The Devils currently have seven players on their roster that are 34 or older – Jaromir Jagr (42), Patrik Elias (38), Bryce Salvador (38), Marek Zidlicky (37), Dainius Zubrus (36), Scott Gomez (35), and Michael Ryder (34) – the most of any team in the league. It’s no secret that New Jersey is the league’s oldest team, which brings a set of glaring issues that plague them on a nightly basis. Among them are lethargy in an evolving game where speed has become an essentiality, and also the team’s inability to maintain leads in the third period. It’s also worth noting that New Jersey’s band of older veterans have combined for a whopping -48 in the plus/minus category.
You would think a team this stocked with ripened veterans would have enough experience amongst its players to maintain some degree of discipline on the ice.
Apparently that’s not the case. The Devils currently rank second in number of times shorthanded amongst all 30 teams, having been down at least one man 155 times thus far. Disturbingly enough, New Jersey’s mid-thirties club has accounted for 126 of the 416 penalty minutes (30%) accumulated this season. While Jordin Tootoo leads the team with 55 penalty minutes, most of which can be attributed to fighting majors, five members out of this veteran group are among the team’s top-10 most penalized players.
At first glance, these numbers appear easy to dismiss given the Devils current situation. It makes sense considering how these older players unwittingly try to compensate their inability to keep up with the fastening pace of today’s game by utilizing their sticks and hands. More often than not, this results in lazy penalties in the form of hooks, trips, and holds.
This further begs the question as to whether or not the Devils disciplinary issues amongst its older veteran players is part of a league-wide trend or more of an isolated situation. Aside from the Devils, the Jets, Avalanche, Penguins, and Senators respectively rank first, third, fourth, and fifth in times shorthanded amongst teams. How have the older veterans on these other teams attributed to the number of shorthanded situations their respective clubs have endured?
The Jets have no players as old as New Jersey’s older veteran group so them currently being the most penalized team in the league stems from issues practically unrelated to the Devils situation. Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa respectively have five, four, and three players that are 34 or older, however these teams appear to be working with a much more disciplined group of veterans. Among the top-ten most penalized players on each team, Colorado has three players 34 or older, while Ottawa has two (It’s worth noting 35 of Chris Neil’s 49 penalty minutes come from fighting majors). None of Pittsburgh’s older veterans are even among their top-ten most penalized players.
What about other teams that have dotted their roster with older veterans? After New Jersey’s seven, Colorado, Montreal, and Detroit all have five players 34 or older. Three of those five are among the top-ten most penalized players for Detroit and Colorado, while Montreal’s handful of older veterans, like Pittsburgh’s, are disciplined enough to stay clear of the sin bin.
Among the five teams that have had the most shorthanded situations, only Pittsburgh is comfortably nestled in the thicket of the playoff race. Winnipeg is hovering just above the wild card line in the Western Conference while Colorado and Ottawa are fighting to become relevant in the playoff races of their respective conferences. Aside from Colorado, Montreal and Detroit respectively occupy the second and third seeds in their division with five older veterans apiece.
It’s apparent that New Jersey’s disciplinary issues amongst its older veterans is contributing to the team’s place in the standings. It’s just one of numerous shortcomings this struggling team has exhibited this season that’s factored into their subpar performance and inability to maintain consistency winning and production-wise.