It was a rough season for one of the longest tenured members of the New Jersey Devils. Adam Henrique, one of the Devils’ mainstays over the past five years, had a bit of a down year and it was obvious to those who watched him play. He didn’t play badly by any means; he just looked off and there could be a number of reasons behind that. And before anyone complains, I’m not ripping him apart. He’s my favorite player.
Henrique played all 82 games for the first time in his career. He wasn’t noticeable in all 82 games but he stayed healthy and was on the ice every night, which could go a long way in the future. He’s definitely not injury-prone and hasn’t missed a significant chunk of games in a while. He played all but two games last year, 75 the season before, and 77 the year before that. The year before that was the lockout-shortened season, in which he played 42 of 48 games.
Despite playing all 82 games, he finished with his lowest point total since he scored just 16 points in 42 games played during that lockout-shortened season (which is about 0.38 points/game). He finished with about half a point per game this season, tallying just 40 points in 82 games. Of those 40, one half of those was goals and the other was assists. his point total was the fourth best on the team (which isn’t saying a whole lot). His +/- rating was a -20, the worst of his career and second worst on the team (just ahead of defenseman Damon Severson).
And if it felt like he took a ton of ill-timed penalties, he did. He finished with 38 PIM, the highest total of his career, good for 7th on the Devils (3rd if you discount defensemen, unsurprisingly behind just Miles Wood and Kyle Palmieri). The difference between him and Wood/Palmieri is that he took no major penalties, which makes the stat that much worse.
To expect Henrique to replicate his 30-goal, 53-point season from last year was not entirely a sound decision, mainly because it’s hard to score that many goals in one season if you’re not one of the NHL’s best or if you’re not on an offensive-minded team (which the Devils are trying to become). I maybe didn’t expect 30 from him but 25 would have been a nice number. Add that point total to a decent number of assists and he’d have another career year (but he didn’t).
And if it feels like Henrique was invisible for a bunch of games, it’s because he was. I was surprised to find out that he played all 82 games (the only other Devil with all 82 played was Ben Lovejoy) because it didn’t seem like he did. This number doesn’t mean a whole lot but there were nine games where he didn’t have a single shot on goal (a single shot on goal!); he went shotless for three games straight in March.
So let’s look at his shot count. He had 142 shots on goal this year, which isn’t bad considering his shot totals over the past few years: 149 (2015-16), 127 (2014-15), 137 (2013-14), 78 (2012-13), and 130 (2011-12). His shooting percentage is at 14.1%, down 6% from last season so maybe that’s where the problem lies.
He had 51 games without a point (he had nine multipoint games) and honestly, most of these are pointless statistics. The point is that there were games that he played that he didn’t actually play and as a spectator, it was noticeable.
It’d be easy to point fingers and say that he was battling with an undisclosed injury. Maybe he was but he still played all 82 games. He wasn’t a healthy scratch ever; the only maintenance day he had (that I can think of) was the open practice on April 7th. Whether or not he actually needed a maintenance day remains to be seen; there were rumors that he joined Hall (who also had a maintenance day) with GM Ray Shero to try and convince Harvard’s Alex Kerfoot to sign with the Devils. Hall, however, has been battling some undisclosed injuries this season and will take time to recuperate.
You can argue that Henrique never had a consistent line (and I would argue this too). While he always remained the 2nd line center, his wingers changed. He spent some time with Hall (who was then injured and missed time); Coach Hynes probably wanted to see if the two of them could rekindle their Windsor chemistry. And we can go through the rest of his line combinations, the fact is that Henrique didn’t spend nearly enough time with one line combination in order to develop chemistry. Coach Hynes juggled the lines fairly often at the beginning of the season so it wasn’t just Henrique’s. He did seem to find some chemistry with Joseph Blandisi and Beau Bennett towards the end of the season (who both need new contracts and I would give it to them!) and that’s a combination I can see going forward, unless Coach Hynes opts to keep Blandisi with John Quenneville because they have chemistry. Henrique might also move to the left wing instead of center (the organization has enough centermen as it is) and that could work for him too. I’d also opt to keep Hall with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac together on the top line.
Or maybe he just had a bad year. Most of this is probably just nonsense. With a consistent line next year, Henrique should, theoretically, have a better season. Yes, it’s unrealistic to expect him to score 30 goals again. Should he come close? Yes. He’s hungry to make the playoffs again and he’s reiterated that he wants to stay in New Jersey. He’s a leader (and veteran) on this Devils team, and will help them get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.