COMMENTARY | When fully healthy, the New Jersey Devils are a pretty average offensive team. They lack true first-line players and can roll out several competent second lines, but that's about the extent of it. Making matters worse is that when the Devils aren't healthy; they lack anybody to replace the injured players and pick up the offensive slack.
New Jersey's lack of depth was evident over the weekend, as the Devils were shutout by Ram Emery and the Flyers on Saturday and followed that up with a 4-0 thumping at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. The Devils managed just 33 shots in the two games combined.
Ryan Clowe hasn't played a game since October 13 and the Devils were without Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac over the weekend. Both Elias and Zajac are listed as day-to-day and their status for Thursday's game with Philadelphia is unknown.
While people know what Elias brings to the Devils, it was Zajac's absence that was magnified in the two weekend games. He may not be putting up the kind of points to justify his contract, but he does the little things that don't show up on the stat sheet and can win face-offs, something the Devils haven't done much of the last two games. New Jersey was a dismal 34-percent in face-offs against the Flyers and Wild.
Rostislav Olesz had his opportunity to do something over the weekend and couldn't manage a shot on goal in either game and was put on waivers Monday. Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josephson weren't much better and will likely find themselves relegated to the press box once Elias and Zajac return.
The injury bug is also hitting the defense, with Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold missing time over the weekend. Jon Merrill, who was called up from Albany, was injured in his first game with the team on Sunday. But the Devils are much better prepared to withstand a few injuries on defense and the team has several other players--Damon Severson and Reece Scarlet--who will be close to being ready for the NHL in another year.
With a surplus of defensemen and near-ready defensive prospects, it's time for Lou Lamoriello to think about moving some defense for offensive help. Naturally, you'd like to hang onto Merrill, but if a team is willing to offer a young center or first-line winger, it's something the Devils would have to consider.
The season is still young and it's not the time for knee-jerk reactions or quick fixes, but the Devils can't afford to drop much farther back in the Metropolitan standings. It's not easy to replace the offensive production of a Parise and a Kovalchuk, but Lamoriello needs to do a bit more than he has so far in an attempt to do so.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the New Jersey Devils since the "Mickey Mouse" years in the early 1980s.
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- Patrik Elias
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