New Jersey Devils Report Cards For All at Halfway Mark Of Season

levinakl@levinaklCorrespondent IIIJanuary 13, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 23:  Head coach Jacques Lemaire of the New Jersey Devils looks on against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center on December 23, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Forty-two games have been played by the Devils so far, and with a record of 11-29-2, it isn't hard to determine the grades for the Devils are not going to be very high.  With that, let's jump right into it, and give out grades for the players as of the halfway point.  For comparitive purposes, here's where I had it at the quarter pole.  The team replaced its Head Coach John MacLean, with Jacques Lemaire on December 23rd, but even that hasn't given the team the turnaround they had hoped.

Jason Arnott (42 GP, 10 G, 8 A, 18 P, -11, 22 PIM, 26 hits, 3 blocks, 2 PPG, 3 PPA, 110 shots)

Despite being tied for the team lead in goals with ten, Arnott has been more of a disappointment than anything after being brought over from Nashville in the offseason for Matt Halischuk and a second-round pick.  It was hoped that Arnott would team with Patrik Elias to bring back memories of circa 2000 when they played together in winning a Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, the chemistry and effectiveness hasn't been nearly the same thus far.  Grade:  C

David Clarkson (42 GP, 7 G, 3 A, 10 P, -17, 82 PIM, 92 hits, 10 blocks, 1 PPG, 113 shots)

Clarkson has had a mostly brutal season, until the last few games, when he has showed flashes of being the player he was a few seasons ago.  He's scored three goals in his last three games, including two goals against Tampa Bay this past Sunday.  He's fit pretty well on the fourth line, which despite his cap hit, may be where he is destined to stay going forward.  Grade: C-

Andy Greene (42 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 13 P, -23, 14 PIM, 23 hits, 79 blocks, 1 PPG, 4 PPA, 53 shots)

Ten years ago, the defense was anchored by the likes of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski.  The number one defenseman has fallen from Niedermayer to Rafalski to Paul Martin, and now Andy Greene.  Sadly, it is here that shows a big reason why the Devils are in the situation they currently reside.  Greene is not a cornerstone player, he's a nice complimentary piece, but the Devils definitely had higher hopes for him after the top notch performance he had the first half of last season  Grade:  D

Rod Pelley: (42 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, -11, 25 PIM, 74 hits, 18 blocks, 1 PPG, 55 shots)

For the fourth-line role he is asked to fill, Pelley continues to fill his role well on most nights.  He's filled the role you would hope for him, playing physical (third on the team in hits with 74) and adding a spark when he gets the ice time.  He's even chipped in two goals, which is about what you would have expected too.  His numbers and performance definitely improved in the second quarter, and he was very solid in the first quarter.  Grade: A-

Henrik Tallinder (42 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, -22, 22 PIM, 38 hits, 39 blocks, 1 PPA, 1 SHG, 43 shots)

Tallinder was brought in with high hopes of helping to fill the void of the departed Paul Martin.  Unfortunately, he's been about a big a disappointment as you could have, showing practically nothing that was expected from him after a successful career with the Buffalo Sabres the past seven-plus seasons.  For a player of his size and experience, he too often is found out of position, and with three more seasons left on his contract, you wonder if GM Lou Lamoriello is trying to find a taker for him as the trade deadline approaches.  Grade:  F

Travis Zajac (42 GP, 6 G, 15 A, 21 P, -9, 19 PIM, 38 hits, 14 blocks, 6 PPA, 1 SHA, 91 shots)

It is painfully obvious that Zajac just simply is not the same player without Zach Parise.  The chemistry those two players have formed can't be replicated too easily.  He is the Devils' Iron Man, and is set to break the Devils' record for consecutive games played next month, assuming there are no issues that arise.  He's one of the few players who had better offensive numbers in the second quarter of the year, but the rest of his play suffered around it, and his plus/minus suffered greatly because of it.  He does continue to be the best face-off man the team has, and does a lot of little things that may go unnoticed to the casual fan.  That being said, he needs to step up his game even more, because he must score more than the forty points he is on pace for.  Grade:  C+

Patrik Elias (41 GP, 9 G, 21 A, 30 P, -11, 4 PIM, 33 hits, 11 blocks, 5 PPG, 8 PPA, 2 GWG, 105 shots)

Elias has easily been the Devils' best player in the first half, and capped it off by being named to the All-Star team by the NHL today, and deservedly so, according to his teammates.  He has picked up his game and been their most consistent threat, while continuing to be his normal solid presence in the defensive end as well.  It's hard to take that the team has struggled this year like it has, despite the fact Elias has picked up his game.  Grade:  A-

Ilya Kovalchuk (41 GP, 10 G, 13 A, 23 P, -29, 22 PIM, 14 hits, 4 blocks, 4 PPG, 6 PPA, 3 GWG, 118 shots)

Kovalchuk still has not been able to mesh with his teammates, especially at even strength, and doesn't seem like his the same player who has netted 338 goals in eight seasons before this one (season low of 29 in his rookie year).  He is a dynamic talent, there is no doubt, but it is hard to even fathom how a player with the talent he has can only have scored ten goals in forty-one games.  This can't be what Devils fans have to look forward for the next fourteen seasons, can it?  I'm guessing not, but thus far, it's been just a little short of a disaster.  Grade:  D-

Dainius Zubrus (41 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 15 P, -18, 33 PIM, 62 hits, 14 blocks, 1 PPG, 1 PPA, 1 SHA, 1 GWG, 64 shots)

Zubrus is a tough player to get a read on, and is also hard to judge based on stats alone.  He isn't a glamorous player and will often leave you thirsty for more when he sometimes will show off skills he doesn't utilize enough.  His size and effort add a lot, but as I said, he often will leave you expecting and hoping for more.  Ideally, he's a very solid third liner, but he's usually been expected to fill more of a role than that on this team, and he isn't a top-six forward.  Grade: C

Colin White  (39 GP, 1 A 1 P, -13, 32 PIM, 73 hits, 62 blocks, 29 shots)

White is another player who is overpaid compared to the role he is made to fill.  Ideally, he'd be a very capable third-line defenseman, who could add a little toughness and leadership.  However, with no mobility and not a whole lot of ability to move the puck out of the zone quickly and efficiently, White gets lost on this team with no real puck mover to pair with him.  Loyalty aside, if GM Lou Lamoriello has the ability to move him, he must trade White to free up the $3 million in cap space.  He gets an A for his effort, but his performance is much lower, even if he's probably been the Devils best defenseman so far this year.  Grade  C

Adam Mair (39 GP, 1 G, 1 P, -15, 38 PIM, 45 hits, 7 blocks, 33 shots)

Mair was brought in for a training camp tryout with the Devils before being signed early in the regular season after some salary cap room opened up.  Clearly, his loyalty shouldn't be questioned, but his production hasn't been too great, scoring just one goal and adding no assists thus far.  On a playoff team, I think he has much more value, adding some physical play grit, but he definitely doesn't have much of a role to fill on the current team, and should be dealt to a playoff team to provide some depth, allowing one of the Devils' younger players to get an opportunity.  Grade:  C-

Jamie Langenbrunner (31 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 P, -15, 16 PIM, 33 hits, 12 blocks, 3 PPA, 2 GWG, 76 shots)

The former captain of the Devils, Langenbrunner was dealt to Dallas on January 7th for a conditional third-round draft choice.  While he has certainly had his share of criticism in the last season or two, Langebrunner was a veteran presense who will be missed.  Then again, a pending free agent, it was unlikely he would've been re-signed, which made it a priority to deal him for something that will be useful for the future.  He was definitely part of the problem for the team underachieving this year, but he shouldn't be singled out to be the scapegoat either.  Grade:  D

Anton Volchenkov (29 GP, 2 A, 2 P, -5, 18 PIM, 78 hits, 57 blocks, 37 shots)

The Devils brought Anton Volchenkov in during the off-season to anchor the defense, and to provide the physical presence they have not seen since Scott Stevens retired in 2005.  It's been a rough season for Volchenkov, with a concussion injury and the loss of his father, causing him to miss 13 games thus far.  Like everyone else, this year has turned into a lost cause of sorts for Volchenkov.  He's definitely added some physicality, but at the same time, he hasn't had the same impact he had in Ottawa, meaning he probably needs to have more of a puck moving defenseman to be paired with, and Andy Greene hasn't been the right fit this year, that much is certain.  Grade:  C-

Martin Brodeur (29 GP, 6-18-1, 1515 minutes, 77 GA, 3.05 GAA, .890 SP, 3 SO)

Martin Brodeur has set the bar pretty high over the course of his legendary and sure to be Hall of Fame career.  This year, his performance has not come close to what you would expect from him.    The three-time Stanley Cup champion had a rough beginning to the season and definitely struggled, to the point he asked to sit a few games to try and get his confidence back and work on his game in practice.  Thus far, it's helped some, but two games is way too small a sample, even if Brodeur yielded just three goals in 105 minutes.  if the Devils are going to climb back towards respectability, Brodeur will likely be needed to play a key role.  Grade:  D

Brian Rolston (25 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 P, -11, 12 PIM, 30 hits, 9 blocks, 1 PPG, 1 PPA, 50 shots)

Rolston suffered a sports hernia injury that created temporary salary-cap relief but derailed what many were hoping would be a fresh start for a player who struggled mightily in the first two seasons of his return to the Devils.  Rolston has been placed on both regular and re-entry waivers, and gone unclaimed both times.  It's been a colossal disappointment for both the Devils and Rolston, and while Rolston is supposed to be about as nice a guy as there is, it doesn't ease the team's salary cap burden, nor does it provide the much needed offense.  At this point, it's only about figuring out a way for the Devils to find a taker for Rolston and his salary, which would give both he and the Devils the fresh start they both can use so greatly.  Grade: F

Tim Sestito (22 GP, 1 A, 1 P, -5, 55 hits, 10 blocks, 11 shots)

Sestito is a player who doesn't have a lot of expectations put on him, but at the same time, he has no margin for error either.  Sestito hustles and fills the role of a fourth line center.  Of late, he's meshed well with Rod Pelley and David Clarkson to play well, and the line has added a little offense, which is something this team always needs more of, and that's production from the fourth line.  That being said, for the long haul, an offensive upgrade at his spot would not be the worst idea, but until then, the team can survive with Sestito on the fourth line, especially if the top three lines begin to live up to their expectations. Grade:  C+

Mattias Tedenby (22 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 P, -5, 8 PIM, 8 hits, 2 block, 2 PPG, 2 PPA, 47 shots)

Mattias Tedenby has jumped in and while he has had some moments he has looked overmatched, he's also given Devils fans some hope for the future.  He has shown scoring ability, but at the same time, his lack of size has also hurt him at times.  He also has had some small injuries impact his playing time of late, but to get better and improve, Tedenby must be able to stay in the lineup.  Grade:  B-

Matthew Corrente (21 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 P, -5, 39 PIM, 30 hits, 14 blocks, 21 shots)

Corrente is a bit of a different player than most of the players on the current roster, both for good and bad reasons.  He brings a bit of a physical aggressiveness, which is a dimension that not too many Devils have.  Unfortunately, his aggressiveness sometimes works against him and has worked against him and he gets caught out of position.  It has gotten to the point that the Devils have thought about moving Corrente to forward, although we're not quite at that point just yet, it does say a lot that they are even having those thoughts.   Grade: C-

Johan Hedberg (20 GP, 5-10-1, 889 minutes, 45 GA, 3.04 GAA, .890 SP, 1 SO)

Hedberg was brought in to be the first bonafide legitimate “name” backup to Martin Brodeur in many years.  Despite a very rough start, Hedberg has played well at times, and was the goalie for the best stretch of games when the Devils won three of four in late November, including the highlight game of the year, when they beat Washington 5-0 on November 22nd.  It will be interesting to see how the goalie games are distributed going forward, because of Hedberg's play.  Grade:  C+

For the guys who haven't played 20 games, we'll do a "lightning round" of sorts..

Mark Fayne (18 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, -5, 9 PIM, 30 hits, 14 blocks, 21 shots)

Young player with a lot of size, who came from Providence College, although he did chip in with two goals.  Grade:  C

Oliver Magnan (18 GP, 0 P, -4, 4 PIM, 29 hits, 14 blocks, 7 shots)

Another of the young defensemen the Devils were forced to use due to injury, Magnan started off strong in his first couple of games before being exposed a bit.  It's hard to blame him much because he was probably in a little over his head.  Grade: C-

Matt Taormina (17 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 P, -2, 2 PIM, 12 hits, 22 blocks, 1 PPG, 38 shots)

While Taormina has shown some offensive ability from the backline, his lack of size has definitely impacted the team negatively, and an ankle injured in practice has kept Taormina out of the lineup the last twenty-five games.  The Devils miss his offensive ability from the backline. Grade: C

Alexander Vasyunov (17 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, even, 6 hits, 2 blocks, 17 shots)

A second-round pick for the Devils in 2006, Vasyunov was called up to help fill a role on one of the top lines.  He has added a little bit of a spark and seemed to fit pretty well alongside fellow Russians Ilya Kovalchuk and Dainius Zubrus.  Since he's been thrown into the fire a bit, it's curious to think if the experience is going to help or hinder his long-term development.  Time will tell that story.  Grade:  C+

Stephen Gionta (12 GP, 0 P, -3, 6 PIM, 16 hits, 5 blocks, 13 shots)

The brother of former Devil Brian Gionta, you can definitely see some similarities.  Even though the same skill set may not be there, the work ethic is.  Unfortunately, that only provides so much, and Gionta was probably only at the NHL level because of injuries.    Grade:  C-

Zach Parise (12 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 P, -1, 6 PIM, 13 hits, 6 blocks, 1 PPA, 1 GWG, 47 shots)

An unfortunate knee injury that started in the offseason derailed Parise's season before it even really began.  The highlight of the season was easily the first seven minutes of Opening Night.  Parise did the best he could to play for as long as his knee could withstand, and it's a shame for the team that so desperately needed his work ethic and abilities.  Assuming the Devils are able to re-sign him for the long haul, expect him to be named the next Captain. Grade:  C

Anssi Salmela (11 GP, 1 A, 1 P, -7, 8 PIM, 9 hits, 5 blocks, 14 shots)

Salmela is a player who has some offensive talent, but isn't a polished enough player to be counted on as an NHL regular.  Grade:  C-

Mark Fraser (8 GP, 0 P, -1, 11 PIM, 21 hits, 6 blocks, 6 shots)

Fraser missed significant time with a broken hand, but adds a strong physical presence to the backline, but not much else.  Grade:  C

These players have too small a sample to earn a grade, and are being given Incompletes:

Jacob Josefson (6 GP, 0 P, -2, 2 PIM, 2 hits, 1 block, 8 shots)

Vladmir Zharkov (6 GP, 1 A, 1 P, +2, 1 hit, 1 block, 7 shots)

Nick Palmieri (5 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, -1, 10 hits, 1 block, 6 shots)

Tyler Eckford  (4 GP, 0 P, -1, 3 hits, 2 blocks, 1 shot)

Brad Mills (4 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, +1, 5 PIM, 7 hits, 2 blocks, 6 shots)

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (2 GP, 0 P, -2, 21 PIM, 3 hits)

Mike McKenna (2 GP, 0-1-0, 118 minutes, 6 GA, 3.05 GAA, .890 SP)

GM Lou Lamoriello  Sadly, when you are the architecht for a team that sits in the league basement, a lot of it falls at your feet.  Lamoriello decided to let Paul Martin walk, trade for Jason Arnott and chose to sign Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov, as well as re-signing Ilya Kovalchuk.  For whatever reason, even though it all looked great on paper, it hasn't worked.  Grade:  D-

What do you guys think?  Let me hear if you think I was too nice or too harsh.  WANT TO DISCUSS DEVILS HOCKEY?  FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @ LEVINAKL


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