On Tuesday, the Devils re-signed the Texan duo—Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen, to three and one-year deals, respectively. Blake Coleman has an AAV of $1.8M, bringing him to UFA status by the end of his deal, while Noesen’s contract has an AAV of $1.725M, after which he will remain an RFA. Both deals are great value and help solidify the Devils’ bottom six.
The Devils had an incredibly successful season last year, given where every pundit had them finishing prior to the October. While it’s easy pointing to Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, or Sami Vatanen, it’s the depth players that deserve more credit than they’re probably garnering. Although there were some questions as to how both Noesen and Coleman made the opening night roster last year over seemingly promising rookies like John Quenneville and Joe Blandisi, those inquiries were quickly answered as Noesen and Coleman became fan favourites, and embodied the Devils’ style of play—Fast, attacking, and supportive.
Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen took large strides in their games last season, not just improving their offensive numbers but becoming incredibly responsible defensively, and go-to’s for John Hynes when the team was protecting a lead late in the game. As far as offense goes, Coleman went from three points in 23 games to 25 in 79 contests, while Noesen went from eight points in 32 games to tallying 27 in 72. Not only did the point totals reflect a major step forward, so did the underlying numbers.
Graphs via Bill Comeau (@billius27)
Both players had substantial increases to most of the statistics above, which account for varies stats per 60 minutes and ranks them based on percentile relative to the league, and paint a good snapshot as to how far both of them came in only one season. While there’s a lot to digest in the images above (credit to Bill Comeau for the visuals as well), we can pinpoint a few stats to highlight the improvement Noesen and Coleman made, respectively.
Starting with Noesen, the jump from being in the 44th to 75th percentile with regards to corsi for % is a great stat to point out to show how much more effective he was last season. The statistics that really jump out (for me at least) are near the bottom—his Quality of Competition and Defensive Zone Start Percentage. While watching the games would tell you the same—that John Hynes trusted Noesen a lot in close games last year—visuals showing the stark difference from one year to the next show how much Noesen improved defensively to gain that trust. It’s through his relentless work ethic and hockey IQ he was so effective in those situations, and we can expect it’ll be more of the same next season.
Blake Coleman is in a similar boat as Noesen, in that he was one of John Hynes’ most trusted forwards in defensive situations (especially on the penalty kill), but it’s the rise in his offensive production that jumps off of the page. Specifically looking at his Expected Goals For %, describing the difference between Expected Goals For and Against, where Coleman went from the 44th all the way to the 85th percentile. This not only shows his defensive acumen, but Coleman’s offensive talent. Lest we forget his goal against the Penguins, where Coleman showed how much skill he really possesses. There may be room for Coleman to grow his offensive game, maybe reaching 30+ points the next few seasons, but it’s really his defensive attributes that will be his bread and butter.
Another part of Coleman’s game that was an incredible benefit to the Devils’ team this past season was his play on the penalty kill. Coleman logged more minutes than any other Devils’ forward on the PK with 166—and the time was more than earned. While on the penalty kill, Coleman was on the ice for six of the Devils’ league-leading 12 shorthanded goals. Another more astounding stat is Coleman lead all forwards this season that played more than 100 minutes on the penalty kill in Expected Goals For Percentage (numbers via corsicahockey.com) at 24.41%. That is remarkable and shows the importance Coleman had to the league’s 8th-best penalty kill.
For the upcoming season we can probably expect both Coleman and Noesen to play on the fourth line (centered by Brian Boyle), but there is also room for some mixing and matching as Coleman can also play center. Regardless of where they fall in the lineup, we know that they are true “identity” players and guys that a team needs all throughout the season and especially come playoff time. Good character guys, making clear strides in their game, and embody the team’s identity. There is nothing to not love about these two players and the contracts they received.