Sunday, June 21, 2009

The New Jersey Devils - Well, We Do Enter the Next Round-Robin... Or Not

Devils' Prolegomena - The Usage Of Jay Pandolfo (The Bums Will Always Lose)

Jay Pandolfo must truly consider himself clutch. Coming up on unrestricted free agency, Pandolfo managed to have a stellar season - he scored 12 goals in 54 games, a career best rate, despite a severe leg injury that kept him out for much of the season. Having nabbed a Selke Trophy nomination the previous year (one which Alan Ryder of Hockey Analytics thinks he deserved), it was about time for Jay to get paid, and get paid he did. GM Lou Lamoriello gave his checking-line winger a 3 year, 7.5 million dollar deal, which Jay immediately began underperforming. Coach Brent Sutter let him kick around as part of a checking line, but when his play faltered, his ice time was limited, then snuffed out entirely. He was scratched for a stretch of 21 out of 30 games in 2009. However, with the Devils reeling from a six-game losing streak in late March, coach Brent Sutter reunited former checking line mates Pandolfo and John Madden in a loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 1. Veteran winger Brendan Shanahan was the third man on that line. The trio was soon used to match up against top lines, and used heavily in the playoffs. It is Devils' fans contention that the usage of Pandolfo was the major downfall of the team - or if not that, at least a symbol of an antediluvian mindset on the part of coach Sutter and evident puppet master Lamoriello. Pandolfo was likely a straggler of sorts - he was a -6 as a part of that checking line for the 12 games it was together. However, let us examine some numbers - going through each game of the season, putting the dividing line at 13 minutes and 30 seconds - (under 10 minutes might've been better) - how did the Devils fare when using Pandolfo a lot versus using him less or not at all?

Devils with Pando playing over 13:30: 24-17-6
Devils goals for: 3.02
Devils goals against: 2.55
Shots/game: 32.7
Shots Against/Game: 29.6

Devils with Pandolfo Playing Under 13:30: 21-18-2
Devils goals for: 2.59
Devils goals against: 2.5
Shots/game: 32.6
Shots Against/Game: 30.7

There's a lot more that would have to be done to really understand how Jay's usage affected New Jersey (he had the second worst Corsi number on the team) - but one thing is clear - there is little correlation between Pandolfo's usage and winning and losing. Brent Sutter should not be excoriated for his usage of a checking line in the playoffs - not after losing six straight games and watching his team's shots against/game continue to escalate. Perhaps as his team's shots against/game continued to increase in the playoffs, he should have examined the very strict line matching he was doing, but that's all in the past now; whether Sutter is prone to panicking is something the Calgary Flames might find out.

Say What You Will About The Tenets of Lou-ism, At Least It's an Ethos: Lou Lamoriello played a little Back to the Future by acquiring former Devil Brian Rolston this off-season - Rolston, the most sought after free agent, summarily sprained his ankle and was ineffective for most of the season. His contract was an almost necessary gamble, but much like Michael Nylander's of Washington, it may be a difficult one from which to recover - due to the fact that Rolston was over 35 when his contract was signed, the Devils are on the hook for his cap hit even if he is not on the roster.

We Come Back and Cut Off Your Johnson: The Devils only have 16 returning players, but will pay out 44.6 million dollars in salary - the salary cap may indeed claim their Johnson. And stomp on it and squish it. 2009-10 is even worse - $40 million committed to 12 players means likely 10 million to the remaining 8, or some difficult cuts.

2009-10 Projected Lines




How The Whole Durned Human Comedy Keeps Perpetuating Itself: RW/LW Nicklas Bergfors has been germinating for four years in the minor leagues, and last season was by far his best. He will surely carve out a spot here for himself. Center Rod Pelley played 66 games for New Jersey in 2007-08 and may fill the fourth line vacancy left by Bobby Holik - that's a lot of bad penalties to take. RW Vladimir Zharkov was +23 for the Lowell Devils, so clearly he's no pushover. On defense, Matthew Corrente was New Jersey's 1st round pick in 2006 and had a successful pro debut. Do not rule out Lou Lamoriello signing someone out of Europe to possibly make the Devils - he did so with Johnny Oduya and less successfully with Anssi Salmela last season.


New Jersey has a lot of long-term deals and a lot of no-trade clauses. It is unlikely they get anything done.

Free Agents

Money To Spend: 12 million
Holes To Fill: 5


Manny Malhotra (4/10) - Malhotra wins faceoffs, scores a few goals, he's the kind of player the Devils have traditionally loved.
Dominic Moore (4/9.5) - Another ex-Ranger castoff, Moore made himself into an assist man last season, posting 32 - his previous career-high was 12.
Sami Pahlsson (3/6.5) - Checking-line centerman has only scored more than 10 goals once in his career, but does the 'little things' right. Problem is, he does the big things wrong - a career -44 has to make teams wary.

4th Line Center

Blair Betts (3/3.5) - Sam Rosen wakes up with bile in his throat at the thought of Blair Betts leaving the Rangers - Betts is a valued, uh, item for the Rangers that really ties the team together. His work has also been commended as being strongly vaginal - he had only 8 minor penalties last season.
Todd Marchant (2/2) - A million f'ing clams for the speed demon who can still kill some penalties.
Scott Nichol (2/1.6) - Feisty centerman has struggled with injuries but is always willing to drop the gloves.


Mike Komisarek (5/25) - Komisarek has the things that general managers unfortunately love - enormous bodies and physical prowess. While these things are important, so is offensive ability, which Komisarek possess little.
Mattias Ohlund (3/13) - Ohlund may be headed elsewhere if the whole Team Sweden thing falls apart in Vancouver - his consistency is something no doubt prized by Lou Lamoriello, although given what happened with Rolston, he will likely get in a fight with the chief of police of Malibu and be sidelined for three months.
Jaroslav Spacek (3/11) - Spacek has 73 goals in 701 NHL games, and plenty of assists to boot. Newark will likely look like Hawaii to a man used to the Buffalo skyline. 3 years and 11 million dollars may be wishful thinking compared to what Roman Hamrlik is being paid, but the NHL is not always particularly good at valuing talent.
Johnny Oduya (4/14) - Oduya is a fabulous skater and has learned how to play in the defensive zone. Only power play prowess keeps him from getting a $5 million per contract - he is a +48 the past two seasons.
Francois Beauchemin (3/10) - Beauchemin only recorded 1 assist in the 33 games he played this past season, but he's got a Stanley Cup ring and plays a ton of minutes. While almost certainly not a superstar, he is less likely to implode than players like Spacek and Ohlund.


The Devils need a backup goalie, although that position could've probably been filled by anyone breathing over the last few seasons. Martin Brodeur should play a maximum of 70 games - if he stays healthy, this likely will not happen.


The Devils were a minute or so away from facing Washington in the second round - their season should not be regarded as an utter failure. They don't really have room to add very much in the off-season, but they've still got one of the best goalies in the game and a young superstar in Zach Parise. That alone should keep them in the playoffs next season, regardless of who coaches the team.


Between the years of 1995 and 2004, there were 5 Stanley Cup Champions - New Jersey, Colorado, Detroit, Dallas, and Tampa Bay. Colorado and Tampa Bay are terrible and Dallas missed the playoffs this past season. New Jersey has had better luck with prospects than Colorado, Tampa, or Dallas, but they are certainly no Detroit; the Devils are a playoff team for now, with the chance to go far. However, with loads of veteran contracts on the books and not much in the system at present, it will likely be a struggle to make the playoffs in a few seasons, and their decline may look like that of Colorado and Dallas.


  1. Yeah well...this is just like...your

  2. Confused with your numbers for the team with Pandolfo.

    Over: 24-17-6

    Under: 21-18-2

    That equals 88 games. Did you mean to include the 7 playoff games which would be 89 games? And depending on you meaning to include the playoffs, those numbers are wrong somehow...

    Is the last column supposed to be ties?

  3. last column is 'ties', yes. i don't think pandolfo has any bearing on shootout wins or losses so i don't think it's relevant to include them as wins or losses.

    i might have missed a game - i counted each game manually, then counted that counting manually to arrive at those figures, so it's really not out of the realm of possibility that i miscounted somewhere. and yes, i meant to count the playoffs, as that was where pandolfo's usage was most disputed.

  4. But the Devils won 48 games while you have 45, and they lost 33 while you have 35. So hard to trust those numbers.

    Good writeup by the way, but I disagree with Pandolfo. The Devils were a worse team when he had to play a key role paying key minutes. That is different than TOI. Many games the Devils could be winning by 3 or more late and role his line more or give him and Madden PP time. I bet you find that the case.

    One thing I do know is the Devis went 9-3 without him when he first got scratched, he comes and 5-1 in his second major stint out followed by the 0-2-1 stretch that got him back in the lineup for good. The problem was the team wasn't much better down the stretch. 6-1 loss to the Penguins and a 4-1 loss to the Leafs. Pandolfo was -4 in those 6 games. They barely beat Tampa and Buffalo and were badly outplayed in large stretches of those games.

    That was the big problem. The team was still spiraling out of control. Just a few cheap wins against shitty teams kept Sutter going with a different strategy than he was using all year.

  5. it cuts both ways. pandolfo played a lot on blowout losses too (e.g. the pittsburgh 6-1 loss where he played 16 minutes, the 4-0 loss to the isles(?) where he played 14 minutes).

    what i think was most revealing was that the goals against weren't vastly different but neither were the shots on goal. it's also worth noting that the games where pandolfo didn't play much were mostly played by clemmensen/weekes - he played a fair amount during the brodeur runs at the beginning and end of the season.