At the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline, the New Jersey Devils made one transaction. The Devils sent a 2019 third round pick and the rights to J.D. Dudek to Edmonton for Patrick Maroon. This deal was made right before the deadline itself. As I wrote that evening, it was another sign that the Devils would push for the playoffs as the team acquired a NHL-quality winger for future (albeit not significant) assets. The Devils have been doing just that and Maroon has been a contributor in the weeks since the trade.
From a basic numbers standpoint, it’s easy to see Maroon’s initial impact. From NHL.com, Maroon entered this past weekend’s back-to-back set with seven appearances, one goal, five assists, and seven shots on net with an average ice time of 15:06. Maroon has provided a good chunk of that on the Devils’ seemingly contentious power play: one goal, three assists, and three shots per NHL.com. According to the league’s ice time statistics, Maroon has been utilized quite a lot on the power play with over 21 minutes in man-advantage situations for an average of just over three minutes per game. Clearly, the coaches envisioned Maroon to be involved on the power play, he has been involved, and it has been generally good.
Outside of man advantage situations, Maroon has been used in the middle of the Devils forward line up at wing - as evidenced by his average of 12:05 per game at even strength. Who he has been with has not yet been settled. According to Natural Stat Trick prior to last night’s game, Maroon’s three most common forward teammates in New Jersey in 5-on-5 play have been Blake Coleman (38:13), Stefan Noesen (34:37), and Travis Zajac (23:13). Only Coleman has played with Maroon for more than half of Maroon’s 77 minutes in 5-on-5 play so far as a Devil. That is due in part of availability of players and coaches trying to find match-ups that work. Still, that has not stopped Maroon from being a positive player even without scoring or shooting.
In Maroon’s first seven games as a Devil, Natural Stat Trick lists him with a 50.39% Corsi For% and a 51.52% Shots For%. The scoring chance percentage is below 50% at 48.44%, but he isn’t below breakeven by very much. These percentages represent what is happening to the Devils in 5-on-5 play when Maroon is on the ice. Being above 50% is a good thing and Maroon has it for shooting attempts and shots. Despite having a variety of linemates with his most common one so far not being so offensively productive, that the Devils are positive speaks to Maroon being effective in the run of play.
This is a bit of a surprise in that Maroon does not really fit the direction that Ray Shero has for the New Jersey Devils. Maroon is not fast. He is one of the slowest Devils forwards on the team, right there with another signing-against-type in Brian Boyle. Since becoming general manager, Shero has worked to make the team faster and to have most of the skaters be, well, good at skating. Sure, Maroon kept up with Connor McDavid in Edmonton but McDavid’s talent level is so high, pretty much anyone can benefit on his wing. Yet, Maroon has demonstrated that his skills have meshed well with the speedy Devils roster. Here are some of the ones that have stuck out to me in the past few weeks:
Corner play. Despite the Devils’ speed (or maybe because of it), the Devils still like dumping the puck in. They also tend to build their offense out from behind the goal line. This means that players who can win board battles, particuarly in the corners, are crucial. They make it happen. Maroon is quite good at this. For example, look at Sami Vatanen’s power play goal on March 4 against Vegas.
The whole play happens because Maroon is able to get into the corner and establish inside position to keep the puck in control. After Travis Zajac gets involved, Maroon gets out, gets on the other side of Zajac, and takes the puck. As he is about to take a hit, he moves the puck out to Taylor Hall. Pass, shot, score - and a well-earned secondary assist for Maroon.
For another example, here’s Maroon winning another puck in the corner on March 10 in Nashville. This also leads to a power play goal.
Here, you can see Maroon using his stick to protect the puck from the defender. When the defender does try to jar the puck loose, Maroon is able to retain control. The pass back did hit a Predator, but it was hard enough to get to where he wanted it to go. It worked out.
Strength on the puck. That goal video also shows how well Maroon can handle the puck. When he has it, it is hard to knock him off of it. He will not blow by any defenders, but he can absolutely withstand pressure from the side or from behind when he is getting forward with the puck. Given how the Devils tend to build out from the back end of the offensive end, Maroon helps out plenty of times here. This partially explains why the forward has only seven shots in his first seven games. Maroon has not been able to take shots, he’s primarily helping the offense along.
The Simmonds Spot. For years, the Devils have utilized a 1-3-1 formation on their power play with their low man being a screen on the goalie. Usually it is somebody big; this season they’ve used Brian Boyle and Miles Wood at points in those roles. I never understood why they would not copy how Philadelphia uses Wayne Simmonds - someone to play off the crease such that he can be a distributor as well as a screener. With Maroon, they can. And they’re starting to do so. Just look at this power play goal from the team’s recent beatdown in Vegas:
This is an example of it working, but Maroon has attempted that kind of pass in other games too. His passing skills are good enough, which is necessary in addition to just being big and strong on the puck. Let’s hope the Devils utilize him more often in that role. It could give them an element to their 1-3-1 that could lead to more offense and, hopefully, more goals.
These and other aspects to Maroon’s game have helped him make an initial positive impact as a Devil. Could there be improvements? Sure. I’d like to see more shots from him, for example. Still, the trade has worked out quite well. The Devils wanted a winger who can contribute and he has done just that. For someone playing on a second or third line - I leave it to you decide which is which in a given game - helping the team put up a CF% and a SF% above 50% is always a benefit. His skillset fits in well with how the Devils have tended to play in 5-on-5 situations. He is being used as a piece of the Devils’ power play puzzle and he’s fit in well there too. And even without the shots, he’s helped create goals already. Particularly on the power play.
Of course, the hope is that Maroon continues to contribute as the Devils approach the end of the 2017-18 season. The good news is that appears to be likely as Maroon has been performing well even when he is not producing. That also helps any argument for the team to retain Maroon’s services beyond this season. We’ll see if he is able to do so, but I’m confident he will and give Ray Shero another successful trade under his belt. And with Edmonton again; thank you, Peter Chiarelli.
What do you think of Patrick Maroon’s play with the Devils so far? Are you pleased with his contributions? What about his skillset has stuck out to you; how do you see it fit in with the team so far? What would it take for you to want to see Maroon return in a Devils uniform next season? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Maroon in the comments. Thank you for reading.