Final season, there have been some massive positives and enhancements that occurred on the blue line for the New Jersey Devils. The most important of these, in fact, was absolutely the arrival of Jonas Siegenthaler, which was solely simply mentioned by Stephen the opposite day. Dougie Hamilton performed pretty nicely when wholesome, and Damon Severson continued to be Damon Severson. With the eventual arrivals of Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, it has the makings of what may very well be a stable and even nice group.
One space that this protection utterly ignored final 12 months, nonetheless, for higher or worse, was hits. The Devils protection, the truth is, was one of many least-hitting blue traces within the league final 12 months. Take a look at this data from Pure Stat Trick. Whenever you take a look at all defenders final 12 months with a minimum of 500 minutes at 5 on 5 play (there have been 213 of them), the highest 50 defenders by way of hits per 60 minutes represented 29 totally different groups within the league. Meaning that there have been solely 3 groups that didn’t have one defender crack the highest 50 in hits/60 final 12 months at 5v5 motion. These groups have been the New York Islanders, Detroit Crimson Wings, and your New Jersey Devils.
And to go a step additional with that, these different two groups, Detroit and the Isles, nonetheless managed to have a minimum of one defender within the high 100 on the listing of hits/60 at 5v5, whereas New Jersey didn’t. Zdeno Chara ranked #61 on the listing, making the Isles the thirtieth group to make the listing. Moritz Seider ranked #85 on the listing, placing Detroit because the thirty first group to make the listing. And eventually, coming in all the best way down at #102 you can find Dougie Hamilton lastly giving the Devils a spot on the listing. No Devils defender cracked the highest 100 in hits/60 at 5v5. Hamilton managed to file 4.51 hits/60 at 5v5, and that was tops amongst Devils defensemen. That is compared to Nashville’s Mark Borowiecki, who put up 17.07 hits/60 to guide all defenders on this listing. That could be a huge distinction. The highest Satan in hitting barely managed to get 25% of the hits that the highest defender was getting per 60 minutes.
Now, hits aren’t the end-all-be-all statistic for defensemen. This is not like speaking about possession, factors, and even zone exits. Hits aren’t the coveted statistic to find out who’s a profitable d-man and who is not. So this is not to say that New Jersey’s blue line was unhealthy final 12 months as a result of they did not give attention to hits. It positively is not telling us that Dougie Hamilton is not good and Mark Borowiecki is. However what it does inform us is what this Devils defensive corps targeted on as a group, how they set the tone on the ice, and what id they created. When an opposing group entered the zone and the Devils have been taking part in protection, the opposition didn’t actually need to fret about getting hit by defenders down low, it was not occurring that a lot. The concern of getting lit up like Scott Stevens would do to gamers at instances was merely not there, because the group was not hitting. After all, nobody can hit as Stevens used to anymore, they might take a penalty and presumably be suspended, however the basic thought stays. Opposing groups have been afraid to play towards Stevens due to his tenacity and physicality. The Devils defensive corps of 2021-22 didn’t show a lot physicality, and actually, may need been the least bodily amongst all blue traces within the NHL.
You would possibly suppose that evaluating final 12 months’s squad to Scott Stevens is a poor comparability given how issues have modified during the last 10-20 years, and also you would not be solely mistaken. So, let’s evaluate final 12 months’s Devils and hits to the 2017-18 iteration of the group, the final one to make the playoffs. Here’s a fast chart of the highest 4 Devils defenders in hits/60 at 5v5 for each the 2017-18 group and the 2021-22 group, once more from the identical Pure Stat Trick hyperlink above. The rating is from all NHL defenders that 12 months who performed a minimum of 500 5v5 minutes.
The distinction is clearly fairly stark. Even from Severson, who’s the one participant from each lists, he clearly was hitting extra again in 2017-18 than he was final 12 months, virtually 1.5 extra hits per 60. That simply goes to indicate the philosophical distinction between the totally different teaching staffs. However the others are huge of their variations. Steve Santini was a high 10 defender that 12 months by way of hits per 60 at 5v5 with nicely over 10 hits per 60, a really massive quantity. John Moore and Ben Lovejoy have been additionally fairly constant hitters that 12 months, each round 5 and a half hits per 60, nicely inside the high 100. And it is not like there have been simply extra hits that 12 months than final 12 months. The #100 particular person on the listing in 2017-18, Dmitry Orlov, had 4.41 hits per 60. The #100 particular person on the listing in 2021-22, Mike Reilly, was at 4.60 hits per 60. These are pretty related numbers, with the 2021-22 quantity being barely greater than in 2017-18. After all, the highest man on the listing in each years is the very same. Mark Borowiecki has that spot on lockdown.
All-in-all, that is simply an attention-grabbing look into how the protection has modified philosophies with the present teaching workers versus beforehand, and what which means for the blue line. This group focuses much less on the bodily side of the sport, and it reveals within the numbers. Once more, it doesn’t suggest that this can be a unhealthy group of defenders. The truth is, I feel the group must be improved this 12 months, much more so when Luke Hughes and/or Simon Nemec turn out to be NHL regulars. But it surely is not a gaggle that’s targeted on physicality or establishing the defensive zone by means of hitting and checking. You would possibly suppose this can be a good factor as a result of it signifies that the main focus is as a substitute on extra necessary elements of the sport. Or, you would possibly suppose this can be a unhealthy factor as a result of opposing groups which might be too snug getting into and sustaining the zone will inevitably rating extra targets. Will probably be attention-grabbing to see if the shortage of hitting is noticeable within the numbers as soon as once more this 12 months, or if there may be extra of a give attention to that side of the sport transferring ahead.