New Jersey Devils Roster: Room for Improvement


For the New Jersey Devils, 2014-15 was more than an unmitigated disaster. Statistically, the Devils of 2015 could not have fared much worse and they were also dreary on an individual level. Some players saw ten-year statistical lows. Others watched their careers sputter out of control. Suffice it to say, there were several individual letdown performances by New Jersey last season. It is paramount that these four Devils up their game if the team is going to make a run at the playoffs in 2015-16 and beyond.

Travis Zajac

I’d be remiss to not mention Zajac’s 2015 campaign. Not only was it the worst campaign of his career, but there is not even a close second. In fact, Zajac’s career scoring rate over an 82-game season was 48 points until last season. In 2015, Zajac mustered just 25 points.

In order to be more successful, Zajac will needs to fire more pucks on net in 2015-16. As seen by possession statistics, Zajac contributed little offensively (829 team shot attempts) and was on the ice for 930 shot attempts from opponents. That differential was negative (over a full season) for the first time in Zajac’s career.

Mar 23, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie

Jonathan Quick

(32) makes a save on New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac (19) during the third period at Prudential Center. The Kings defeated the Devils 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Additionally, last year’s 112 shots was a career low for the Canadian forward. Getting back to previous totals of 165 (2014), 173 (2011), 210 (2010), and 185 (2009) would help bring Zajac’s goal totals to the 15-20 range that fans had grown to expect.

Patrik Elias

Has Father Time victimized Patrik Elias? It sure seemed that way in 2015. Elias’ 34 points in 69 games, a .49 points per game clip, was by far the worst in his career (over a full season). Even when Elias was scoring, he could not avoid criticism, and at one point seemed to be on his way to the fourth line.

Unfortunately, and unlike Zajac, there is a distinct possibility that Elias’ regression is natural, the telltale signs of the end for the Czech hockey legend. If Elias cannot improve his play in ’15-16, then this may be his last rodeo in New Jersey.

For Elias to succeed in 2015-16, he will need to return to his previous shooting totals. That will not be easy for Elias, who has clearly slowed down lately. In all likelihood, Czech forward Pavel Zacha can also help rejuvenate Elias’ career. Having a young forward to push him in the lineup, Elias will have to adapt. Sharing a line with a finisher like Zacha could work wonders for his career, much like when he used to line up with Petr Sykora.

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  • Tuomo Ruutu

    As I’ve already discussed, no Devil was worse utilized last year than the Finn. Ruutu scored 13 points in 77 games; in previous year, those point totals would appear after 20 or 25 games, not 77. Ruutu has a long way to go before he can be that reliable hammer that he was in Carolina and Chicago.

    It appears that those 40-point days are past Ruutu, unless the Devils afford him higher quality linemates or more time on ice. Sadly, that does not look like it will be in the cards in 2015-16 due to the Devils’ crowded left wing depth chart.

    Tuomo Ruutu (15) deserves every opportunity to crack the top-nine in preseason. Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    Even without top-notch linemates, Ruutu could still find success. Ruutu’s linemates not only struggled last year, but they also dragged his play in 2015. If Ruutu is going to be successful in the upcoming season, he will need to see the Jordin Tootoo with offensive upside, not the one he played with at the beginning of 2015. Michael Ryder was also one of Ruutu’s most common linemates, which means that there is nowhere to go but up in 2016. After all, there’s a reason why Ruutu shot at 9.5% last year but his line in general only shot at 4.7% when he was on the ice.

    Eric Gelinas

    I admit it; I bought into the Eric Gelinas hype in late-2013 when the Canadian defenseman started to take over the league by storm. With a shot like that, who cared if Gelinas was a sieve on defense? As it turned out, Gelinas was unable to fall back on his shot as much in 2014-15, which likewise led to problems for the Devils.

    Now, Gelinas is a huge question mark. Even last season, Gelinas’ offensive game was incomparable to the previous year’s. One caveat to this is that Gelinas actually played a more complete game in 2015, at least according to the advanced statistics. However, it is worth noting that Gelinas had more favorable starts in 2015 but less points.

    It should give fans hope that Gelinas started to show some semblance of a two-way game in 2015, but if it results in a drastic drop in points like Gelinas experienced (from 29 in 2014 to 19 in 2015), then I don’t think his presence in the lineup will prove to be a difference maker.

    What do you think? Who else needs to improve in 2015-16 for the Devils to have a chance at the playoffs? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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