Just win, baby
Another Stanley Cup makes Devils the model franchisePosted: Tuesday June 10, 2003 4:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday June 10, 2003 5:00 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- No city really claims the New Jersey Devils.
New York mostly ignores them and the various communities that surround their swampland home barely pay attention, except during the long postseasons.
Their arena, which is more like an airplane hangar, is straight out of the 1980s and looks it. Past victory parades have be held in a sprawling parking lot. The cast changes regularly, but hardly ever involves a big name or big contract..
But there's something to brag about -- a roster that doesn't cost a ton of money but one that the Rangers, Penguins, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs wish they could own.
The Devils raised their third Stanley Cup in nine years in a sold-out-for-a-change Continental Airlines Arena on Monday night, ending the Anaheim Mighty Ducks' improbable playoff run with a 3-0 victory in Game 7.
Given their overall lack of fan support, the Devils would seem to have a home-ice disadvantage, but never before has an arena meant more in crowning an NHL champion. The Devils lost every game, all three, played in the Southland, as the Los Angeles area calls itself. They won every game, all four, played in New Jersey.
To put into historical perspective what they've done, consider that only five other teams since the NHL began in 1917 have won as many Cups within a 10-year timeframe: Ottawa (not the current-day Senators); Montreal, Detroit, the New York Islanders and Edmonton.
"This is so hard to win, and I never would have thought this would have happened again, but we've built and worked hard as a team and we've got a lot of character and guys who work together," said Scott Stevens, who, like goalie Martin Brodeur has been there for all three Cups. "All year we found a way to win."
Almost every year they find a way; this was their third trip to the finals in four years. Dynasty, perhaps, is not the proper word; there were five years between the first and second titles; three years (and one failed Game 7 that prevented a fourth title) between the second and third. Only the much more prosperous Red Wings have won as many Cups since the Oilers won their fifth and last Cup in 1990.
"Nobody talks about a dynasty until it's over," Brodeur said.
Brodeur symbolizes what the Devils are all about. He has yet to win a Vezina trophy as the NHL's best goalie, a Hart trophy as the NHL's regular-season MVP, a Conn Smythe trophy as the playoffs MVP. What he has are three Stanley Cups, more than any other current goalie now that Patrick Roy is retired.
As usual, the Devils changed coaches before winning this title; Pat Burns oversaw this group, following in the skate marks of Jacques Lemaire (1995) and Larry Robinson (2000). Burns drove them hard, from the first day of training camp to the last possible game of the season; drove them without as much as a smile or a friendly wink.
"Pat, as everybody knows, doesn't smile a whole lot," Ken Daneyko said.
Last summer, their key pickups were Jeff Friesen from, of all teams, the Ducks and Grant Marshall. Friesen had an up-and-down season, yet broke through with five goals against his old team in the finals, two in Game 7. He also had the winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa.
In this era of frequent overhauls and quick fixes, the Devils don't plan to tear down what's not broken, to suddenly chase the high-priced talent that could aid their next Cup run. They are content to let history judge what they do and how they do it.
"It's not over for us and we are going to try to build on this," Brodeur said. "Ten years, 20 years down the road, people will look back at what we accomplished and they will say if say if we deserve to be a dynasty or not."