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New Jersey Devils: The 10 Best Players in Devils History

Nicholas SteblenkoContributor IIIJanuary 4, 2017

New Jersey Devils: The 10 Best Players in Devils History

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    The New Jersey Devils have become a proud organization over the past two decades. With three Stanley Cup victories in less than 10 years, the Devils have become a prominent organization in the NHL and a force to be reckoned with each and every season.

    It wasn't always like that for the Devils though.

    The Devils officially moved to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982. They first made the playoffs in 1988 and made it to the Conference Finals. From there, they never looked back, missing the playoffs just three times over the next 23 seasons.

    Every great organization has a long list of players that has helped it to develop winning ways and New Jersey is no different. In its short history, New Jersey has already retired three jerseys and will have a fourth on the way once Martin Brodeur finally hangs it up.

    Here is a look at some of the greatest contributors to the success in New Jersey.

10: Aaron Broten

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    He may not be the most memorable Devil to play for New Jersey, but he certainly contributed a lot to the organization.

    Currently seventh and eighth all-time in goals and assists respectively for New Jersey, Broten was a major contributor from the very beginning of the franchise. He is sixth all-time in points and was one of the top offensive producers for New Jersey in his time.

    Broten was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, the team from which the New Jersey Devils were created, and he stuck with the franchise for a total of 10 seasons. He was a part of the first Devils team to ever make the playoffs and it was a bit of a long ride to make it to that point in the first place.

    Even though he was never a part of the glory days or any of the three Stanley Cup teams, there is no denying that Aaron Broten was a key contributor to the eventual success of the New Jersey franchise.

9: Kirk Muller

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    Many NHL fans remember "Captain Kirk" for his time with the Montreal Canadiens, but few will remember that the New Jersey Devils drafted Muller with the second overall pick of the 1984 NHL Draft.

    Kirk Muller is still third all-time for the Devils in points with 520 even though he only played seven seasons with New Jersey. Prior to being traded, Muller recorded 181 goals and can certainly be credited with helping to start a successful franchise in New Jersey.

    Although he was traded away in 1991, it ultimately worked out for both sides as Muller would go on to win a Stanley Cup with Montreal and eventually the Devils would win as well. Muller was traded along with Roland Melanson for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske, both of whom were integral parts in the Devils' 1994-95 Stanley Cup victory.

    Muller may have been a journeyman, but the Devils' organization will remember him for his contributions during his time in New Jersey.

8: Zach Parise

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    If Zach Parise doesn't re-sign with New Jersey, this may be the highest he ever gets on this list. If he keeps a long career with the Devils, however, it is easy to see him climbing up into the Top 5. For now, he checks in at No. 8 on this list.

    As it is right now, Parise has already scored 176 goals, good for fifth all-time on the Devils' career leader board, and in seven seasons no less. In actuality, Parise has only played six seasons since he sat out most of last year with a knee injury. He would have bested Kirk Muller's numbers and possibly even Bobby Holik's had he been healthy.

    With all the talk surrounding Parise being focused on his contract expiring at the end of the season, it is tough to really keep track of how he is doing this season. However, he has been an integral part of bringing New Jersey back into the playoff race and is producing some pretty good numbers.

    Captain Zach as he is called could end up being one of the greatest to ever wear a Devils jersey and based on all that he has done for the organization up to this point, a New Jersey fan can only hope that he re-signs and continues to bring his high level of production to the table.

7: Bobby Holik

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    Even though he played two seasons for the New York Rangers, we won't hold it against Holik as he comes in at No. 7 on this list.

    Bobby Holik was a long time contributor to the Devils organization, putting in 11 seasons in a Devils uniform. He finished third all-time in goals with 202 and fifth all-time in points with 472. It is safe to say that he gave his all when he was in New Jersey.

    Most Devils fans would actually remember Holik for his play on the infamous "Crash Line" with Randy McKay and Mike Peluso during the 1994-95 season in which the Devils won a Stanley Cup. Holik was a force to be reckoned with and played a power forward role.

    Although he traveled quite a bit at the end of his career with stints for the Rangers and Thrashers, he returned to the Devils and finished his career in New Jersey. His play throughout the '90s helped bring two Stanley Cups to the Devils and he can rest assured that his time with New Jersey will not soon be forgotten.

6: John MacLean

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    John MacLean may only need one play to be forever remembered in New Jersey lore as one of the greatest to wear a Devils jersey.

    The 1987-88 season marked the first time in New Jersey Devils history that they would make the playoffs, and MacLean put them there with an overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the final game of the season. The Devils would go on to the Conference Finals before finally losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games.

    MacLean's infamous marker was certainly not the only contribution he ever made to the organization. Up until Patrik Elias recently passed him, MacLean was the all-time leader in Devils history with 347 career goals. Currently he is second on that list as well as second in all-time scoring with 701 points.

    Unfortunately, MacLean's success on the ice did not translate to any success behind the bench. Last season he was fired after a horrendous start to his rookie campaign as a head coach for the Devils and it is unlikely that he will find another head coaching position anytime soon.

    Yet, as a player, John MacLean will always be remembered for his great contributions to the Devils and for sending them to their first playoff appearance in what has quickly become a storied franchise.

5: Scott Niedermayer

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    There may never be another defenseman like Scott Niedermayer that plays for the Devils franchise. He could quite possibly be remembered as the most versatile player to every wear a New Jersey uniform and for good reason.

    Niedermayer was heralded for his smooth skating and his ability to create offense in a system that required most defenseman to stay at home. He finished his career away from New Jersey, but there is no doubt that he will be most remembered for his contributions to the Devils throughout their three Stanley Cup victories.

    With 364 assists in New Jersey, Niedermayer comes in second all-time for the Devils behind current leader Patrik Elias. For a team that became famous based on it's defensive system, Scott Niedermayer was the exception to the rule that gave the Devils a unique weapon on both offense and defense.

    Recently, Niedermayer's No. 27 became just the third jersey to be lofted into the rafters next to fellow defenseman Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens. 

4: Ken Daneyko

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    Probably best known for the enormous gap in his front teeth, Ken Daneyko is one small step behind Scott Stevens for the greatest Devils defenseman. He became a cornerstone in helping build an organization that the rest of the league could look up to in New Jersey and his jersey is rightfully hanging from the rafters after being the very first number ever retired by the Devils.

    The Devils of the '90s may never have existed without Daneyko. Their infamous trap defense was based on players like Daneyko that were of the stay-at-home variety. He was never relied upon to provide offense for the Devils but still became an integral part of the system that was built in New Jersey.

    As it stands right now, Daneyko is the all-time leader in career games played for New Jersey with 1,283 and the only two that might be able to catch him are Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias who are still a couple seasons behind that number. It's safe to say that New Jersey relied heavily upon Daneyko's services and the fact that he produced at such a high level for so long speaks volumes about the man.

    Daneyko is now an analyst for the Devils on MSG Plus and his trademark missing front teeth have been replaced for an enhanced appearance. You're not fooling anyone Dano!

3: Patrik Elias

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    Now the current leader on the Devils in career goals, assists and points, Patrik Elias has been a loyal and consistent contributor throughout his career in New Jersey.

    Elias is probably one of the more underrated Devils forwards to wear a jersey, but there is no doubt that he has been a prolific scorer in the NHL over his 16 years with New Jersey. He has only been selected to the All Star game once despite his consistent production, yet it is safe to say that someday Elias may find his jersey hanging from the rafters of the Prudential Center.

    Elias was drafted in the second round of the 1994 NHL Draft and he started his rookie campaign in 1996. Since then, he has played in 997 games, all of which have been for the Devils, which places him third all time for the franchise in games played behind only Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur. If anyone doubts the level of commitment he has brought to the organization, they need only look at those numbers.

    Unfortunately for Elias, he will probably always be underrated no matter how many seasons he plays. Those in the Devils' organization know that he is the quintessential Devil and will go down as one of the biggest contributors in the history of the New Jersey organization.

2: Scott Stevens

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    Scott Stevens may have made enemies throughout the NHL, but in New Jersey, he will always have friends and fans that will remember him for what he did for this franchise.

    Deservedly dubbed the hardest hitter of his time, and possibly in the history of the NHL, Stevens made sure that no opponent forgot his name. If you cut across the middle of the ice with your head down, Stevens would make sure you were looking up at the lights soon thereafter.

    Some of his most memorable moments came against some of the league's best players. With hits against guys like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya, Stevens effectively put a label on himself as the hardest hitter in the game. If you played New Jersey, you had to be ready for Stevens, no doubt about it. 

    Stevens' play is probably one of the biggest contributors to the changes being made in the NHL regarding checking, but even though many thought he was a cheap shot, Stevens was probably one of the most fundamentally sound body checkers in the game. Regardless, the longtime captain of the New Jersey Devils helped put the "Mickey Mouse organization" on the map for good.

    During his tenure with New Jersey, the Devils made the playoffs every single year except one and brought home three Stanley Cups. He was selected to the All Star game 13 times and was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for being the MVP of the playoffs during the Devils' Stanley Cup victory in the 1999-00 season. Stevens was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

    His jersey was the second to be retired by the New Jersey organization and it is no surprise because Stevens dedicated his career to building something special with the Devils. 

1: Martin Brodeur

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    How much can truly be said about Martin Brodeur that hasn't already been said? Not only is he the greatest Devil, he could arguably considered the greatest goaltender to ever play the game.

    Brodeur officially started his career in New Jersey during the 1993-94 campaign. He split time with Chris Terreri that season, but it would be the last time he would do so until this, the 2011-12 season.

    During that stretch, Brodeur has become the NHL's all-time leader in wins and games played. He also holds the all-time record for shutouts and has been named to the All Star game a total of eight times.

    He has been awarded the Vezina Trophy for being the NHL's best goaltender four times and the William M. Jennings Trophy five times. He has also won three Stanley Cups with the Devils. It is arguable that Brodeur should have been awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy during the 2003 NHL Playoffs, but that was ultimately given to Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

    Through all his accomplishments, Brodeur has maintained a reprise about him that is heralded and respected throughout the NHL. He is one of the most respected players to ever stand between the pipes.

    The Devils will have a difficult decision to make at some point this season on how to handle Brodeur and their other star, Zach Parise. Both players have contracts that expire at the end of the season and it could be reasoned that both will require a decent chunk of cap space. With Brodeur's decline in playing ability becoming evident, it may be time for him to call it a career. Only he will be able to make that decision.

    Nevertheless, someday his jersey will be retired by the New Jersey organization and he will be remembered as the greatest player to ever wear a sweater for the Devils.

Sources

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    All statistical information for players on this list was found on www.hockey-reference.com

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