Even with the issues that the New Jersey Devils have had in net for roughly the past half decade, it is not a goaltender that takes the title of “Most Polarizing Devils Player.” No, rather that distinction seems to still belong to Damon Severson. During the years that the Devils relied on him as their top right defender, his mistakes were focused on as being part of the reason for the Devils’ lack of success. Even as he has been bumped down the lineup by the acquisitions of Dougie Hamilton and now John Marino, fan opinion still remains divided.
After a bad turnover during last Thursday's game that directly led to what was the game winning goal, both fans and Coach Lindy Ruff seemed as though they had had enough. This version of Severson, henceforth referred to as Bad Damon Severson, was making the same kind of careless mistakes that have at times earned him the ire of Devils fans. Ruff would make Bad Damon Severson a healthy scratch (the first time Severson had been one in a few years) for Saturday's game against the Florida Panthers. The scratch did little to help the Devils at the time, as their losing ways continued. Severson would come back into the lineup against Carolina on Tuesday and he looked okay, but didn’t stand out as the Devils fell again.
And then last night happened when we saw the reemergence of Good Damon Severson.
Another matchup rolled around against the Florida Panthers, and within the first five minutes of the game, Ryan Graves went down with an injury. With the Devils already playing four left handed defenders due to John Marino being out via an injury from Tuesday, the minutes jumped for the remaining righties in Hamilton and Severson. Yet it was Good Damon Severson, not the Devils #1 right defender in Hamilton, that excelled and was given the lion’s share of ice time. While Hamilton still wound up clocking 24:44, that was only 1:43 more than Brendan Smith and only 29 seconds above Jonas Siegenthaler. Severson meanwhile? He finished the contest having played 28:24.
But was he effective in this ice time? Well, that depends on which stats you’re looking at. His CF% was a mere 41.79%, though I would assume some of that would be from defending the lead as Florida came on strong at the end. His expected goals for % was good at 54.95, good for second among defenders and sixth on the entire team. Also of importance? Severson did a good job coming to stick up for Nico Hischier when Matt Tkachuk decided to try and goon it up with our captain.
So will the real Damon Severson please stand up?
Well, see, that’s the thing; it seems like this IS the real Damon Severson. Both halves of what we see are what we get. Sometimes, Severson will make horrible, horrible blunders and look like he doesn’t even belong in the AHL, let alone the NHL. Then he has games such as last night’s, where he looks like a top pairing defender, taking the tough minutes against the opponent’s best players and still coming out with a positive result.
For the Devils to continue to excel this season, it’s true that we will need Good Damon Severson to show up more often than Bad Damon Severson. We need him in the lineup and contributing more than we need him watching games from the press box. With the Devils making additions to the team, yes his role has changed. Perhaps due to cap constraints, Severson winds up not being a Devil next season. Even with those factors, the Devils still need him now to be successful this season. Hopefully, the healthy scratch was a wake-up call for him, and Good Damon Severson sticks around for the majority of games the rest of this season. If the Devils wants to make the playoffs and go far in them, they need Damon to be making a positive impact as often as he can.
More games like last night...less like last Thursday. It could make for a good recipe for success.
What are your thoughts on Damon Severson’s Jekyll and Hyde-esque act? Do you think the Devils need him to make and/or do well in the playoffs? Would you rather the team jettison him at the trade deadline and try something else? Do you think Good Damon Severson or Bad Damon Severson is the more prevalent personality? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading.