Adam Larsson Thriving Under New Coaching Regime


When the New Jersey Devils drafted Adam Larsson with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, they surely had high hopes for his future. He made his debut with New Jersey when he was just 18 and looked like he had that “it” factor that would make him stick around for a long time. The problem is that former Head Coach Peter DeBoer did not share the same level of enthusiasm. Larsson had a very strong rookie season averaging over 20 minutes of ice time, but found himself a healthy scratch for all but five games of the 2012 playoff run. Since then it seemed like Adam Larsson could not get himself out of DeBoer’s dog house. No matter how good Larsson looked, he would constantly find himself benched, scratched or even demoted to Albany.

This season was supposed to be a huge year for Adam Larsson as he appeared to finally have a guaranteed spot in the lineup. However, DeBoer scratched Larsson for the first five games of the season. When Larsson did crack the lineup, he would play third pairing minutes and wasn’t trusted in important situations. DeBoer slowly warmed up to Larsson giving him plenty of penalty kill time that he did terrific with. It still wasn’t enough and Larsson wasn’t being used to the best of his ability. In DeBoer’s final game, a loss to Carolina, Adam Larsson got just 14:58 of ice time.

Dec 31, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist (14) skates with the puck chased by New Jersey Devils defenseman Adam Larsson (5) at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The firing of Peter DeBoer and subsequent hiring of New Jersey Devil legend Scott Stevens freed Adam Larsson to become the top defenseman he profiled to be four years ago. In the six games since Stevens took over the defense, Larsson has averaged 21:24 of ice time – 23:35, 24:38, 26:37 specifically in the last three. Larsson is finally getting his opportunity to play on the top pairing with Andy Greene, getting a ton of ice time and absolutely thriving with it.

Now, it’s one thing to get ice time and it’s another to actually do something with it. Plenty of players get a lot of time on the ice but don’t ever produce. Larsson is getting his time and being a beast because of it. Last night against Buffalo he had an assist (his second in as many games), two shots, three hits, two blocked shots and was a +2. It is just Buffalo, but I’m not taking anything away from how good Larsson has been this season, especially under Stevens. Overall in the last six games, he’s had 13 blocked shots and nine hits. He’s getting in front of shots and putting his 6’3″ frame to good use.

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What’s most impressive about Adam Larsson is the fact he’s playing in all situations and excelling in them. He’s not just playing at even strength or penalty kill or power play, he’s playing them all. He’s a mainstay on the top PK unit, which has struggled a bit recently, but overall has been resurgent since starting the season as the worst in the league. As far as the power play goes, he’s only seen time the last few games and he looks like he should have been there all along. His vision and shot are far above average and last night he quarterbacked a power play that spent the entire two minutes in Buffalo’s offensive zone (no joke).

Stats tell a good story, but nothing beats just watching Adam Larsson play. He looks so comfortable on the ice, and most importantly he looks confident. It was as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders when DeBoer got fired and he got a ringing endorsement from Stevens. He knows he’s not going to get benched for one mistake and he’s playing like he knows he’s one of the best young defenders in the game. Finally, for the first time in four years, Adam Larsson is getting the chance he deserves and doing the most with it.