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New Jersey Devils

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils began their NHL life in Missouri, the "Show me state", as the Kanas City Scouts. Their tenure in Kansas City only lasted till 1978 as the Scouts struggled on and off the ice. The National Hockey League approved the team's move to Denver, where they emerged as the Colorado Rockies. They struggled in their first year, and saw the very colorful and charismatic Don Cherry take over as coach for the 1979-80 season. But the team continued to struggle and Cherry was gone the next year. In 1982 the Rockies were purchased by John McMullen, John Whitehead, and Brendan Byrne, and with NHL approval relocated once again, this time to New Jersey. After a fan vote, the new team was christened the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils did not waste much time getting their first win in New Jersey. On September 17, 1982 they defeated the Washington Capitals 3-1. The Devils prodded along in that first year, creating a keen rivalry with the cross town New York Rangers. They finished fifth in the the six team Patrick division and did not make it to the postseason. The next season wasn't much to write home about as the Devils struggled, experiencing one of the more humiliating moments in club history. After an 13-4 thrashing by the Edmonton Oilers, super-star forward Wayne Gretzky made the now infamous comment, referring to the New Jersey Devils as a "Mickey Mouse operation". What followed was a storm of backlash against both Wayne Gretzky and the Devils organization. Once again they finished fifth in their division with a lowly 17-56-7 record, bad enough that a major front office and coaching change would follow.

Even as they struggled on the ice, the Devils showed some promise thanks to the young players they had drafted. John McLean and Kirk Muller would go on to form the core of the Devils team and have very long and successful hockey careers. After continuing mediocre performances, the Devils made a key managment move in 1987. They hired Lou Lamoriello as their general manager. Lamoriello had spent two decades as the head man and architect of Providence College's successful hockey program. He was an accomplished hockey and business mind, a GM who would lead New Jersey to future success. The Devils turned the corner during the 1987-88 season as they saw their first ever playoff action.

The first round though would pitt them against the then first place New York Islanders, also their natural rivals from Long Island. The Islanders began the series by defeating the Devils 4-3 in overtime, but the Devils were not ready to hit the golf course. In a huge upset, they came back and defeated the Islanders in 6 games, facing off against the Washington Capitals in the second round. The series went to seven games, with John McLean scored a key goal for the Devils to win that second round matchup. Their third round matchup was against the Boston Bruins and would turn out to be one of strangest series to Devil's history. It saw everything from verbal bouts between Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld and referee Don Koharski, suspensions by the league, appeals to the Superior Court, restraining orders, and replacement referees. Even with all the commotion, the Devils took the Bruins to the brink before losing out in seven games. After the unexpected playoff success and with high expectations, the Devils disappointed in the next season as they missed the playoffs. It wasn't long before more changes were on their way.

The early 1990s saw the New Jersey Devils build the core for their still to come successful teams. Jacques Lemaire was brought in as coach, Scott Stevens was named captain, Ken Daneko emerged as a steady leader, Martin Brodeur and Scott Neidermayer were drafted. In the lockout shortened season the Devils finshed second in their division and faced off against the Boston Bruins in the first round. They made quick work of the Bruins in five games and headed on to Pittsburg. The Penguins had won back to back Stanley Cups not too long ago but were also victims to the Devils efficient playing style, also going down in five. The Devils travelled next to Philadelphia to face the Flyers, taking that series in six and reaching their first ever Stanley Cup final in franchise history. They found themselves on the road in Detroit, facing a strong Red Wings squad. To the surprise of many, they swept the Red Wings to win the first ever Stanley Cup in team history.

The New Jersey Devils continued their steady defenseive style of play (often referred to as the neutral zone trap) throughout the nineties. They found success with this defensive system, even though there seemed to be a revolving door at the coach's position. In 2000, the Devils fired Robby Ftorek in the middle of the season and brought in Larry Robinson to coach the team. Robinson went on to lead the team to their second Stanley Cup victory when they defeated the Dallas Stars in six games. The Devils would continue to field an excellent team, making their way back to the Stanely Cup finals the very next year. This time though they would lose to the Colorado Avalanche and Robinson would be replaced as coach by Kevin Constantine. After being elimited by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, the coaching situation was once again brought into question, and veteran coach Pat Burns took over for the 2002-03 season. The Devils were back in form, playing a stingy defensive style of hockey. In the playoffs they defeated the Bruins, Lightning, and Senators to face off against the surprising Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup finals. In a defensive minded series, the Devils clinched their third Stanley Cup in team history with a 4-2 series win, blanking the Might Ducks in the final game of the series.

The Devils began their defense of the Stanley Cup, with continued great play from goalie Martin Brodeur. The team ended the regular season with 43 wins and 100 points, making the playoffs. On the downside, they were dealt a personal blow as coach Pat Burns was diagnosed with colon cancer just before the playoffs began. The team was definitely distracted and lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. The 2005-06 post-lockout season began with the announcement that coach Pat Burns would not return after being diagnosed with cancer. Larry Robinson stepped in but he would find himself without two long standing stalwarts on the blue line; Scott Niedermayer who signed as a free agent with the Anaheim Ducks and Scott Stevens who retired from hockey. Robinson only lasted a couple of months behind the bench before stepping down and being replaced by none other than Lou Lamoriello who lead the team to the second round of the playoffs, before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champs in the Carolina Hurricanes.

New Jersey Devils Overview:
Team name: New Jersey Devils
Founded: 1974
Formerly known as: Kansas City Scouts (1974-1976), Colorado Rockies (1976-1982)
Arena: Continental Airlines Arena
Stanley Cups won: 3 (1995, 2000, 2003)

New Jersey Devils Resources:
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