Michael Cammalleri to Repeat Star Performance for New Jersey Devils Next Season?

Adam Braun@abraun_15Contributor IApril 6, 2015

Michael Cammalleri carries the puck through the neutral zone.
Michael Cammalleri carries the puck through the neutral zone.Andy Marlin/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils are short on players who have had unequivocally solid seasons. Cory Schneider certainly fits the bill in goal, and Andy Greene and Adam Larsson may do the same as defensemen, but at forward, there have been very few success stories in New Jersey this season.

Perhaps the only Devils forward who has lived up to what management hoped for at the start of the season is Michael Cammalleri, who signed with New Jersey as a free agent over the offseason after spending three years with the Calgary Flames

He had an impressive goal-scoring pedigree before coming to New Jersey, recording two 30-plus-goal seasons and another two 20-plus-goal seasons.

But at 32 years old and against the backdrop of last season's failed Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe experiments, there were certainly plenty of reasons to be doubtful regarding Cammalleri's ability to influence the team this season.

However, he has justified the Devils' faith in him by leading the offensively anemic team in goals by a wide margin. This season, New Jersey would be in an awful place without Cammalleri and his 27 goals and 13 assists. If the Devils want to improve their fortunes next season, Cammalleri will need to at least replicate his performance from this season.

Can he do it? There are reasons to think both that he can and that he cannot.  

One troubling aspect of Cammalleri's season is his shooting percentage. He has scored on 17.9 percent of the shots he has taken this season, which is a career high. While it is obviously good that Cammalleri has made the most of limited chances, it is doubtful that he could keep up such a high rate of scoring. 

To compare, Cammalleri's career shooting percentage is 12.6 percent, which is normal for good scorers (Alexander Ovechkin's career shooting percentage is 12.4; Evgeni Malkin's is 12.9). During Cammalleri's best season in terms of goal scoring, he scored 39 goals with a shooting percentage of 15.3 percent. 

Cammalleri's career average shooting percentage would have yielded only 19 goals to this point in the season. So, unless the Devils can get significantly more shots next season, Cammalleri will need to replicate a somewhat lucky streak in front of goal.

Of course, no individual player's season happens in a vacuum. The major culprit for Cammalleri's lack of shots is not his individual play, but rather New Jersey's general inability to create offensive chances.

If Lou Lamoriello makes changes to the team, namely by adding two scoring forwards, as he told Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice, the Devils ought to be able to create more shots. Surely one of those new players would play on a line with Cammalleri, which would ideally give him more opportunities to score. 

In such a situation, Cammalleri's shooting percentage could return to closer to average levels without reducing his goals output. 

Somewhat related to Cammalleri's shooting percentage is his number of empty-net goals this season. Obviously, a player with a high number of empty-netters will have an artificially inflated shooting percentage, as such shots are very likely to end up in the back of the net. 

Michael Cammalleri takes aim at an empty net. He has five empty-net goals this season.
Michael Cammalleri takes aim at an empty net. He has five empty-net goals this season.Elsa/Getty Images

This season, Cammalleri has five empty-net goals. Without them, he would have 22 goals this season, which is a respectable but less impressive number. Twenty-two goals would still lead the team by a wide margin, but it does put into perspective what his contribution has been this season. 

Cammalleri also has nine power-play goals, which leaves him with just 13 even-strength goals this season. It is not uncommon for top offensive players to have a sizable chunk of their goals be scored with a man advantage, but it nonetheless puts Cammalleri's contributions this season into a different light. 

He also has only 13 assists, which does not even put him in the top five among Devils players. 

But, as alluded to earlier, it is important to note that it is difficult to accurately judge a player's offensive contributions on a team that has struggled to score as much as the Devils have. Cammalleri has been the best offensive player in New Jersey this season, but that simply does not say much. 

Can Cammalleri still be a good goal scorer? This season indicates that he can be. He has also proved to be reliable defensively and a good penalty killer, both of which will serve him well, particularly if he goes on a cold streak.

But, can he be the star offensive player again for the Devils next year?

Cammalleri will be 33 years old by the time next season starts, so it certainly seems possible that a bit of a regression could be in the cards. In all honesty, though, the question of Cammalleri's status among Devils forwards will have more to do with the team's offseason moves than his own play.

Cammalleri has 66 goals and 117 points in 172 games over the last three seasons. Those are good numbers, but they are nowhere near good enough to carry a team. If New Jersey asks him to do so next season, 2015-16 will be just as disappointing as 2014-15. 

So, the answer to the question posed in the headline comes in two parts.

If the Devils do not add more offensive firepower to the roster for next season, it seems likely that Cammalleri's numbers will dip. He has played well, but he also has clearly benefited from a modicum of luck. 

But, if New Jersey does manage to find upgrades at forward, those improvements would at least make up for what Cammalleri could lose if his luck runs dry. With such players around him, there is no reason why Cammalleri could not score around 25 goals again, as well as improve his disappointing assists tally. 

It may seem like a simplistic perspective on things, but the fact of the matter is that Cammalleri and the Devils as a team need to gain new offensive talent in order to secure future success.

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