New Jersey Devils: Damon Severson Shows Poor Hockey Instincts

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People can revel until the cows come home about Damon Severson’s skill set, puck moving ability or potential. At the end of the day, his poor hockey instincts lead to poor play after poor play. The Brayden Point goal in Game 2 is the latest edition of the Damon Severson Horror Show.

You know, guys like John Fischer can write all the 33 paragraph treatises they want about why they believe Damon Severson is one of the Devils’ best players. They can cite every advanced statistic they want on websites like Natural Stat Trick to support their claim that Damon is God’s Gift to hockey. Analytics, stats, numbers, trends…. all of that is just terrific. But here are a few other observations. And forgive me for keeping this qualitative and simple.

Damon Severson has poor hockey instincts.

Damon Severson is always out of position.

Damon Severson is frequently responsible for allowing Grade A scoring opportunities.

And anyone who knows hockey can see it.

Here is Game 2’s version of the all too regular Damon Severson House Of Horrors.

Damon Severson and his poor hockey instincts have got to be benched for Game 3.

Twelve minutes into the period, the Devils are trying to execute a change. Severson is patrolling his right defensive position as Andy Greene tries to make it on the ice late from the Devils’ bench on the same side of the rink. Somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly, Tampa gains control of the puck in the neutral zone and quickly turns play around and starts an attack.

In that situation, most defensive players would read the play and be inclined to slide over to the far side of the ice. That would allow Greene to jump into the play in the defensive slot closest to the bench. I know that is not each player’s natural position, but you do what you need to do when under pressure.

However, not surprisingly, Damon Severson did not anticipate that turn of events. Pretty much because he always reads plays poorly or slowly. He pinches way too much, thus conceding odd man rushes. He frequently leaves the slot unguarded to chase the puck behind the net when his partner is already in pursuit of the puck. Severson often fails to retreat from his position on the point to get back into a defensive role to thwart the opposition’s rush. To sum up, despite his skating ability and natural talent, Severson is as fundamentally unsound a defensemen as I can remember seeing playing for the Devils in the past several years.

Regardless, to continue our unfortunate story, Severson not sliding to the left allowed Braydon Point to walk in alone on the right wing against Keith Kindaid with all the time in the world. He proceeded to roof a shot to open the scoring in Game 2. Braydon Point on a breakaway. Totally brilliant. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest this probably was not a strategic approach endorsed by John Hynes and his staff.

It was a huge goal, and it was exactly the way the Devils did not want to start Game 2 after a fairly feeble first period performance in Game 1. It was a goal that put the Devils back on their heels and took a bit of wind out of their sails.

Now, one would like to think that a lot of athletes would have read that play and thought something like “Gee, we have Ondrej Palat with his 11 goals this year on the rush with Braydon Point, who has more or less three times as many goals, so perhaps I should be a touch more cognizant of Point in that situation.”

We just don’t see that perspective from Severson. Ever. You know, I don’t really care about Corsi, Fenwick, PDO or any advanced stat nor do I care all that much that Severson scored nine goals this year and skates fast. I do care if defensemen actually defend! Severson was benched at the end of the season for one reason and one reason only. He made one bad fundamental play after another due to his poor hockey instincts.

It’s fairly obvious Damon Severson should not play the rest of this series. You don’t need an offensive minded defender with serious fundamental positional issues protecting against the likes of Kucherov, Stamkos, Hedman and all their pals. Braydon Point being allowed to walk in on Keith Kinkaid and change the complexion of the game in the first period is not acceptable. It’s just total insanity.

If you think I’m wrong, you have the right to your opinion. But don’t quote advanced analytics to me. Show me some instances of Severson making some great defensive plays. That’s what the Devils need against an offensive powerhouse like the Tampa Bay Lightning.