The New Jersey Devils had a lot of trouble offensively. They seemed to be close to anemic when it came to putting the puck in the back of the net. So when a defenseman comes in and scores 12 goals, eight on the powerplay, then you have to say he was one of the most important players on the team.
Marek Zidlicky was the Devils best offensive defensiveman all season long. He was in the top five in points on the team. He ranked 12th among defenseman in the NHL in goals. His 30 assists were tied with first-line center Travis Zajac for third on the team.
His major contribution to the team was on the power play. He led the team with 18 points with the man advantage. His presence on the point made it easier for the forwards to pass it back to the blue line. While he may have been a little too aggressive at times, the situation usually asked for it.
You aren’t going to mistake Zidlicky for a defensive defenseman. He doesn’t hit people, and he isn’t going to block a ton of shots. You don’t put him on the penalty kill. Head coach Peter DeBoer did not expect that out of Zidlicky, so that shouldn’t be held against him.
One of the major knocks against Zidlicky was the minus-three he put up. For someone who controlled scoring so well, he needed to keep the pucks away from his goaltenders.
One added wrinkle to his game was having similar young players on the team. Eric Gelinas and Jon Merrill were called up when an array of injuries hit the Devils blue line. They grew light years over the season under the tutelage of Zidlicky and Andy Greene. That may have been a large reason why GM Lou Lamoriello decided to bring him back when it seemed like his replacement was in toe.
When you look at Zidlicky’s season as a whole, it is very impressive. He did things that not many NHL defensemen can do. With that said, he did allow too many breakaways for a coach’s, and fan’s, liking. He was very good, but did not deserve an A grade.
Season Grade: B+