by David Pavlak on 03/14/12 at 12:22 AM ET
1. John McMullen
Having grown up in Jersey City and moved to Montclair in his high school years, McMullen was a passionate New Jerseyan. Nevertheless, he threatened to move the team to Nashville and Hamilton, Ont., when he perceived a lack of local support. Former Devils remember annual dinners for the team at his home, where priceless paintings hung on the walls in the days when NHL players didn’t earn today’s money. McMullen was a dog lover, as well as a Rangers and Flyers hater. To him, a win over either was worth two against anyone else. He took his son, Peter, to a few Rangers game at Madison Square Garden each year in the 1960s and 1970s but was never a season ticketholder.
2. Lou Lamoriello
Tyrannical. Obsessive. Married to the Devils. Architect of three Stanley Cup championships. They are all descriptions of the team’s longtime president and GM. He micromanages the Devils, has gone through 19 coaches (15 different people) in 25 seasons and is quick to lock horns with NHL executives, disgruntled players, reporters and staff members if they disagree with him. But he holds firm to his principles and every now and then slips up and lets you see he’s a good person.
3. Scott Stevens
Hockey’s most-feared hitter, the defenseman was awarded to the Devils in 1991 as compensation when the St. Louis Blues signed free agent Brendan Shanahan. A Hall of Famer, his hit on Eric Lindros turned the 2000 conference finals around. He policed the dressing room, with teammates fearful of letting him down. A three-time Cup winner, he ranks ahead of Martin Brodeur only because the Cups stopped when he retired.
4. Martin Brodeur
The face of the franchise for two decades, his importance cannot be measured simply by the fact that he is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins, shutouts and games played. A four-time Vezina Trophy winner, it was unfair to suggest he was great during the Cup years primarily because of the defense he had in front of him. In fact, his ability to handle the puck changed the game and overall skills still give his teammates a sense of security.
5. Scott Niedermayer
Grace and class on and off skates. Stevens and Ken Daneyko did the dirty work, but he was equally as important. Niedermayer was so good that there often appeared to be two of him. He’d lead the offensive rush and then get back in time to stop the opposing team. If you didn’t see him in his prime, you missed something special.
6. David Conte
Now in his 28th season with the Devils, the club’s scouting director and his staff haven’t just kept the team competitive with finds like Brian Rafalski, John Madden and Scott Clemmensen. He’s also given Lamoriello prospects that brought key players via trades. Conte could be GM of another NHL team but the Devils know his value and keep him here.
7. Ken Daneyko
Going back to the early days of the team, no one cared more about the Devils. Few were tougher, and while he fought his own demons, he was beloved by fans and former owner John McMullen. Daneyko belittles his own skills, but it’s no accident he won three Cups and had his No. 3 retired.
8. Jacques Lemaire
He coached the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995 and remained a sounding board and confidante to Lamoriello even after he stepped down. Having served three terms as Devils coach, he continues to advise Pete DeBoer.
9. John MacLean
We won’t mention his 33 games as head coach. As a player, MacLean once held many of the team’s offensive records, but his overtime goal in Chicago Stadium on April 3, 1988, is reason enough to view him as one of the Devils’ most important people. That got them into the playoffs for the first time.
10. Patrik Elias
A two-time Stanley Cup champion, he is the Devils’ all-time leader in goals, points and assists. He assisted on Jason Arnott’s Cup-clinching goal in Dallas in 2000 and has been important in recent seasons because of his versatility as a winger or center.
11. Claude Lemieux
Easily overlooked, he was vital to winning in 1995 and 2000. Lemieux won the Conn Smythe Trophy in ’95 as playoff M.V.P. and scored the key goal against Ron Hextall in Game 5 of the conference finals in Philadelphia. Not only does he deserve a more prominent place in Devils’ history. He merits a spot in the Hall of Fame.
12. Jeff Vanderbeek
His place in Devils history has yet to be written. Although he was instrumental in the getting the team a new arena in Newark, the Devils are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. If that happens and he has to relinquish his share if the team or the league takes control, what will that say about his legacy?
13. Larry Robinson
With the Devils down, 3-1, to the Flyers in the 2000 conference finals his out-of-character dressing room tirade opened some eyes. Martin Brodeur recalls Robinson saying: “You guys tried it your way for a while. Now, I’m telling you what to do.” Two stints as head coach and five as assistant, including as Jacques Lemaire’s right-hand man in ’95.
14. Dr. Barry Fisher
The longtime team orthopedist has saved careers and made it possible for key players to stay in the lineup while hurt. Because he’s behind the scenes, he rarely gets the attention he deserves.
15. Pat Burns
We’ll never know if he could have become the first Devils coach to win multiple Cups. Cancer claimed him far too young Nov. 19, 2010.
16. Mike (Doc) Emrick
Seems crazy to pick a broadcaster, but his skills have directed a lot of positive attention towards the Devils.
17. Jacques Caron
He was only a goalie coach, but he was Martin Brodeur’s sounding board and security blanket.
18. Max McNab
The team’s second GM, later played a key role in the arbitration presentation that got Scott Stevens.
19. Jason Arnott
Scored the Cup-winning goal in 2000 and centered the A Line.
20. Viacheslav Fetisov
A hockey pioneer who did it with the Devils.
21. John Madden
The top defensive forward on a defensive-oriented team; two-time Cup winner.
22. Sergei Brylin
Underrated member of three championship teams.
23. Jim Schoenfeld
He lasted just one full season and parts of two others, but got the Devils into the playoffs for the first time.
24. Bobby Holik
A member of the Crash Line, he played a big role in two Cups and never hid his opinions.
25. Sean Burke
Goalie became the savior in 1988, carrying the team down the stretch.
26. Chico Resch
The original face of the franchise and a very solid goalie.
27. Kirk Muller
Captain Kirk should’ve remained a Devil longer, but they did get Stephane Richer for him.
28. Jim Dowd
Showed that a kid from New Jersey can make it to the NHL and win a Cup.
29. Zach Parise
Hasn’t won anything yet, but much of the team’s future hinges on his decision on whether he’ll stay.
30. Ilya Kovalchuk
We don’t know yet if he’s a winner, but there is no denying his importance with a 15-year, $100 million contract.
Honorable Mention: Randy McKay, Jay Pandolfo, Stephane Richer, Colin White, Marie Carnevale (executive asst. to Lou Lamoriello), Dr. Len Jaffe (orthopedist), Sherry Ross (radio color commentator), Claude Carrier (asst. scouting director).
Do you think anyone was left off the list? Do you think someone had more importance over another?
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I am an all around NHL fan. I love to watch Atlantic Division, and root for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just because I cheer for the Flyers, doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the other teams in the division, specifically the New Jersey Devils. Devils Advocate will provide you with the most important Devils news, filled with my opinion about the selected topic.
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