Due in part to a relatively brief history, the New Jersey Devils have retired but two jersey numbers: Scott Stevens' number 4 and Ken Daneyko's number 3.
Today, I got to thinking about what other numbers we might see hanging from the roof of the Prudential Center in the future. A lot of names came to mind, and I made a mental list of who I think will certainly receive the honors, those who simply won't, and a bunch of people in between. This is a compilation of those players. It's not a complete list of all Devils in history; just a few names that I mulled over.
I've divided them all into categories based on how likely their number is to be retired, and added a few comments of my own.
Martin Brodeur, No. 30
This one's easy. Brodeur is arguably the greatest goaltender of all time, let alone in Devils' history. The most wins, soon-to-be most shutouts, and three Stanley Cups are just a few of the standout achievements on Brodeur's resume. Fact is, in many ways, Brodeur IS the New Jersey Devils. He's the most recognizable face in franchise history, and if anyone on the team should have his number retired, it's this career-Devil.
Patrik Elias, No. 26
Elias, while underappreciated, is the Devils' all-time leading scorer. He's a career Devil and even spent a short stint as the team's captain. Elias will likely be the team's first forward to have his number retired, and it's tough to dispute that he's been the best forward in team history.
Scott Niedermayer, No. 27
The only stain on Niedermayer's record is the fact that he left the Devils for Anaheim in the middle of his career. Barring a return to the organization, Niedermayer will not retire a Devil, something that displaces him from the likes of Stevens, Daneyko, and (as of now, at least) Brodeur and Elias.
In fact, aside from Stevens, all the other players were career Devils. But Niedermayer spent most of his career in New Jersey, and what a career it was. His name appears toward the top of many team records, and he won three Cups and a Norris Trophy with the Devils. Oh, and he was the first to wear the captain's C after Stevens played his final game. He's arguably the best defenseman in team history (even if not as recognizable as Stevens), and it would be hard not to retire his number once he calls it quits. And then Mike Mottau would have to find a new number.
John MacLean, No. 15
MacLean may not have retired a Devil, but he spent most of his career with the team, and until recently was its most prolific scorer. He's still with the organization, coaching its AHL affiliate in Lowell, and will most definitely be considered for the team's head coaching job when it is next vacant. Lou Lamoriello has supposedly said that MacLean's number will be retired, and it's about time he came through on his promise.
Zach Parise, No. 9
Too early to tell? Not for this guy. He's already looking like the team's next big star, and while it's still early career, he could be a top forward in the league for years to come. In a Hart Trophy-worthy performance last season, Parise almost broke the team's record for scoring in a season, and will have many more chances to try and break that record in the future. He's not a no-brainer because of his age, but he's going to be a great one, and will get the special treatment.
Sergei Brylin, No. 18
I know, it sounds crazy. But consider this: only five players were with the Devils for all three of their Stanley Cup runs. Two (Stevens and Daneyko) have their numbers retired, and two more (Niedermayer and Brodeur) are next in line. The fifth guy is Brylin. He was a career Devil who was never great, but always contributed, and won three Cups with the team. Sounds like Ken Daneyko, doesn't it? Okay, he didn't have the same impact as Daneyko, but I think being a career Devil and winning three Cups is enough to get your number retired. There will be many better players who won't get the honor, but I still think Brylin deserves it. Of course, I could hear many people disagreeing with me, which is why he's only a maybe.
Bobby Holik, No. 16
Holik spent a decent amount of time with the Devils, and helped them win a pair of Stanley Cups. And despite being known for his defensive abilities, Holik put up some pretty solid offensive numbers as well. There's a reason the Rangers gave him such a huge contract! He's definitely an important figure in Devils history, and he deserves consideration, but I think he falls short of having his number retired. He didn't spend a HUGE amount of time with the team, and his departure wasn't the prettiest of affairs. I know he retired a Devil, but it doesn't matter. He's not of the same caliber as the other players mentioned (sans Brylin, but I explained why he's the exception).
John Madden, No. 11 and Jay Pandolfo, No. 20
The Devils have been associated with defensive hockey (at times unfairly), and these two forwards personify that style. At times, they've each looked like the best forward on the team, despite not putting up huge offensive numbers. And for years, they were linemates in both even-strength and penalty-killing situations, which is why I lump them together. However, while they are interesting names to ponder, they're just not good enough. I love them both, but not enough to retire their numbers-- especially Madden, who no longer has the added bonus of being a career Devil.
Jamie Langenbrunner, No. 15
If any number 15 is getting retired, it's MacLean's. But let's not discount current captain Langenbrunner, who has always been a contributor, and broke the 30-goal plane on the top line last season. If he keeps up the scoring and proves to be a great captain in the long term, maybe my opinion will change, but as of now, he's not worthy enough.
Brian Gionta, No. 14
The only reason Gionta is even worth mentioning is his 48-goal season, which gave him the team's single-season scoring record. It will be tough to break the record, sure, and I've always been a big Gionta fan, but let's admit it: he's not a big-time scorer. He's a 20, maybe 25-goal player, and that one year was a fluke. 20-goal scorers don't get their numbers retired unless they have some other special quality. Don't get me wrong, I love Gionta, even now that he's in Montreal. But let's be realistic here. His number isn't getting retired.
Claude Lemieux, No. 22
Lemieux stands out because he won a Conn Smythe Trophy. There are a lot of players who stand out on the Devils-- Kirk Muller, Slava Fetisov, and Stephane Richer, for example—and Lemieux falls into that category. He's a guy we all recognize, and his playoff-MVP-award bumps him up a notch into the discussion for having his number retired. That one trophy is enough to consider him, but it's not nearly enough to actually do it. He's another fan favorite, not an all-time great.
Brian Rafalski, No. 28
I'd love to see Rafalski's number retired. He was so good, and he was often overshadowed by the other great defenseman he played with. When he left town the same year as Scott Gomez, it was his loss that troubled me more. Talent-wise, he definitely deserves it. But he never did make his mark with the team, perhaps because he played alongside Stevens and Niedermayer. Even for a talented player like Rafalski, it's hard to become super-popular with those guys there.
And then, of course, he went home to Detroit once he finally had his chance to be THE guy in New Jersey. I think had he stayed, Rafalski would be a no-brainer. But he did leave, and I just don't think he was enough of a star with the Devils to earn a number retirement. If it was up to me, he'd be up there. But I don't think too many people will agree.
Colin White, No. 5
Yeah, he's been there a long time. Not enough. He's not good enough at all. Next.
Brendan Shanahan, Nos. 14 and 18
Shanny didn't spend enough time here, His biggest contribution was his involvement in the move that brought Scott Stevens to the Garden State.
Pascal Rheaume, No. 21
JOKING! Seriously, though, how many times has this guy been with the organization?
Scott Gomez, No. 23
If any number 23 gets retired, it's more likely it's David Clarkson's
Paul Martin, No. 7 and Johnny Oduya, No. 29
They may not have the name power of Scotts Stevens and Niedermayer, but they are the young future of the New Jersey Devils' blue line. They look good so far. Who knows, we could be talking about them in the future.
Travis Zajac, No. 19
He's no Parise, but he does center him. If the two continue to click, Zajac could grow exponentially as his career moves on. He's got plenty of potential, and we don't even know how good he can be. (And no, I'm not about to list ALL the Devils' recent first-round picks.)
Kevin Weekes, No. 1
It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Weekes. It takes a special kind of player to be Martin Brodeur's backup. It seems like an easy job, but NHL goaltenders want to play hockey, and behind Marty, it's hard to do that. Brodeur's had many backups during his career, but I've liked Weekes more than any of them. He's just so affable. His attitude was simply perfect, and I was sad to see him go this offseason.
I remember one game last year in Pittsburgh: the bench wasn't big enough, so Weekes had to sit in the stands. He looked like he was having a great time, just chilling with the fans! How do you not love this guy? His number won't be retired, but I never miss a chance to discuss one of my favorite players.
That's my list. It's not comprehensive, just some musings from the mind of a blogger. Hope you enjoyed.
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