I have a new blog that I’m waiting on because now is not the right time to publish it. So until that time arrives, I thought I’d fill the gap with a discussion on the Devils and retired numbers.
Now nobody can debate the legitimacy of retiring Scott Stevens’ #4. He’s either the first or second best Devil of all time, and there is no debating that. Without his leadership, how many of those three Cups would we actually have? I’m not sure many people disagreed with Ken Daneyko’s #3 either, although there was more gray area involved. Daneyko was an original, heart and soul Devil, the second draft pick in team history, and survived the early lean years to become a part of the team’s first ever playoff run in 1988, as well as all three Cups.
But I want to focus on future banners to hang from Prudential Center’s rafters. Now, if there ever was a guarantee, it’s that Martin Brodeur will have his number #30 retired. I’m also nearly positive that Patrik Elias’ #26 will hang as well. And although it’s way too early to tell, Zach Parise’s #9 could one day be honored as well, providing he remains a career Devil and does not experience an unfortunate permanent drop in his play.
And as for former Devils, the names Scott Niedermayer and Sergei Brylin have been kicked around. Although I disagree, I can see the argument for Niedermayer. A key piece in all three Cups, Niedermayer is also one of the greatest players in our history. But I disagree with retiring his number because he chose to leave us to go play with his brother in Anaheim, and is already cementing his place in their history. People are not as mad at him as they are at people like Scott Gomez, but the fact remains. Even if he didn’t leave for money like Gomez, he still left. He can say it was a hard decision, but I don’t think it was. We all knew he wanted to win a Cup with his brother, he didn’t even look that happy when we won in 2003 because he was more concerned about how his brother felt about losing. But like I said, he made his mark on the Devils, and although I don’t agree with retiring his number, I can live with it if it happens. Besides, it’s not like Mike Mottau is going to take over the legacy or anything.
And then there’s Sergei Brylin. I cannot, and will not, ever understand the groundswell of support by Devils fans to immortalize #18. Like Daneyko, Brylin was certainly a soldier, and he certainly was on the team for all three Cups. But unlike Daneyko, Brylin hardly had anything to do with them aside from a goal in game 4 of the 1995 Cup Finals. Neal Broten and Shawn Chambers also scored in that clinching game, but you don’t see any rush on retiring their numbers. Brylin had a largely nondescript career, the kind of career where if you asked any non-Devils fan about Sergei Brylin, they’d probably tell you he succeeded Lenin as dictator of the Soviet Union.
So Devils nation, I implore you, why on earth do you want this man immortalized, hanging forever amongst the likes of Stevens, Brodeur, and Elias? He did not contribute anywhere close to as much as those three did to the success of the Devils. In fact, the only reason this skating basket of laundry was even still a Devil since the late 1990s was the immense loyalty of Lou Lamoriello, who has a tendency to blindly reward those who have done him good at some point, even if all signs of talent have simply gone out the window. (Jay Pandolfo at $2.5 million for the next 2 years anyone?)
Go ahead and look up Sergei Brylin’s stats, please. Or better yet, watch any Devils game from 1998 forward. Let me know if you even notice #18 in red, let alone notice him doing something productive. I think you’ll find that there’s a better chance of the name "SHANAHAN" hanging above a #18 banner.