Coming into this season, one thing was certain for the New Jersey Devils- losing Ilya Kovalchuk, who retired this past offseason to go play in his home country of Russia, would be detrimental to the team's scoring totals. After all, during his tenure with the Devils, Kovalchuk did lead the Devils team in goals in two of his three full seasons with New Jersey. As a matter of fact, the only years he did not reach at least 30 goals in his entire career was his rookie year, where he only played 65 games (29 goals) and last year in the lockout-shortened, 48 game season (11 goals). He has also scored at least 40 goals in five different seasons, and at least 50 goals in two seasons. When it comes to pure goal scoring, there are few better than Ilya Kovlachuk.
Now take this depleted New Jersey Devils team:
-26th in the league in goals/game
-30th in the league in shots/game
-30th in the league in shootout shooting percentage
-30th in the league in shootout goals
These are all areas that Kovalchuk helped in. He is a sniper, a pure goal scorer. Had Kovalchuk been on the team this year, the Devils would probably not be in the situation they are in right now. Here in another staggering stat that Kovalchuk would have impacted- the Devils have lost nine 1-goal-games, which is 6th in the league for most. Kovalchuk's scoring touch could have helped the Devils tie up games or win more games in overtime. Of their 57 games played so far, the Devils have had 36 of them decided by one goal, win or lose. Given these offensive stats, the Devils clearly have a weakness that Kovalchuk potentially could have helped fix.
The Devils clearly know what their identity is- defense. This has been the case for most of the franchise's history. When Kovalchuk was brought in during the 2009 season, he brought in that pure goal scoring skill that the team had missed for so long. Him, along with Zach Parise, and strong defense, led to an overall strong team that would eventually make it to the Stanley Cup Final during the 2011-2012 season. Now, with Kovalchuk and Parise gone, General Manager Lou Lamoriello needs to make some moves this trade deadline to bring in some offense, and hope that our young prospects like Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau mature into solid offensive players. But one thing is for sure, Ilya Kovalchuk has not been replaced so far.