by PuckStopsHere on 06/25/10 at 12:00 PM ET
A few days ago future Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer announced his retirement and I am only now getting around to writing his career retrospective.
Scott Niedermayer was born on August 31st, 1973 in Edmonton, Alberta. As a very young kid, his family moved to the Kootenay region of eastern British Columbia and he grew up playing hockey in the minor hockey system there. In 1989 he started his junior career when he joined the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League. There he quickly blossomed into a star. By 1991, he was named to the WHL West First All Star Team and named Canadian Major Junior scholastic player of the year for a season where he scored 82 points in 57 games from defence. He also played on the gold medal winning Canadian team at the World Junior Championships. This was good enough to make him the third overall pick in the 1991 draft by the New Jersey Devils. This was the infamous draft pick that Toronto traded for Tom Kurvers, thus eliminating them from the Eric Lindros sweepstakes (Lindros was the consensus first overall pick that season).
Niedermayer had a four game trial with the Devils at the beginning of the 1991/92 season before he was returned to junior for a final season. In that season, Niedermayer made his second appearance in the World Junior Championships and was named to its All Star team. Despite being limited to only 35 regular season games in the WHL, he made the WHL West First All Star Team again. He was a big part of his Kamloops team winning the Memorial Cup as the top Canadian Major Junior team, where he won the Stafford Smythe Trophy as Memorial Cup tournament MVP and made the Memorial Cup All Star Team.
With nothing left to accomplish as a junior, Niedermayer became a permanent member of the New Jersey Devils in the 1992/93 season. His 40 point season from defence put him on the NHL All Rookie Team that season. Niedermayer worked hard to improve his defensive game under coach Jacques Lemaire in his first few NHL seasons. By 1995, his hard work started to pay off as he was a big part of the New Jersey Devils Stanley Cup victory. In 1996, he was chosen to represent Canada in the World Cup and showed he was one of Canada’s best defencemen. After a 57 point campaign in 1997/98, Niedermayer had contract negotiation problems with the Devils.
Niedermayer was a restricted free agent who was holding out for a better NHL deal. He signed a tryout contract with Utah of the IHL, with New Jersey retaining his NHL rights and played five IHL games before eventually signing with the Devils and returning to the NHL.
Niedermayer played enough of the NHL season (72 games) to appear in his first of five career NHL All Star Games and to be named to the NHL’s Second All Star Team at the end of the season. In 2000, he and his Devils won the Stanley Cup for the second time. His NHL success had him named to the 2002 Canadian Olympic Team, where he won a gold medal. A lot of publicity was made of the fact that this made him the first player to win the Memorial Cup, Stanley Cup, World Junior and Olympic gold in his career. In 2003, Niedermayer won the Stanley Cup for a third time with the Devils. 2004 saw his best regular season of his career. Scott Niedermayer won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman and was named to the NHL’s First All Star Team.
This got Niedermayer named to the Canadian team for the 2004 World Cup, which his team won. This added another major hockey victory to Niedermayer’s resume. The 2004/05 season was lost to lockout and Niedermayer did not play after the World Cup concluded.
As a free agent at the lockout’s completion, Niedermayer signed with the Anaheim Ducks. There he had a chance to play alongside his brother Rob. Niedermayer had not lost a step with his time off. He was named to the 2006 Canadian Olympic Team, but did not play due to injury and named to the NHL’s First All Star Team that season. 2007 saw another First All Star Team appearance and another Stanley Cup victory. This was his first (and only) victory in Anaheim. Niedermayer won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs for that victory.
Niedermayer looked exhausted at the end of the playoff run and decided to take some time off at the beginning of next season. Officially, he was contemplating retirement, but I think he knew he would recharge his batteries and return. He came back for 48 regular season games in the 2007/08 season. Niedermayer played the next two full seasons with the Ducks, including a 2010 Canadian Olympic Team appearance where he won another gold medal, before announcing retirement in the 2010 off-season.
After 18 NHL seasons, Niedermayer retires as one of the winningest players ever. He won at all levels and with any team he spent significant time playing with. He retires as a three time First All Star Team member, a Norris Trophy winner and a Conn Smythe winner. He is one of the better defencemen of the latter half of the 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000’s. He is a Hall of Famer.
With Niedermayer’s retirement, I am reduced to fifteen players on my list of currently active future Hall of Fame players. Here it is:
I expect the summer’s retirements are not over yet and this may make the 2013 Hall of Fame class a crowded one. Niedermayer and Blake have already retired. Forsberg, Chelios, Modano and Selanne are candidates to join them.
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