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Hartnett: Scott Niedermayer Crucial To Devils' Dynasty Run

'Hart Off The Ice'
By Sean Hartnett
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Tonight, Scott Niedermayer's number 27 will be raised to the Prudential Center rafters alongside previous honorees Ken Daneyko and Scott Stevens.  These three great defensemen were the rock upon which the New Jersey Devils' 1995-2003 dynasty run was built.

Listen: Scott Niedermayer with Joe and Evan

Outside of Detroit Red Wings' legend Nicklas Lidstrom, I cannot cite a better example of a two-way defenseman in the past twenty years in the National Hockey League.  That's how good Niedermayer was.  In the NHL and in international play with Team Canada, Niedermayer was equally indispensable to the teams his represented.  Take a quick glance at his trophy haul.

  • 1990–91 — WHL — West First All-Star Team (Kamloops Blazers)
  • 1991 – World Junior Championships – Won Gold with Team Canada
  • 1991–92 — WHL — West First All-Star Team (Kamloops Blazers)
  • 1992 — Memorial Cup — Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy (MVP)
  • 1992–93 — NHL All-Rookie Team
  • 1994–95 — Stanley Cup (New Jersey Devils)
  • 1996 – World Cup of Hockey – Won Silver with Team Canada
  • 1997–98 — Played in NHL All-Star Game
  • 1997–98 — NHL — Second All-Star Team
  • 1999–2000 — Stanley Cup (New Jersey Devils)
  • 2000–01 — Played in NHL All-Star Game
  • 2002 Winter Olympics - Won Olympic Gold with Team Canada
  • 2002–03 — Stanley Cup (New Jersey Devils)
  • 2003–04 — Played in NHL All-Star Game
  • 2003–04 — NHL — First All-Star Team
  • 2003–04 — NHL — James Norris Memorial Trophy
  • 2004 – IIHF World Championships – Won Gold with Team Canada
  • 2004 — World Cup of Hockey — Won Gold with Team Canada
  • 2005–06 — First All-Star Team
  • 2006–07 — Selected as Starter for NHL All-Star Game
  • 2006–07 — NHL — Conn Smythe Trophy (Playoff MVP)
  • 2006–07 — NHL — First All-Star Team
  • 2006–07 — Stanley Cup (Anaheim Ducks)
  • 2007–08 — Played in NHL All-Star Game
  • 2008–09 — Played in NHL All-Star Game
  • 2010 Winter Olympics - Won Olympic Gold with Team Canada

5 Gold Medals with Canada, 4 Stanley Cups, the 2003-04 Norris Trophy and 2006-07 Conn Smythe Trophy… not many defensemen in hockey history have reached such heights.  There never seemed to be a lean period during Niedermayer's career.  He was always model of consistency and the kind of player that championship runs are built around.

Niedermayer also seemed to get better with age.  Some Devils fans felt let down when he turned down Lou Lamoriello's offer of a league maximum salary to sign with the Ducks but it was the correct move for Niedermayer's career.  Stevens eventually retired just before the 2005-06 season and along with the previously retired Daneyko and Niedermayer, left a hole that the Devils still struggle to replace today.

The Anaheim Ducks were building their own competitive roster and did a much better job of adjusting to the new post-lockout rules than the Devils.  There, Niedermayer teamed-up with Teemu Selanne, Andy McDonald, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and younger brother Rob.  A young core of emerging players such as Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz gave the Ducks a terrific mix of veterans and youth.

Scott Niedermayer was joined a year later by Chris Pronger, the final piece of the Ducks' 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship team.  Niedermayer had the two highest point totals of his career in Anaheim as he was given more freedom away from the defensive philosophies preached by the Devils.  Both franchises can be proud of his on-ice contributions, leadership and the example he provided for young players.

All in all, I'll remember Niedermayer as a player who made a big impact with Team Canada and two Stanley Cup-winning franchises but he'll always be a Devil in my book.  The only recent dynasties in American sports that bettered the Devils' run from 1995-2003 are the New York Yankees' of 1996-2003 and the Chicago Bulls of 1991-1998.

You could make equal arguments whether the Detroit Red Wings of 1996-2002 or the Devils' dynasty of 1995-2003 was the premier franchise in hockey between the mid-1990's to early-2000's.  Either way, Niedermayer played such a big part in transforming the Devils from as Wayne Gretzky once called them - 'A Mickey Mouse franchise' to a dominant force during that period.

I'm pretty sure most Devils fans will remember him warmly tonight...

Devils fans – how will you remember Scott Niedermayer's career?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.

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