The man raising his stick has exceeded expectations by becoming a solid defensive player in addition to meeting what production I wanted from him back in August. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Yes, the playoffs are upon us but let's consider the past regular season for just a little while longer. Earlier today, I took a look back at what the various season previews and opinions pundits, experts, and fans had about the New Jersey Devils going into 2009-10. It was discovered that most - including myself - didn't predict the Devils as a team to perform as well as they did in 2009-10. A feat made more impressive considering the team wasn't fully healthy and available until mid-March 2010 and that they slumped from mid-January through February.
So that's that for the team, but what about the players? Who can we say exceeded, met, or didn't meet expectations in 2009-10? Admittedly, I don't have a consensus on what most would expect from each player. But what I did do was that I looked at most of the roster back in late July and most of August for individual expectations. I think it's only fitting to take a quick look back at what I said then and see how well they turned out.
Of course, if you do want to want know what I think about the playoffs before Tuesday, please listen to Rink Side Radio at about 9:15 PM EDT. I will be on for a 15 minute discussion about the upcoming Devils-Flyers series. I would also suggest this FanPost by user Cherno77, as he raised some very important points about the upcoming first round series.
Since this is a quick look back in hindsight, I'm going to summarize as much as possible. I do have an index of all of the individual expectation posts I made here if you'd like to explore further. The players names with the red links go to their expectation post that I wrote well before 2009-10 began. Yeah, it's a bit fantasy-ish, but my rationalization is that hockey is a results-oriented business and so the goals reflect that.
Also, please keep in mind that the last one written was on August 18 so it doesn't include the last few free agent signings, the called-up players who stuck around on the team or otherwise, the two players who came in the big Atlanta trade: Ilya Kovalchuk and Anssi Salmela, and Martin Skoula. There's time in the summer to give them a closer review.
In general, the only one who really disappointed and didn't meet expectations at all has been Andrew Peters, who didn't enforce much or do much of anything else for the Devils. I'd say Ilya Kovalchuk, Mark Fraser, Anssi Salmela, and Rob Niedermayer met expectations in their respective roles on the team. I also think that Dean McAmmond and Martin Skoula have exceeded expectations to a degree as they have been so useful that they were more than just bodies for depth.
Devils Who Exceeded Expectations
|2009 - Andy Greene||78||6||31||37||9||14||4||0||4||23:31||86||7.0|
Summary of Expectation Post: Wanted him to improve, take more shots, put up 10 points, not have the GA ON/60 jump by 5 when he steps on the ice.
Result: Check, check, check, and check. Greene has been excellent this season, wildly exceeding expectations as he has been the Devils' best defenseman throughout the season.
|2009 - Travis Zajac||82||25||42||67||22||24||6||0||4||52.9||210||11.9|
Summary of Expectation Post: Win 52% of faceoffs, take more than 180 shots on net, put up 25 goals and about 70 points.
Result: I set those expectations thinking he'd take it to the "next level." He did just that this season while becoming, in my opinion, a player worth considering for a Selke. Now that was unexpected back last summer. I think he's truly arrived as a player, but at the same time, the best may be yet to come.
|2009 - Mike Mottau||79||2||16||18||4||41||0||0||0||22:15||74||2.7|
Summary of Expectation Post: Play as a serviceable defensemen, doubt he could crack 20 points, play on the PK, and clamp down on shots when he's out there.
Result: Well, he nearly did crack 20 points, he did play on the PK (averaged 2:18/game shorthanded), and the shots against per 60 actually fell from 25.2 to 24.0 when he was on the ice. By definition, having doubts proven wrong means he exceeded expectations. In spite of his "performances" during the team's slump.
|2009 - Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond||27||0||2||2||-4||48||0||0||0||0||9||0.0|
Summary of Expectation Post: Enforcer and nothing more.
Result: It took a while, but he's actually worked his way into a fourth line role not by punching people in the face but playing simple hockey with good speed and throwing big hits. He's become an "energy" winger and it's conceivable he'll be getting time to play in the playoffs. I certainly didn't expect that, so that end, he's exceeded my expectations.
|2009 - Zach Parise||81||38||44||82||24||32||9||1||5||0||347||11.0|
Summary of Expectation Post: Lead the team in offense, product about 35 goals and 80 points.
Result: Done and dusted. Led the team in offense, finished with a point per game pace, and while still being the same Zach Parise we all know and love. Keep up the excellent work, Zach.
|2009 - Jamie Langenbrunner||81||19||42||61||6||44||6||2||4||0||228||8.3|
Summary of Expectation Post: If he could contribute 20 goals and 50 points while remaining captain, that would be fine.
Result: He set a new career high in assists but the goals were about where I thought he'd be. If only he didn't end the season on a quiet note. It should be noted that he put up these numbers bouncing around from line to line, which makes it more impressive in my eyes. I can't help but wonder how better (or worse?) they'd be had Lemaire keep ZZ Pops together for a full season like Brent Sutter did in 2008-09.
|2009 - Colin White||81||2||10||12||8||46||0||0||0||20:04||47||4.3|
Summary of Expectation Post: Improve on PK work, maintain or build off of on-ice/off-ice numbers, and keep PIMs low.
Result: The penalty minutes didn't increase despite playing 10 more games this season, he was part of a Devils' unit that saw the PK improve to 82.8% from 79.9%, and the shots against per 60 remained steady (increase of .1 when on ice) with highest quality of competition on team (0.039). I'd say those expectations have been met.
|2009 - Bryce Salvador||79||4||10||14||8||57||0||0||2||18:51||47||8.5|
Summary of Expectation Post: Improve work on PK if still on that special team; cut down on 24 minor penalties; be at least a serviceable #5 defenseman.
Result: Perhaps a bit more than serviceable. He averaged 1:55 on a PK unit that did improve this season; he only had 21 minor penalties this season; and while the shots against per 60 went up when he was on the ice (24.2 to 25.1) but the goals against per 60 did go down (2.21 to 1.73) - though he was next to Greene for most of the season. I'd say he's had a good year but didn't really exceed expectations too much.
|2009 - Martin Brodeur||77||4499||45||25||168||2.24||2004||1836||.916||9|
Summary of Expectations: Who cares if he's 38, he can definitely finish the season among league leading goaltenders.
Result: Here how Brodeur stacks up against the NHL in the four main stats for goalies: First in wins, third in GAA, 13th in save percentage (3 goalies ahead of him didn't play more than 50 games, so he'd be tenth with that conditional), and first in shutouts. Yep, I'd say he's once again among league leading goaltenders. Once again: AGE IS JUST A NUMBER FOR LEGENDS
|2009 - Yann Danis||12||467||3||2||16||2.06||207||191||.923||0|
Summary of Expectations: Well, he wasn't likely to get a lot of games so he just needed to be prepared. Basically, don't be a liability in net (e.g. a GAA over 3.00, a save percentage below 90%, etc.)
Result: Danis has looked all right spelling Brodeur for a few games and in relief of him on other nights. I'm sure some will argue he should have gotten more work. Either way, he's done exactly what you want out of a backup for Brodeur.
Did Not Meet Expectations Due to Injuries
|2009 - Patrik Elias||58||19||29||48||18||40||3||1||4||0||145||13.1|
Summary of Expectations: Among other factors, I felt Elias could put up a point-per-game pace. What I wanted to see was about 65-70 points.
Result: Of course, those were set assuming he'd be healthy. Well, he missed training camp, the first month of the season, and the first few weeks in November. Then he was out with a concussion in January for a few weeks. In between all of that, Elias has been productive. Had he been able to play the whole season, he would have had 67 points at this pace which isn't bad at all. I'd like to think that with training camp and an uninterrupted season, he would have gotten into his groove a lot faster and been able to surpass that too.
|2009 - David Clarkson||46||11||13||24||3||85||3||0||2||0||106||10.4|
Summary of Expectations: He's basically Randy McKay Ver. 2.0, with more offensive skill than McKay. I felt he could take it to the next level and put up 20 goals and 40 points while taking fewer fighting majors.
Result: Well, he took fewer fighting majors (9) but missing close to half the season with a broken fibula that was re-injured upon initial return was the source for that. It's a shame because had he stayed healthy, he had a real shot at 20 goals and 40 points (on pace it'd be 19 and 42, respectively). Maybe next season will see him break out properly?
|2009 - Paul Martin||22||2||9||11||10||2||1||0||0||22:30||21||9.5|
Summary of Expectations: He's the Devils' top defenseman, but let's see if he can put up more offense. I expected 30 assists, at least 35 points in total.
Result: Well, he's still the team's top defenseman in terms of talent and in advanced stats (18.9 shots against/60 when he's on the ice!!!!) and he has contributed points at an excellent rate given his career. The problem? He missed the vast majority of the season with a fractured arm that re-fractured early in 2010. Among all of the players in this category, the injury undercut Martin the most. And in a contract year, no less.
|2009 - Dainius Zubrus||51||10||17||27||4||28||1||0||4||0||86||11.6|
Summary of Expectations: He'll never be a 20 goal, 50 point player; but he could put up 17 goals and 30 assists (did I make a typo? Did I mean that I thought he'd be a 47 point player but not 50?). Also, if he's centering the second line, I'd want him to win 51% of his faceoffs.
Result: Well, Zubrus never stayed at center on the second line (and his faceoff winning percentage was only 48.5% anyway) and Lemaire moved him all over the lineup when available. The shattered kneecap undercut his very real chance of putting up 16 goals and 27 assists which would just put him at new highs in New Jersey. Interestingly, I felt he played better after the injury but I'll have to look at the numbers more closely to do that. Zubrus' worth isn't just in points, it's in the space and size he brings going forward. He brings benefits not seen on the statline, that much was clear to observers - especially in March and April.
Did Not Meet Expectations Due to Other Circumstances
|2009 - Rod Pelley||63||2||8||10||-4||40||0||0||0||0||74||2.7|
Summary of Expectations: Appreciate whatever offensive contributions he'd make - no more than 10 goals and 20 points. As a defensive center, I'd want him to at least win 50% of his faceoffs, avoid the penalty box, and not be a liability on the ice.
Result: Well, at the time of writing, he was the third line center on paper. But the signings of Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond essentially forced Pelley out of a center role. Pelley worked his way to a regular position mostly as a winger on the fourth line. He only took 198 faceoffs (and won 98, so he actually came close to 50%). Pelley established himself as someone who can skate hard, hit hard, and keep the opposition honest with a little offense. As a fourth liner, I think Pelley has been just fine. He only didn't meet expectations as a center, but that wasn't necessarily Pelley's fault.
Summary of Expectations: He'd be The Veteran in the locker room, mentoring the younger players, while contributing 10 goals on fourth line/special teams duties. Sure he's 43, but that shot of his never got old.
Result: Didn't make the team out of preseason. Lemaire didn't want him as just a fourth liner. Shanahan was cut and officially retired in November.
Did Not Meet Expectations At All
|2009 - Brian Rolston||80||20||17||37||2||22||7||0||3||0||232||8.6|
Summary of Expectations: Rolston felt he could do more under Lemaire, he wanted to do more, and so I believed he could replace Brian Gionta's production. Therefore, I expected him to put up at least 25 goals and 60 points.
Result: Well, he came close in goals but definitely not in points. It wasn't as if Rolston didn't have opportunities to command that second line winger position. Lemaire certainly gave him multiple chances but he couldn't maintain enough production or good performances to justify keeping him there.
Unfortunately, Rolston is who he is at this point of his career. He's got a great shot, but he's not a second-line scorer anymore. He can give a third line a good offensive dimension to keep opposing players on their toes and he can contribute on the power play. Yet, there's no reason to believe he can do more than that. The results speak for themselves; Rolston did not meet my expectations in 2009-10 and that's quite disappointing.
|2009 - Jay Pandolfo||52||4||5||9||-10||6||0||0||3||0||71||5.6|
Summary of Expectations: I felt Pandolfo would have a comeback season. The goals for/against difference when he's on the ice should be better; he'll help the penalty kill improve; and he'll get back to playing 14-17 minutes shutting down opposition's top wingers.
Result: Unfortunately, none of that happened for Pandolfo in 2009-10. The shots against per 60 rose from 24.3 to 25.6 and the goals against per 60 increased from 1.95 to 2.56 when Pandolfo came on the ice. His average ice time was kept at 13:33; and his shorthanded time on ice was good at 1:55 but he did not play over 100 minutes on the kill so it's questionable how much he's helped the PK units. Most of all, Pandolfo has found himself to be scratched more and more as the season went on. He ends the 2009-10 season as the team's 13th forward, not at all what I expected way back in August.
|2009 - Ilkka Pikkarainen||31||1||3||4||-3||10||0||0||0||0||26||3.8|
Summary of Expectations: Keep "Evil Ilkka" off the ice and maintain a fourth line role as an "energy" player. Throw some hits, take a few shots, and so forth.
Result: I felt he did that in the few games he played, but he never established himself to be better than Rod Pelley or even Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond at the same position on the fourth line. He never finished the season in New Jersey or even North America. He cleared waivers and was assigned to CSKA Moscow.
|2009 - Johnny Oduya||40||2||2||4||2||18||0||0||0||22:11||44||4.5|
Summary of Expectations: I wanted Oduya to establish himself as a solid #2 defenseman. That meant I wanted 6-8 goals, put up about 35 points, play an average of at least 20 minutes per night, and put up good on-ice/off-ice numbers in New Jersey. I had high hopes for Oduya after an great growing season in 2008-09.
Result: While I can't break down what Behind the Net has by team for a player, Oduya definitely didn't establish himself well as a Devil this season. Yes, his average ice time was where I wanted it to be; but he never produced nearly as much as I wanted. More distressingly was how poorly he started the season on defense. He was out with a groin injury by the end of October and returned in early December, but he never gave Lemaire any reason to start him over Greene, Salvador, White, or Mottau on a regular basis. When Oduya was traded, I was shocked that Atlanta wanted him that much over other players - I didn't think Oduya played anywhere close to expectations this season. Maybe he did in Atlanta, though.