It was a season of firsts for the dynamic Bobby Farnham, popularly known by fans as “Wild Thing”. He played a career-high 53 games this season, 50 with New Jersey after general manager Ray Shero claimed him off waivers from his old stomping grounds in Pittsburgh. Farnham instantly won over the Devil’s faithful with his fast up-tempo style of gameplay and unexpected offensive prowess. He would finish with totals of eight goals, ten points, and 92 penalty minutes. He went minus two for the whole season, registering 50 shots, 83 hits, and 19 blocked shots all while averaging 9:28 of ice time per game. This was Farnham’s first full NHL season and he failed to disappoint, making him one of Shero’s most successful off-the-radar pickups in his first season as Devils GM. He would constantly get under the skin of the opposing team’s top players and goaltenders, which became one of Farnham’s most noteworthy playing attributes. He was a solid fit for the Devils as a reliable fourth line grinding wing that was relied upon to energize his squad whenever it was warranted.
Simply put, you always seemed to know when Farnham was out on the ice. He fit in perfectly for the Devils with his fast agile skating, and capitalized on any opportunity to finish a thunderous hit, or initiate a post-whistle scrum. Farnham brought a degree of feistiness and tenacity onto a Devils team that’s lacked such qualities in a single player for longer than I can remember. Out of his 92 penalty minutes, 30 of them were attributed to minors (giving him an average of just .3 minor penalties a game), while the others consisted of fighting majors and three ten minute misconducts. Farnham had the second-most fights on the team this year, and was 4th in hits per game (1.7) among players with at least 30 contests played. Farnham’s highlight statistic of this season was his 16.7% shooting percentage, which was second-highest on the team. It’s worth nothing that Farnham’s gamely ice time 9:28 minutes per game was the lowest of any Devils player this year (with at least 30 games played). Granted Farnham mainly played a fourth line role throughout the season, this still was his first actual year in the NHL, so he might not necessarily have reached his ceiling.
Despite playing a completely opposite-natured game, Farnham was among those Devils players who contributed to the roster’s glaring lack of size. This issue wouldn’t have been so monotonous if the Devils had a more successful season, but the fact stands that this roster’s capabilities were limited due to the subpar stature of their forwards (particularly in the bottom-six). While eight goals in 50 games was considerably impressive for a fourth liner like Farnham (especially shooting at 16.7%), his consistency has to be taken into question. Farnham scored his first seven goals of the year in his first 27 games of the season. He would score just once in his last 23 matches, which provides strong reason that Farnham’s lopsided shooting percentage may have been nothing more than a combination of convenient timeliness and impeccable good fortune. This is further backed by the distributive balance of Farnham’s shot totals. He registered 25 shots in his first 27 games of the season when he scored his first seven goals, and put just as many shots on net in the latter-half of the year. Let’s keep in mind this was technically Farnham’s official first NHL season, so he has no previous stretches of playing time before this year to shed any indicative insight on his shooting habits and consistencies.
At 27 years of age and just breaking into the NHL, Farnham has set himself up to pave a promising future with the Devils. Unlike some of the upcoming free agents we’ve previously covered like Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta, Farnham is different in that he was one of Ray Shero’s sole acquisitions, and part of the onslaught of change that has been brought about in the organization over the past year. We all know that every team needs someone to stick up for their fellow players and provide that energy boost for their team in pivotal situations. Usually, players of that nature are abundant, and last minute pickups by general managers looking to shore up on their bottom-six depth. In the Devil’s situation however, when a player like Farnham fit in as well as he did, they’re worth holding onto. Teams that take these kinds of players for granted, and their absence is usually noticed the following season. For this reason along with Farnham only entering his second NHL season this fall, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shero brings him back on a year-to-year basis. He has the goal numbers that players like Tootoo and Gionta lacked, while getting considerably less playing time. Farnham still has to prove his legitimacy at the NHL level, and it’d be unwise for him or the Devils to end their relationship after this season.