It has been said many times that the New Jersey Devils have a logjam on the defensive end. It looked like they fixed that prior to the season when they traded Henrik Tallinder to the Buffalo Sabres. The issue came up again when Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill were brought up from the AHL and excelled on the Devils.
Now, there seems to be an odd man out situation once again. Every night, it seems there is a rotation between Gelinas and Anton Volchenkov. The latter of those two is very confusing, with Volchenkov playing well. It is even better coming off a terrible lockout-shortened 2013. It is somewhat understandable when you say you want to get more offense from the blue line, but it is contradictory when you continue to stick Bryce Salvador in the lineup. Peter DeBoer needs to make better decisions when it comes to his defensive lineup.
Volchenkov is great to have in the lineup, because his shot blocking ability is some of the best in the league. He is one of their only defenders who will actually lay a hit on the opposition. He has been good at clearing the puck from the crease, which has been an issue for this team this season. He is a main reason why the Devils still have the second ranked penalty kill in the NHL. He seems to always find himself as the one guy back on a 2-on-1.
There are definitely flaws in Volchenkov’s game. He looks lost when the puck is on his stick, and he is offensively inept. He comes with a very expensive cap hit ($4.25 million), and he also isn’t the fastest defenseman out there.
Although these are legitimate gripes, they aren’t reasons to make Volchenkov a healthy scratch. He needs to be in the lineup on a nightly basis. You are misusing Gelinas anyway, you might as well give him the rest of the season in the minors, barring injury of course. You can pair him with a more offensive defenseman if you’d like to even them out, but either way you need to keep him in the lineup.