Early stats show Kovalchuk not worth it

New head coach John MacLean received the dreaded vote of confidence from GM Lou Lamoriello yesterday, who stated that firing MacLean has not yet crossed his mind.

If Lamoriello isn’t blaming the coach, then it seems to me that the fault must lie with the players. With that in mind I thought we should take a look at some of the Devils’ individual performances via CORSI to see how dismally the Devs are really playing.

(To any advanced metricians out there, please let me know if I’ve screwed something up. After all, I’m an English major who hasn’t had his morning coffee yet.)

All of these stats are courtesy of Gabriel Desjardins at BehindTheNet.ca. You can find the Devils stats I’m referencing here.

Blame Not These Men

According to CORSI, which measures even-strength shots-for minus even-strength shots-against while a player is on the ice, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus have been the team’s best players thus far, posting marks of 15.54 and 14.18 respectively. When they’re off the ice, the team struggles mightily. Relative CORSI measures the difference between a player’s performance when he’s on the ice and the team’s performance when he’s off it. When this pair sits, the Devils foes smile. They’re generating almost nine more shots than New Jersey when Zajac sits on the bench and about 7.5 when Zubrus takes a rest.

Those numbers seem to show that Zubrus is more than earning his time on the top line and deserves to stay there for the time being.

Just below them sits Zach Parise with an 8.52 CORSI rating and a 14.2 relative score. Nothing wrong with that.

Brian Rolston’s CORSI rating appears to be phenomenal (21.49) but keep in mind he’s appeared in just two games this season before going down with an injury.

The Rookie D-men

With little cap space, as well as injuries to Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov, the Devs have had to lean on a trio of rookie blueliners: Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina and, most recently, Oliver Magnan-Grenier. Taormina has performed quite admirably with the increased expectations, with a CORSI rating of 5.12 and a Relative CORSI rating of 9.1, the best among defensemen. Corrente, who’s been on board for four games, has been less impressive (-3.13 CORSI) while Magnan-Grenier has been rather lousy (-8.23) in his three games with the club.

To give this some context, heralded rookie D-man John Carlson of the Washington Capitals currently owns a 12.14 rating, while top vet Chris Pronger, has posted a 33.59 mark. Former Devil Paul Martin sits a little below Pronger with a rating of 18.85.

The disparity between the Devs’ rookie D shows how tough it is to break in three fresh faces at the same time. Almost always, one of that group will be going up against an undesirable matchup.

The $100 Million Man

Ilya Kovalchuk was controversially courted by the Devils and finally won over after much labor and hardship. Thus far, according to CORSI, he hasn’t been worth the investment.

Among Devils who have played more than five games, Kovalchuk has posted the third-worst CORSI rating (-10.20), just ahead of Jason Arnott (-12.30) and Jamie Langenbrunner (-18.07). When these three are off the ice, the Devils have performed far better at generating shots and limiting those against Martin Brodeur.

To hone in a little further on Kovalchuk, consider that fellow Russian NHL stars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin have CORSI ratings of 13.32 and 14.13 to date.

We’re still only a 10th of the way through the season, so it’s not time to panic yet, but Kovalchuk needs to turn it around to make his contract seem like merely an okay investment. But with all the hurdles the Devils had to clear to ink him, and all of the juggling they’ve had to do to fit his salary under the cap, a statistical performance like this one shows the signing to be nothing short of disastrous in the early going.