Severson provides valuable offensive minutes to Devils
Alex Chauvancy looks into the impact Severson's made offensively while crushing it in a depth role.
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By Alex Chauvancy (@AlexC_THW)
Dougie Hamilton and John Marino grab most of the attention among New Jersey Devils defensemen. You could throw Jonas Siegenthaler in the mix, too.
Damon Severson does as well; but it's not always for the right reasons. Sure, he does make some poor decisions on occasion but, as a whole, there's a lot more good than bad when it comes to No. 28.
With the addition of Marino this past off-season, Severson has moved into a third-pair role. The results have been nothing short of what the Devils need from him.
With the playoffs less than a month away, let's look at why Severson could play a crucial part in the team making a run during the post-season; especially if he can limit the miscues.
Severson's offensive value outweighs defensive flaws
Severson has handled top-pair and top-four minutes well in the past. He and Siegenthaler combined to make one of the better shutdown duos in the NHL in 2021-22. With Marino being a stout defensive defenseman who can at least move the puck, even if offense goes to die when he's on the ice, Severson has benefited from going up against teams' depth players in 2022-23.
Per Puck IQ, Severson has played 41.8 percent of his minutes against gritensity, meaning he's spent a large chunk of time against teams' third and fourth lines and bottom defense pairs. In those minutes, he has managed a 59.1 Corsi for percentage (CF%). Even against middle-of-the-lineup players, in which he's spent 34.1 percent of his minutes, he has totalled a 56.4 CF%.
When on the third pair, Severson has had two common partners: Brendan Smith and Kevin Bahl.
With Smith, Severson has a 61 expected goals percentage (xG%) and 60 goals for percentage (GF%), meaning he and Smith have produced to their high expectations. The results with Bahl are even better, as that pair has a 62.15 xG% and 66.67 GF%.
Severson takes a lot of flack for his defensive lapses. While it is warranted from time to time, the Devils still have a plus-11 goal differential with him on the ice at five-on-five. That's because the Devils' offense has bulldozed teams in his minutes, averaging 3.69 expected goals per 60 with him on the ice. That's the best rate on the team.
Some of that is because he has spent plenty of time with forwards like Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes. Still, we've seen Severson's ability to create offense with his passing. When looking at his microstats, he ranks among some of the best defensemen in creating offense.
For example, Severson is in the 95th percentile in assists that lead to scoring chances, the 98th percentile in primary assists that lead to shots, and the 98th percentile in passes from the defensive zone that lead to shots:
Editor’s note: Severson also leads Devils defensemen in shot assists per game at 5v5.
He did it Friday in the game against the Buffalo Sabres, setting up Bratt for an odd man rush with a perfect stretch pass from the defensive zone. He has done it consistently from the start of this season. There's no need to look any further than this stretch pass from Severson's own end to Hughes that led to a goal in a game against the New York Islanders:
That's the kind of value Severson has provided in a role that caters to his strengths: puck-moving and passing ability. Unfortunately, if you're a fan of Severson, he may not have that much time left in a Devils uniform.
On the March 20 episode of DFO Rundown, Frank Seravalli stated that Severson could get a 5-6 year deal worth ~$6 million annually as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
With Luke Hughes' arrival around the corner, and the Devils having drafted Šimon Nemec and Seamus Casey at the 2022 draft, the writing seems to have been on the wall for quite some time.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald also has to get Bratt and Timo Meier signed to new contracts, so paying Severson that kind of money doesn't seem all that likely.
Still, there are three weeks of the regular season left; and the Devils won't be satisfied with just making the playoffs. They'll want to make a run, and Severson will play a role.
With a possible first-round matchup against the New York Rangers, they will need him to help create grade-A chances for Hughes and Bratt against Igor Shesterkin.
Or, say the Devils win the Metropolitan Division and face a defensively flawed Pittsburgh Penguins team, there will be an opportunity for him to feast. What about the Islanders? The video above is one way to make Ilya Sorokin less of an eraser.
Severson's defensive flaws are what they are – and he can't take untimely penalties as he did against the Sabres – but what he does offensively far outweighs the bad. He's been a net-positive for the Devils.
If they're to make a run in the playoffs, having him in a third-pair role could be a difference-maker in the team finding goals when they need it.
Advanced stats from Natural Stat Trick, PuckIQ
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