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On Butcher, Mueller, and promoting from within

August 12, 2018, 12:01 PM ET [10 Comments]
Todd Cordell
New Jersey Devils Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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The New Jersey Devils' biggest need this summer was another quality defenseman.

Despite qualifying for a playoff spot, the Devils ranked 23rd in 5v5 goals against/60, 22nd in expected goals against/60, and the backend looked unstable on many nights.

The only notable defensive change they've made thus far is letting John Moore go. You can certainly argue that is addition by subtraction but it's far from ideal they haven't been able to bring in any outside help.

While there is still time to do so, the Devils appear content promoting from within. On multiple occasions, Ray Shero has talked about Will Butcher and Mirco Mueller competing for top-4 minutes on the left side.

I don't think there is much debate about who will step into the top-4. At least there shouldn't be.

Butcher's underlying numbers were better than Mueller's across the board last season.

Butcher produced points at better than three times the rate of Mueller, significantly boosted the team's Corsi and Goals For numbers, and was worth 5.5 more goals above replacement using @EvolvingWild's model.

Looking at micro stats tracked by @ShutdownLine, the gap in quality between the two is just as evident.

It is worth noting Mueller's sample size (eight games) is very small, however, it's not at all surprising a player with 10 points in 82 career games has brought little to the table in terms of shot contributions, for example.

You could say Butcher mostly played sheltered minutes on the 3rd pairing. That's true. But he logged 233 minutes with Damon Severson (+3.38 Rel CF%) and ~67 minutes (+8.57 Rel CF%) and excelled in that time, too.

If Mueller finds himself ahead of Butcher on the depth chart come October, there is something seriously wrong.

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