Taking a Look at Andy Greene, The Devils' Rock on Defense

Elsa

Andy Greene doesn't catch a lot of buzz around the NHL for how solid he has been for New Jersey, but Devils fans should certainly be appreciative of his contributions.

Over the past few years, Andy Greene has quietly become the Devils most reliable defenseman. He has stepped into the the 1D role and held his own versus the top competition that other teams have to offer. I guess the word I would use to describe Greene's play for the Devils at this point in his career is "solid." Andy Greene is not really a dominant player, so to speak, but he is good enough to take on other team's top lines and come out ahead in possession.

As good as the Devils' defense has been at preventing shots, the corps as a whole has plenty of warts. Salvador and Volchenkov are slow and struggle mightily moving the puck; Zidlicky excels on offense but is sheltered by his zone starts and can find himself out of position as a defender too often; Harrold has outperformed expectations but still remains probably a third-pairing D at best; Larsson is still too tentative at times and hasn't quite figured out how to optimize his talents at the NHL level; and Fayne (albeit undeservedly, in my opinion) has fallen out of favor with the coaches at times and found himself in the owner's box on occaision. That leaves Andy Greene as likely the most well-rounded two-way defenseman the Devils have right now.

Greene is pretty much the only current Devils defenseman to play significant time in all three phases of play. He led the team in even strength TOI this past year and finished 2nd and 3rd in power play and penalty kill minutes among defensemen, respectively. He's relied on to carry a lot of the load for this team and he fulfills that role well.

Looking at his 5v5 stats at Behind the Net, we can see that despite the top-pairing minutes and zone starts he receives, he still comes out well ahead of competition with a Corsi On of +10. And while it's not exactly saying a ton when it comes to the Devils, he put up the second most points on the team for a defenseman last year, behind Zidlicky, with his 16 points in 48 games. Greene was able to play this strongly last season while towing the still-finding-himself Adam Larsson around the majority of his time. According to Dimitri Filipovic over at NHL Numbers, the Devils first-pairing weighted Corsi compares pretty well to the rest of the league (side note: the author was also quite impressed by Mark Fayne, but that's another topic for another day.)

All that being said, I don't know if I'd call Andy Greene a dominant in any particular way. His mistakes aren't particularly frequent, but, as John showed in his GA analysis, he can still make them sometimes. His Corsi On is good for his usage, but his Corsi Rel is slightly negative, so he isn't necessarily seamrolling top competition. His offense is good for the Devils (tied for 6th on the team overall, ergo, [sad face]) but that only puts him somewhere in the "okay " to "decent" range league-wide. But the beauty of Greene's game is that he does everything well and seems to lack any kind of glaring flaw, so the sum of his parts creates a pretty strong defender in the end.

Andy Greene is good in a way that just isn't super flashy. He'll never be a shutdown monster like Chara, or an offensive dynamo like Karlsson, but he contributes everywhere. He'll quietly pile up nights where he'll skate mostly against a team's top line and keep them in check and move play forward. This past year, he was doing it while dragging an unimpressive Adam Larsson around for most of his minutes (seriously, Greene's WOWY with Larsson paints a rough picture for the 20-year-old 1st rounder). Even the way Andy Greene got the alternate captain spot in the vacated place of a certain Russian winger was quiet, in that he just showed up to a press conference with an 'A' on his jersey, sans announcement.

Flying under the radar is probably something Greene (and the Devils, for that matter), is pretty used to at this point in his career. And while I'm not sure I'd include him among the league's elite defensemen, he is certainly a nice player to have on your first pairing. He can lay nice hits, score goals, and grow a fantastic playoff beard. He was able to keep driving play forward in tough minutes this year, even while carrying the inexperienced Larsson on his flank. If reunited with Mark Fayne this season (a pairing that seemed to work okay on the Devils' cup run 2 years ago), I think you could see some seriously impressive possession numbers for both. No, Andy Greene doesn't garner a lot of buzz around the league, but for the Devils, he may be one of their most important players going into this season. Chime in with any thoughts you have in the comments below and thanks for reading.

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