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Archive for June 23, 2010

Brodeur Finished Third (Third!) In Vezina Voting

Martin Brodeur’s quest for a fifth Vezina trophy fell short tonight as Ryan Miller took home the Vezina at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Miller recevied 23 first-place votes, three-second place votes and two third-place votes. Ilya Bryzgalov finished second with five first-place votes, 16 second-place votes and six third-place votes.

Brodeur finished in third place with one first-place vote, six second-place votes and nine third-place votes.

This was the first time Miller won the Vezina trophy. It’s the second year in a row an American goaltender picked up the trophy (Tim Thomas won last year).

It was pretty shocking that Brodeur finished third. Going into the night, I figured that Miller would win the award, especially because the voters would take into account his Olympic performance. The Olympics don’t matter to the vote, but playing that well will get noticed no matter the rules. I know Bryzgalov played well, but I believe Brodeur outplayed the Phoenix goalie last season. Maybe the whole “Devils defensive system” caught up to Brodeur this year. Either way, he somehow finished third.

Niedermayer Hangs Up His Skates

June 23, 2010 1 comment

I know my analysis comes a tad bit late, but with the Hall of Fame snubs and Devils’ schedule release,┬áthe news of Scott Niedermayer’s retirement came buried in the news. But that doesn’t lessen his worth to the organization, and I’ve come to respect Niedermayer as one of the best defenseman to ever wear the Devils sweater.

Scott Niedermayer won the Cup three times with New Jersey, the final championship coming in 2003. Photo Credit: Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

The Devils originally drafted Niedermayer in the first round of the 1991 NHL draft. The defenseman was considered one of the best coming out of the Canadian Hockey League, an offensive-minded player known for his skating and ability to join the rush. He joined the team full-time during the 1992-93 season, where he recorded 11 goals and 40 points and earned a spot on the NHL All-Rookie team. Niedermayer improved to 46 points in his second season, when the Devils were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the New York Rangers.

During the Devils first Stanley Cup run, in 1994-95, Niedermayer took a step back. The defenseman only played 48 games, recording 19 points. But he showed up in the playoffs, recording 11 points in the Devils’ Stanley Cup championships. During the finals, Niedermayer scored one of the more memorable Devils goals in history:

After those finals, Niedermayer seemed to take off. Niedermayer recorded 33 and 35 point efforts the next two seasons before his breakout year in 1997-98. That year, Niedermayer totaled 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists), his highest point total as a Devil. During the rest of his Devils career, Niedermayer would never slip under 30 points while averaging no less than 73 games played per season.

The 2000 Stanley Cup Finals brought Niedermayer another championship and a playoff record. Niedermayer scored two shorthanded goals, tying Larry Murphy and Paul Coffey for the most shorthanded goals scored by a defenseman in the playoffs. In 2002-03, Niedermayer would again display his offensive skill in the postseason. His 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) tied teammate Jamie Langenbrunner for the league lead as the Niedermayer won his third Stanley Cup.

Niedermayer’s final season as a Devil proved to be his best one. With both Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski missing significant time with injury, Niedermayer became the leader of the defense. He recorded 54 points that season and won the Norris Trophy for the league’s top defenseman. But that would be his swan song for the Devils, as the player left for the Anaheim Ducks.

Niedermayer would go on to win another Stanley Cup with his brother, Rob, and record his career high in points (69 in 2006-07). In addition to winning four cups, Niedermayer won several international gold medals with Canada. The first came in the 1991 Junior World Championships, which was followed by two gold medals in 2004 (Hockey World Cup, World Championships). He also clinched two Olympic golds, in 2002 and in these past Olympics.

What Niedermayer did in a Devils jersey was beyond remarkable. He formed one of the best defensive units in NHL history. While he sometimes stood in the shadow of Stevens, Niedermayer’s impact on the Devils defense is still felt today. Since Niedermayer left, the Devils have struggled to find another talented offensive-defenseman. They’ve also struggled to find a leader like Niedermayer. It always seemed like Niedermayer could step up and do the right thing to help the team win. He knew how to push buttons and knew his role, which was to help keep the defense together and win.

Continue reading for my thoughts on the Niedermayer retirement!

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Report: Skoula To Play In KHL

According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, Devils free-agent defenseman Martin Skoula signed a one-year contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.

The Czech defenseman was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Devils’ fifth pick in this year’s draft. In 19 regular season games with the Devils, Skoula registered no goals, three assists and carried a plus seven rating. In four playoff games, he recorded no points.

Skoula reportedly began thinking about playing in Europe during last season, when he was traded from Pittsburgh to Toronto to New Jersey in less than 24 hours.

Skoula joins fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr on Avangard Omsk.

This isn’t a huge loss for the Devils, but with Mike Mottau and Paul Martin unrestricted free agents, the Devils are losing some depth on their blue line. I would expect them to fill the position with a rookie or possibly a low-priced veteran.

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Joe Nieuwendyk, Pat Burns Snubbed From Hall Class

June 23, 2010 1 comment

Today’s Hall of Fame inductions could have been a great day to celebrate, especially with a few ex-Devils possibly getting the nod. Deserving player Joe Nieuwendyk, who helped the Devils win the Stanley Cup in 2003, looked to be a near lock. Pat Burns, a fine coach whose battling cancer, seemed to be a lock for the honor.

But when the votes were tallied, the Hall of Fame voters dropped the ball. Both Nieuwendyk and Burns were left out of the hall, leaving two of the most qualified candidates on the sidelines.

The Hall of Fame voters are all esteemed writers and knowledgeable people. They should have seen that these two were the most qualified in their respective categories. Yet, the voters couldn’t come to a consensus on Nieuwendyk, and they completely left out Burns. Taking a look at their credentials, it wasn’t hard to see that the voters dropped the ball on this one.

Joe Nieuwendyk won his third Stanley Cup championship with the Devils in 2003. Photo Credit: Hockey Hall of Fame.

Nieuwendyk’s credential alone put him near the top of this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. In his rookie year with the Calgary Flames, the center scored 51 goals, becoming one of only five rookies to ever accomplish this feat. He also took home the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the league. In 1989, Nieuwendyk helped lead the team to a Stanley Cup championship, the first of his storied career.

On December 19, 1995, Nieuwendyk was traded from the Calgary Flames to the Dallas Stars. Four years later, Niewendyk clinched his second Stanley Cup championship. He also took home the Conn Smythe Trophy that season. The center was traded to the Devils in 2002, and hoisted his third Stanley Cup one year later.

Instead of recognizing these achievements, the Hall of Fame voters put in Dino Ciccarelli. The former North Stars winger tallied 608 goals, good for 16th all time. But his career is marred with incidents. In 1988, he attacked Maple Leaf defenseman Luke Richardson with a stick, earning him $1,000 fine and one day in jail. A year before that, Ciccarelli pled guilty to indecent exposure. Why a guy who has these ugly incidents can make it to the Hall while a quality player such as Niewendyk I’ll never know.

The same thinking somehow followed for the decision to exclude Burns from this year’s Hall of Fame class. In the “builder” category, the Hall of Fame voters decided to go with longtime Detroit executive Jim Devellano and Daryl “Doc” Seaman. Devellano won three Stanley Cups with the Islanders organization as a scout and assistant general manager in the 1980s, then helped to construct and lead the Detroit Red Wings to their past four Stanley Cup championships. Doc Seaman, a Canadian businessman, became one of six businessman to move the Atlanta Flames to Calgary in 1980. Both were integral to the sport, but none of them were as important as Burns.

Continue reading on for more analysis of the Burns decision.

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