There was nowhere to go but up after an extremely disappointing 2013 for Anton Volchenkov. He was one of the worst defensemen in the league in the lockout-shortened season. The New Jersey Devils needed a much better showing to keep him on the roster with his $4.25 million cap hit.
While he wasn’t great, Volchenkov was something the Devils didn’t have on the back line outside of him. But he did make mistakes. His offense is anemic, which is an issue for a team that couldn’t generate scoring. Players like Eric Gelinas and Marek Zidlicky were leaned on heavily to produce scoring for the team. Volchenkov was not that player, as he didn’t score any goals and only recorded eight assists.
When it comes to defense, Volchenkov was the hard hitter on the team. Most wouldn’t argue that the best play he made all season was when he laid a goal-saving hit on Tampa Bay Lightning‘s Nate Thompson in a 3-0 loss on Mar. 15. He led the team in hits, despite only playing 56 games.
It seemed at times head coach Peter DeBoer didn’t mind putting his $4 million defenseman down as a healthy scratch. Although he never had a major injury, Volchenkov still missed 26 games. That was with injuries to defensemen Bryce Salvador, Peter Harrold and Adam Larsson. Whether he deserved to be scratched is up for debate, but it is curious what the Devils will do with the 32-year-old since he still has two years left on his deal. He showed he still had something left to give the team despite an awful 2013.
The place where Volchenkov was most inconsistent was clearing the puck out of the crease. There seemed to be times where he would let opposing players right in front of Cory Schneider or Martin Brodeur without consequence, and other times he made them pay dearly. There were also times where he would immediately get a rebound away from his goalie, while other times his man would get multiple shots from up close. If he wants to stay on this team, he needs to make sure that he is doing the positive portion of his stats more often than the negative portion.
He bounced back from a bad January to post a plus-3 plus/minus over that last month and a half of the season. The team saw some really good months out of Volchenkov, but then also saw some bad ones. In my opinion, he did enough to save himself from a compliance buyout this offseason. Unfortunately, he didn’t do anything better than average in the 2013-14 season.
Season Grade: C
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to the site’s NBA, MLB and NFL portions of the site. You can follow Nick on Twitter or add him to your Google network for more sports talk.