I am glad that the lockout is finally over and I can get back to watching my New Jersey Devils again, but there will be one thing missing from last year’s team-you. I remember all the excitement from last season’s Stanley Cup Finals run and you were a huge part of that-the captain of that. You generated so many great memories and last season’s run showed that we had great possibilities for the future. It deeply saddens myself and all Devils fans that you left that all behind.
I remember you coming to the Devils in 2005-2006 after the last lockout as a wide-eyed rookie, showing flashes of brilliance in a 14 goal campaign. I watched you steadily develop and eventually morph into a 45-goal scorer in 2008-2009. Another vivid memory is your knee injury in Los Angeles that helped to ruin our 2010-2011 season.
Since you came to the team after the last lockout there was talk of you being the team’s future captain, even Jamie Langenbrunner said that when he himself was the captain. We finally gave you the “C” last season and we had hoped that you could captain us for years to come. That looks like it will be the last season that you ever spend as captain, as Mikko Koivu looks like he will be the Wild’s captain for years to come.
Last season’s finals appearance with you as the captain, along with the on-ice excellence you have demonstrated over the past seven years made me believe that your number 9 was someday ticketed for the rafters. I know Scott Niedermayer left for Anaheim and got his jersey in the rafters, but he gave us 13 years before he left. Had you stayed, you could have been the second greatest pure Devil behind Martin Brodeur. Scott Stevens played for other teams, Niedermayer left for Anaheim, Daneyko and Elias weren’t as good as you, but you ended any thoughts of that with your departure. At your current levels you would have finished with 554 goals and 617 assists if you played out the 13-year deal with the Devils. Now, instead of being remembered as a face of the franchise, you will just be another great mercenary.
We all love to go home, but you seemed to forget that your hockey home was New Jersey. The fans in Minnesota may love the hometown hero, but they will never appreciate you quite like the Devils fans did. They didn’t cultivate you, plan for the day that you took the captaincy, or thought about the potentially endless possibilities for their budding star. It was a pleasure to watch you play for the last seven years and you will be missed in by Devils fans…and I am sure you will be surprised how much you wind up wishing them.
We may not be Stanley Cup contenders this season, but we should still be a playoff team without you. You departure won’t kill us because we still have veteran stars in Kovy, Elias, Zajac…and Marty, the greatest goalie of all-time. We also have young stars in Clarkson and Zajac (who actually did re-sign). We have also lost Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski in the same off-season without missing a beat. We have also lost longtime Devils Brian Gionta and John Madden in the same off-season and been fine. It sucks that you had to leave and with the lockout we won’t even see you again this regular season. Maybe we will reunite in the Stanley Cup Finals in June, if not I guess we will see you in inter-conference play down the road.
I guess it is time for a new chapter for you, the Devils and us the fans. You must now adjust to a new start with fans that won’t remember the good times you had if you struggle and need to start building a new legacy. We will now continue the search for the next great Devil to follow Brodeur and Elias. After all it won’t be you who carries us into the next generation.