Niedermayer Hangs Up His Skates
I know my analysis comes a tad bit late, but with the Hall of Fame snubs and Devils’ schedule release, the 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.
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!
Niedermayer will always remain one of the most respected Devils ever to wear the sweater. He was always professional, willing to do whatever it took to win. For years, he patrolled the Devils blue line, making sure opponents knew they’d have to break down the tough defense before even attempting a shot. And he took care of the puck on the offensive end, applying offensive pressure and being one of the best facilitators on the ice. It was a sad day when the team lost Niedermayer, and it made it even worse when he hoisted the Cup in a Ducks uniform.
I hope to see Niedermayer’s number 27 hanging from the rafters of the Rock. He gave the Devils some amazing seasons, and I’ll always be grateful to the way “Nieds” represented the team. A consumate professional and sure-ballot Hall of Famer, I believe Niedermayer will one day be among the best Devils ever to play the game.