This season marks the end of a decade. It was a successful decade for the New Jersey Devils. They opened it up with a Stanley Cup, earned a second one in 2003, and they have put together a combined record of 462-247-62-31-18 for 1035 points not including this short season so far. From the 1999-2000 season through the 2008-0 season, the team has won 56.34% of all their games and taken 63.11% of all potential points. We have seen two numbers retired in Scott Stevens' #4 and Ken Daneyko's #3. We have seen franchise records broken such as Patrik Elias' 96 point season in 2000-01 and has led the franchise in points last season; Brian Gionta's 48 goals in 2005-06; and Martin Brodeur's taking over the NHL career win record in 2009. The team has even changed to a new home. The Devils have got out of the swamps at the Meadowlands and has moved into a fantastic new arena in Newark, the Prudential Center.
It's been a big decade.
While this season will fall under this realm, Steve Lepore, Thibaut "Tibbs" Deshayes, and myself felt it was a good idea to determine who were the best Devils in the 2000s. Steve initially came up with the topic, we agreed it was worth thinking about, and so we all named first and second teams. Eventually, we came up with two teams we could agree upon as who stood out the most in Devils' red. If you've been following the team for much of the last decade, then may not surprise you too much; but figuring out who is worthy and at what level is certainly worth discussing (as well as who didn't make it).
Today, I give you who we named as the New Jersey Devils' All-Decade Second Team. Three forwards, two defensemen, and a goalie were named as players who stood out but not necessarily standing out on their own. We didn't just consider the talent of the player, but also what they have accomplished as a Devil - for themselves and the team. Every player on both teams has put in at least four seasons with the Devils. I've written a blurb for each player. I've also included their regular season and playoff stats from this decade; do note that for current players, I've included their current numbers.
Tomorrow, I will post the First Team - the top Devils of the past decade. Read on for the Second Team.
Left Wing - Zach Parise (2005-06 - Current)
|Season (2005-Current) - Zach Parise||347||135
|Playoffs (2006-Current) - Zach Parise||32||12||12||24||1||14||4||0||2||115||10.4|
You may be asking, John, he's great, but he's only 25 - what is he doing here? I respond with, why not? Drafted in 2003, Parise was one of the most tantalizing prospects the Devils have ever drafted. The Devils traded up in that draft to get him, surprised that he was available after the 16th overall pick. Since being drafted, he was a First Team All-American at North Dakota and was MVP of the 2004 World Juniors Tournament. No other prospect in this decade has accomplished as much as Parise.
While his rookie year in 2005-06 didn't turn the hockey world upside down, you could see his potential in flashes. He exploded onto the NHL scene soon afterwards. In 2006-07, Parise showed off the depths of his offensive talented and doubled his rookie point total - 31 to 62. 2007-08 saw more of the same, but he led the team in scoring. In retrospect, it should be seen as a passing of the torch from Elias to Parise as the Devils' top forward. The 2008-09 season was a revelation as Parise challenged both Elias' team record for most points in a single season and Brian Gionta's team record for most goals in a season. While Parise came up short against both, the 45 goal, 94 point season made everyone in the hockey world stand up and take notice. The Devils have a new ultra-talented left winger, and to think, he's not even in his prime.
Already he's becoming more of a cornerstone for the post-lockout Devils, being named an alternate captain to the team and with hints of being the future captain. The best is yet to come, but Parise has already made his mark within the past decade.
Center - John Madden (1999-2000 - 2008-09)
|Season (2005-Current) - John Madden
|Playoffs (2006-Current) - John Madden||112||20||21||41||3||24||2||4||4||289
John Madden wasn't drafted. In retrospect, you have to wonder why. He went to Michigan late and developed into a potent scorer. The Devils eventually signed him as an amateur free agent, leaving him to develop in Albany. What a find he became! Madden became a great scorer in 1998-99, putting up 38 goals and 60 assists in 75 games. Yet, when looking to make the Devils, it was advised that he try a checking center role.
That would be some of the best advice Madden ever took.
Madden became a regular center in 1999-2000 on the fourth line, potting 16 goals from a largely defensive role. Madden remained as a bottom six forward, eventually taking over the third line spot once Bobby Holik moved up (and later moved to the Rangers). While Madden would never consistently show offensive talent, he has his moments - namely a 6 goal, 10 assist effort in the 2003 postseason. More consistently and importantly, he was a consistent pain for the opposition. He, along with his usual partner, left winger Jay Pandolfo, would just hound opposition forwards all night long. For example, just look what he did to Mario Lemieux in Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. He made stops, got under Mario's skin, took two slashes, and drew a cross-checking call.
His defensive play was recognized with being awarded the Frank J Selke trophy in 2001 and was a finalist for the best defensive forward award three times afterwards in 2003, 2004, and 2008. His heart, work ethic, and dogged marking of opposing players earned him the nickname "Mad Dog." He signed with Chicago in the past offseason, but he will always be respected and appreciated by the Devils faithful for his contributions to the team.
Right Wing - Brian Gionta (2001-02 - 2008-09)
|Season (2005-Current) - Brian Gionta
|Playoffs (2006-Current) - Brian Gionta||67||19||21||40||4||18||5||2||5||187||10.2|
Gionta is small. Exactly listed as 5'7", 170 lbs. small, but he had heart like the late Andre the Giant. He played big. Gionta was shifty, but he was more than willing to go to the front of the crease, take the punishment from bigger defensemen and forwards, and keep coming back for more. He represents yet another example of the Devils organization recognizing talent over a measurable like size.
After an excellent college career at Boston College, it didn't take long for Gionta to break into the NHL. He only spent 37 games with Albany before being called up for 33 games with the Devils in 2001-02. Gionta was decent, showing flashes of his offensive potential in the following two seasons; but he didn't break out. 21 goals in 75 games in 03-04 was good; but the effect is a bit diminished when you consider he only had 29 points that season. His peak came in the season immediately after the lockout. He eventually became the team's top right winger, playing along side Scott Gomez, and looking like he was developing into a good scorer. A bright spot in what was looking like a dismal season. Then Elias came back and when placed with Gomez and Gionta, it was then-perfect match-up. Gionta eventually broke out and took the franchise records for most power play goals in a season (24) and most goals in a single season with 48. He wasn't just on fire, he was an inferno. Many wondered what would Gionta do to follow that up.
Unfortunately, Gionta's production dropped off since then; but he still contributed with at least 20 goals in each of the next 3 seasons, while increasing his assists in those same three seasons (20, 31, 40). Not great, but more than acceptable as a secondary scorer. He was a player that the opposition still had to respect and while the total amount of goals dropped; he developed his playmaking skills and occasionally scored goals like he did in 2005-06. Gionta is no longer a Devil, but his magical 2005-06 season and the way he always played much bigger than his actual size will be remembered for years to come.
Left Defense - Scott Stevens (1999-2000 - 2003-04)
|Season (2005-Current) - Scott Stevens
|Playoffs (2006-Current) - Scott Stevens||78
While Scott Stevens' minutes and production declined in the twilight of his career, Stevens' defensive work, his strength, and leadership never did. While he only played four seasons in the 2000s, he remained an important cornerstone to the team. And his post-hockey life has been filled with honors later in the decade.
He was still top defender in 1999-2000, especially in that post season. In the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Conn Smythe didn't go to Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias, or Martin Brodeur - it went to Stevens. He was all over the place, wrecking forwards, clearing creases, and even put up 3 goals and 8 assists. He followed that up with a strong 2000-01 season. That was his best offensive season since 1993-94 and led the Devils all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. From that season on, the next three saw fewer points; but Stevens was still a strong defensive defenseman, able to punish any forward with a massive hit or close them off from making an offensive play. He led the Devils in 2002-03 to the team's third Stanley Cup before a final injury-shortened swan song in 2003-04.
Since retiring after that season, Scott Stevens has had his #4 retired in 2006, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2007, and is currently being groomed within the organization as a coach. He is still having an impact on the newer defensemen, surely advising, motivating, and inspiring them - if not the whole team. For many, Scott Stevens represents the best of the New Jersey Devils, the best player to ever put on the jersey. That opinion may change in due time; but regardless of that, his accomplishments in this decade deserve inclusion among the best Devils defensemen in this same time frame.
Right Defense - Paul Martin (2003-04 - Current)
|Season (2003-Current) - Paul Martin
|Playoffs (2004-Current) - Paul Martin||37||2||14||16||-10||18||2||0||2||43||4.7|
Much like Zach Parise is now the current offensive leader of the team, Paul Martin has rose in the ranks in this decade to become the team's top defenseman. He's a two-way defender like Brian Rafalski. He's not as prolific on offense, he's not particularly physical, and he's still getting used to leading breakouts this season. Yet, Martin's defensive awareness and positioning warrants respect. He's certainly getting it throughout the league, as teams get to see him plenty in all situations. Martin's average ice team per season through this season has increased from 20:07 (03-04) to first-pairing minutes right after the lockout with averages of 23:37, 25:14, 23:53, 24:22, 23:57 per game.
At 28, Martin has already established himself as the top defenseman on the Devils and he will only get better on the blueline as a veteran. Sure, Colin White has been a Devil for much longer and has enjoyed more success than Martin. Yet, Martin has been the relied on much more than White on average for a reason. He's just an intelligent defender who has led the Devils' blueline since the departure of Brian Rafalski - something Colin White has not done (which is fine, as he's really a #3). No, he's not a true #1 stud defender like Stevens or Scott Niedermayer, but he can play in all situations and take big minutes against the best opposing forwards night after night. After last season, he is no longer a hidden gem in the NHL and the best is yet to come. Hopefully, he'll continue making an impact in New Jersey.
Scott Clemmensen (2001-2007, 2008-2009)
|Season (2001-2009) - Scott Clemmensen||65||32||19
|Playoffs (2006) - Scott Clemmensen||1
Of all the backup goaltenders to Martin Brodeur, the only one who got more than just a few games was Scott Clemmensen. When Martin Brodeur suffered a torn bicep to his left arm in 2008-09, Devils fans were worried. Rightfully concerned of what will happen to the team without Martin Brodeur for 3-4 months. Could Kevin Weekes or Scott Clemmensen step up? Ultimately, Clemmensen proved to be the better candidate and head coach Brent Sutter went with the Iowa-born netminder as the main replacement for Brodeur. Clemmensen played in 40 games, earned a record of 25-13-1 with a G.A.A. of 2.39, a save percentage of 91.7%, and two shutouts. It would be the best performance by a Devils goaltender not named Brodeur in this entire decade while helping the Devils earn the franchise record of wins in a single season. There can be no other choice than Scott Clemmensen for this position.
And there you have it. The New Jersey Devils All-Decade Second Team:
Zach Parise - John Madden - Brian Gionta
Scott Stevens-Paul Martin
Thank you for reading. Feel free to discuss any of the players in the comments. Perhaps you would have liked to have seen someone else. Maybe you want to add your own thoughts about any one of these players. If you don't feel like waiting until tomorrow, you can even speculate on who we named to the First Team.