The 2015-16 New Jersey Devils play a balanced team game. Each player has to do their part to achieve success. Entering the season people expected players such as forwards Michael Cammalleri and Adam Henrique, goaltender Cory Schneider and defenseman Andy Greene to make an impact. However, they have not been the only ones to make their presence felt. The Devils are reaping the rewards of general manager Ray Shero’s offseason signings and acquisitions.
When the Anaheim Ducks traded forward Kyle Palmieri at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Anaheim general manager Bob Murray poignantly said that he thought Palmieri was on the brink of a 20-goal season and the team would not be able to re-sign him if it happened. Murray’s prediction ended up being correct and it only took Palmieri 50-games to do it.
Palmieri is a complete player and a critical part of the offense. He encompasses tremendous skill, speed and a quick, accurate shot. His scoring ability was a much needed boost for New Jersey and while his numbers have recently dropped off, his overall game has not suffered. He has produced in a big way and he is no longer flying under anyone’s radar. Palmieri not only made a name for himself with the Devils but rather he is becoming known around the league.
In many situations this season, he has provided that elusive extra goal New Jersey lacked in previous years. His production will be key moving toward the playoffs and New Jersey fans hope that number 21 will continue to be an important piece for the Devils into the future as well.
When it comes to New Jersey’s top line, the saying “the sum is greater than its parts” applies. Cammalleri, Henrique and Lee Stempniak are all individually skilled hockey players. But the chemistry that the three men have formed has been visible since their first shift together.
Stempniak was one of the biggest offseason steals as he signed with the Devils following a PTO in training camp. When he signed no one could have anticipated how much of an impact he would have on the team’s offense. Stempniak has gone from being a role player to a main factor in the Devils’ game plan, which is evident when examining his numbers this season.
Stempniak has complimented Henrique’s and Cammalleri’s games almost effortlessly and has received league-wide recognition for his outstanding play this season. But old habits die hard as his name yet again seemingly cannot escape trade talks. However, it is hard to envision Shero moving Stempniak and breaking up the top line unless the deal is too good to pass up or the team has a dramatic collapse. After being moved from team-to-team it would appear that Stempniak has found a place where he excels and is highly valued. If New Jersey is going to solidify its playoff spot, his play and continued success is imperative.
When the Devils signed defenseman John Moore during the offseason, there was some confusion among fans since the team was loaded with young defensive depth. But Moore has proven to be an asset. He has blended in with the team’s system and matched nicely with fellow defenseman Damon Severson to make a solid and reliable second pairing.
Prior to making his debut with the team, Moore’s skating ability was typically the first thing people discussed and it has been on display thus far. But most importantly, Moore has helped create overtime magic this season. He is one of head coach John Hynes’ go-to-guys due to his solid defensive play as well as his offensive ability.
Moore has netted two sensational and critical overtime winners and played a role most recently in New Jersey’s overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on February 13th. While the Devils do have several skilled defensemen in their system Moore is a welcomed addition and now a significant name on that list.
When New Jersey signed David Schlemko, it added an another veteran presence to a young defensive core. He has helped stabilize the third pairing and assisted with the development of defensemen Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill and now call up Seth Helgeson. Nevertheless, regardless of who Schlemko is paired with, his game remains steady and seemingly unaffected.
Much like Moore, Schlemko has the ability to add to New Jersey’s offense. Previously, he had never recorded a game winning goal. But since joining the Devils, he has three game winners to his name. Like Moore and Stempniak as well as several other offseason signings, Schlemko is proving to be a key player for the Devils.
Bobby Farnham & Sergey Kalinin
While forwards Sergey Kalinin and Bobby Farnham do not possess gaudy numbers, they have contributed and played their role. Kalinin has been moved throughout the lineup and used in different situations. He has provided the Devils with some much needed depth and size. Farnham has been one of the biggest surprises. Sometimes his passion is slightly overzealous but the man known as the “Wild Thing” has energized New Jersey’s offense and always exudes intensity on the ice.
Some of these players may not be household names. But without them New Jersey would not be in a position to potentially steal a playoff spot. They have stepped up and helped silence many doubters and Devils fans hope that they continue to do so.