Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ilya Kovalchuk's impact on the Devils...and Thrashers

Well, there you have it (2009-10a represents the teams' winning percentage before the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, and 2009-10b represents the records post Kovy). The Devils have taken a turn for the worst since the trade, or at least the graph above would indicate so. The Devils are also the ONLY team in the NHL with fewer than 2.00 goals per game (currently at 1.76 GPG), with 51 goals for in 29 games played. The 29th place team offensively are the Islanders, who sit at 2.11 goals per game. The Devils are also tied for 28th in the NHL in powerplay goals (13), but are last with just 33 5-on-5 goals for.

It doesn't get too much prettier defensively, either. The Devils are allowing 3.00 goals per game against, with is outrageous for a Devils team. That 3.00 mark ranks 26th-best in the 30-team NHL. Considering the Devils rank tied for 8th with a penalty kill of 84.3%, you can assume most of those 87 goals that the Devils have allowed have been even strength goals. It gets better. The Devils have allowed the 8th fewest shots per game (28.9), and the Devils save percentage as a team is .896. In the 2nd period this season, the Devils are being outscored 41-18, and the 1st and 3rd periods aren't terribly better.

What does all this mean? Well, let's just say when you rank lower than the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers in all of those categories, it is quite alarming. The problem is, the Devils are spending more money than those teams and have...let's put it nicely, more TALENT than those teams. The Devils are 8-19-2. That's horrible for any team, let alone a team that was power ranked 6th in TSN's pre-season rankings.

Why are the Devils the laughest stock of the NHL this season? It can't be to get a top draft pick, partially due to the fact that if the Devils were to rebuild, they would surrender a draft pick for Kovalchuk now, and besides, the 2011 NHL draft does not appear to be very strong.

I blame Lou Lamoriello, honestly. He signed Volchenkov and Tallinder, traded for Arnott and brought Kovalchuk back over the off-season, but this is still a very inexperienced defensive group, and yes, injuries have plagued this team, but they looked flat from day one. They weren't winning with Parise, granted he wasn't 100% at all this season. Was signing Kovalchuk really the best thing to do for this team when the defense lacked a true number one, puck-moving, scoring defenseman? Every winner has one. Lidstrom, Keith, Gonchar, Pronger, etc. Those teams win. Successful teams are also build down the middle, and the Devils are weak at center. Travis Zajac had a good year with Parise, but he is not a legitimate #1 offensive center. He is not a natural playmaker, and he has no chemistry with Ilya Kovalchuk. Jason Arnott is big and strong and has played well to an extent, but he isn't the answer, at least long-term. Sure, there are prospects. Josefson, Henrique, MacIntyre, etc. are all talented, but the Devils lack a consistent #1 center. Hell, I'll take Antione Vermette over any center this team has.

Bad goaltending, lackluster defense, salary cap problems, absolutely unacceptable offensive woes and a rookie coach has added to up to disaster of a recipe for the Devils this year, and doing nothing accomplishes nothing. It doesn't guarantee a first overall draft pick and it doesn't help either starting a rebuilding process or trying to salvage this season. Lou is doing what Lou does best...nothing, but he has to start doing something, now.

As I type this, Brian Rolston is waived, which accomplishes NOTHING. His salary stays on the books unless some other GM is out of his mind and claims him. Maybe Lou is trying to get him claimed on re-entry, but I doubt it. Just beautiful. What a season...