It seems like all season, Peter DeBoer and the New Jersey Devils have had an issue with what to do with rookie Eric Gelinas. Half of the time he is a healthy scratch, while he can barely get ice time the other half of the time. The team has been experimenting with using him as a forward. This is something they should continue to do.
Gelinas has played well enough to get into the lineup, but he makes a few too many mistakes when it comes to pinching. If he is used as a defensive forward, he wouldn’t have the same responsibilities. He could work out the kinks in his game while still being able to help this team offensively.
He is on the team currently for his work on the power play. If he plays forward full time, he could also play defense on the power play. He is a great asset on the Devils, and they cannot waste him.
The team is working with some great defensemen. Anton Volchenkov was losing the most time while Gelinas is in the lineup. He is a force that should be in the lineup, but is giving way to Gelinas. He is a big hitter and an intimidating presence that the team could use against some of the faster teams in the Eastern Conference.
They also have the young stud Jon Merrill, who at times overshadows Gelinas. The fact that he brings some youth to the back line makes it easier to sit Gelinas. The fact that they still have Alexander Urbom and Adam Larsson sitting in Albany also strengthens the case. There are just so many NHL-ready defensemen in the organization that something needs to be done to stop the logjam.
Keeping Gelinas at forward could also help the fourth line. The CBGB (Ryan Carter–Stephen Gionta–Steve Bernier) line has been nothing short of awful this season. Carter keeps getting hurt, Gionta can’t find linemates with the right chemistry and Bernier is shooting at 3.2 percent. They are a combined -28. That really hurts a team that struggles to score goals. Putting Gelinas on the line to replace Bernier could inject some much-needed life at the bottom of the forward lines.
You can look at his skill set to understand why DeBoer may think about putting Gelinas at the wing on a full-time basis. He has one of the hardest shots on the team, which is something the Devils haven’t seen from a forward since Brian Rolston was traded. He is very good at one-timers, which usually end up in goals if it is shot correctly.
He has everything it takes to play up front, and the Devils’ brass just need to pull the trigger on it. They have shown that they are willing to give it a shot. Hopefully from now on, they will give him more than seven minutes of ice time to get more acclimated.
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to the site’s NFL, NBA and MLB content. You can follow him on Twitter here.