The New Jersey Devils would ultimately be fated to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. While the amount of blame can be widely spread out, all we as fans can do now is focus on the positives from this season and speculate on what change general manager Ray Shero will bring this offseason. The Devils are in the early stages of establishing their new identity and have laid out a solid foundation to build from. One of the defensive cornerstones of this foundation is 21-year old Damon Severson, who just completed his second (and first healthy) season with the Devils organization.
The Melville, SK native showed a lot of promise in his injury-riddled rookie campaign. Severson struggled mightily at times this season, and would sometimes find himself relegated to the press box as a result. By most standards, Severson’s sophomore year would widely be considered a disappointing follow-up to his rookie campaign. He certainly got swept up in the team’s low-shooting non-offensive tendencies that ultimately led to their demise from playoff contention. While I’m certain that we’ve yet to see Severson play his best hockey in a Devils sweater, I wouldn’t call the young right-shooting defenseman’s sophomore campaign an utter disaster, especially considering how his shortcomings are easily identifiable.
You first have to look at Severson’s numbers from last season. In 51 games, he notched five goals and 17 points, compared to the one goal and 21 points he had in 71 contests this year. He currently leads Devils defensemen in points and is the only one to register 20 assists (which is a personal milestone for him as well). One category where Severson is lacking that attributed strongly to his questionable season are his shots on goal. Severson is behind John Moore and David Schlemko in shots by Devils defensemen, who respectively registered 103 and 101, out of which they scored a combined for ten goals. Severson scored just once on 92 shots, which at first glance, appears on par with his 14-15 shot totals (93) until you take factors like the number of games he played each season into consideration. The chart below compares in Severson’s first two years, his average points and shots per game in relation to the number of games he played.
Like I mentioned earlier, the disparity is identifiable, and offers a lot of insight behind Severson’s offensive struggles this year. He was averaging almost two shots a game in his rookie year, which in turn earned the then-rookie defender five goals (four of which came in his first eight games. Nonetheless, Severson’s shot totals fluctuated between his playing time before and after his midseason injury. In the first 32 games of his rookie season, he averaged 2.31 shots a game (74 total), getting four goals and 11 points. Upon returning from his sidelining, Severson only had 19 shots in as many games, registering one goal and six points.
It’s clearly not a coincidence that his numbers (particularly in the goals category) this year, were comparatively subpar in regards to the points per game he averaged to his rookie year. Severson is highly capable of getting back to averaging two shots a game, which is a goal he should set going into next season. The difference when he’s performing at that level can be monumental for the Devils, who are still looking for an authentic offensive anchorman for their defense corps. Severson has (and continues) shown flashes of potentially being that man the Devils hope will emerge from of their young defensive core to supplement their defensive depth, which drops off considerably beyond the team’s top pairing of Andy Greene and Adam Larsson.