September 1, 2017, 10:29 AM ET [45 Comments]
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Factoring in star power, emerging talent, and depth, we discuss which team has the worst defense core in the NHL.
The New Jersey Devils.
I really like Damon Severson but he's kind of on an island by himself. Andy Greene is still useful but his best days are behind him and his age is starting to show.
John Moore and Ben Lovejoy are playing way over their heads on the 2nd pairing and, after that, there are a ton of unproven players in Steve Santini, Mirco Mueller, and Will Butcher, among others. Even if one or two of the kids step up, the defense will probably still be an issue this season.
Honorable mention goes to Detroit. Mike Green is still good and, like New Jersey, they have a couple young defenders who could be solid down the road but they also have some anchors on the back end with Jonathan Ericsson and a rapidly declining Niklas Kronwall.
It's actually really hard to say who is the worst - the problem with teams that have a less-than-ideal amount of name-brand players is that they have a lot of guys you're not immediately familiar with.
I'll give the Knights a pass cause they're new, but the Red Wings are in a world of their own making. Mike Green is now seven years removed from his 70 point peak. He's alright.
DeKayser? Daley? An Ancient Niklas Kronwell?
This group is a mess.
When your best player is a guy known mostly for padding his stats off Alex Ovechkin's PP goal feasts of the last decade, you're pretty screwed.
Detroit's roster is arguably worse than the Knights - Maybe Ken Holland wasn't such a genius after all. Maybe getting two Hall of Famers in the seventh round (or whatever) makes you look better than you are. Who knows?
Like the last question, there are several candidates and it's close. Vancouver lurks in this discussion again, as does New Jersey and Vegas. I choose New Jersey though.
Their defense looks like this.
Damon Severson : 80gp 3g 28a 31p (-31! AHHHH)
John Moore : 63gp 12g 10a 22p
Andy Greene : 66gp 4g 9a 13p
Steven Santini : 38gp 2g 5a 7p
Ben Lovejoy : 82gp 1g 6a 7p
Dalton Prout : 29gp 0g 6a 6p
Mirco Müeller : AHL
Will Butcher : NCAA
Once upon a time Andy Greene was an underrated top-4 minute muncher. Nothing fancy, but just solid. He's far from those days and is turning 35 with declining numbers.
Severson is a very promising young defenseman, but his +/- does tell a story. Hate the stat overall as much as you want and with good reason. It does have its uses in specific context. Like if you are -31 on a team where the next guy is -21. It's a rather large gap.
Lovejoy and Prout are basically pylons. Any team hoping to make the playoffs would have them as a 7/8 option at best, or AHL insurance policy.
Santini is a good prospect, but has always projected at best to be a solid defensive defenseman that can skate. Not exactly sexy.
John Moore is thrust into a larger role than he can handle simply because the Devils defense is that putrid. Like Loverout, he would be a 5/6 at best if you wanted to contend.
Lastly we have new additions Müller and Butcher. The two 22 year olds are having opposite career trajectories. Müller was selected 18th overall in 2013 and has been developing slowly in the AHL and is now considered essentially a bust/reclamation project. While Butcher was selected 123rd overall in 2013 and has been in the NCAA where good numbers and mystique make him the hottest commodity on earth. Weird how that works. If Müller can be a 5/6 defenseman, that's great for New Jersey. Butcher...if he can develop into a PP threat and 3/4 guy that would be ideal. However going into this season I will use history as a precedent for NCAA defensemen going into their rookie year. Gilroy (Hobey Baker Winner) 69gp 4g 11a 15p, Prow (Finalist) AHL, Reilly (Finalist) AHL etc. I don't expect him to be the Ghost Bear or Krug. More likely Dekeyserish.
Overall...it's a weak defense.