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This season Brian Gibbons was a very pleasant surprise on a New Jersey Devils team that was full of them.
Gibbons entered camp as somewhat of a long shot to make the team. He not only cracked the opening night roster, but put together the best season of his career tallying 26 points in 59 games and logging important minutes as a primary penalty killer.
On the surface it seems like a no-brainer to re-sign him, especially if the ask is reasonable.
When you dig a little deeper, though, I think a good case can be made to walk away. Let's take a look at a few reasons why.
The Devils controlled just 44.9% of the 5v5 shot attempts with Gibbons on the ice, which ranked him last among 18 eligible skaters (40+ games played).
With that in mind, it should be no surprise Gibbons negatively impacted the numbers for the vast majority of his teammates.
Gibbons shared the ice for at least 90 minutes with 12 different players. Only one of them (Steven Santini) posted a higher Corsi with Gibbons and the difference was negligible.
If I were to expand the criteria to 70+ minutes, three more players would find themselves in the red portion of that table. I don't think that's a coincidence.
Offensive numbers were inflated
There's plenty of reason to be skeptical Gibbons can duplicate this year's goal and point totals. For one, he had a lot of shooting luck. Gibbons converted on a hair under 17% of his shots.
Only 16 players a) played in 55+ games; b) recorded at least 70 shots and; c) scored on a higher percentage than Gibbons.
Anze Kopitar, William Karlsson, Anders Lee, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Auston Matthews, Eric Staal, and Brad Marchand account for most of those spots. Does anybody think Gibbons has the kind of shooting talent to be in the same ballpark as those guys? Yeah, me neither.
From 2014-17, Gibbons appeared in 161 AHL games. He produced 70 points in that span, good for .43 per game.
This past season Gibbons tallied 26 points in 59 NHL games, good for .44 per game. Call me crazy but I have a hard time believing he'll continue to be as productive, or more productive, at the NHL level than in the AHL.
Gibbons wasn't brought in for his offense, obviously, but if his production is likely to dip moving forward, and negatively impacts the underlying numbers of so many teammates, it doesn't make much sense to keep him around.
Barring anything unforeseen happening, Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, Kyle Palmieri, Marcus Johansson, Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Travis Zajac, Blake Coleman, Miles Wood, Stefan Noesen, and Brian Boyle will be on the team next season. That's 11 forwards. If the Devils re-sign Patrick Maroon, which seems like a realistic possibility, they'll have 12 forwards under contract.
Should Ray Shero bring in more scoring depth, or want prospects like Joey Anderson, Michael McLeod and John Quenneville to battle for a vacancy, there actually needs to be one.
Gibbons was a great story in 2017-18 and he did more than enough to earn himself a NHL contract. I just don't think the Devils should be the team to give it to him.
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