By Trevor Jahnke
#8- Dainius Zubrus- Forward
2013 Season Stats
Games Played: 22
Average Time on Ice: 16:47
Points: 9 (2g,7a)
Season Grade: C
Since joining the Devils as an incoming free agent for the 2007-08 Season, Dainius Zubrus has become a fan-favorite and an important part of the team’s forechecking system. In the 5 full-length seasons that the big Lithuanian has played for New Jersey he has averaged 36 points per year, which, when you add his size to the picture, makes him one of the most valuable players on the roster, especially when you factor in that he’s still tied for the team record for goals in a single game from his 2008, 4 goal game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Unfortunately the Devils were without their big man for most of last year’s lockout shortened season after a wrist injury, which later required surgery, limited Zubrus to only 22 games.
With the list of high profile injuries that the Devils suffered from last year to the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur, the injury to Zubrus’ tends to get overlooked. But, when you really look at Zubrus’ production from the games that he was able to play last year, it shows just how much the Devils lost when he went down. The man is not only “the big guy”, but a legitimate cog in the system. When you see what points he could manage, however, averaging nearly a point every other game, you would hope for a little more. There was nothing really wrong with his offensive game in those 22 games where he suited up, but there was nothing really exceptional about them either. He’s a grinder who can throw his body around, which is perfect in DeBoer’s system.
2014 Season Preview
The former Washington Capital played the final month of last year’s season, so I wouldn’t worry too much about his wrist anymore, and as long as he stays healthy, he should have no trouble getting back to his old form.
The 35 year-old Lithuanian has played terrifically in Coach DeBoer’s system. He’s a big guy that loves to forecheck and there’s not a bad word to be said about Zubrus’ work ethic from any coaches or any of his teammates, his taste in music, on the other hand, that’s a sore spot for anybody stuck in a locker room with him. Keep his iPod away from the speakers, and the team should do just fine having him back for a full year.
Stats tend to decline when you talk about a player entering his mid-thirties, but the last time Zubrus played a 82 game season he had 44 points (17 goals and 27 assists) and the Devils wound up making it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals.
I’m predicting that he’ll have around the same numbers, near 14 goals and 31 assists. Without Kovalchuk, everyone on the team needs to step up this year and I don’t think you’ll find any difficulty getting Zubrus to produce.
I’ believe that 2013-2013 will be a bounce-back season for number eight. The chants of “Zuuuuuuub!” will be back at the Rock again, this season.