Over the next month, SB Nation New York will take an in-depth look at the New Jersey Devils 2011-12 season, one that saw them defy expectations and end up on the losing end of a Stanley Cup championship run. We kicked things off with our season review, and we looked at the performance of Johan Hedberg. We continue that today with a review of Marek Zidlicky.
The New Jersey Devils began the season with a solid defense, but lacked the puck-moving defenseman needed to execute head coach Pete DeBoer's system.
Enter Marek Zidlicky.
The trade deadline acquisition proved to be one of the missing pieces for New Jersey. General manager Lou Lamoriello gave up a significant amount to acquire him, sending three players and a third-round pick to Minnesota. Zidlicky fell out of favor with Wild coach Mike Yeo, and often found himself a healthy scratch.
The trade liberated Zidlicky, and his play reflected it. He only recorded eight points (2g, 6a) in 22 regular season games with New Jersey. What he lacked on the scoresheet he made up for in his on-ice performance. Zidlicky made quick breakout passes and pinched in the offensive zone, helping create an aggressive mentality among the team's defensive corps.
A full season of Zidlicky should be a welcomed sight for Devils fans. The first true puck-moving defenseman on the blue line, Zidlicky became a deadline diamond, a piece that helped New Jersey get into the Stanley Cup Finals.
Zidlicky's Corsi: 5-on-5
Corsi is an advanced statistic that looks to measure a player's impact on the ice. It takes into account several factors, including quality of competition, goals for and against, and shots for and against to reach a positive or negative rating. A deeper explanation is here.
During even-strength, Zidlicky led all Devils defenseman with a plus-7.9 Corsi rating. According to the numbers, Zidlicky faced the toughest competition among Devils blueliners, constantly facing the opponents best players. While on the ice, Zidlicky recorded a plus-0.51 Corsi rating. Off the ice, that number plummeted to a minus-7.40. It's impressive for an offensive defensman to put up those types of numbers. The positive ratings showed he not only helped generate offense, but he stepped up in his own zone as well, helping block shots and stop scoring attempts.
Zidlicky's Corsi: 5-on-4
Zidlicky's powerplay numbers are even more impressive. When New Jersey acquired the defenseman, he slotted in perfectly with Ilya Kovalchuk on the blueline. It helped the flow of the powerplay, and helped build success during the early rounds of the playoffs.
The Corsi numbers prove that impact. Facing the opponent's best penalty killers, Zidlicky posted a plus-70.30 rating, second on the team behind Andy Greene. Goals-for sat at 6.03 with the defenseman on the ice, but dropped over half to 3.01.
A Diamond Indeed
According to Capgeek.com, Zidlicky has one year remaining on his three-year, $12 million contract. While that $4 million is a bit high, Zidlicky's impact is undeniable. On the ice, he helps execute a puck possession system, aggressively moving the puck out of his own end. He's willing to pinch along the boards offensively, and never afraid to let the puck fly toward the net.
Zidlicky was a diamond in the rough, one that should continue to produce next season.