The big news out of training camp today was the announcement that the former Buffalo Sabres forward Adam Mair is with the New Jersey Devils on a try-out basis (reported here by Tom Gulitti). Thanks to ILWT user C.J.Richey121 for noting this news earlier on the site. I feel he warrants a little more attention than Shane Owen, Thomas Nesbitt, or Marcus Nilson, who are also in camp on a try-out basis. Mair has been a regular with the Sabres since 2002-03 and the fact he can play both center and wing may give him an additional edge. Lou had this to say about Mair, as reported by Gulitti:
"He’s one that if he plays well enough and feels good enough, he’s sort of a high-energy, intense player who stirs things up and competes," Lamoriello said. "He’s got a certain dimension to him,"
A quick look at his career stats at NHL.com indicates that he's definitely not a scorer. In 550 NHL games, he's got 37 goals and 73 assists. Last season, he scored 6 goals and 8 assists in 69 games. He's been far more prolific in Buffalo in racking up penalty minutes, though he's cut down on them in recent seasons - he took only 73 last season. Along with the description, I can't help but think that Mair would be a depth forward, someone suited for the bottom two lines. An average ice time of 9:14 per game last season further justifies that feeling.
As noted in that Gulitti article, Dean McAmmond isn't in the picture for the Devils. McAmmond was an in-season signing, clearly for depth, but he contributed nicely at a minimum salary. Given that the other options for the Devils' centers are either young (Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson), on the borderline (Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito), or possibly to be traded (Dainius Zubrus), it's not impossible to think Mair could be on this team by October 8. Therefore, I decided to take a look at how Mair performed for Buffalo at 5-on-5 hockey last season. It should give a better idea of what to expect should Mair sign a deal with the Devils in the coming weeks.
All figures from here on out come from Behind the Net. I'm focusing on even strength play since that's the situation for the majority of the time players play over the course of the season. Plus, Mair was rarely used on special teams, not even averaging 5 seconds for Buffalo last season.
Quality of Competition: -0.060. Second lowest among Sabres centers, and low in general. Mair definitely didn't see good players, much less the best, on a given night.
Quality of Teammates: -0.162. Second lowest among Sabres centers, also low in general. So while Mair saw weak competition, he definitely wasn't riding any teammates on his lines every night.
Corsi & Zonestarts: Mair was put on the ice for 164 defensive zone starts and 165 offensive zone starts last season. I'm not going to adjust his Corsi rate given how the difference is close to zero. His base on-ice Corsi was 0.68, so Mair was only a little above replacement with respect to puck movement. He wasn't necessarily driving the play positively.
Goals Versus Threshold: Mair actually had a total GVT of -0.2. That's below replacement level. Sure, it's not as bad as Andrew Peters' crappy -1.5 GVT, but being below 0 isn't good at all. I want to avoid McAmmond comparisons, but he at least put up a positive GVT (2.2).
On-Ice Stats: Mair was outscored at 5-on-5, as he was on the ice for 23 goals allowed and 21 goals scored. Mair did manage a low on-ice goals against per 60 rate (2.23); but the goals for per 60 rate was even lower (2.03). Both rates fell when Mair got on the ice; off the ice the GF/60 was at 2.63 and the GA/60 was at 2.61. When Mair went on the ice, the goals for per 60 rate fell more sharply than for goals against per 60. Not exactly great considering the weak competition he faced. The shots for and against per 60 rate also fell when Mair stepped on the ice. When Mair was on the ice, the SF/60 fell from 28.6 to 26.1; the SA/60 fell from 29.2 to 26.9. It's usually good to see the SA/60 and GA/60 drop when a player steps on the ice, but given the weak quality of competition, it's not impressive. Especially since the rates fall for Buffalo too.
Penalties: Mair hasn't had a season where he took over 100 PIM since 2006-07, though he came 5 minutes short in 2008-09. He took 73 PIM last season. At 5-on-5, he took 17 calls (third most on team) and drew 9 (tied for 11th on team). Taking more calls than drawing them results in a negative for the team; especially for someone who plays so few minutes.
What Do Buffalo Fans Think: This doesn't come from Behind the Net, but from Die by the Blade. The blog does a report card for every player after the season. Mair's report card isn't pretty. Andy Boron's assessment, the grade the readers gave him, and the ensuing comments are a bigger indictment of Mair than any of the prior stats. I learned from it that he's a grinder, he works hard, and that he apparently takes a lot of dumb penalties. Most of the ratings out of 10 were 5's and 4's; which I assume means slightly below expectations. The fans thought he met expectations in 2008-09, but even then, Mair wasn't great either given David Oleksy's assessment.
Conclusion: I don't think he's very good; and so I'm not exactly excited at the possibility of Adam Mair making this team. Perhaps Lou feels the team could benefit from another grinder on the roster. Especially one who can play both wing and center. Given that Mair's on a try-out with the Devils, he could be had for cheap too. However, I really don't see what Mair can bring to the Devils outside of energy and hits. He recently played against weak competition and even there he got outscored at 5-on-5; he's below replacement-level based on GVT; both the shots and goals for and against his team fall so it's a wash; he still took more penalties than drawing them at 5-on-5; and he was only used for even strength hockey. I don't think it was an accident that he got this far in the off season without a contract, and is now here on a try-out basis.
I still think he's got a better shot than Nilson if only because he's been in the NHL for so long. I'm just not seeing what his benefits are beyond "energy" and "intensity." (Note: I don't take stock into hitting stats since every arena seems to have a different definition of what is and isn't a hit.) Don't get me wrong, I know they can be assets. Those can be good traits for a fourth line player. It's just hard to justify either beyond reputation and your own eyes. I'm sure preseason will be more enlightening as to what Mair can do for New Jersey in 2010-11. After all, a try out does nobody any harm right now. Though, I'm kind of wishing Dean McAmmond was in the picture instead.
In any case, I'd like to know what you feel about this move. What do you think of when you hear the name, Adam Mair? Do you think Adam Mair should make the team, knowing what he did last year in Buffalo? Do you think the Devils could use a grinder, but perhaps not Mair? Please leave your thoughts about Mair and his trying out in NJ in the comments. Thanks for reading.