New Jersey Is One Devil of a Team

Scott GollContributor IDecember 26, 2008

It has long been said by NHL naysayers that the Devils' success over the past decade and a half has been all about Martin Brodeur and not so much the other 19 guys on the ice.

Make no mistake, you can make an argument that without Brodeur, perhaps New Jersey has no Stanley Cups—he is after all, a sure-fire Hall of Famer and a lock to shatter Patrick Roy's all-time victory total.

He will undoubtedly end his career with the most shutouts ever, to go along with the requisite hardware: Vezina Trophies, Stanley Cup trophies, not to mention the Conn Smythe that was gifted to sure-fire non-Hall-of-Famer Jean-Sebastian Giguere in 2003.

All deserving accolades to No. 30 aside, one must be sure to look at the teams in front of him, and even more strikingly now, the team playing in his absence.

Through the perennial purge of talent, be it via fiscal prudence, or free agents ripped from them by those desperate to outbid their services, the Devils not only have managed to stay competitive, but remain near the top of standings.

Most observers of the game would suspect New Jersey's place in the standings would currently be outside-looking-in, having lost Brodeur to injury so early in the year, with little chance of his return until March.

Instead, the Devils' point total is top-10 in the NHL, despite having played fewer games than all but one. In comparison, the much-talked-about Rangers, have six more points—having played five more games.

Much of the credit goes to the Devils' mantra—defense. But this is not the two-goals-per-game squad of certain years past either. The commitment to keep the puck out of the net, and Scott Clemmensen's unexpected brilliant play, has been buffeted by a lineup showing some punch.

These Devils are putting the biscuit in the basket at the rate of just over three per game.

You can thank budding superstar Zach Parise. You can thank the resurgent offensive game of Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta. Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus are contributing more than in 2007, and captain Jamie Langenbrunner is always a steady two-way influence.

New Jersey continues to show it is, and always has been, more than a one-man show.

Just imagine what that show might be like, getting a healthy, well-rested Brodeur back in time to shake off the rust and prepare for what could be a long playoff run. It's something noteworthy to consider, since he's been subjected to 70-game seasons in years' past. At times, he's proven to be a touch off by the time the grueling schedule and spring heat takes its toll.

You can talk San Jose, Detroit, Boston, or several other quality NHL teams and their chances for lifting Lord Stanley's Cup next spring—but don't rule out the tenants of the Prudential Center. Pretty soon, the Devils might just have more than a "Piece of the Rock" in their possession.