Archive for the ‘Hockey’ Category

On Tuesday, June 22, 2010, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer announced his retirement after 18 seasons in NHL. Niedermayer was one of the best defenseman of the millennial years and will definitely be a first ballot hall of famer.

Scott Niedermayer is only 36 years old and it looked like he still had some good years left in him. Sadly, Niedermayer decided to call it quits on Tuesday, in a move that one can not help but respect.

You see Niedermayer did something that so few athletes do in this day and age; retire on top before their game begins to fade away. Most guys stick around long past their prime and do not know when enough is enough (i.e. Chris Chelios). When they do this, watching them struggle to play the game like they used to is very difficult to watch and it is very sad.

What athletes fail to realize is,that by continuing to play the game when you are long past your prime you can damage your image. Instead of being remembered for being an outstanding athlete, people will remember you for not giving up the game when maybe you should have.

Niedermayer did the right thing Tuesday, and in many ways he really did go out on top.

Scott Niedermayer broke into the NHL in 1991, as a 19-year-old rookie defenseman for the New Jersey Devils. He only played in four games in the 1991-1992 season and registered just an assist, but the next season he would go on to become a starting defenseman.

In his first full NHL season, Niedermayer scored 11 goals and 29 assists totaling 40 points. He was also able to establish himself as an effective weapon on the power play by scoring 5 goals and 14 points. From this season on, Niedermayer would be one of the best power play players in the NHL.

When he hung up the skates on Tuesday, Scott Niedermayer ended his career with 90 goals and 245 assists on the power play, which are some pretty impressive numbers. He was always the man on the point during the power play and if you want to see what a good point man is supposed to do on the power-play go back and watch how Niedermayer did it. He was like a quarterback when he was out there on the power play and his career numbers showed just how good he was.

After Scott Niedermayer became an everyday starter for the Devils, the team’s success began to grow. They began to make the playoffs consistently and in the 1993-1994 season the team came just a game away from the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the 1994-1995 season, Niedermayer alongside fellow great defenseman Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver, and Tommy Albelin, the New Jersey Devils captured the Stanley Cup after sweeping the Detroit Red Wings in four games. The Stanley Cup victory was the first in franchise history and the first of Niedermayer’s career. Many consider this to be Niedermayer’s breaking out, and the most memorable event of the series was Niedermayer’s incredible end-to-end goal in Game 2.

From here on out, the Devils were a team that would become known for their ability to win games and for their great defense. In the following seasons, Scott Niedermayer would continue to grow as an outstanding defenseman with some offensive ability as well. He would also go on to be an alternate captain for the Devils and he played with that title for years, behind captain Scott Stevens.

In 1999, Brian Rafalski joined the New Jersey Devils’ defense and it would create two of the best defensive lines in the NHL; Scott Stevens & Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer & Brian Rafalski. The solid defense of the Devils was one of the main reasons they made three Stanley Cup Final appearances from 2000-2003.

Niedermayer and the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003, and they fell to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2001 final.

Niedermayer had an outstanding playoff performance in 2003 en route to the championship. He shared the most playoff points in the league with 18 that year alongside teammate Jamie Langenbrunner.

In the season following the 2003 Stanley Cup victory, Ken Daneyko retired and the Devils watched Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski fall to injury and it was up to Niedermayer to carry and lead the young and inexperienced defense. Niedermayer did a great job in doing so and he was even named captain that season in Steven’s absence.  He put up 50 points for just the second time in his career and he was awarded the Norris Trophy at the end of the season for being the leagues best defenseman.

Sadly, after the lockout Scott Niedermayer decided to leave the New Jersey Devils after spending 12 seasons with the Devils. Niedermayer left the Devils to go play in Anaheim alongside his brother Rob. The Ducks signed him to a four-year $27 million deal in 2005 . The Ducks also decided to name him the team captain at the start of the season.

Niedermayer would continue to shine in Anaheim and he finally got the opportunity to show the world his offensive abilities in addition to his outstanding defense. In his first season as a Duck he put up 63 points and the following year he put up 69 points. These were numbers he could not put up in New Jersey due to their commitment to a defensive style of hockey. A style they proved to be successful.

In Niedermayer’s second season as a Duck they added Chris Pronger, and him and Niedermayer would help lead the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

It was Niedermayer’s fourth Stanley Cup in his career and he had yet another excellent post season. A post season where he had such a great performance and displayed such a tremendous amount of leadership, that he earned the Conn Smythe trophy for being the playoff MVP.

Niedermayer thought about retiring after the cup and it appeared that he did, but then in December of 2007 he announced he would return and play the rest of the season. He would go on to play two more seasons with the Ducks, before announcing his retirement on Tuesday.

Not only was Niedermayer an outstanding NHL player, but he also displayed his talent at the international level while playing for team Canada. Niedermayer was two gold medals while playing for Canada in the Olympics in 2002 and this past February. He was also the team captain for the 2010 Canadian team. He was also part of the Canada team that won the World Cup in 2004 and the World Championships in the same year.

It is very sad to think we will no longer be able to watch this great defenseman play anymore. I watched him play for most of his career and I have to say that I’m proud he was a New Jersey Devil and it was in many parts thanks to him that the team was as successful as it was. Other players looked up to him and he was a great role model to young players. Niedermayer was never one to let his teammates or the fans down.

When all was said and done this week, Niedermayer finished up his career with 172 goals and 568 assists, totaling 740 career points. These are some impressive numbers, especially for a defenseman.

Niedermayer will always be remembered for his tremendous amount of skill as a defenseman, leadership, ability to win, and before I forget to mention it, his talent and speed as a skater.

Niedermayer was one the fastest hockey players in the league during his time and it played a role in what made him great at defense. He made it look so easy by the way he skated so smoothly and calmly. Most guys would try with everything they had in them to go full speed, but he did it using very little effort. His skating ability was put on display at several All-Star weekend skills competitions, where he often won the fastest skater.

When Niedermayer called it quits Tuesday, it got me thinking a lot about the past Devils teams and how they never really were the same after he left. Neidermayer brought a different element to the team and it was an element they still have not replaced defensively and in the locker room.

His track record speaks for himself. The guy is a flat-out winner and always has been. Even with the way he went out Tuesday, he went out a winner and at the top of his game.

Thanks for the memories Scott. You are and always will be one of the best defenseman and hockey players to ever play the game. I can only hope that one day the Devils organization does the right thing and raises number 27 to the rafters, as it is beyond well deserved. I mean let’s be honest here. Niedermayer is going to be a first ballot hall of famer.If Daneyko and Stevens are up there already it just would not be right to leave out the guy who is just as good, if not better than the two jerseys already hanging up there.

Happy retirement Scott Niedermayer. Number 27 forever.

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In a trade many did not see coming, the New Jersey Devils reacquired center Jason Arnott in a trade with the Nashville Predators. The Devils dealt right wing Matt Halischuk and a second round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Jason Arnott is considered by many to be one of the greatest New Jersey Devils players of all time. He is the man who clinched the 2000 Stanley Cup with a goal against the Dallas Stars in double overtime, which brought home the second Stanley Cup in franchise history (Seen in the clip below). Arnott was a clutch player as a Devil and he always seemed to come up with the big goal.

Arnott had 97 goals and 124 assists as a Devil, totaling for 221 points. He is also remembered for being on one the most talented lines in Devils history, the “A-Line”. The “A-Line” consisted of Jason Arnott alongside left wing Patrik Elias and right wing Petr Sykora. The line was exciting and played a major role in the Devils great success in the early 2000’s.

With all that being said, it is fair to say that Devils fans everywhere have a great amount of respect for the guy and they will continue to respect him because of everything he has done for the franchise. However, this was not a very good move on Lou Lamoriello’s part.

The Devils did need a second line center and they acquired a pretty good one today. A good 34 year old center. In my previous article maybe I should have been more specific and said they needed a talented and youthful second line center.

This move only adds another older player to the Devils roster and they are slowly becoming one of the oldest teams in the entire league.

I never thought that these words would be coming out of my mouth, but Lou Lamoriello is slowly losing it. For some reason he believes that by bringing back old Devil greats, this will help return the team to the glory days. What he fails to realize is that this is not the case.

Would you like to see some evidence? Take a look at how Brian Rolston has played since his return to the Devils. He has put up terrible numbers the past two seasons and has not exceeded more than 37 points. Again he too, is an aging once great Devil.

If that’s not evidence enough, lets take a look at Bobby Holik’s return to the Devils. He struggled greatly and was far from the player he once was. He put up 9 points in 62 games and eventually went on to become a healthy scratch towards the end of the season and for most of the short post-season.

Re-returns do not work out well at all. The evidence is there but Lou continues to ignore it. It is almost like he does not understand that to win in this new NHL, it usually takes having a young team. Look at the past two Stanley Cup winning teams. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins were two predominantly youthful teams. Why can’t Lou get the hint?

Not only have youthful teams been successful, but the whole idea of going out and getting players from the glory days has been done before. Greg Caggiano, writer for “From New York to San Franciso“, published an article yesterday about the Arnott signing and he made an excellent point comparing what the Devils are doing now compared to the New York Rangers in the late 90’s.

“This series of moves seems eerily similar to Neil Smith in during the tail-end of his tenure with the Rangers in the late 90′s. When nothing else was working, he resorted to bringing back the 1994 Cup heroes and former Oilers teammates of Mark Messier, who were then way past their prime. It worked a little bit, but fizzled out after a short while.” (You can read the rest of the article here)

Last season, he traded away a great young player by the name of Niclas Bergfors for a half a season of Ilya Kovalchuk. I mean everyone knows he is not going to resign in New Jersey and the whole season changed once they brought him in. He is a selfish player and it changed the way the Devils played.

The only good thing Lou has done lately is hire John MacLean as the head coach. Even that is going to take some time to see how he will be able to perform at this level.

Arnott was a great player and yes he has done so much for the franchise and was part of the reason they had as much success as they did. Unfortunately, Arnott’s best days are behind him and he likely will only have 30 or so points this season.

He is a great leader and a high character guy, but the Devils did not need to add another aging play to their roster. Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, Bryce Salvadore, Colin White, Brian Rolston, Rob Niedermayer, Jay Pandolfo, and Mike Mottau are all in their mid-thirties. Which is once again evidence that this team is not moving in the right direction. When a majority of your players are old it is usually not a very good thing.

Do not get me wrong. I am a big Jason Arnott fan and I will always be grateful to him for what he did here in New Jersey years ago. However, that time has passed and is now over. Now he is probably going to ruin the way he went out as a Devil, by not being anywhere near the type of player he was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Devils traded him to Dallas in 2002 and brought in their current captain Jamie Langenbrunner, who has been excellent with the Devils and brought in a new generation of Devils hockey.

Jason Arnott will always be a Devil’s legend, but the move to bring him back was not a very good move. Arnott makes 4.5 million and the Devils should be spending this type of money on youthful players instead of bringing back players from the glory days.

Lamoriello will see soon enough that this is not the way to bring the Devils back to their winning ways. Unfortunately, it appears that this team is not moving in the direction they need to be moving in for the team to be successful.

If the off-season has more moves like this (meaning another resigning like Scott Niedermayer or Petr Sykora), I would not be surprised at all if the Devils have a similar result to this year’s season and other previous seasons; yet another early exit from the playoffs.

In a surprise decision, New Jersey Devils’ President, CEO, and General Manager Lou Lamoriello named former Devil John MacLean, the next head coach of the New Jersey Devils. The decision was made public via a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

John MacLean has been in the Devils system for years and even spent most of his time as a player in New Jersey. He was a Devil from 1983 to 1998 and currently holds the franchise record for most goals scored with 347. MacLean is also remembered for his overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in 1988, which propelled the Devils into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

After last season, John MacLean was given the head coaching job the New Jersey Devils’ AHL affiliate the Lowell Devils, to see how he would be as a head coach and to give him some head coaching experience. MacLean led Lowell to a 39-31-4-6 record and a playoff berth. Before coaching Lowell, he was an assistant coach for the Devils for seven years.

Last year when Brent Sutter stepped down, he said that he believed MacLean was ready to be a head coach and MacLean was one of the top candidates for the job. However, Lamoriello decided to try to bring back some past glory by bringing back Jacques Lemaire. Instead, he watched his team experience the same result they have experienced in the previous two seasons, which is a early exit in the first round of the playoffs.

The hiring of MacLean is a great decision by Lou, in my opinion. MacLean is a highly respected guy in the locker room and has done so much for the franchise. The opportunity is well-deserved, but now MacLean must prove himself and show everyone that he has what it takes to coach at the NHL level.

The New Jersey Devils are a very talented team, which everyone can see. However, once the playoffs roll around the team struggles and they get knocked out early. MacLean must bring a stop to this trend and allow for the Devils to be serious contenders for the cup. Just by moving past the first round, he will be more successful than the past two coaches.

MacLean must also try and push Lamoriello towards addressing the Devils needs this off-season. The Devils have had the same needs for the past two seasons now, which is to acquire a quality defenseman and a solid second line center.

The Devils defense has a lot of weaknesses and in order to have success it is going to need to be strengthened. Colin White is getting up there in age and so is Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvadore. Paul Martin is the only consistent one and Andy Greene is slowly emerging as a solid defenseman. However, to go deep into the playoffs they will need to surround them with a little more talent defensively.

Hopefully, he pushes the Devils towards a more offensive approach to the game as well. The Devils basically played the trap last year and the trap is a system I believe can no longer work in the new NHL. Teams can not sit back and just wait for teams to make a mistake because it allows the other team to dictate the game instead of them.  The Devils have a great amount of talent offensively and I believe that it is time they use it. The addition of a solid second line center can only make the offense that much better.

MacLean has had the job for one day, but he is already doing good things. He named Larry Robinson as assistant coach. Larry Robinson was a assistant coach for the Devils for years and he was even head coach for a little while. Robinson was the man who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson brings great experience with him and can even help MacLean do his job better.

The rest of the coaching staff is still to be announced, but according to the New Jersey Devils official website Chris Terrari will remain goaltending coach and Scott Stevens and Tommy Albelin are going ot be reassigned within the organization.

In the press conference held yesterday, MacLean said that he was looking forward to the opportunity and was excited looking forward to being the head coach of the New Jersey Devils.

“For me, it’s almost like Draft Day again. I’ll be a rookie head coach. The organization’s been very good to me. I’ve been through a lot with it, and I’m looking forward to being able to help it along in the head coaching capacity, and get us back to winning another Stanley Cup.” said MacLean.

Myself and Devils fans everywhere are excited for this too. MacLean has been around long enough to see what style of coaching works and what does not. He deserves this shot and hopefully it works out for him and the rest of the team.

We can all hope that he can return to the Devils to their old form of being a team that gets it done not only in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.