It’s funny to think at the start of the season, the right wing slot on the line with Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri, was a tossup between Lee Stempniak (brought in as a tryout), and Jiri Tlusty. He appeared in just 30 games in 2015-2016, and would slowly lose the faith of the coaching staff as the season progressed. Tlusty’s scoring totals consisted of two goals and four points, scoring his first goal in the Devil’s season-opener. His second and final goal came 18 games later. Tlusty had just two assists in the time between. The start to the 28-year old’s season wasn’t particularly bad. He scored one goal and notched three points in his first nine games, so it seemed like the Devils found bargain acquisitions in both Stempniak and Tlusty. Players like Tlusty though, were a big reason why the Devils plundered. He was given redundant opportunities in the lineup with expectations that he would furnish the top two lines, or provide additional scoring on the third line. Tlusty failed in this regard, and eventually found himself relegated to the fourth line and press box. Before his season-ending injury occurred, Tlusty battled earlier ailments, which raises the possibility that he could have played much of the season with a nagging injury. This would partly explain why Tlusty never lived to the expectations of his one-way contract.
It’s hard to find many positives on Tlusty’s play, but the few he has are worth acknowledging. One of the best parts of Tlusty’s game has been his efficient shooting percentage. As one of our articles from earlier this season mentioned, the Czech winger had a profoundly accurate shot during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. From the 2010-2011 season until last season’s trade to the Winnipeg Jets, Tlusty maintained a shooting percentage in the 11-19% range, which he didn’t come close to this year. Among Devils forwards with at least 30 contests played, Tlusty averaged the tenth-most shots per game (1.3). His shooting percentage also dropped sharply since Carolina traded him. He had a 3.8% shot percentage in Winnipeg, which improved just slightly to 5.3% this season. Coincidently, his shooting percentage in his rookie year with the Toronto Maple Leafs was 14.5%. After playing 14 goalless games the following year, Tlusty was traded to Carolina in 2009-2010. His shooting percentage was a mere 6.7%, but would jump to 11.3% in 2010-2011. Especially if fully healthy, could Tlusty rebound similarly if he returns next year? Especially if fellow Czechs Patrik Elias and Pavel Zacha are on the roster, the aspect doesn’t seem as inconceivable as originally perceived.
The majorly glaring flaws in Tlusty’s season are apparent and aforementioned in this article. Two goals in 30 games after being awarded a one-way contract, a miniscule shooting percentage, and his season-ending injuries. One way to put into perspective how ineffective and detrimental Tlusty’s season was, is to look at the Devil’s record in games where he was featured in the lineup. New Jersey went 14-14-2, which equates to a .46 winning percentage, which eclipses the Devil’s 2015-2016 season winning percentage. While there isn’t any disparity in the Devil’s play with Tlusty in the lineup, it might seem like his presence during games had an indifferent effect on the outcome. Consequently, out of the 14 regulation losses the Devils suffered when Tlusty played, the Devils lost by two or more goals in ten of those matchups. Even if Tlusty scored an extra four or five goals on top of the meager two he tallied this season, his output would have more than likely not made a difference in most outcomes of the games he appeared in.
While there may be some incentive in Tlusty returning, the risk doesn’t seem worthwhile in the grand scheme of things. Between his discouragingly subpar season after being awarded countless opportunities by Coach Hynes and the rise of young forwards like Reid Boucher, Joe Blandisi, and other prospective up and comers, the Devils will probably move in another direction. Even with the stats this article presented and Tlusty not playing a full season taken into consideration, he was the kind of player who need a strong consistent performance this year to warrant any immediate long term consideration from Devils management. The only conceivable scenario where Tlusty would return next season is if Shero and Coach Hynes feel he deserves another opportunity to showcase his skills based on the circumstances he endured this year. Especially if the Devils improve from their 30th-ranked 24.4 shots per game, it could be a contusive environment for a player like Tlusty.