Devils’ Cammalleri Has Been Incredible, But Can’t Do It Alone


When the New Jersey Devils signed Mike Cammalleri to a five-year, $25 million contract on July 1 of last year, expectations for the 32-year-old forward were through the roof.

Fast-forward seven months, and not only has Cammalleri met those expectations, but he’s far exceeded them. The Ontario, Canada native has scored 17 goals this season in just 39 games, on pace to find the net 31 times this season, which would make him the first Devil to do so since Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and David Clarkson all tallied 30 or more goals in 2011-12. It would also be his highest goal total since scoring 39 in 2008-09 while with the Los Angeles Kings.

“That’s what he does. He looks to shoot and he’s got his head up and he picks spots. It’s not by accident that he’s a goal scorer.”
Lou Lamoriello

With none of those three still with New Jersey, Cammalleri has provided a scoring spark that the team has lacked over the past two-plus seasons. The Devils may not have much to show for it record-wise, but Cammalleri’s value to this team has been sky-high.

While seeing time both at center and wing, Cammalleri has played on the Devils’ first, second, and third lines this season. But the constant shifting hasn’t affected him, as he’s scoring at the highest rate of his career – 21.6 percent – which also ranks first in the entire league amongst players who have taken a minimum of 50 shots on goal this season. This is no surprise, as Cammalleri’s shot from the circle has been nothing short of lethal, evidenced by his goal in last night’s 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Cammalleri is also tied with Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Arizona Coyotes with seven game-winning goals this season. He is also tied for seventh in the league with seven power play goals. His scoring ability and clutch factor this season has been second to none, and has by far established himself as the Devils’ top scoring threat.

But as the season goes on, one thing has become more and more evident – he can’t do it alone.

While Cammalleri is on pace to tally 31 goals this season, he is also on pace to add a mere 13 assists, which would be good enough for 44 points. He’s also on pace to post a -4 rating while averaging just under 19 minutes of ice time per game.

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Is that good? Yes, especially because Cammalleri’s stats are far enhanced by his game behind the numbers. But where the issue lies is in the fact that those stats are eerily similar to the stat line David Clarkson posted in 2011-12.

During that season, Clarkson scored 30 goals and added 16 assists, with a -8 rating while averaging 16:22 of ice time.

The difference, of course, between Cammalleri this season and Clarkson that season is that Clarkson was surpassed by Kovalchuk and Parise in goals, and far surpassed by the duo in assists, as well as being surpassed by Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique in points that season.

Clarkson was no question great for New Jersey that season, but he was not tasked with being “the guy,” which is where his 2011-12 campaign and Cammalleri’s 2014-15 season differ.

While Cammalleri is currently being outpaced by Henrique and Jaromir Jagr in points for this season, it’s likely that no one (barring an injury) will pass his projected goal total.

Although the Devils have improved to 20-22-9 by going 7-2-2 over their past 11 games, they remain a relatively weak team as a result of not having the fire power, aside from Cammalleri, to score at a consistent clip.

Though the signing of Cammalleri has no doubt been a shot in the arm for New Jersey, their record shows that he can’t be “the guy” as they presumably hoped he would be when he signed with the Devils. He needs help, and New Jersey has their work cut out for them if they want to return to being the playoff team fans have grown accustomed to over the past two decades.

If the team continues to play well and claw back into the playoff race, can the Devils acquire a young scoring forward to play alongside Cammalleri this season? Of course they can, but whether they actually will is a different story. Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers has long been a name tossed around as being “available,” but it is not likely New Jersey is willing to part with the players/prospects Edmonton is looking to receive in return.

Looking ahead, the Devils have contracts coming off the books this off-season, such as Bryce Salvador‘s four-million dollar cap hit, Marek Zidlicky‘s four-million dollar cap hit, and Michael Ryder‘s $3.5 million cap hit. Given that, Lou Lamoriello should have some money to play with this off-season to find a scorer, and it will be interesting to see if he has any magic left in the tank to give Cammalleri the help he needs, and quite frankly, the help he deserves.

Next: New Jersey Devils Winning Despite Odd Roster Decisions