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New Jersey Devils

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 7

By Kostya Kennedy

1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Petr Sykora
Petr Sykora
Petr Sykora
Scott Stevens
Bobby Holik
Brian Rolston
Scott Niedermayer
Bobby Holik
Bobby Holik
Cliff Ronning
Greg Johnson

Sports Illustrated Devils coach Robbie Ftorek had just finished guiding his talented club through a spirited scrimmage one morning last month. He sat in a warm room off the rink, still wearing his skates, peering out from behind professorial spectacles. He was in no mood to talk about playoffs, past or future. He certainly didn't want to recall April, when top-seeded New Jersey was knocked out of the first round by the opportunistic Penguins -- after which a somber Ftorek described his coaching performance as awful. Nor was he eager to look toward next spring's postseason. "We have to get ready for opening night," he said, "not the playoffs we aren't in yet."

Rest assured, the Devils will be ready for opening night and for the remainder of the regular season. Barring divine intervention, they won't fall far from their customary perch atop the Eastern Conference; New Jersey's record of 140-70-36 the past three seasons is the conference's best. Over that time, though, the team has gone 10-13 in the playoffs. Whether Ftorek, who is beginning his second year behind the Devils' bench, likes it or not, the spring season is how this team has been -- and will be -- defined.

The same holds true for goalie Martin Brodeur, who made his reputation by leading New Jersey to within a game of the Stanley Cup finals in 1994 and to possession of the Cup a year later. Brodeur, 27, remains a top goalkeeper, and he has shone in the regular season. He has not, however, regained his heroic '95 postseason form, and he explained his awful .856 save percentage in seven playoff games last season by saying, "Well, you can't win every year."

The Devils can win this year. Among the returnees are a very good cast of forwards, including bruising center Bobby Holik, rough-and-ready right wing Randy McKay and swift left wings Petr Sykora (a team-high 29 goals and 72 points last year) and Brian Rolston. The New Jersey defense, long among the NHL's best, is anchored by 35-year-olds Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko, both of whom are extremely fit, and 26-year-old Norris Trophy candidate Scott Niedermayer.

This depth explains why the Continental Airlines Arena remains a hellish place for opponents to visit in fall and winter, if not spring. The Devils vow to escape their own hell -- the one in which they keep reliving their postseason loss to the Penguins. "We don't talk about last year, because it's behind us," says defenseman Sheldon Souray. "But we were all in the room after the last game against Pittsburgh, and we were all looking around at each other. When you lose like that in the playoffs, it doesn't just go away."

Issue date: October 4, 1999

SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings

  • With Slava Fetisov and Larry Robinson serving as Robbie Ftorek's assistants, Devils coaches could be a No. 1 defensive pairing on most NHL teams.
  • Martin Brodeur will always allow the Devils to be a little short on the offensive end.
  • Scott Gomez is making the Devils think real hard about sending him to Albany.
  • Doug Gilmour left last year, Dave Andreychuk left this year . . . where are the replacements? The truth is, the Devils can't lure any free-agent goal-scorers because of the defensive system they employ.
  • Why can't this team win in the playoffs?
  • Holdouts Brendan Morrison and Patrik Elias are playing in the Czech Republic.
  • Devils occasionally struggle to find the right combination of grizzled vets and fresh talent from their deep farm system.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Lou Lamoriello
    Coach: Robbie Ftorek; 2nd season (47-24-11); 4th overall (112-80-22)
    Assistants: Slava Fetisov, Larry Robinson
    Captain: Scott Niedermayer
    Last year: 47-24-11 (2nd overall)
    Playoffs: Lost to Pittsburgh 4-3 in first round
    PP: 4th (19.7%)
    PK: 11th (85.5%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: The Devils help open Philips Arena in Atlanta.
    Thu., Oct. 7: Home opener against Pittsburgh, which ousted New Jersey in the playoffs last spring.
    Wed., Feb. 2, Tue., Feb. 8 and Wed., Feb. 9: The Devils and Rangers play each other three times in eight days, but don't see each other the rest of the regular season.
    March 2-April 8: The Devils close the season right where they want to -- on the road. After posting a team-record 28 road wins last season, they play 11 of their last 18 on the road this season.

    Notable Number
    248: The second-highest goals-for total in the league despite not having a single 30-goal scorer.

    "I feel that we have the necessary tools and the necessary ingredients to go forward. We just have to find out some reasons why it did not happen the last two years. We have to go forward. We're not going to accept and stand pat, just stand still and hope." -- GM Lou Lamoriello

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