The New Jersey Devils have demoted defenseman Eric Gelinas to their AHL affiliate in Albany. The team announced that it has recalled right-winger Mike Sislo from Albany to replace Gelinas on the roster.
Gelinas logged 6 goals and 22 points over the course of a 44 game run with the team this season. He was popular with the fans because he possessed a notoriously big shot which was always a threat to score or create a quality scoring chance from a rebound in front of the net.
The news comes as a surprise as Gelinas played an important role just a few nights ago in the game winning play in Dallas in overtime. My thoughts and those of the other die-hard Devils fans I was communicating with over social media last night after the game was that Jon Merrill should be sent down.
Merrill has looked completely lost on the ice at points recently, including last night when he missed his assignment on the game ending play against the Nashville Predators, allowing Shea Weber to score the winning goal for Nashville early in the overtime session.
Merrill has 0 goals and 4 assists this season, and the Devils demote Gelinas who has far more offensive upside, on a team which has struggled mightily at points this season to score goals. Gelinas also has more assists (16) than most of the forwards on the team including Michael Ryder, Adam Henrique, and Dainius Zubrus.
A “Big Shot”
Devils Head Coach Pete DeBoer, fresh off his temper tantrum in the press conference after last night’s loss, remarked to the Star Ledger that the demotion of Gelinas was due to the fact that he had “a big shot” but that the other elements of his game were lacking the progress that they needed to have at this point.
In fair balance, Gelinas has a -5 rating indicating some defensive struggles and his playing time has been reduced dramatically in the last month down to an average of 13 minutes per game. This move may be better for Gelinas in the long term, but I wonder how the Devils are going to replace his offensive production, it is certainly not by adding Mike Sislo to the roster. Gelinas possessed a great shot from the point on the power play as well that the opposition had to account for in those situations. New Jersey does not have that type of threat from the point on a secondary power play unit as far as this roster is currently constituted.
However, as my colleague David Garrison wrote in a related article, Gelinas may be better off in Albany with a positive coaching environment rather than in New Jersey with the pessimistic taskmaster in DeBoer.
Mike Sislo being added to the roster is a curious move as well, unless they are going to use him in the revolving door of players they have tried to fill in the void at the left wing spot, it does not make a whole lot of sense. Sislo has 0 goals and 0 assists in a 7 game trial run earlier this season.
I would have rather had the Devils recall Adam Larsson to address the struggles of the team defensively, and give the left wing opportunity to Jacob Josefson or give more ice time to Andrei Loktionov at this point.
The Devils need players who can create offensive opportunities to score goals and they need to address the age and lack of speed on their defense, the demotion of Eric Gelinas accomplishes neither of these imperative objectives.
(Statistics courtesy of NHL.com , quotes courtesy of NBCSports.com and Newark Star Ledger)