The Devils had two main problems this past season— offense, and defense.
Yes, I realize that’s basically just hockey.
We could argue about which aspect was worse, and as Devils fans we have done pretty much nothing but that for the past year, OR we could pit them against each other in a 6 on 6 lineup that actually means nothing about their ability to perform in their normal positions and go with that.
Yeah, lets do that!
All or Nothing-
The Devils All-Offensive Roster:
At Left Wing: Nikita Gusev
With 13 goals and 31 assists, Gusev was an offensive force on a team that didn’t generate a whole lot this season. He was in the top five on the team in most offensive categories including first on the team in assists, most frequently setting up Blake Coleman and Jesper Bratt (of his two main lines). He also finished the season with a nearly 55% CF, third on the team behind Palmieri and Hall.
At Center: Nico Hischier
This one’s the most obvious choice on this list. He’s not the most dynamic offensive player, but Hischier is without a doubt our best overall center and two-way player on the team. He finished this season with a respectable 14 goals and 22 assists, generated 74 iHDCF, and had a 52.45CF% despite being pitted against other teams top lines. He’s also one of the best faceoff men on the team just behind Zajac at 51.73% success.
At Right Wing: Jack Hughes
This might be a more controversial option but we’re aiming for pure offense here, not perfection. Hughes is dynamic, talented, and seems to perform at his best when paired with other talented playmakers like Hischier and a willing trigger like Gusev. His 21 points aren’t the most impressive but from a purely offensive talent standpoint, rookie Hughes is still our guy.
At Left D: Pavel Zacha
This might be second most obvious after Hischier’s pick. Zacha’s defensive zone play is widely considered his best feature especially on the penalty kill. His 35 takeaways is tied with Damon Severson. He’s not the most consistent offensive player, but when he’s good he’s great and would be a great player to get hot once in a while, but Zacha’s superhuman ability to refuse to give up goals would translate best of the Devils forwards to a defensive role.
At Right D: Kyle Palmieri
For anyone who was disagreed with Hughes being on the offensive line and not Palmieri— would you want Palmieri on the top line and Hughes on defense? Yeah, no, I do not. Palmieri is a responsible two-way player— he’s next in line after Zacha and Severson with 29 takeaways. Palmieri would serve as a veteran presence on this lineup of young Devils forwards.
In Goal: Miles Wood
Of the remaining forwards on the current Devils roster, Wood has blocked a fair amount of shots, and also happens to be the largest player who would take up most of the net. Plus if there was a race to a loose puck, Wood would absolutely get there first. And possibly take out the oncoming player but since in this case it wouldn’t be the opposing team’s goalie, that’s fine!
The Devils All-Defensive Roster:
At Left Wing: Ty Smith
Smith is a puck mover, an offensive defenseman with a keen eye for the ice. He’s broken league offensive records, including those previously set for himself. He crosses that blue line and becomes a monster. Perfect for this role as a forward on a defensive team.
At Center: Will Butcher
Rookie defender scoring title. Disturbingly high GAR and goal differential stats, even comparable to the top defensemen in the league. He’s a great puck mover, finishing the season with 17 assists— only 6 points behind Damon Severson with the most for a defenseman, and Butcher missed 13 games. Obviously he’d be a reliable two-way player as well. Unfortunately I can’t tell how he’d be at faceoffs, but that’s be interesting to see.
At Right Wing: PK Subban
We all know and just try not to publicly acknowledge that Norris Trophies aren’t actually given to the best defenseman 99% of the time, they’re given to the most best offensive defenseman. PK Subban, who has been an excellent defenseman most of his career, was no exception when he won the Norris Trophy after a 10 goal, 43 assist season back in 2013. Of course he hasn’t been quite as impressive for New Jersey but forgetting this past 18 point season on a forgettably-performing team, the previous few seasons with Nashville were not unimpressive: 31 points in 18-19, 59 points in 17-18, and 40 points in 16-17. Subban is an excellent offensive player and would do well in this hypothetical position.
At Left D: Dmitry Kulikov
Our newest addition to the team is pretty much the opposite of Subban: he is absolutely NOT an offensive powerhouse. Last season he had 10 points. Basically, think of him as Andy Greene. He is a reliable defenseman and will provide a solid, experienced hand on the blueline to combat an offensive threats—we just won’t expect him to be one himself. On a defense-based team, I’m okay with a strong defensive hand.
At Left D: Damon Severson
Don’t think I forgot about our number one defenseman! And yes I absolutely just said that to start a debate in the comments. With 8 goals and 23 assists this season, Severson is no offensive slack and can contribute a cool hand in the offensive zone, but its his defensive prowess that’s really be important in this situation. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, so how about a gif that reminds y’all that he does this:
In Goal: Kevin Bahl
What’s better than a defenseman in net? A hulking 6’7” defenseman that takes up the entire net and then some, and could also toss you out of the crease with a wayward pinky? Alright I’m exaggerating a bit but Kevin Bahl knows how to block shots and has more than enough size to get in the way of them.
My Opinion that Nobody Asked for:
Defensive players play offense more than offensive players play defense. Additionally, I think Bahl would be a better goalie than Wood. I may or may not be slightly biased as a defenseman myself, but my vote is for the defensive team in this matchup.
Your Take: Who would win in this battle of the positions?
Who Would Win: Offense or Defense?
This poll is closed
Defend your vote, discuss who you would’ve picked for each position, and leave your general thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading!