The New Jersey Devils have not had too many great things happen involving them this season; oh sure Kyle Palmieri has put up 22 goals already, Taylor Hall (when healthy) is still a point per game player and Travis Zajac seems to have found his niche as a defensive centerman who can chip in points here and there. The number of disappointments outweighs all of these positives, however there is a shining beacon of player development this season; Blake Coleman has evolved from a player that was anticipated to top out as a fourth line penalty killer to a guy who is a legit scoring threat each time he touches the ice.
Was there anyone who thought Coleman would be the second leading scorer at the All Star Break? Heck was there anyone who even thought he would be third, which could have been the case if Hall was healthy. 17 goals in 48 games isn’t bad at all and puts Blake on pace for 29 over the entire season. Sure his shooting percentage is up this season (from 8.9% to an even 12%) but it’s not gotten to an unsustainable number.
So why isn’t John Hynes using Coleman more than he does? Any Devils fan knows the power play is anemic, and while it may rank 20th in the league, it doesn’t produce as often as it could, and many times just doesn’t even set-up. Why not give a player like Coleman, who has succeeded at even strength and on the kill a shot to improve the PP? Even if the season is sunk, why not evaluate and see if a player like Blake could be an all situations player next season?
While I do appreciate the excellent combination that he and Zajac make as well, it could be worth splitting them up to see if Coleman can handle his own as the 2LW behind Taylor Hall. With the Devils not exactly in a spot to compete this season, and with Marcus Johansson an unrestricted free agent as season’s end, the Devils could test the waters of Coleman in that spot to determine if there’s a greater benefit in trading MoJo or keeping him to hopefully extend at season’s end.
Evaluation of roster aside, the case can also be made for Blake to get minutes in the Top 6 when all is back to normal. Right now, the Coleman/Zajac duo find themselves in a second line role due to the number of injuries the Devils are combating. When the walking wounded return, Hall will mostly likely reunite with Palmieri and Nico Hischier, while Jesper Bratt and Johansson could return to being pivoted by Pavel Zacha. The only problem here is that Coleman is outscoring all three of those “second line” players!
Maybe assigning line numbers to players is becoming a thing of the past, or maybe it should be; Coleman has been more of an impact player than anyone who was expected to be on the second line at the start of the season, and both he and Zajac have outperformed many Devils players that it was anticipated that they would not. The Devils should entrust him with additional minutes moving forward this season so as to better evaluate their personnel to have more success next season.
What are your thoughts on the season Blake Coleman has put together so far; should he be getting extended minutes within the top half of the Devils forwards? Should he be getting power play time with the diminished roster? Should he be getting power play time period? Is the line that he and Zajac play on basically already the second line due to points and deployment? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!