by PuckStopsHere on 05/26/12 at 02:10 PM ET
Who would have predicted that New Jersey would make the Stanley Cup finals this year? They missed the playoffs last year with a very similar roster to the one they have this year. If I made a power ranking list I wouldn’t have ranked them in the top ten when the season ended. They wound up with the ninth best record at the end of the regular season. There is little to see here that makes them look like a team that might make the Stanley Cup finals. There is nothing to see here that makes me think they might be an elite team.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at them with my necessary (but not sufficient) conditions to be an elite team.
Historically we see that elite teams must have good player personnel. They must have at least three players who will wind up in the Hockey Hall of Fame and they must have one of the top goalies in the league. These players must be near the prime of their career. That does not guarantee that a team will be an elite team but you cannot be elite without the personnel.
If we look at New Jersey we see they have one player who is a clear Hall of Famer in goalie in Martin Brodeur. He is one of the best goalies in history but he isn’t one of the best goalies in the NHL anymore. He is still a starting goalie in the league but he isn’t one of the best starters. In fact of the four semi-final goalies, he is the worst one.
There are no other members of the team who are clear Hall of Fame players based upon current achievements. Ilya Kovalchuk is likely on track. He has 785 career points and has won the Richard Trophy. At age 29 he is likely to end up with Hall of Fame career numbers. Nobody else on the team projects to get there.
Patrik Elias has more career points than Kovalchuk with 894 but has played almost 300 more career games. He also does not have the same individual achievements as Kovalchuk and at age 36 has less time left in his career to improve those numbers. Zach Parise is far earlier in his career. He has 410 points in 502 games and has never seriously contended for an individual award. Unless his best is yet to come he won’t have a Hall of Fame career. It is hard to argue that any other Devil player is worthy of Hall of fame consideration at all.
All told we have one player who is a Hall of Famer in Martin Brodeur who is no longer in his prime and is no longer an elite goalie. We have Ilya Kovalchuk who is close enough to his prime that he is still an All Star player and projects to a Hall of Fame career and we have a couple more forwards worthy of mention as possible but unlikely Hall of Famers. That isn’t the kind of elite personnel that an elite team should have.
New Jersey has neither the results on the ice nor the personnel to be an elite team. They will join the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals in a battle of low seeds who are clearly not elite teams. This is likely a Stanley Cup final that will be forgotten in the future.
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