Tuesday, July 10, 2012

If the Devils were in a Winter Classic, who would play in the alumni game?

This week is the week that the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will announce their rosters for the 2013 alumni game during the Winter Classic weekend.  Now, as outrageous as this may seem, it is possible for the Devils to be a part of a Winter Classic someday.  So, I got to thinking: if the Devils were a part of that weekend, who would play in the alumni game for them?

Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson and Jacob Josefson are three of the most logical choices, since by the time the Devils get picked for a Winter Classic, they'll be the only ones still able to skate.

*Last year, the Flyers had 17 forwards, 9 defensemen, 3 goalies, 3 coaches and 3 ambassadors on their alumni roster.

Let's start with the obvious choices.  In goal, it'll be Chris Terreri and Chico Resch.  Those two are second and third on the Devils' all-time games played list for goaltenders.  Which reminds me, if Terreri and Resch are second and third, there must be a first.  ... Oh, right.  Brodeur.  Yeah, I guess he can come if he wants.  He's been a pretty solid goalie over the years, I'd say.

Obviously Brodeur is a lock to be the primary goalie for the Devils.  Marty is the NHL's all-time leader in games played for a goalie, wins, losses, shutouts, minutes, playoff shutouts, plus he's got 4 Vezina trophies, 5 Jennings trophies, a Calder trophy, 3 Stanley Cup rings, a couple Olympic gold medals and he's scored two goals.

After Brodeur, there would a battle for second between Terreri and Resch, but since the alumni roster allows for three goalies, both of them would probably make it.  Terreri was Marty's backup during the 1995 Cup run and well, Chico is Chico.  Unless you really like Yann Danis (and no, Johan Hedberg has not played long enough for the Devils).

Now, to the blue line.  Hmm, let's see, any good choices here?  Tommy Albelin?  Bruce Driver?  Hell, Colin White?

Seriously though, who would be the top six D-men?  The Captain, Scott Stevens, Mr. Devil, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer are first-ballot locks.  Those three players are each legendary figures within the Devils organization, as they're the only three players to have their numbers retired (for now).

After that, things get debatable.  Certainly Bruce Driver warrants consideration.  Perhaps Slava Fetisov?  Maybe even Brian Rafalski?  Albelin has to get a look, too.    Depending on how far into the future this is, could Bryce Salvador actually be considered?

Rafalski probably didn't stay in New Jersey long enough to deserve consideration, but Driver probably has a good chance, despite him choosing to go to the Rangers.  Albelin has been a part of the Devils' organization in some role, including assistant coach, following his playing career, so I figure he's got a good chance.

So assuming five of those six (likely not Rafalski) make it, that still leaves four openings.  Perhaps Salvador would earn a spot.  He's become a fan favorite after the spectacular postseason he just had, and the overall season he had in 2011-12, following his concussion-filled 2010-11.  Salvador has already played three full seasons as a Devil after his late season trade to New Jersey during the 2007-08 season.  I think he'd get in.

You know who won't?  Nick Havelid or Marty Skoula.  Just saying.

Now, here's where things get busy: forwards.

I'm going out on a limb here (not really) and guessing that the Devils won't be in a Winter Classic until after Patrik Elias retires, so it's fair to put Elias on the roster.  John MacLean, Sergei Brylin, Stephane Richer, Claude Lemieux and Bobby Holik are pretty much locks.

In my opinion, the Devils really should do John MacLean the service of retiring his number.  His disaster of a brief head coaching stint should not overwrite the playing career he had in New Jersey.  Only Elias scored more goals, power play goals and points than MacLean in Devils' history.  Brylin was the only forward to win three Stanley Cups with the Devils.  Lemieux will always be remembered for his epic 1995 playoff run.

Cam Janssen, Krzysztof Oliwa, Eric Boulton and Krys Barch will...not be on the roster.

The "second wave" of forwards, so to speak, would probably include John Madden, Randy McKay, Pat Verbeek, Jason Arnott, Petr Sykora, Aaron Broten and Kirk Muller.  I think it's safe to say that all of those players would make the roster.

After that, things become more interesting.  Do guys like Patrik Sundstrom and Peter Stastny get the nod?  How about some great players who played for the Devils briefly, such as Doug Gilmour, Alexander Mogilny, Brendan Shanahan and Dave Andreychuk?  What about Tom Chorske, Jay Pandolfo, Bill Guerin and Brian Rolston?  I'm not sure about Jamie Langenbrunner, but Scott Gomez's departure from New Jersey was too ugly to bring him back.

Beyond those guys, it's really a toss-up.

Finally, three coaches must be selected, and if you know the Devils, you'll know that there are lots of choices here.

First of all, to answer the inevitable sarcastic question, no, Lou Lamoriello was not one of the greatest coaches in Devils' history, and MacLean makes the team as a player, not coach.  Unfortunately, the two greatest coaches not named Lemaire to coach the Devils, Herb Brooks and Pat Burns, both passed away.

Jacques Lemaire is hands down the best Devils' coach still living.  Larry Robinson won the Cup with the Devils in 2000 and spent almost two decades working for the Devils before leaving this summer, so he'd probably get a spot.  Burns was the other coach to win a Cup as Devils' head coach.

Jim Schoenfeld works for the Rangers now, so he probably wouldn't get picked.  Robbie Ftorek is best known for throwing a bench onto the ice, and he got fired right before the Devils won the Cup in 2000.  I'm not really sure this is a third coach worthy of consideration.  In my opinion, Lemaire, Robinson and Burns were the most significant coaches in Devils' history (Herb Brooks only lasted one season).  Maybe Peter DeBoer will be on that list in the future, but hopefully he'll be coaching the actual Winter Classic for the Devils and not the alumni game.

For the reasons above, I'd put Lemaire and Robinson behind the bench and leave the third spot vacant, to honor Pat Burns.

So, with all of that said, here's the roster I would put together if I were in charge of the Devils' alumni roster:

Goaltenders: Chris Terreri, Chico Resch, Martin Brodeur (assuming he's retired at that point)

Defensemen: Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Scott Niedermayer, Bruce Driver, Tommy Albelin, Slava Fetisov, Joe Cirella, Brian Rafalski, Bryce Salvador (assuming he's retired)

Forwards: John MacLean, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Richer, Sergei Brylin, Bobby Holik, Pat Verbeek, Kirk Muller, Aaron Broten, Peter Stastny, John Madden, Patrik Sundstrom, Randy McKay, Alexander Mogilny, Bill Guerin, (assuming they're retired:) Jason Arnott, Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias

Coaches: Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson

So, what do you think?  Who did I snub?  Who shouldn't be on here?