Today wraps up this What Should Devils Fans Expect feature for the forwards, leaving 6 defensemen remaining before the whole roster is announced. According to Cap Geek, Rob Davison and Cory Murphy are on two-way deals; so it's not even a guarantee they'll make the roster as-is. So I will stick with the top 6 from last season.
As far as Ilkka Pikkarainen and Brendan Shanahan are concerned, they've been covered in earlier posts. I pointed out what the expectations should be for Pikkarainen here, while passing on a perspective on how he did in Finland from a HIFK Helsinki supporter. I put up my expectations for Shanahan after he was officially signed with the Devils for a one year, $1 million deal last week. So that leaves Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, also known as PLLL, PL3, P.L-Cubed, Smash-Fist Painmaker-Lagoon, and Leblond - which was the nameplate on his jersey last season.
Honestly, I don't really care much for enforcers. I personally think fighting in hockey is generally dumb and I'd rather have the roster spot go to someone who can at least play the game. But I'm not going to use this post - and neither are you - as a platform as to whether fighting is needed or not. The New Jersey Devils usually has an enforcer of sorts on the roster from season to season, be it a gritty player who can both play and fight (e.g. Randy McKay, Turner Stevenson, Grant Marshall, David Clarkson) or a player whose best skills are to hit and fight (e.g. Mike Peluso, Kryzystof Oliwa, Cam Janssen). Take a look at Leblond's career stats at HockeyDB. In his junior years with Baie-Comeau, he played 129 games, scored 3 goals, had 9 assists, and took 427 PIM. In his minor pro career so far he played for 3 teams (Adirondack in the UHL, Trenton in the ECHL, Albany/Lowell in the AHL) in 4 seasons, a total of 212 games, 15 goals, 25 goals, and 838 PIM.
I think the numbers show that he's all about the hitting and fighting. And so he was signed to a near-minimum deal.
|2008 - Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond||8||0||1||1||3||22||0||0||0||0||3||0.0|
Last season, Leblond had 8 games with New Jersey, played an average of 4:50 per game, and put up 22 penalty minutes (1 minor, 4 fighting majors), 12 "official" hits, and an assist. Leblond stayed right on the fourth line and didn't look too out of place overall. He's not as big as Rupp or Holik, but he's plenty large enough to be an enforcer at 6'2" and 220 pounds. Leblond is an OK skater, he can bring "energy" into a lethargic game, and he likes to be physical and aggressive. He's also not a scorer by any means and so all we can really expect from the player is hits and plenty of penalty minutes. Since I want - and expect - David Clarkson to fight less, Leblond should be more than able to replace him in that role.
That is, when he actually plays. Given that Leblond is not going to develop into an offensive or defensive contributor, there's going to be some games where the Devils really don't need an enforcer to play 4-7 minutes and/or spend 5 minutes in a box. Should a forward prospect be given minutes in a game, I would think that Leblond or Pikkarainen may be the first choices to sit down in favor of giving someone else a look. After all, while he was in the prospect camp with Rod Pelley, the Devils have wingers in Lowell who will get long looks in training camp. That will motivate him to perform with New Jersey; but it is a limited skillset. Essentially, he's an enforcer, and that's how he's going to stick around
Now it's time to have your say. Should we expect more from Leblond? Could he stick on the roster or in New Jersey, or will he be scratched more often than not? Let me know what you think about Leblond.