Patrick Elias: Where Does He Rank Among the NJ Devils Greats?

Roman Uschak@@RomanUschakCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2011

Patrick Elias: Where Does He Rank Among the NJ Devils Greats?

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    Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

    Hard to believe, but Patrik Elias has been a full-time member of the New Jersey Devils for almost 15 years now.

    In that time frame he's won two Stanley Cups, played in nearly 1,000 NHL games and recorded nearly 350 goals, 500 assists and 850 points.

    He's also New Jersey's all-time franchise scoring leader, including its formative years in Kansas City and Colorado, and at age 35 isn't exactly finished just yet.

Elias the Goal Scorer

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    New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias (26) scores against Philadelphia Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (35) during the shootout of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, in Philadelphia. The Devils won 4-3. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr.)
    H. Rumph Jr/Associated Press

    There's never been any doubt Elias can shoot—and score. A nine-time 20-goal scorer and a four-time 30-goal scorer, he's been one of the best Devils ever at lighting the lamp, whether by snap, slap, wrist or backhand shot.

    Entering this season, Elias was second in franchise annals with 335 career goals, and trailed only former coach and teammate John MacLean, who tallied 347 goals in a Devils uniform and is now an assistant coach with Carolina. Elias should pass MacLean's goal total sometime early in 2012, if not sooner.

    Just as MacLean did in 1988 at Chicago when his goal boosted the Devils into the playoffs for the first time ever, Elias has also been able to come up with some clutch scores in his own career. His game-winning goal against Philadelphia in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals not only lifted the Devils to a victory, but also completed New Jersey's comeback from a near-fatal 3-1 series deficit.

    Elias is also the Devils' all-time leader with 15 career overtime goals in NHL regular-season play.

Elias the Set-Up Man

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    H. Rumph Jr/Associated Press

    Elias is fast closing in on 500 career assists, and has been just as valuable a set-up man as a finisher in his NHL career, all spent with the Devils.

    He recorded a career-high 56 helpers in 2000-01, when he was part of the Devils' famed "A Line" with Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott, and has recorded 40 or more assists in a season five times. He has also led New Jersey in assists four separate times, including last year.

    Elias had a franchise-high 481 assists entering 2011-12, which was more than 100 helpers ahead of the No. 2 Devil on that list, Scott Niedermayer, whose No. 27 sweater will be retired in New Jersey on Dec. 16. Elias has also set up 16 Devils goals in overtime in the regular season in his NHL tenure.

    Probably his best set-up so far came in double overtime in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals in Dallas. Elias' backhand feed from the right corner found Arnott at the far post for the goal that gave the Devils their second Stanley Cup crown.

Stanley Cup Champion

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    BILL KOSTROUN/Associated Press

    Elias has twice held aloft hockey's holy grail, and played a key role both times.

    He posted nine goals and 14 assists for a franchise-best 23 playoff points in 2000 as the Devils downed Florida, Toronto, Montreal and Dallas to win their second Cup ever. He had five assists in the Finals versus the defending Cup champion Stars, including the primary helper on the Cup-winning goal in Game 6.

    Three years later, Elias helped New Jersey win its third title as he put up 5-8—13 points against Boston, Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Anaheim. Those totals still put him among the league leaders in what was a very low-scoring NHL postseason.

    Elias saved his best for last in 2003, registering three goals and four assists for seven points in the Finals as the Devils edged the Mighty Ducks in seven games. He also had the game-winner in a 3-0 victory in Game Two at the Meadowlands.

    He is the Devils' all-time playoff leader with 40 goals and 77 assists for 117 points in 138 games.

Power Play Specialist

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    New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias (26), of the Czech Republic, puts the puck into the net past New York Islanders goaltender Garth Snow for the winning goal in overtime Wednesday night, Dec. 10, 2003, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Devils won 1-0 in overtime.
    BILL KOSTROUN/Associated Press

    Elias has been deadly on the man advantage in his career, with 95 power-play tallies as of Dec. 11, tops in Devils' history. He has also accumulated 19 career power-play goals in the playoffs, a Devils' team record.

    Elias also holds the franchise record with 76 game-winning goals (and counting), and is tied for the franchise lead with six playoff game-winners.

    He has also had eight hat tricks in his first 14 NHL seasons.

Bouncing Back from Illness

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    New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias, of the Czech Republic,  loses the puck as he is checked into New York Islanders goaltender Garth Snow, left, by Eric Cairns, right rear, during the third period Wednesday night, Sept. 24, 2003, in East Rutherford, N.J. The
    BILL KOSTROUN/Associated Press

    Elias played 45 games in Europe during the NHL's 2004-05 lockout season. He also contracted a nasty case of hepatitis-A that decimated his health and put him out of action for all but 38 games in 2005-06 as he worked to get back to normal.

    Though he hasn't returned to the franchise-record 96-point realm he once enjoyed in 2000-01, Elias nonetheless proved he was back from his bout with serious illness when he collected 78 points in 2008-09. He also had a team-high 62 points last season as the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since Elias made his NHL debut in 1995-96.

International Competitor and Humanitarian

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    In addition to his scoring feats with New Jersey, including three appearances in the NHL All-Star Game, Elias has answered the call of his native Czech Republic multiple times in international play.

    He won bronze medals at the World Championships in both 1998 and 2011, and also at the 2006 Olympics in Italy.

    The captain of the Czech Republic's 2010 Olympic Team that competed in Vancouver, Elias has recorded three goals and three assists for six points in three Olympic outings. He also totaled 6-3—9 points in eight games at the 2008 World Championships in Canada, as the Czechs finished fifth overall.

    Elias has also given of his free time to humanitarian aid, and for more than five years now has been his home country's Good Will Ambassador to UNICEF.

Popular Player—And Still Producing

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    New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias, of the Czech Republic, comes out with a green hat on St. Patrick's Day after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 17, 2010, in Newark, N.J. Elias was voted the star of the game. (AP
    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Elias has been plying his trade in the Garden State for almost a decade-and-a-half now, first at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, and since 2007 at the Prudential Center in Newark. He's seen many Devils' teammates come and go, and even welcomed a few back; but he still keeps plugging along at his own scoring pace, which is still pretty high even now in his mid-30s.

    He had 25 points in New Jersey's first 30 games this fall; and his No. 26 jersey, although not as numerous as the No. 30 worn by goaltender Martin Brodeur, is a staple at Devils' home games.

    With the many franchise scoring records he holds or is closing in on, a testament as much to his longevity as his skill, Patrik Elias undoubtedly ranks among the top 10 New Jersey Devils of all time.