Do the Devils have a Playoff Caliber Line-Up at Forward?

With the Devils falling out of a playoff spot on Thursday, I question whether they even have the depth at forward to make the playoffs.

The New Jersey Devils have managed to score on every goalie they faced, until last night's game against Boston. So, this sparked a question in my mind: do the Devils deserve to be in playoff contention given their depth at forward? We all remember the departure of Zach Parise, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Petr Sykora while the Devils sat, status quo, through the offseason. In the last few weeks, the Devils have added on depth at forward, but not necessarily the skill to replace the talent that was lost. These acquisitions include Andrei Loktionov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt D'Agostini, and most recently, Steve Sullivan. So, let's take a look at the Devils forwards, the possible line combinations come playoff time, and whether or not this roster can get into the playoffs.

2013 New Jersey Devils Forwards
ILYA KOVALCHUK 32 10 17 27 0.84 1.68 -2 16 113 8.8
PATRIK ELIAS 36 10 20 30 0.83 17.53 8 18 84 11.9
ANDREI LOKTIONOV 19 7 4 11 0.58 14.25 0 4 27 25.9
DAVID CLARKSON 36 12 8 20 0.56 20.34 -4 58 134 9
ADAM HENRIQUE 31 10 4 14 0.45 10.35 0 10 56 17.9
DAINIUS ZUBRUS 10 1 3 4 0.40 0.89 -2 8 11 9.1
TRAVIS ZAJAC 36 5 9 14 0.39 10.45 -3 12 60 8.3
RYAN CARTER 32 4 8 12 0.38 3.46 -4 19 49 8.2
STEVE SULLIVAN 33 5 7 12 0.36 7.92 -8 20 48 10.4
STEVE BERNIER 36 8 4 12 0.33 4.64 -9 17 65 12.3
STEPHEN GIONTA 36 3 8 11 0.31 -4.24 1 10 37 8.1
ALEXEI PONIKAROVSKY 20 2 4 6 0.30 10.96 1 8 31 6.5
MATT D'AGOSTINI 21 1 3 4 0.19 1.29 -4 6 22 0.05
TOM KOSTOPOULOS 13 1 0 1 0.08 17.47 0 16 11 9.1
JACOB JOSEFSON 16 0 1 1 0.06 -5.46 -10 2 13 0
KRYSTOFER BARCH 22 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 1 44 4 0
I combined the statistics from prior teams for Sullivan and D'Agostini.

Looking at this pool of talent, there are only four players who have managed to score ten goals and only three players to rack up at least 20 points. That's a little disheartening through 37 games this season. However, given it's a shortened season and the Devils have had many injuries this year, I decided added a points per game column. There are two elite scorer in Kovalchuk and Elias who have PPG of .85 and .84 respectively. After those two, it drops to half a point per game for Loktionov, Clarkson, and Henrique. So the Devils do have some premier talent, but is it enough?

Once the Devils have a healthy roster, what would their playoff lines look like? I venture a guess below:

Kovalchuk - Zajac - Clarkson
Elias - Henrique - Zubrus
Ponikarovsky - Loktionov - D'Agostini
Carter - Gionta - Bernier

Extra skaters: Josefson and Kostopoulos

Of course this assumes that everyone is healthy in time for the playoffs. This includes Josefson, Zubrus, and Kovalchuk all healing while the Devils are still in playoff contention. The first line seems like a no brainer, two of the Devils best scorers being centered by the Devils #1 center. The second line is also a very strong line, especially in possession. Also, I believe that Loktionov will eventually cool off and Henrique is the better center, earning himself the second line center position. I then assumed the fourth line will consist of the usual "CBGB" line and plugged in the other wingers into the third line. From this exercise we can see that Lou Lamoriello has essentially added on a competent third line through acquiring talent this season.

The lineup looks OK on paper, but not great. The first two lines can hold their own, but the third line would be a question mark. Loktionov is performing well, but that may not last, he is shooting at almost 26% since joining the Devils. D'Agostini is a question mark and Sullivan is an aging NHL player. Perhaps Josefson could switch to right wing and replace D'Agostini? But I don't remember a time that Josefson has played on the wing. Overall, if the Devils can retake the eight seed, they could potentially have another good playoff run. However, if the Penguin take first place in the East, I think they will crush whoever gets the eighth seed, so lets hope they can grab the seventh seed.

Do you think the Devils' forward corps have it in them to push the team into the playoffs? If they make the playoffs, do you think these lines are good enough to win? Otherwise who would you substitute into the lineup, could Josefson play winger? Let's hope that the Devils get healthy soon and put together a string of wins, otherwise they will be at home come playoff time.

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