Today, the New Jersey Devils are visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins. It is expected by Jesper Bratt, Andreas Johnsson, and Dougie Hamilton are returning to the lineup. The latter is especially important as Hamilton has not been on the ice since January 2 since taking a puck to the face in the 4-3 overtime win in Washington. With Hamilton coming off injured reserve, the Devils needed to move someone from their active roster to make space. The team opted to demote Marian Studenic to do this. This meant he had to be placed on waivers and clear them before going to Utica.
Unfortunately, he would not clear waivers. Dallas put in a claim and Studenic is now a Dallas Star.
This is a bit disappointing. Studenic worked his way to be on the edge of the Devils’ lineup in this season after three seasons in the AHL. While he did make eight appearances last season, it was clear he was on an upward trend. In 13 games with Utica this season, he put up 10 points. He managed to get into the lineup for 17 games with New Jersey. By no means did the 23-year old winger light the world on fire with his one goal, zero assists, and 24 shots on net in those 17 games. In 5-on-5 play, Studenic had one of the worst CF% and SF% values among forwards; although his expected goals percentage was surprisingly positive. Perhaps a funciton of getting bottom-six roles and limited ice time on a bad hockey team, but still not great. Even so, one could argue he was in the zone of being possibly too good for the AHL and still figuring things out at the NHL level. The pace was there, but maybe not the off the puck play. Still, for a fifth-round draft pick, that is not a terrible set of results since most fifth round draft picks do not even see the NHL at all. Overall, though, it was not like the Devils have given away a burgeoning force at the NHL level.
However, the disappointment is that this was not the worst player on the team they could have given up on. Not at all. Mason Geertsen remains on the active roster. I cannot tell you what the Devils are thinking here.
Sure, some of the People Who Matter are already rushing to the comments (and the Gamethreads and the previews and the recaps and anywhere else) to defend the mighty Mason Geertsen. He is indeed large. He can throw hits when he can actually keep up with an opposing player. He is willing to throw down albeit not win any of said throw downs. He is potentially intimidating to normal people like you and me, although not at all to professional hockey players. He can play defense, which tells me that you see his position listed on a site like Natural Stat Trick but you have not seen him actually play the game of hockey. Which is he really bad at. He supposedly can protect Devils even though he has not done that even once this season. He makes the team “less soft,” as if the concept of team toughness is why the defense gets exposed, the goalies get lit up, the offense is inconsistent, and the power play is leaning on a relative hot streak (a warm streak?) from the first unit. You know, issues that have kept the Devils to just 17 wins out of 50 games this season.
Remember when I wrote that Studenic had one of the worst CF% and SF% values among Devils forwards in 5-on-5? The 16 games of Mason Geertsen are one of the few worse than Studenic in those stats. And unlike Studenic, his on-ice xGF% is not even close to 50%. Sure, Studenic only has one goal and 24 shots on net. That is one more goal and 18 more shots than Geertsen in almost as many games - and on a team where defensemen are encouraged to shoot a lot. Geertsen is objectively the worst skater - both positionally and the actual skill of skating - on the active roster. Yet, between Lindy Ruff and Tom Fitzgerald, they opted to keep him and risk losing Studenic. This is now the second time where management intentionally kept an objectively bad and non-value adding player and lost someone else to waivers. Sure, Scott Wedgewood is not great, but he’s probably better than Jon Gillies.
I don’t know, maybe Utica said no to Geertsen and New Jersey did not want to risk spoiling the Comets’ awesome season so far. Look, someone had to go to make room for Hamilton to return. The Devils did not pick the least valuable player in order to do that. As a result, they lost a depth forward that still has somewhat of a future. Someone who can actually keep up with the NHL pace of play, at a minimum. That is the disappointment.
I will end this with a more positive note. With Studenic now with the Stars, the Devils will have a little less competition for wingers if and when they need to call someone up. This may mean a few more appearances for Alexander Holtz, Nolan Foote, and Fabian Zetterlund among others. Zetterlund would be my choice because he’s coming out of contract this season and I’d rather see him on a third/fourth line than Holtz be subjected to the depth of this 17-win-in-50 games roster. We’ll see when he gets his shot.
Will the Devils miss Studenic terribly? I do not think so. Did this have to happen? Absolutely not. This was avoidable. Do I wish the best for Studenic in Dallas? Yes, except on April 9. Thank you for reading.