Posted 2:30 PM ET | Comments 2
There's a reason that of the three Devils Stanley Cups, 1995 is by far my favorite. No, it's not because I was 10 years old and it somehow represents a happier time in my life. And no, it's not even for the better reason that it was the first one and therefore any one of those players will tell you it's the Cup that meant the most to them. It's because of all three Cups, 1995 was the one which most embodied what the Devils are all about, and that is everyone playing their part for the greater good of the whole.
While many anonymous mouthpieces around the internet sometimes refer to June 24, 1995 as the death of hockey, I see it as the crowning achievement of a franchise who never did and still never does get any credit for its accomplishments. Blame the "dead puck era" on Jacques Lemaire if you really want to, but that 1995 Devils team was arguably the most cohesive in our history, and the reason is simple: everyone had their job, and they all executed to perfection.
It all started, of course, with a relatively unknown young goalie named Martin Brodeur, who had just made waves the year before, becoming just the fourth goalie in 25 years to win the Calder Trophy. Marty's job was to be a brick wall in goal, and it's hard to imagine the Devils would have gotten anywhere if he hadn't been. (Have you SEEN Chris Terreri play goal?)
I won't go through the entire team because that would take more time than you are probably willing to put into this blog, but let's cover all of the basics. Scott Stevens' job was to be the leader, and to occasionally land the kind of hit that makes a guy wish he was being fed through a woodchipper instead. Ken Daneyko and Mike Peluso were there to stick up for their teammates, and to clear the way for Scott Niedermayer to jump into the offense and score more goals than some of the forwards! You had Bobby Holik and Claude Lemieux doing Sean Avery's job better than Avery himself ever could, while John MacLean and Neal Broten were there to bury pucks fed to them by Stephane Richer and Valeri Zelepukin.
It wasn't a list of players you could easily recognize, and in fact aside from Devils fans, most names probably wouldn't even ring a bell except for Brodeur and Stevens. But if this tightly-knit group can offer anything to modern hockey, it's that you don't need a Detroit Red Wings-eqsue collection of talent to win the Stanley Cup. All you really need are 20 players who know each other's tendencies really well, and who can execute the task that you give them on a consistent basis.
There was way more talent on the 2000 Stanley Cup team, but it takes a special group of players to be able to sweep anyone in the Stanley Cup Finals, let alone the high flying Red Wings. While it also takes an incredible amount of hard work to overcome a lack of star talent, one need only to look to the 1995 Devils to prove it certainly isn't impossible.