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Appreciating Langenbrunner

Today, the New Jersey Devils had their annual team luncheon. With 9 games to go, the Devils announced their team awards for the season. Chere reported who the winners were this afternoon. Scott Clemmensen was named the team's Unsung Hero, Zach Parise was the team's MVP, and captain Jamie Langenbrunner was named the Player's Player.

I want to take a moment to highlight captain Jamie Langenbrunner for a moment. He's really grown into the captaincy and after a rough first year with the "C," he's bounced back like no other. If there was a Comeback Player of the Year award, Langenbrunner would have to be the Devils' choice.

08-09 - Jamie Langenbrunner 72 25 38 63 27 52 4 3 6 0 206 12.1

I remember writing about Langenbrunner's time with New Jersey on the old site back in the summer of 2008. He was coming off a very poor 2007-08 season in terms of production and I figured he'd improve on that:

Therefore, in terms of expectations, we should be fairly pleased if Langenbrunner picks up about 45 points. He produced 41 in an injury-shortened season under a new coach and some inconsistent play. That shouldn't be asking for too much. 50 and up is definitely possible (and maybe even 20 goals!) if Langenbrunner is in the top 6 for most of the season (and not in a constantly revolving lineup) and he's healthy. That said, I really don't think he's going to get super-hot and drop 60-70 points for New Jersey; nor is he going to tally 25 or more goals. Langenbrunner's not getting any younger and he was never that kind of player to begin with. Fortunately for us, he doesn't need to be - he just needs to keep working hard, keep playing his way, and continue to lead the team.

Well, I was definitely way off! Serves me right for doubting him! He's already at 25 goals, he's got 63 points, and he's doing it all at the well-past-his-prime-age of 33. He's only missed one game, and he has been playing along with the fantastic Parise and the rebounding Zajac for pretty much the whole season. Still, he's not riding the coattails of either player (he has 4 more points than Zajac, actually). His powerful shot and tenaciousness has been important to keep the line motivated and dangerous on any given night.

How else could he have reached career highs in goals and assists? Especially - and I cannot stress this enough - at a stage of his career where players usually start fading away. Not Jamie. He's stayed in shape, he's kept his focus up, and his shots lower. He's still giving a strong 18:04 of ice time per night on average and he's contributing in a big way. Langenbrunner thrived with some excellent players and the three make some beautiful things happen. Hence, the 12 goal and 10 assist improvement. And there's still time for Langenbrunner to add to his total. I'm certainly not betting that the ZZ Pops line stays quiet for the next 9 games.

For this, we should appreciate what Langenbrunner for not just being an effective captain, but a big reason why the Devils have been so successful this season. (And yes, they have been despite losing their last 2 games. Though I don't understand why they aren't practicing tomorrow.)