- Joined: Oct 11, 2010
- Last Login: Sep 27, 2021, 2:34pm EDT
- Posts: 24
- Comments: 8,914
My name is Michael. I enjoy sports. Contributor at In Lou We Trust.
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I did say ‘slightly’ younger
Comment 4 recs
Zajac’s contract is almost certainly sitting signed in Lou’s desk drawer just waiting to be submitted to the league for whatever reason
Comment 1 reply, 7 recs
I think it’s more or less true that, after an active summer, this is now firmly Fitzgerald’s Team and, as such, that means the clock is now ticking to an extent on his tenure. As far as what missteps he’s made, I do think the center depth has a chance to bite him but he’s otherwise done well in most of the moves he’s made. I think he probably has plenty of leash left, though, even if the season doesn’t go great. I do think he is unlikely to get the kind of slack Ray Shero did, given that he was already part of the previous regime and the team has already been rebuilding in earnest for at least 6 years but, barring an all-out disaster this season, he’ll at least get the 2022 summer and into the following season to keep tinkering.
As far as specifics, I’m not necessarily a fan of the Stillman pick but I also don’t think we need to get carried away with calling him a fourth-rounder. They reached maybe half a round or a round early on him, depending on your opinion, but he was never a fourth-rounder. His draft-minus-one stats from the OHL are fine and while he played for an obscure Danish junior league last season, I count that more as a source of uncertainty than a full-on knock against him. Anyway, it’s true that he’s probably not a factor for 3 or 4 seasons (if he makes it), but that’s probably true of a lot of late-first guys. I think dinging Fitzgerald for not trading the pick is fair, but there weren’t really many substantial trades at the draft this year, so maybe the market was just cool. Keep in mind the Devils also lost value on the pick because the Islanders went far in the playoffs, a factor out of Fitzgerald’s control.
On the rest of the forward depth, yeah Maltsev and Bastian are depth losses, but I really don’t think the team has much issue on the wings, where they have a bunch more options brewing. Palmieri was effectively replaced by Tatar, so I do think Fitzgerald addressed his loss. Zajac moving on is part of the reason they have the 3C questions now but he’s also very much a depth guy and a situational faceoff-taker at this point. The problem is really with the team relying on a couple of mostly unproven quantities in McLeod and Boqvist to backfill the spot. I said as much in the post you linked in yours, but if Fitzgerald regrets anything about this offseason, I think it will be the lack of any insurance policy to solidify the center position.
Comment 1 reply, 1 rec
For what it’s worth, Zacha and Blackwood will age out of the T25U25 next year, so there will be some opportunities for guys to move up. Whether Mercer can move up much will depend on if he can force his way into the NHL this year, I think.
Comment 1 reply, 3 recs
It’s really just a function of him having been in the NHL for 100+ games and playing adequately in a depth role for Washington, a bar a substantial amount of the guys behind him likely never hit. The fact that he’s as far down as 14 in spite of that fact means that people actually don’t think all that highly of him. Boqvist is the only player with any significant NHL time that is ranked lower.
Comment 2 replies, 4 recs
I want somebody to explain to me why Zacha has such a reputation as a good defensive forward when he consistently has very poor defensive results at 5v5. His xGA/60 and GA/60 rates are among the worst on the team over the past three seasons, roughly equivalent to Nikita Gusev’s. I know the guy can play the PK but that is not the same as being an effective defensive forward at even strength. As an aside, it’s also funny how perceptions color people’s opinion of Bratt, who has conversely had excellent defensive results the past two seasons and rates out as a substantially better defensive player at this point than Zacha.
Anyway, the reason to expect Zacha to maintain a scoring pace close to what he did last season is wrapped up in the fact that I expect the team to keep him at wing this year, a position he is much better suited for in the NHL. He is a subpar play-driver and while he has a pretty good shot, he has not been particularly good at creating his own opportunities as a center and, thus, has often had shooting rates in line with Travis Zajac at 5v5. He’s actually a pretty good passer as well, which, combined with the aforementioned good shot, is why he has been such a maddening — even crazy-making — player in his career. So if someone else can do the work of retrieving pucks and pushing play up ice, Zacha has good enough instincts and skills to capitalize on those opportunities. He just needs to actually shoot the puck, which he was definitely starting to do more last year as a wing.
Ironically, the underlying numbers make him look much more like a miscast one-dimensional offensive player at even strength than the defensive specialist-type that people had been trying to play up in past seasons. Get the puck on his stick in the offensive zone and he can make some things happen, just don’t expect him to drive a line. At this point, I’m perfectly content with that being the type of player he is and I think if he is utilized in that way, he can actually be a valuable role-player going forward.
Comment 2 replies
People always say stuff like this when a post takes a vaguely negative or concerned tone, but I guess my response in general would be: Which New Jersey Devils have you guys been watching the last nine years?
16. Nolan Foote
17. Reilly Walsh
18. Shakir Mukhamadullin
19. Akira Schmid
20. Tyce Thompson
I had Clarke up at 11 and Bahl down at 22.
Clarke is a guy I just kind of have a feeling about. First year pro numbers were very good and I’ve had decently high hopes for him since he got out of the gate hot in his draft+1 season (before going down with an injury). Given the season he just had in the A as a 19-year old, it seems like the shoulder has sufficiently recovered and he could be a real asset on the right wing. I will say that I don’t consider it a particularly wide gap between Clarke at 11 and Foote at 16 in my rankings.
Bahl I seem to be a bit lower on than some. He is obviously big and can move decently well for that size, but there’s just something missing from his game for me, just lacks any dynamic or standout aspect to his game. His results in Binghamton were not particularly great last year, but it was just his age 20 season, so I think he has more time to get himself sorted than some others are thinking. FWIW, I think he’ll get plenty of chances in the NHL based on his size alone.
I mean, one response to this would be that at the age Blackwood is now, Kinkaid also had one career NHL game and was close to a year away from game #2. He was also never entrusted with anything comparable to a starter’s role until he was 28 in the back half of 2017-18.
I do think your broader point has merit, though, as given the sample and the season we just witnessed, it’s hard to say with certainty that Blackwood is a long-term solution as a #1.
Similarities between him and Kinkaid are mostly surficial, though, as Kinkaid, aside from a few months in 2018, never really had starter expectations or workload. He never had 40 starts in a season. The stats are similar because average-to-good-ish stats are probably pretty common over the first 100 games of an NHL career (otherwise guys wouldn’t last that long).
I think he has a high ceiling and can certainly be better than a .915 goalie (which, with recent sv% trends, is actually pretty good and puts a guy in the top 1/3 of starters/tandem goalies). He’s been automatically penciled in as a #1 partially because of the lack of other options, sure, but he’s also been generally solid in the NHL thus far. His 2018-19 season in particular was really good as his overall sv% got pulled down almost 10 points in that 9-goal obliteration he got left in for the entirety of against Calgary. Honestly, I’m mostly concerned by the quality start pct, which was elite that first season (.667) and has lagged around just over .510 the past couple seasons (.600+ is what I’d consider "good" and average is probably around .550). He has to clean up the consistency, but other people are correct in that there has been absolutely nobody to reliably pick up the slack for him the last couple years (non-Blackwoods are a mind-bending 11-28-7 in 46 decisions with a .319 QS%).
This past season was not a good one for Blackwood, but the rough bout with COVID and a somewhat tragic defense gives me plenty of hope that it was the exception rather than the rule.