Devils fans remember the heartbreakersCNNSI.com looked at a few of the transactions that made Devils fans shout, "Say It Ain't So." Then we opened the mailbag and let users vent on those and other dirty deals from over the years. Here is a sampling of your reactions:
This is one that, surprisingly, Devils fans still don't seem upset about, but in the end they will wonder why it was done. It ripped my heart out right when it was made. The Devils traded Jason Smith, Steve Sullivan and the rights to Alyn McAuley to Toronto for Dave Ellet, Doug Gilmour and two draft picks. Gilmour was past his prime and Ellet was average. Meanwhile both Smith and Sullivan were young, talented and showed up every night to play hard nosed hockey.
So now I sit typing this in my Chicago apartment with my Smith jersey on. At the same time, Jason Smith is a top defenseman in the NHL, leading the Edmonton Oilers blue line corps and Steve Sullivan scores at a point-per-game pace right under my nose at the United Center on a second line on a second rate team. What team is Gilmour with now?
Losing Claude Lemieux was the worst deal the Devils ever made. He was absolutely perfect for the Devils style of play. I firmly believe that my favorite team would have more than two Cups today if had been on the team from 1995 to 1999.
"YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!" My reaction to the release of my favorite hockey player, Pat Verbeek, by the NJ Devils. He was my kind of player. A tenacious pit bull that could go into a corner and come out with someone's fibula. Not so polished with talent but he racked up some good numbers with sheer determination. I don't remember the specifics of his release but I remember questioning if this GM knew what he was doing, after all, it's easy being a GM. You just keep the good players and get rid of the bums. Easy! All kidding aside Lou Lamoriello has done a tremendous job at keeping N.J. on top.
While the Devils annually trade away the team's fan favorites (Verbeek, Muller, Lemieux, Guerin, and McLean) because of the stubbornness of the Devils' front office, all is forgiven when they produce a team that year after year not only is in competition for the Cup, but has won two.
The Devils and Lamoriello have been almost flawless in recent years with roster moves. Guerin turned into a heck of a winger, but I'll take a heck of a Lindros-like big center any day in Arnott over Billy. Shanahan turned into Scott Stevens and several high draft picks because of the Blues tampering, so no complaints there. Captain Kirk Muller was still a solid player when he was dealt, but MacLean and Driver were past their prime.
I guess as a Devils fan, it's more about acquisitions that did not live up to expectations. Dougie Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk were brought in to give us some veteran leadership and offensive punch and they really did not get us to the level we wanted to be at. Stevie Thomas and Lyle Odelein were also big disappointments. Again, though, as Devils fans we look across the river and see a team in the Rangers that spends more than twice what we do on players, but has no ability at all to evaluate talent.
The worst transaction for me now actually happened two decades before I lived here, in the mid-1970s, when the expansion NHL Scouts left Kansas City for Denver. They're now the New Jersey Devils -- and two-time Stanley Cup champs. Being a hockey fan in Kansas City today means contenting yourself with games televised from more fortunate cities, journeying to St. Louis to see the Blues and attending Blades games, Kansas City's IHL affiliate.
Is there anything more heartbreaking than having a championship team to root for, but having the knowledge that they were so close to leaving you? Back when I was in college in N.J. in 1995, the Devils were on their amazing Stanley Cup run. Problem was, John McMullen was also talking to the people of Nashville about moving the team there. Now, my heart wasn't broken forever, but what should have been a special moment for us Devils fans, became a cruel twist and a knife in the heart for a group of people who for 15 years had to put up with a lack of respect from Ranger and Flyer fans. That Cup just seemed so bittersweet, so empty. Hell, the highlight of the Stanley Cup party for me was when a mob of angry Devil fans chased a Nashville camera crew out of the parking lot, afraid for their lives. Thank God last year happened, for now I can look back on that time with a smile and remember BOTH Stanley Cups.