils’ defense. The departure of John Moore has been the breath of fresh air for Damon that most of us thought it would be, as he has found ways to hone his game and flourish. I think all Devils fans kind of viewed this as a sink or swim season for Damon, and so far he’s been swimming, and fairly comfortably to boot.
Just from watching the games, the eye test has been mostly kind to Severson; I’ve mentioned in prior articles about how he still has some gaffes, but hey, at least he hasn’t shot the puck into his own net! In more seriousness, he’s been more physical this year, and not just in terms of getting in opponent’s faces. In years past, he would rarely use his frame to make a body check and separate an attacking player from the puck; now he’s doing that somewhat regularly, and it’s helping the Devils to drive puck into the other direction.
Speaking of moving in the right direction, Severson has been good with puck possession; he trails only Will Butcher on the team in terms of SAT and just Butcher and Mirco Mueller in terms of USAT. Severson and Mueller also receive far more defense zone starts than Butcher, so seeing both of them above 50% shows how well they are playing this year, especially considering how down on both of them portions of the fan base were and also how “meh” (and I’m using that meh generously) the team has been up to this point.
Damon has also been the most prolific defender when it comes to offensive production so far this season; Butcher has definitely hit somewhat of a sophomore slump with only 8 points through 23 games. Severson has 14 points through the same number of games, but more impressively only 3 of his 14 have come on special teams (2 power play, 1 shorthanded), whereas the majority of Butcher’s (6 of 8) have been with the man advantage.
Now by no means is the purpose of this article me trying to compare Severson to Butcher, Mueller, or any other defenseman on the team. I’m simply trying to state that to both the eye test and the statistical test, Damon has been good, nay great this season. Is he a true #1 D? Maybe not, but he’s playing more like the Severson that first broke onto the roster, rather than the one who made chronic mistakes next to Moore. If he continues to play this way, he should be a strong staple on a (hopefully soon improving) Devils defense for a long time to come.
What are your thoughts on the season that Severson is having so far? Do you think he’s truly improved, or am I simply grasping at straws? What has stood out about his game to you be it positive or negative? Do you foresee him as being a building block of this team going forward? Leave any and all comments below and thank you, as always, for reading!