He was a bright spot in an otherwise abysmal season for the New Jersey Devils. Nobody came close to reaching his team-leading 27 goals that he attained in an injury-shortened, 68-game season. Left wing Mike Cammalleri is off to an encouraging start after the first season in his five-year, $25 million deal he signed last summer. Despite his age (33), his speed and shoot-first mentality are attributes we aren’t used to Devils players having, and considering the organization’s rebuilding state, Cammalleri is definitely a good asset to have around in the coming years.
Between the weeks leading up to the trade deadline and the players set to explore free agency, we know the Devils offense will have a different look next year, which begs the question as to how this will affect Cammalleri’s performance. Of the 27 goals Cammalleri scored, 19 different players assisted on them for a combined 45 times. Out of those 19 players, Jagr (8), Gomez (4), Zidlicky (4), Ryder (2), Havlat, Bernier, Harrold, and Fraser (all one apiece) were already moved or won’t be returning next year.
The focus on this group is Jagr (8), Gomez, and Zidlicky (4 apiece). Their 16 combined assists, accounted for 35% of the 45 total assists behind Cammalleri’s 27 goals. We all know Jagr and Zidlicky were moved back in February, and Shero announced he won’t be re-signing Gomez. If Cammalleri is pinned as the Devils’ top goal scorer going into the coming season, how much of a concern is it going to be for general manager Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes to find players compatible enough to set him up at an equal or more efficient rate than players like Jagr, Zidlicky, and Gomez had?
It’s worth noting that before Jagr was traded, Cammalleri had 23 goals in 49 games. In the weeks subsequent to Jagr’s departure, Cammalleri’s production dropped considerably, only scoring four goals in his final 19 games. Obviously Cammalleri’s case of having a select few players being accountable for his scoring output last season isn’t an isolated situation (it’s a little something popularly referred to as chemistry).
Of the 26 goals he scored in 2013-2014 (his last season in Calgary), 11 different players assisted a total of 41 times. Mikael Backlund (9), Jiri Hudler and Mark Giordano (6 apiece) accounted for more than half of the assists behind his scoring output that season (note the quantity of assists from each of these players, along with their age and speed element their games possess). It’s worth pointing out that 14 of Cammalleri’s 26 goals came after January 1st of that season, a more balanced distribution of offensive output compared to the drop-off we saw this past season.
To a lesser extent, of the 13 goals that Cammalleri scored in 44 games played during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season, 13 different players assisted a total of 21 times. Lee Stempniak, Alex Tanguay, and Dennis Wideman had three apiece, and just like his scoring consistency in 2013-2014, his distribution of goals in 2012-2013 was fairly even.
In both seasons mentioned, the players that mainly assisted on Cammalleri’s goals, spent the entirety of both seasons with Calgary.
To reiterate, this isn’t an uncommon correlation that specifically pertains to Cammalleri’s situation. It does however, emphasize the Devils need to have forwards that will compliment the productivity of their core players, like Cammalleri as next season approaches. Whether he could establish chemistry with forwards projected to return next season like Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac (like he did with Backlund in 2013-2014), or if it comes from somebody that Ray Shero brings in or emerges from the pipeline, Mike Cammalleri’s performance is going to be a huge determinant on how the Devils fare next season.