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Introducing: The New Jersey Devils Studfinder

I don’t know why I’m doing this either...

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Chicago Blackhawks v New Jersey Devils Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images

So, two things happened that prompted this article.

The first one was this:

While not entirely surprising, this is still depressing news. Devils fans generally would like to wash the stink of last season off our sweaters and move on to bigger and brighter things.

The second thing that happened is I decided to mount a TV...

My girlfriend and I just moved into our new apartment and the TV in the living room makes sense when on the stand so we didn’t need to do anything there. But, as it turns out, my girlfriend is scared of about 50% of the Movies/TV that I’d consider “good” and she gets bored by another 20-30% of them. So, assuming that I occasionally want to watch something other than Sex and the City and Love It or List It, we need a second TV.

The only other place in our apartment a TV makes sense is the bedroom, and in that room, a mount is, unfortunately, necessary. I know how to mount a TV, but there’s one really important step that is extremely annoying to me (especially given my girlfriend’s instructions not to put too many holes in the wall) — finding the stud.

I checked the baseboard for nails, measured 16” from the sides of doors, knocked to check for hollowness, but eventually, in order to make sure I’m screwing into the center of the stud, I needed to confirm my guesses with my least favorite tool in my toolbox — the studfinder.

Trying to get these damn things to work is always a chore of repetition and patience. So as I fumbled clumsily through the mapping of my apartment bedroom wall, my mind began to wander...

So what do you get when you cross a prolonged absence of hockey with a crappy tool and bored writer with a deadline? THE FIRST ANNUAL (please, no) NEW JERSEY DEVILS STUDFINDER (NJDSF) !!!!

Note: The settings for this article were pulled from the Tavool 4-in-1 Studfinder and this charming tutorial.

Left Edge: MacKenzie Blackwood

Normally, I use a studfinder as if I’m reading the wall: left-to-right. So when I hit the left edge, that means that there is a stud coming up. In other words, the screen indicates a “future stud”.

I could have gone a few different directions with this, but I wanted to choose someone who is steadily improving and is not quite a stud yet. Over the past 2 seasons, among the 82 goalies who have faced 200+ shots, Blackwood has been worth 24.2 goals more than a replacement-level goalie (21st in NHL) and is saving 0.12% more goals than expected (33rd). So, he’s clearly not elite YET. But he’s younger than every goalie on that list other than Carter Hart and Ilya Samsonov and, unlike the other possible choices for this category, the age curve is in his favor — the average peak performance for a goalie is 26.7 years old on my model.

And it’s not just blind faith. From the time Hynes was fired, Blackwood prevented more goals than any other goalie in the NHL (13.6), according to Evolving Hockey’s GSAx. He’s got draft pedigree, size, athleticism, stretches of elite play, and an age curve pointing upward. The NJDSF scans Blackwood and sees a stud in our future.

Right Edge: P.K. Subban

If you’re reading the wall left-to-right, then the right-edge shows you’ve hit the end of the stud. As a player, this means your days as a stud have come to a close.

There’s only one player on the team who was indisputably a stud at one point, and is indisputably not a stud anymore: P.K. Subban. Given last year’s results, I think it’s important to remind everyone of the scope of his greatness. This is his value in standings points per year.

He was worth about 5 standings points from 2011-2018. That made him the most valuable defender in the NHL during that time. He fell on hard times in 2019, but with 7 years as the best D-man in the NHL, and 1 as a replacement-level player, that’s absolutely a chance that you take, and Shero did. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out. And that’s putting it mildly.

P.K. Subban — the most valuable defender in the NHL from 2011-2018 — was the least valuable defender in the NHL in 2020. He tied Johnny Boychuck, being worth 10.1 goals LESS than a replacement-level player.

To be honest, I do expect a little upward regression. Someone as talented as Subban doesn’t become this bad this fast, typically. But both my aging curve, linked above, and Micah McCurdy’s show P.K.’s age, 31, as an inflection point where performance typically nosedives. Perhaps he hit it a bit early. Regardless the NJDSF scans P.K. and sees the end of a stud.

Center: Nico Hischier

When you see this marker on your stud finder, it means that this is where you want to drill. Putting up my TV, I want to hit the center of the stud to make sure that the screw catches the wood comfortably on all ends. This is the screen you see when it’s time to go all in — you’ve got yourself a stud.

To me, this is Nico Hischier. His rookie year, you could write off as benefiting from Taylor Hall. Sure enough, the next season, with Hall injured, Nico’s point rate did take a dip ever-so-slightly, but his impact on the pace of play remained in the top 2% of the league due to a supremely underrated even-strength offensive impact, and an improved defensive game.

In the tire fire that was the 2020 season, Hischier was not immune to the spiral, but was still in the top third of the league in value (and more stable metrics had him in the top quarter).

No matter what was you slice it, Nico is a stud. The NJDSF says this is the player you plant your pilot hole in and build the mount around.

Deep Scan: Will Butcher

Some walls are built a little thicker than others and that can wreak havoc on the studfinder readings. When this happens the Tavool studfinder has a “deep” setting that increases the depth of the scan up to 1.77 inches into the wall. This is what you use when you have to look a little deeper than the surface to see the stud that’s there.

There is only one reasonable choice here, to me, is Will Butcher.

Butcher is 25 which is near the peak age for a defender. And his peak is pretty peaky. It’s among the peakiest in the NHL. Since joining the league 3 years ago, this is his peer group in terms of value.

I know, I know, I can already hear the chorus of commenters that has invaded my past 3 “Will Butcher is great” articles. But the whole premise here is that this is a player that might be a stud if we just look a little closer.

His pairing with Ben Lovejoy was among the most efficient in the NHL. He never found a pairing that worked last year. There are a lot of new faces likely to join the starting 6 this season and that gives Butcher a chance to prove that not only was last year a fluke, but that he can handle increased responsibility while maintaining his efficiency.

Butcher is small, slow, and plays 18 minutes a game. He does NOT looke like a stud. So, when NJDSF prepares to scan him, it needs a deeper setting.

Metal Scan: Blake Coleman

I know, he’s not on the team anymore. But, that’s why he’s perfect for this setting. This setting is used to change the type of stud we’re searching for. A metal stud is serves the same purpose as a wood one, but you can’t drill into it. So, for the purposes of mounting a TV, the stud just won’t work out.

Blake Coleman was a STUD with the Devils. He was the NHL equivalent to a 3-and-D forward. He could score by getting in the high-danger areas with his underrated athleticism, and he was a Selke-caliber forward in terms of defensive impact, both even-strength and penalty-killing.

Blake Coleman was absolutely a stud in terms of value to the team. But, he didn’t pan out here. He was a little too old for the core of this team, and we wouldn’t have room for his next contract. To some degree, he was never able to shake this “depth forward” mystique and so, with the potential to acquire two chances at usable studs in Nolan Foote and Shakir Mukhamadullin, management decided to move on.

NJDSF scans Blake Coleman and sees a stud, but not one to build a mount on.

AC Scan: Jack Hughes

This is the last screen we’ll use. This is the setting you use if there is the potential for electrical wiring that might be interfering with the stud signal. You think you have a stud, so you go drilling, and instead you get 110 volts and a lighting afro.

Jack Hughes looked like a stud. He looked pretty much like Patrick Kane, but better. Well Kane took a year to shred up the OHL before immediately being a 70+ point player as a 19-year-old. It’s tough to compare Kane to Hughes who was 1) 18 years old, and 2) on an awful team. Yet, it’s hard to take too much out encouraging out of the rookie season Hughes produced. He was an AHL-quality player defensively and all the positive offensive impact he could have had evaporated due to his terrible shooting. Now, he may turn it around this season and become the stud we all know he can be, but if he’s not, we need to prepare a plan B. Because if we go all-in — drafting complementary players like scorer, Alex Holtz with the expectation of building around Hughes — then we risk dedicating years of the rebuild to someone not capable of carrying the load.

When we use the NJDSF on Hughes, we might want to use the AC Scan. Because it’s very possible we have a stud, but we need to protect against getting shocked.

The TV

As much grief as a give the studfinder, it was necessary. Just like the NJDSF, I need to know where to reliably anchor my TV. If it you try to hang it and it turns out you didn’t have a stud, you get a TV-sized hole in your drywall. If you do, you have the potential for at least a somewhat functional mount.

I’ll leave you with this important context to the installation. Hockey is hockey, so sometimes even if you do everything right, the bounces don’t go your way.

Cheers, all!