It is s a dark time for the New Jersey Devils. After missing the NHL Playoffs for the first time since 1996 they will now suffer the embarrassment of having no representatives at the NHL All-Star Game for only the second time in franchise history and the second time since the NHL Lockout. In these trying times all fans take solace in the team's rich tradition of success, a tradition that for a long time permeated all facets of the NHL, including the annual showcase of talent known as the All-Star Game. After the jump we'll look at how the Devils have impacted this game over it's last 25 incarnations.The Early Days
The Devils moved to New Jersey in 1982 and were represented by a single player in the 1983 ASG: Hector Marini. Marini played five seasons in the NHL, the final two with New Jersey. Marini put up 45 points in 77 games in the 1982-83 season. The following season was not as successful and Marini was sent back to the minors where his career was cut tragically short by an eye injury in 1985. In the following season the Devils hosted the 1984 ASG at the three-year-old Brendan Byrne Arena. Representing the team were goaltender Glenn "Chico" Resch, who was credited as the winning goaltender, and defender Joe Cirella, who netted a goal and an assist.
The Muller Years
In 1985 the Devils would send two representatives again. Defenseman Phil Russel would become the first and only Devil to ever pick up a penalty in the ASG and Kirk Muller would represent the team for the first of four times. In 1986 and 1988 (there was no ASG in 1987) Muller would be the team's lone representative, indicative of the team's lack of success up to that point (though they would finally qualify for the playoffs in the 87-88 season).
Following the team's first year of playoff success, the Devils would be represented by goaltender Sean Burke and young star John MacLean in the 1989 ASG. 1990 saw a return to Kirk Muller as the team's only player in the exhibition game, but he made an impact in his final ASG as a Devil by scoring the game winning goal short handed for the Wales Conference. In 1991, John MacLean would play in his final ASG, netting a power-play goal.
The Transition Years
In the wake of the departure of Kirk Muller and the arrival of Scott Stevens, the team entered a transitional period from their failures and mediocrity of the 80s and the success that was soon to be upon them. In 1992, Hall-of-Famer Scott Stevens was the Devils only representative in the game. This would begin a streak of nine straight ASG appearances for a defenseman of the Devils. In 1993, Stevens would be joined by goaltender Craig Billington and in 1994 he appeared by himself again in his fourth consecutive ASG, having appeared in 1991 as a member of the Washington Capitals.
The Martin Brodeur Years
After winning the Stanley Cup in 1995, the Devils sent both Scott Stevens and sensational, future Hall-of-Famer Martin Brodeur to the 1996 ASG. This powerhouse tandem represented the Devils together in this annual exhibition from 1996 until the 2002 ASG. In his first ASG in 1996, Martin Brodeur was voted starter for the Eastern Conference and stopped all twelve shots he faced in the first period. The following year, 1997, Brodeur would be credited with the first of his three ASG Wins (to go along with the bazillion he would go on to rack up in the NHL).
In 1998 the Devils sent four "representatives" to the game. Scott Niedermayer joined Stevens and Brodeur for the first ASG of his illustrious career. Also joining the Devils skaters would be Jacques Lemaire, head coach of the North America team, and first coach to represent the Devils behind the bench. The North American team won on the shoulders of Brodeur's performance, stopping 9 of 11 shots, in the 3rd period.
The Devils sent four more representatives to the 1999 All-Star Game. This time the Stevens/Brodeur duo was accompanied by forward Bobby Holik and assistant coach Robbie Ftorek. Thanks to the North America vs the World Format, the Devils had representatives on both sides of the ice. In 2000, the devils sent four skaters to the game for the first and only time in franchise history. Dynamic young forwards Scott Gomez and Patrik Elias joined Stevens and Brodeur for the ASG a few months before winning the Stanley Cup. In 2001, Stevens and Brodeur were again joined by Scott Niedermayer and Larry Robinson (who was the assistant coach for the losing World team). The Devils would go on to lose the Cup Finals to the Avalanche that season, and with it some of their All-Star Luster.
The Brodeur years begin to decline in 2002 when the Devils' lone representative would be Patrik Elias. This ended ASG streaks for Brodeur and Stevens and was the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 1995 that the Devils would have only one player representing the team. Brian Rafalski was named to the team in 2002, but did not attend due to injury. In 2003, Stevens and Brodeur returned for one last ASG together and one last Stanley Cup together that spring.
In the final year before the lockout the Devils went out with a bang. Brian Rafalski, Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur were all starters for the Eastern Conference at the 2004 ASG. Rafalski was named as a replacement for an injured Scott Stevens. Niedermayer was named captain of the team and won the faster skater competition the night before.
In 2007, Martin Brodeur and Brian Rafalski went to the ASG for the Devils. Rafalski put up two assists but Brodeur's poor performance in the second period may have directly led to the Western Conference's victory. The following season, Brodeur would be named to the game but chose not to participate (apparently this is not a new concept). He was replaced by Tim Thomas. It's important to note that David Clarkson took part in the YoungStars game in 2008, so the Devils technically had a player representing them at the weekend's festivities, though only as a technicality.
In 2009 Zach Parise was invited to his first ASG as the Devils only representative and in 2011 Patrik Elias was invited for the first time since 2002, the third ASG of his career. Now, in 2012 the Devils will again have no representatives as Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson have both withdrawn due to injury. Henrique is presumed to be replaced by Carl Hagelin, a slap in the face for Devils fans to have their star rookie replaced by the star rookie of our hated rivals.
It's hard to imagine a future where Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk continue to be absent at the NHL All-Star Game. Will Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson be invited again? While the ASG is not a terribly important face of NHL competition, the Devils success in the ASG has been largely tied to their success as a franchise. The absence of any players in the game, or in any of the weekend's events is a reflection of the state of the team.
Having hopefully enjoyed this stroll down memory lane of All-Star Games past, what do you think the future holds for the Devils and the mid-season exhibition game? Is the team doomed to send only rookies to the skills competition, or is a triumphant return just around the corner? Please share your thoughts below!