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The Two Most Important People in New Jersey Devils History

In yesterday's post, I linked to a number of stories, including one focusing on Puck Daddy's August project: Mount Puckmore. Every day, someone will name the four most important figures in their franchise; people (not just players) who would be immortalized in stone if they had it their way.  Here's Adrian Dater of the Denver Post making his choices for Colorado's version of the monument.

I would put up my own selection except I have no idea who's doing New Jersey's post.  If it were me, it'd be kind of silly just to re-post what I would write here a few weeks from now, no?  Still, it's fun to talk about it in the meantime.  Already a couple of suggestions have come up in the comments.  

Nevertheless, I can't bite my tongue (cramp my fingers?) on this topic completely.  In my mind, there are two mortal locks for the New Jersey Devils' version of Mount Rushmore.  The first should be obvious; but the second doesn't seem so obvious - at first.  I could come right out and just tell you who they are.  But let's go through the comments and see what others on this site have suggested so far.

Marty4Prez goes with players:

As for Mount Devilsmore, obviously the first two go to Scotty Stevens and Marty. After that, I’m a bit torn because there are several good choices. Neids could easily be top 4 (but does his California defection hurt his standing in line), as can Johnny Mac. But there’s also Elias with a strong case, and do we think Zach Parise has made enough of an impact to get on the Sculpture? I could even see an argument for Pepe getting his scowling face put up there. And of course Kenny Daneyko…The choices are too many!

I’ll go with Stevens, Daneyko (edging Neids for sticking with the Devils), Brodeur, and MacLean (edging Elias).

kellyn suggests a "Builders" version, noting Lou and the three coaches:

I think Lou belongs on his own separate "Builders" Mount Rushmore with each of the Devils’ three Stanley Cup Winning coaches (Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson and Pat Burns) .

Zelepukin feels 75% of this is simple and the last 25% is up for debate:

I think the top3 are easy and obvious. Lou, Marty and Stevens. #4 is where it gets interesting.

Do you give it to Elias? 2 cups, all-time leading scorer

Do you give it to Parise whow ill clearly become NJ leadings corer if he stays here his whole career but has yet to win anything

Do you give it to Niedermayer? Obviously he was almost as big a force as Stevens for us but he did leave for Anehiem.

Do you go with Johnny Mac? The Devs original offensive threat who has now the head coach and been in the organization for a long time

I have two other names to consider:

Claude Lemieux: I don’t about you but I will forever think of him as a classic molded devil and he willed the organization their first cup with his play in the 95 playoffs

Jacque Lemaire: Love him or hate him he resurrected "The Trap" and weather or not the team plays it or not, it’s forever associated with NJ.

RolliePollieKovy says a coach must be on this fictitious monument:

Jacques got the first cup in NJ (great seeing him happy with the Cup yesterday) and deserves to be in up there with the greats. The GM, key players, and the coach. Thats how I look at it.

murdoc wants more monuments, but has his own preferences for the four:

There needs to be more than one "monument." Whether we want to believe it or not, the NHL has changed a lot since the first Cup win, and the second and third for that matter.

I don’t know if I can in good faith go for Stevens over Dano. Stevens had the bigger impact on the game itself, but in terms of the team and its style, I have to go for Dano. To me, Lou, Lemaire, Brodeur and Dano go on the "Mount Puckmore." They are timeless symbols of what the team was while it forming it’s identity in the NHL. They always will be, and nothing can change that.

Now, all of these are good suggestions.  The players brought up are important to the franchise.  Martin Brodeur is one of the most accomplished goaltenders in the history of the game. Scott Stevens has become the very definition of a leader, a defensive defenseman, and a hit machine as a Devil.  Ken Daneyko is a lifer and while he was never the greatest of defensemen, that he was so useful for so many years is telling.  Plus, he continues to support the franchise even after retirement.   John MacLean was the original goal scoring machine of the Devils, scoring the franchise's most important goal of the 1980s, has stuck around with the franchise as an assistant for most of the last decade, and is now the team's head coach.   Even some of the honorable mentions have a case, namely current franchise leading scorer Patrik Elias.

Take your pick of the coaches, but Jacques Lemaire being the popular selection makes the most sense since he brought back a tactic he used to be a part of in the 1970s with Montreal and used it to smother opponents like none other at the time.  Of course, like with most successes, this tactic was utilized by most of the league in following years - yet it's associated with New Jersey.  Even well after the Devils stopped playing it regularly.  Of all three of the coaches, Lemaire has had the biggest effect to the franchise (and the league), so I think he would be the most deserving.

Of course, Lou was mentioned.  Given the name of the site, I don't think I need to make much of an argument for Lou outside of that he was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame while still active.  He's the first mortal lock for any monument to the franchise, in my opinion.

All of these comments make sense and I thank all the users for stating their opinions.

The second hasn't been mentioned though, and one can argue he's more important to the franchise than Lou Lamoriello.  Yes, Lou built the team up from mediocrity to consistent contenders year after year.  Yes, Lou took every opportunity to make his club better. Yes, Lou's ways are rigid yet they are attractive to have players not only sign with New Jersey, but even players who left the team on bitter terms want to come back (e.g. John MacLean, Bobby Holik).

Yet, Lou would not have been Lou without him; there wouldn't even be a team here without him; this one man was that important to all of this happening: Dr. John McMullen.

It was Dr. John McMullen, owner of the Houston Astros, who took a entertainingly bad hockey team out of Colorado and brought them to the Garden State in 1982.   The New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers demanded fees for territorial rights in response to the move.  Three teams!  Did this deter Dr. McMullen? Ultimately, no. Those three teams got their money and the Devils set up to play in the Meadowlands.

It was Dr. John McMullen, who showed patience with the franchise, and made the bold decision to hire Lou Lamoriello in 1987.   Lou was a relative unknown outside of the NCAA back in the 1980s.  That he named himself as general manager, president, and CEO right away showed that he was bold, and at the waiver draft, he showed that he wasn't messing around.  Of all of the decisions Dr. McMullen had with the team, this would turn out to be one of his best.

It was Dr. John McMullen who didn't just roll over for the NJSEA, even if that meant threatening a move to Nashville.  According to this June 9, 2000 article by Richard Sandomir in the New York Times, we now know that a move to Nashville would have been far more lucrative than staying in New Jersey.  Given that professional sports are a business, as much as we would have hated it, the opportunity to make more money is defensible from a business-standpoint.  

Thankfully, Dr. John McMullen and the NJSEA came to an agreement that would ensure the Devils remaining in New Jersey.  He could have been far richer in Nashville, but he chose rather keep the team in New Jersey. Another vital decision. 

Lastly, when Dr. John McMullen was looking to sell, he didn't work with a group of people who wanted to uproot the Devils and move them.  From this June 9, 2000 article by Dave Anderson in the NY Times, he stayed local with YankeesNets and expressed his appreciation of the team and Lou himself.

Let me sum it up: Dr. John McMullen took the risks in moving the Rockies to New Jersey, paid the additional costs to have the team in New Jersey, hired Lou Lamoriello, ultimately agreed to a compromise with the state to keep Jersey's Team in New Jersey, and sold the team to a group that would keep the team in New Jersey.

Don't get me wrong, the other suggestions are perfectly fine and defensible.  I'm not bashing these users or anyone else.  For one reason or another, he's not the first name that comes to most Devils' fans minds as being so important.  It wasn't my first thought until I sat down and thought about it for a little bit. Too often, we think that the owner of a team's just there to provide the money for management and make changes of said management.  Regardless, in my mind, Dr. John McMullen more than deserves to be recognized on a monument. 

Please feel free to discuss who you would name on your Mount Puckmore for the Devils in the comments. Thanks for reading.