The New Jersey Devils have played thirteen games, amounting to about 16% of their season, so what better time to project end of season numbers based on production thus far?!
While the sample size may be small, the season yet early, and injuries skewing certain stats (including the false, but easy, assumption that those currently injured will be back for game 14 and that Patrik Elias will not play a single game this year), certain trends may already be seen.
Or not. I just happened to have some spare time and found myself wondering if, all things being equal, the critics and vitriolic Caps fans from their game thread last night were on to something concerning the teams offensive production suffering under Lemaire.
Unable to figure out how to post the entire spreadsheet into this medium without it getting all wonky, I'll highlight the important, erm, highlights.
Zach Parise has scored 6-9-15 in 13 games and is projected to put up 38-57-95. While it'd be fewer goals and more assists than last year (45-49-94), it'd actually be a point better. Of note also is that he's projected to have 33 more SOG this season than last, but, accordingly, a lower S% (9.5 compared to 12.4 last season).
Travis Zajac has scored 6-7-13 in 13 games and is projected to put up 38-44-82. To say that is an increase is to put it lightly. Last season he accumulated 20-42-62 and he's shown improvement in all categories (projected to take 48 more SOG and increase his S% by almost 6%).
David Clarkson has scored 3-6-9 in 13 games and is projected to put up 19-38-57.
Nicklas Bergfors has scored 4-4-8 in 13 games and is projected to put up 25-25-50.
Jamie Langenbrunner has scored 2-7-9 in 13 games and is projected to put up 13-44-57.
Dainius Zubrus is on pace to score 13-25-38.
Rob Niedermayer is on pace to score 13-32-44.
Brian Rolston is on pace to score 19-13-32.
Andy Greene is on pace to score 6-19-25. By far, it is the best offense from the defensive corps, and that's assuming the unlikely projection of only 63 games played. I think it safe to say that, barring injury, he's cemented himself a starting spot and will play out the rest of the season. Hashing it out to the potential of 79 games, he'd put up 8-24-32.
All told, the projections indicate 196 goals for the season, but this omits any contribution from Elias. The Devils have averaged 227 per season since the lockout, with their high water mark coming last year with 244 (which still had them in the middle of the pack at 16th in the league). Assuming Elias can return and put up his average of ~25 goals, it appears the Devils offense, though falling off from last season, is pretty typical of the team, regardless of the coach or system in place.
So, what else, if anything, can we deduce from these solid, concrete, absolutely incontrovertible statistics? Several things:
- Zach is a machine. He's on pace to put up very similar numbers to last season, though with more shots required to do it, and any time he wants to take more shots, he's welcome to do so in my book.
- Zajac is also a machine. While it may be a stretch to think he'll keep up with Zach, or even break the 30 goal barrier, it's impossible not to acknowledge that he's getting better every year and is developing into a serious threat opponents will have to account for.
- A 57 point season out of Clarkson should silence anyone still upset about losing Madden.
- A 50 point season out of Bergfors should silence anyone still upset about losing Gionta.
- A 38 point season out of Zubrus would... well, be pretty sweet. I'm one of many who've been pretty vocally hard on Dainius, but if he put up those numbers while bouncing around between three different lines, I know at least one less person who'd be down on him.
- Niedermayer looks like a better signing than anyone envisioned. 44 points would best Maddens best year as a Devil, and almost double last years output.
- A 32 point season out of Rolston is probably about as good as we're going to get out of him.
Some interesting (or not) anomolies:
- Mark Fraser is 1-1-2 on two SOG, for a 50 S%.
- Bryce Salvador is on a Ken Daneyko-like pace to have a 0-19-19 season.
- Zajac, Niedermayer, Fraser and Greene are the only players on the team with a S% above 10%.
- Colin White is projected (0-6-6) to have his worst offensive season since '01-'02 when he went 2-3-5 in 73 games.
- Bergfors and Rolston are projected to have the exact same number of SOG (271), but Bergfors has the much better S% at 9.30, compared to Rolstons 6.98.
In conclusion, we all know that projections are just semi-informed guesses that don't account for any number of variables, but they do draw attention to certain revealing statistics that are good catalysts for discussion. Or in this case, rebutting the haters who rag on Lemaire and the entire team because their defense shuts down their teams offense.
In the end, it appears the Devils will be, at least on the stats page, very much like the teams of the past few years. Regardless of how this season may unfold, the continued development of players like Parise, Zajac, Bergfors and Clarkson point to only good things for the team.