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Building a Contender: The 1995 Devils Team

Given the current state of the team, I thought it would be worthwhile to remind ourselves of how we built a contender the first time around. In this article I take a short look at how the 1995 Stanley Cup Champion Devils were built.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In 1988, the Devils made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. After flopping the next year for 66 points, we then began a streak of 6 consecutive years of postseason play culminating in a Stanley Cup victory in 1995. Given the current state of the team, I decided to take a look at how that 1995 team was made.

Hockey-Reference has a stat called point shares which are one of analytics earliest attempts at hockey WAR along with Corsi Rel and GVT. Considering Hockey-Reference's aptitude for cataloging history, I decided to use their player value system.

Here is a chart of the top 10 players in point shares from the 1995 team and how/when we got them. Players are listed in descending order of point shares.

Player Type Draft Pos Year joined Age Age when joined
Martin Brodeur Draft 20th 1990 22 18
Scott Niedermeyer Draft 3rd 1991 21 17
Stephane Richer Trade Kirk Muller (2nd) 1991 28 24
Scott Stevens Awarded Shanny Comp (2nd) 1991 30 26
Tommy Albelin Trade Future Compensation 1988 30 23
John MacLean Draft 6th 1983 30 18
Bruce Driver Draft 108th 1983 32 20
Neal Broten Trade Corey Millen (57th) 1995 35 35
Bill Guerin Draft 3rd 1989 24 18
Bobby Holik Trade Sean Burke (24th) 1992 24 21

Trades

Stephane Richer was traded to us in exchange for one of the founding fathers of the era of success for the Devils, Kirk Muller, a former 2nd overall pick. In 2011 John wrote a commentary on the greatly underappreciated player. Both players had success both before and after the trade. Richer took the '95 cup with the Devils but Muller got a cup in '93, 2 years after the trade.

Scott Stevens was awarded to us as compensation for the Blues claiming Brendan Shanahan as an RFA off our roster. The Blues actually offered us Curtis Joseph, Rod Brind'Amour, and two draft picks. Lou said, "Thanks, but I'll just go ahead and take Stevens." The case went to arbitration and we were awarded one of the greatest defencemen to ever play the game

Neal Broten was acquired at the ripe young age of 35 after scoring 794 point in 13 seasons with the North Stars in exchange for Corey Millen who we got for a 5th round pick from the Kings a year earlier. Corey Millen would also later be traded to the Flames with Jarome Iginla for Joe Nieuwendyk who would be traded to the Devils 7 years later in an exchange involving Jason Arnott who would be traded back to the Devils 8 years later... I'm gonna stop now.

Bobby Holik was acquired in exchange for Sean Burke who was expendable after the drafting of Martin Brodeur. Holik had back-to-back 20-20 seasons for the Whalers before coming to Continental Airlines Arena where he would play the best years of his career as part of the Crash Line.

Other Players

Claude Lemieux won the Conn Smythe after scoring 13 goals in the playoffs in 1995. We acquired him from the Canadiens in exchange for Sylvain Turgeon who scored over 50 points for the last time in 1986.

Ken Daneyko was drafted 18th overall in 1982 before spending 1458 total games in regular and post-season play as a Devil. He was 30 years old in the 1995 season.

Brian Rolston was drafted 11th overall in 1991 and registered 18 points in 40 games for his rookie campaign in this 1995 season.

Randy McKay and Mike Peluso rounded out the Crash Line with Holik and were both picked up as free agents.

Commentary

It take a long time to forge a contender. It also takes either a lot of bad years or some good draft luck. The chart at the top of this article is composed of 5 different players that were either drafted or acquired in exchange for someone drafted in the top 6 overall picks. We lucked into Stevens a little and Marty was a massive find.

Something depressing to note about that chart is the "age when joined column." The 1995 Stanley Cup team was lead my 10 players of whom 9 joined the team at age 26 or younger. Neal Broten we found in the scrap heap. Everyone else was either homegrown or at least cultivated in-house. Although you'll notice a lot of the moving happened in arguably Lou Lamoriello's best season as a GM, 1991. In that year, he drafted both Niedermeyer and Rolston, was awarded Stevens after filing for arbitration, and traded for the point leader Stephane Richer.

There is some young talent on the Devil's team right now. The defender's could develop into the best since the Stevens/Niedermeyer days. Henrique is somehow still not 25 years old. We're getting great production from Blandisi and hopefully one of him, Boucher, and Matteau will be able to be a legitimate top 9 contributor.

Rebuilding can take a while. But, as shown here, even 3 years can completely transform and improve a team. If Marty McFly came in a Delorean and told me the Devils won the 2018 Stanley Cup, I wouldn't be shocked. Imagine this team with a fully developed Henrique, Severson, Larsson, Merrill, and 3 years of presumably high draft picks anchored by one of the best goalies in the league. Lou is on the hot seat, but if he does what he did in the 80s and 90s this team could get good fast.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of this stroll down memory lane? Was their something I left out that I should have included? Was there one or more things that I got wrong? Using this as a reference, how far off are we from contending? Leave you thoughts below.