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Entering the 2016-17 season, there were a lot of unknowns surrounding the New Jersey Devils. They acquired Taylor Hall and in doing so, lost one of their key pieces on the blue line in Adam Larsson. They also lost an underrated puck-moving defenseman in David Schlemko to the San Jose Sharks in free agency. The Devils defense corps had been altered drastically. Despite that, there was always the assurance that Cory Schneider would be the last line of defense.
As it turns out, it was not to be in 2016-17. Schneider posted a career-low .908 save percentage, a .922 even-strength save percentage, and the worst quality start percentage of time in the NHL. Although those numbers were all-time lows, he did succeed in some other aspects. The following table show his save percentages, plus his quality start percentage (via Hockey-Reference) and his average shots against per game.
|Season||Games Played||SV%||Even-Strength SV%||5v5 High-Danger SV%||Penalty Kill SV%||Quality Start %||Avg. Shots Against per Game|
There’s a bit going on in this table, so let’s break it down. Schneider’s best year as a Devil was 2014-15. He had the best save percentage, even-strength save percentage, and high-danger save percentage of his Devils career. He faced the most shots of his career in 2014-15, while playing 69 games. If Schneider had played an equal number of games in 2016-17, he would’ve been on pace to face 2,042 shots. The only goalies to face more than 2,000 total shots this past season were Frederik Andersen (2,052) and Cam Talbot (2,117) (via Hockey-Reference). So in terms of shots against, 2016-17 was the most he faced on average per game.
Like the Devils as a team, Schneider struggled during most of this time at even-strength, where he had the lowest EVSV% of his entire career. The Devils were one of the worst even-strength teams in the league this year, and only got worse as the season progressed where they lost 21 of their last 25 games. He also posted the worst quality start percentage of his career. Anything lower than 50% is considered to be bad, so no denying Schneider had his share of bad starts. The Devils had only one defenseman who was in positive possession and that was Damon Severson. It doesn’t help Schneider when his defensemen are giving up more shots than they create on a regular basis.
The rest of Schneider’s save percentages in 2016-17 are close to where he’s been in his time in New Jersey. His .923 PKSV% in 2013-14 is an outlier and most goalies don’t come to close to touching that (the league average is close to .870). He also faced way less time a man down in 2013-14, compared to following seasons. His HDSV% was also good for eighth-best in the league in 2016-17 for goalies with 1000+ minutes (via Corsica) and was consistent with his prior two seasons.
There’s no doubting that 2016-17 was the worst season of Schneider’s career. That being said, it’s hard to square all the blame on him. Sure, he didn’t have as many quality starts as he has in the past, but he did excel in some areas, such as the penalty kill and stopping high-danger chances. There’s no doubt he can bounce back, but it’s going to take an improved roster. The Devils have to get better at even-strength and make life easier for Schneider. Building up their blue line will be of the utmost importance this summer. If the Devils stand pat, it’s going to be more of the same. If things don’t change, then New Jersey will be left looking back at this time period as wasting away the prime years of one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Advanced Stats are from Corsica Hockey.