The New Jersey Devils history can only be described as roller coaster that goes through steep peaks and bottomless valleys. In fact, they have gone to the top of the mountain, plummeted all the way to rock bottom and have been climbing back up ever since. In fact, they have come close to winning their fourth championship but have fallen off in recent years.
With that being said however, let’s go back a bit to the beginning. Believe it or not, the New Jersey Devils started out as the Kansas City Scouts and won their first game by beating the Washington Capitals in 1972. They also managed to finish dead last in their division that season and wouldn’t get to play in their own arena until the ninth game of the season.
The Scouts followed that up by going on a 27-game winless streak, which was only three short of the league record. Needlessly to say, it was not a good time to be a Kansas City Scout and the team relocated to Denver due to subpar attendance. That didn’t work either, as the team would go on an 18-game winless streak to miss the playoffs, thus prompting a move to New Jersey a few short years later
And this is where things got interesting. The New Jersey Devils were named after the legend of The New Jersey Devil and was handpicked by over 10,000 fans. Of course, the Devils would go on to finish 17-49-14, but things would get better over time. The Devils would even go on to have their first winning season in 1987.
The Devils would then go on to have a few average seasons, maintaining a winning record in most of them ,but never reaching that sweet spot when it came to going far in the playoffs This time period didn’t come without controversy however, as star player, Wayne Gretzky, criticized the Devils for putting on a “Mickey Mouse operation on ice,” after a 13-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in 1983
Gretzky claimed later that is comments were taken out of context, but the fans would have the last laugh by putting on Mickey Mouse gear the next time that the Devils played the Oilers. The Devils ended up losing that game 5-4, which did hurt a little bit, but it was nothing compared to getting in the head of one of the greatest of all time.
While the Devils would have a few more subpar seasons after that, everything changed when they went all the way in 1994 and won the Stanley Cup. Keep in mind that this came after several years of finishing last in their division and not even having enough fans to fill stadiums. If nothing else, this was the moment that the team proved they were as good as they said they were.
Interestingly enough, this was the first year that the Devils took part in what became named, the eastern conference and would go on to set a franchise record of 106 goals. This was also a year that the team had Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayor, Ken Daneyko, and Claude Lemieux, which was one of the best lineups they had ever assembled in team history.
The craziest part of all this however was the fact that they went 16-4 in that year’s playoffs and destroyed the Red Wings 4-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals. Not only was this the first time the organization had a shutout victory in the Stanley Cup Finals, it also showed how tough the team was after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in a crucial game six only a few weeks earlier.
Although the team wouldn’t win their next championship until 1999, they ended up finishing the postseason with a record of 16-7 and defeated the Dallas Stars to win the title that year. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the team did so after winning a game seven against the Flyers to advance to the championship in the first place.
And If that didn’t prove that this team had moxy, they followed that up with a 46-20-20 record and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. It wasn’t meant to be however, as the Devils lost to the Avalanche in a do or die game seven match up. The Devils even tied the game 3-3 with 7.7 seconds to go in regulation but were defeated after a goal in double overtime.
Fast forward to 2003 and the Devils were on the verge of another championship, which resulted in them making the playoffs that year. The first two rounds of the playoffs didn’t offer much trouble, as the Devils were able to defeat the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Boston Bruins, but were forced into a game seven matchup against the Ottawa Senators.
They ended up winning that series and went on to face the Ducks in the Stanley Cup finals. The final series of that season was a literal back and forth affair, with the teams being tied 3-3 after six games. The Devils overcame this though and went to win that year’s Stanley Cup Finals and the third title of their franchise’s existence.
Unfortunately for New Jersey Devils fans, their last Stanley Cup Finals appearance came in 2012 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-2. The Devils only made the playoffs one time after that and got destroyed by the Tampa Bay Lighting that year. The Devils have gone on to miss the playoffs seven of the last eight years and honestly show no real sign of changing that.
Lindy Ruff currently is the coach of the New Jersey Devils and Tom Fitzgerald is their General Manager at the moment. The team touts a current roster of talent such as Joey Anderson, Mackenzie Blackwood, Jesper Bratt, Will Butcher, Conner Carrick, Fredrik Claesson and Nikita Gusev. Finally, they finished with a record of 28-29 in 2020 and failed to make the playoffs for the third year in a row.
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