NJ Devils: Report Cards at the Halfway Point (Goalies and Defense)

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NJ Devils:  Report Cards at the Halfway Point (Goalies and Defense)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As we reach the halfway point of the season, its time to take a look at the individual performances of the Devils and maybe take a dive into what might happen in the weeks and months that lie ahead.

Goaltenders :

Martin Brodeur (38 GP, 26-10-1, 2.20 GAA, .920 S%, 4 SO) :  The day will come when people begin to realize how special this man's career has been.  This year has been no different, where Brodeur has produced just about on a nightly basis. 

He leads the league in wins with 26, is tied for sixth in GAA with 2.20 and tied for third in shutouts with five.  Let's not forget to mention he became the all-time leader in NHL history in shutouts with now 105 (after becoming the all-time wins leader last season).  Without Brodeur, the Devils are not an elite NHL team, they are just a team that plays in the NHL.  Grade:  A

Yann Danis (4 GP, 3-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .929 S%):  It's always tough to grade a Devils backup goaltender, because of the lack of any consistent workload they have to endure.  They must work very hard in practice to be ready for the rare appearance they will actually get to play in a game. 

Danis had two great starts to begin his season, only to be pulled in his third start after one period.  He also added one stint in relief where he ended up picking up the win in Atlanta on 12/19.  Overall, tough to knock Danis' body of work, you just may wish he had a bigger body of work to look at.  Grade:  B

Defensemen: (in order of games played)

Colin White (40 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 P, +5, 8 PIM, 1 SHA, 21 shots):  White isn't flashy, and he doesn't generate a lot of offensive prowess on the ice, but overall he is pretty solid as far as a defensive defensemen.  The fact that he has chipped in with two goals is a serious bonus, as he has now reached the "milestone" of 20 career goals. 

He will never be the player he was prior to his serious eye injury, but he continues to be reliable just about most of the time for the Devils, and is able to matched up against other teams' best lines without looking out of place at all.  White is also is the only defensemen for the Devils to play in all 40 games thus far.  Grade:  B

Mike Mottau (38 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, -1, 21 PIM, 1 PPA, 38 shots):  Is Mike Mottau a by-product of the Devils defensive system, or is the Devils defensive system enhanced by the presence of Mottau on their backline?  That's the question that you have to answer when trying to figure out the impact of Mottau on the Devils. 

He definitely makes his share of mistakes there is no getting around that, but Mottau is a good contributor overall.  However, it's hard not to think his spot could get an upgrade at some point, whether it's later this year or for next season (he is a pending unrestricted free agent).  However, once he's gone, you may only then realize how much he's missed.  Grade:  C+

Andy Greene (37 GP, 5 G, 18 A, 23 P, +9, 8 PIM, 4 PPG, 7 PPA, 3 GWG, 41 shots):  I have always thought Greene was a little overlooked by former Head Coach Brent Sutter, but I never imagined in my wildest ideas that Greene would in position to be talked about as a player the US Olympic Team overlooked for its potential 2010 selections. 

However, he has been THAT good for the Devils this year, filling a tremendous void created when injuries took out the likes of Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya (amongst others) for extended periods of time.  It's a wonder where this team might be had Greene not been there for the team when it was needed most, playing in excess of 22 minutes a game in 27 of the last 28 games and averaging 24:09 in ice time for the season.  He basically has been a godsend for this team thus far.  Grade:  A+

Mark Fraser (32 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, +9, 15 PIM, 14 shots):  Fraser is a guy that has come out of nowhere to be a somewhat solid third pairing guy.  He has a little more size to the mix compared to some of his other fellow defensemen but hasn't looked all that out of place. 

That being said, Head Coach Jacques Lemaire has definitely kept the "kid gloves" on Fraser a bit thus far, not wanting to put Fraser in spots where he may suffer.  Having hit a bit of a wall lately, playing under ten minutes of ice time (including just 4:28 against Minnesota), because of some struggles, Fraser still has some things to improve on.  Ideally, he'd be the seventh defensemen, but injuries have not allowed that to be an option, but it's also hard to be very critical of Fraser's play given the circumstances.  Grade:  C+

Johnny Oduya (25 GP, 1 G, 1 P, -1, 16 PIM, 22 shots):  Oduya, to be simple, has not lived up to the contract he signed this past off-season, and has clearly struggled at times.  He also missed 15 games with a groin injury, which may have contributed some to those struggles. 

Of late, Oduya's play has picked up some, but to be fair, he had a LONG ways to climb, and still has a pretty long ways to go.  The giveaway to Jonathan Toews on 12/31 is an example of how bad Oduya's play can be, but the goal he scored against Detroit on 12/5 is an example of how good Oduya can be when he is playing well. 

Unfortunately, this year, Oduya's bad has severely outweighed his good moments, and that needs to change in the second half of the year if the Devils want to go far in the playoffs.  Grade:  D

Cory Murphy (11 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, -3, 1 PPA, 9 shots), Matthew Corrente (10 GP, Even, 17 PIM, 4 shots), Paul Martin (9 GP, 2 A, 2 P, +1, 9 shots), Tyler Eckford (3 GP, 1 A, 1 P, Even, 4 PIM, 1 shot):  All four of these guys for various reasons have not played even one third of the Devils's games, whether its for ineffectiveness (Murphy), injury (Martin) or spending time in the minors (Corrente & Eckford) and thus receive a grade of incomplete for the first half of the season.

NEXT:  In our next installment, we will take a look at the forwards and give them grades for their play thus far.

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