Upon reading that Alexei Ponikarovsky was reacquired by the New Jersey Devils for a fourth- and seventh-round pick, I immediately felt déjà vu. Didn't the Devils, needing size at the forward position, pull off the same move just a season ago, only to let him test the free-agent market a few months later?
So what's different this time? For starters, Ponikarovsky is a year older and working on a slightly more expensive contract ($1.8 million per season instead of the $1.5 million that he played for last season).
While this trade is another example of great value, it does not solve the Devils' early problems: their inability to use size on offense and defense. Especially against Carolina, it was more than clear that the Devils need to utilize their size against larger opponents.
The loss of Dainius Zubrus really stings (and he might not be coming back very soon), and this acquisition does not make up for the loss of forecheck that the Devils have faced.
Last season, Ponikarovsky's play could be summarized in just a few words: "Big size but does not use it, decent shot, turnover prone." It's very unlikely that Ponikarovsky will contribute more than 15 points (which would actually be a more efficient rate than last season), so obviously Lou Lamoriello sees some other way in which he can contribute.
Is it his defensive skill? In his nine full seasons (including this one), Ponikarovsky was above a plus-three only three times.
What about playoff experience? In the past 10 years, on only two occasions did Ponikarovsky play more than five playoff games.
Well, he is 6'4"; doesn't that mean something? It means that he has great size, but Ponikarovsky is notorious for never utilizing his large frame, which is seen especially in his reluctance to forecheck.
Finally, where would he even fit in the lineup? It is pretty apparent that the lines are flexible, but there are pairings that have been deemed successful, such as Clarkson and Elias together and the BCBG line (Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta).
So let's just take a quick look at the lines, according to the Devils' game against Carolina:
- Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac-Bobby Butler
- Patrik Elias-Adam Henrique-David Clarkson
- Steve Bernier-Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta
- Stefan Matteau-Jacob Josefson-Krys Barch
The only place where Ponikarovsky may fit is the right wing position on the first line. He has played with Kovalchuk, though, and their success was minimal. So what is the point?
Am I missing something? Is Ponikarovsky more than a turnover machine who inputs little effort? Leave a comment so I can see what you think.
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