Earlier today, the New Jersey Devils surprised many when they announced that they recalled goaltender Louis Domingue from Binghamton. About an hour later, the team announced that they were placing goaltender Cory Schneider on waivers with the intention to assign him to Binghamton. It was not even halfway through Monday and the Devils made a substantial change in net.
The Apparent End of the Schneider Era
This seems like an end of an era mostly because it very well could be. Schneider was brought to the organization in June 2013 in a draft deal trade that sent ninth overall to Vancouver for Schneider. Schneider would be the one to follow the footsteps of the legendary Martin Brodeur. Schneider played excellently - and should have played much more in his first two seasons - until the 2016-17 season or so. Since then, his performances declined drastically. Not only was he not able to play to the level of his former self, but he lost his starter’s job twice. The difference between Schneider as a Devil until 2016 and Schneider as a Devil after 2016 was night and day. As per this tweet by Devils fan Tyler Kelley (GSAA is Goals Saved Above Average; higher is better):
From 2011-2016 Cory Schneider led the league in GSAA at 76.46. https://t.co/Zlx6NnzYym— Tyler Kelley (@DocKelley41) November 18, 2019
Between injuries, changes in the roster, and receiving and failing to take advantage of opportunities, the Devils have decided it would be better for Schneider to go to the AHL than to have him continue to sit behind Mackenzie Blackwood, who has taken the #1 spot in New Jersey and has ran with it. In retrospect, this may have been in the works since the team traded for Domingue. Nonetheless, it is happening now.
The best summation of Schneider’s time in New Jersey comes from acasser, who had this comment in Monday’s Devils in the Details post - the open post about the Devils and hockey - in response to whether the Devils now lost that 2013 draft day trade:
Vancouver didn’t win that trade. The Devils received an elite goaltender in return for a single draft pick, and one that if many Devils fans had their way would have resulting in the picking of a player who was a complete bust at the NHL level. Just because Vancouver lucked out and the guy they selected with that pick panned out doesn’t make it a better trade from their point of view; after all, the Canucks were panned far and wide for the pick they did make even if 20/20 hindsight vindicates them.
It’s not Cory Schneider’s fault that he arrived on a team that was hollowed out by age and free agency defections. And a roster constructed for a style of play that was disappearing from the NHL.
It’s not Cory Schneider’s fault that Pete DeBoer completely eff’ed up the goaltending situation for 2013-2014. And in spite of going from one goaltending timeshare fiasco in Vancouver to another goaltending timeshare fiasco in Newark, he wanted to stay and he signed a contract to do exactly that.
And when the team did fall to pieces around him? He was the guy who made this team at least partially watchable for a healthy period of time and provided a foundation for things to be filled in around. He was the face of the franchise for a while, and a guy who wanted to be here when a lot of others didn’t share that desire.
It’s not Cory Schneider’s fault that he was asked to shoulder a workload he clearly wasn’t capable of holding up under for the long haul. I spent many a year arguing that John Hynes was mis-managing the two goaltenders he had; yes, I understand that he often didn’t have two viable goaltenders to work with, but a rebuilding/tanking team shouldn’t be running their best players into the ground for questionable and marginal gains in the first place.
It’s not the ending that most of us would have wanted. But that’s the fickle nature of professional sports, that the ending can be sudden and strike without warning…. although the latter probably doesn’t apply here.
Cory Schneider is the poster child for ”not in the right place, nor at the right time”. But we still should remember and cherish the good times that he did give us and hope that Mackenzie Blackwood develops into a healthy fraction of Schneider at his peak. Because Peak Cory Schneider put up a run that compares well with any other goaltender in the history of the National Hockey League for several seasons, including Peak Martin Brodeur. It just wasn’t the right time for the Devils to be blessed with such a guy.
What Does This Mean for the Devils?
Mackenzie Blackwood is now the primary netminder in New Jersey. The Devils are going all in on him being the top man in the crease. That Blackwood has started in all but one game in November so far was a clear indication of that. Waiving Schneider makes it more obvious. Is it the right call? Despite some really rough showings earlier in the season, the past two weeks have featured some incredible performances from the young goalie. The hope is that his games against Winnipeg, Vancouver, Pittsburgh, and Montreal represent the kind of goaltender that he is and/or will become. It is a big bet to place on any goalie, much less a 22-year old whose time in the AHL has been questionable even though he looked rather good in his 23 games last season. If the Devils are right about Blackwood, then today’s momentous decision will turn out to be a good one. I, for one, hope they are not wrong.
As an aside, the call up made me worry whether Blackwood was hurt. I was thankful to learn that he was not. I have confidence in Blackwood. I pretty much have to have it now.
With Schneider on waivers, the Devils will find out tomorrow at noon whether he will be claimed. Between his $6 million cap hit and salary and his 85.2% total save percentage, I would be surprised if any team claims him. Is a trade possible? Even if Schneider is willing to waive his no trade clause, again, who is going to want to take on a player with a salary that high for results that low? What is the cost of Schneider in the AHL? It is a lot less than a potential buyout, which would have to wait until after this season is done anyway. Per Tom Gulitti on Twitter, Schneider in the AHL means his cap hit for New Jersey would be reduced by $1.075 million. The Devils were not hurting for cap space before waiving Schneider. This move will give them a little more space to play with.
If Schneider wants to get back to playing in the NHL, then he will have to prove himself in the AHL that he can be healthy and can be a viable NHL goaltender again. After then, then there could be a path for him to return to the NHL either with New Jersey or someone else, if they are willing to take on his contract and New Jersey will retain some salary. As much as the reaction on Twitter from media and players is acting as if he is truly done, I would not assume that at the moment. An injury to Blackwood or Domingue likely means Schneider will return. Should Blackwood falter or Domingue play poorly as Schneider shines with Binghamton, we could see Schneider return in that case too. So it truly over? Possibly not.
Let’s Learn More About Louis Domingue
Back on November 2, 2019, it was announced during the Devils’ game against Carolina that the New Jersey acquired Domingue for a conditional seventh round draft pick in 2021. According to CapFriendly, the conditions for that seventh round pick are as follows:
- Domingue plays in at least seven regular season games in 2019-20 for New Jersey
- Domingue plays in at least one playoff game in 2019-20 for New Jersey
- Domingue is traded before the 2020 NHL Draft
The Devils do have plenty of back-to-backs and congested weeks coming up in their schedule. Provided that he does well and the coaches do not want to run Blackwood into the ground, I think it is likely that Domingue will make at least seven appearances this season. The more important question is whether Domingue is any good. To help with that, here are his goaltending stats from Natural Stat Trick from his NHL debut in 2014-15 to this season:
These numbers are OK at best and even that may be considered to be a stretch. Domingue never really was a starter in the NHL although he did split time with Mike Smith for a couple of seasons with Arizona. Domingue’s best season was in 2015-16 as it was the only season where he had a positive Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) in both 5-on-5 and all situations. Domingue’s 12-game run with Tampa Bay in 2017-18 was promising although last season showed that he was not all that good at stopping the puck. Yes, Domingue was the winning goalie of record for 21 of his 26 appearances but he was also on one of the most offensively frightening teams in recent NHL history in 2018-19. He did not need to be good, just not bad enough to cost the team. And he was not.
If you need more evidence that wins are not a good way to evaluate any goalie, then consider that Tampa Bay moved on from Domingue very quickly in 2019-20. They signed Curtis McElhinney, they waived Domingue, and they re-assigned Domingue to Syracuse when he cleared. Domingue was poor in his four games in the AHL and then he was traded for a seventh rounder in two years with conditions. How many games he won in 2018-19 clearly did not matter to the decision makers in Tampa Bay.
Domingue did not do well in four games with Syracuse (86.3 Sv% - yuck), but he has done much better in four games with Binghamton (91.8% - yay). It is likely that those four games gave the Devils management enough confidence to make him a backup to Blackwood. That is ultimately Domingue’s ceiling in the NHL. The 27-year old goalie has only been a #1A goalie at best for one season, and he has primarily been a back up in all of the others. His save percentages and GSAA values may be better than Schneider’s, but they are not really good values on their own. He is the kind of goalie who is available on the free agency market every year and is only signed for depth and/or backup purposes. If you are expecting him to be a league average or better goalie for extended amount of time, then you are very hopeful.
At best, he will spell Blackwood here and there and we will have to hope he does well enough on his given night and the team helps him out as much as possible in their own zone (cleaning up rebounds, picking up open men, etc.) and in the opposition’s zone (score goals). If he plays out of his mind for a couple nights, then great - hope the team wins on those efforts. Louis Domingue will be the team’s #2 goalie for the time being and we may only see him in the second half of back-to-backs and when Blackwood needs a rest. We could see him make his New Jersey debut on Saturday, but that remains to be seen. Should Domingue falter like he did with Arizona in 2017-18 or put up numbers like he did in 2016-17 and 2018-19 without the victories, then do not be so shocked if Schneider returns just to replace Domingue or the Devils make another move. I can understand and respect the Devils sending down Schneider and bringing up Domingue up because Schneider’s performances have been that bad. But little in Domingue’s career suggests he is anything more than a backup goalie in the NHL.
Clearly, many Devils have given their take about today’s news. I cannot imagine they will stop given that Schneider has been a lightning rod of criticism, especially on this site. Some are pleased. Some are not so pleased. I would ask everyone to be respectful to each other. That stated, what is your reaction to today’s news? Will we see Schneider back in New Jersey this season? Will we see him back before the end of 2019? What do you expect out of Domingue? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Schneider, Domingue, and Blackwood in the comments. Thank you for reading.