Today is the Fourth of July. The day where many in the United States honor and celebrate Independence Day. The Declaration of Independence was approved as a resolution on July 2, but it wording was revised and approved two days later. Hence, this is Independence Day. Check out the article about the Declaration itself at the National Archives site to learn more. Given this is a big day in America and a day I, for one on this larger Vox network, am glad happened, let's do something a little different. Let's focus on the Americans on the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils have had heavy connections to the American game. Lou Lamoriello was the first ever general manager, team president, and CEO to come out of the NCAA; he was an American. In fact, he's a member of the U.S and the Hockey Hall of Fame. Lou's replacement as GM is Ray Shero, another American with some recent ties to USA Hockey. The team has had a couple American head coaches: John Cunniff, Herb Brooks, Robbie Ftorek, Kevin Constantine, and now John Hynes. There were even more as assistants. Then there are the players. Many notable Americans have suited up for the Devils in their history. According to Hockey-Reference, 95 skaters and 10 goalies born in the United States have played at least one game for the organization. Since it's the Fourth of July, I decided together what I consider to be the all-time all-American Devils roster.
Note: I'm picking 23 players: two goalies, seven defensemen, and fourteen forwards. I'm also excluding Hall of Famers Craig Patrick and Phil Housley as they each played very briefly for the team. Housley would make my team, otherwise. Patrick, not so much since it was one season with Kansas City.
Starter: Cory Schneider, Backup: Chris Terreri
Commentary: Good thing the Devils traded for Schneider. I didn't want to have a fantasy pairing of Terreri and Mike Dunham or Terreri and Scott Clemmensen. Schneider has been excellent for the current team so far. Terreri was one of the more accomplished goaltenders in the pre-Brodeur era of the Devils. He was the starter Brodeur would usurp in 1993-94. He played in twelve different seasons and made over 300 appearances. Schneider will eclipse those numbers one day and likely easily beat his 89.2% save percentage. While such a save percentage wouldn't last long in today's NHL, it did back in the 1980s and 1990s when Terreri was active. In any case, Schneider would be the man and "T-bone" would be the #2 guy. If you must pick a third, I'd take Dunham as he would go on to have a good career in Nashville as opposed to a journeyman like Clemmensen.
First Pairing: Paul Martin - Brian Rafalski
Second Pairing: Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Third Pairing: Eric Weinrich - Shawn Chambers
Extra: Tom Kurvers
Commentary: This top-four is mostly contemporary and mostly good. If it wasn't for Rafalski being retired and 41, then it might even be a viable top-four today. Paul Martin and Andy Greene are very good two-way defensemen. They won't put up a lot of points but they'll help the play go forward and create the offense. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to re-unite him with Mark Fayne for a boss pairing; leaving Martin to be paired with a big-minutes, big-producing Rafalski. The third pairing is a bit interesting. Rather than picking some players who played more in the organization, I chose two from different parts of the 1990s that went on to have good, lengthy careers. Weinrich got his start in NJ and went onto play a ton of minutes elsewhere while putting up a decent amount of points no matter where he went. Chambers was solid on the mid-90s teams and would be fine as a #6.
I had plenty of options for the extra defenseman. Craig Wolanin and Mike Mottau were the other only American defensemen to play over 200 games for New Jersey. However, I don't think Wolanin was all that solid and Mottau was just decent in his time with the Devils. I went with Tom Kurvers for the reason that he was rather productive in his time with the Devils. He put up 100 points in 133 games. Only three other American defensemen in Devils history put up more than that: Rafalski, Greene, and Martin. Kurvers' offense was enough to warrant a trade for a top pick from Toronto, which would become some guy named Scott Niedermayer. Kurvers would keep up the production for a few more years, finishing a 659 game career with 451 points. While I can't speak to how good he was on defense or anything deeper than points, that's still quite good. Though Niedermayer's excellence did a lot to make people forget about Kurvers as being anything more than "The guy the Devils traded to get #27." Anyway, I'll chose him as the #7 on this fantasy roster in case the blueline needs some more offense. If I allowed myself to pick Housley, he'd be in Chambers' spot acting as an offensive specialist with Chambers taking the #7 spot from Kurvers.
First Line: Zach Parise - Scott Gomez - Bill Guerin
Second Line: Aaron Broten - Mark Johnson - Brian Gionta
Third Line: Jay Pandolfo - Brian Rolston - Jamie Langenbrunner
Fourth Line: Tom Chorske - Bob Carpenter - Doug Brown
Extras: Neal Broten, Jim Dowd
Oh, this is an interesting mix. That first line is a mix of the constant speed of Zach Parise, the next-level vision of Scott Gomez, and the powerful Bill Guerin. It's a unit that can handle itself down low with Parise and Guerin, while being skilled enough to get through various defenses. This is a no-brainer of a first line. Parise was an ace. Gomez was a top-six center almost right away, a top center in the mid-2000s, and had a pleasantly surprising season in 2014-15. He would be the top center on this roster. While Guerin wasn't the most productive American right wing for the Devils, he went on to have the best career.
The second line is a small line. Aaron Broten, the franchise leader among American Devils in scoring, is the largest at 5'10". Mark Johnson, spark plug of the 1980 USA Hockey team, will be in the middle flying about to keep plays going. He put up 89 goals and 229 points in 305 games with the Devils; he could handle an offensive line just fine. Brian Gionta had a great shot to go with those set of wheels. He's been a top-six forward in the NHL since breaking out in 2005-06. Despite their size disadvantage, it's a line that will go into the dirty places, find ways to score, and become an easy source of praise for how big their collective "heart" is. It'd be a fun unit One could swap Parise and Broten for a really agile second line with Broten taking on tougher minutes up top, something he did do throughout the 1980s. One could also swap Brian Rolston with Johnson for match-up purposes.
For this all-time team, I had to have something like a checking line. Jay Pandolfo leads all American Devils in games played with 819 and he was all about being a defensive forward. He'd be crucial on penalty kills and would thrive in such a role. However, a checking line does not need to be devoid of offense. And there are two Americans who have been good in their own end as well as the other team's. Jamie Langenbrunner had initial success with Pandolfo when he first came to New Jersey, so he's a natural fit opposite Pandolfo. While his departure was less than ideal, he was a very good player otherwise. He would provide this third line plenty of offense alone. For center, I went with Brian Rolston. He did play more wing than center in his career, but he did take draws and play a lot of minutes against tough competition for most of his career. His slapshot alone is a weapon that would help make this checking line more of a two-way unit, inaccurate as it may be at times. But, really, he's been a producer for most of his career, he'd help make that unit go forward too.
For the fourth line, I went with the remaining American Devils that put up over 100 points with the franchise. At right wing, there's Doug Brown, who leads all American Devils in shorthanded goals. He would be a good candidate for a PK role in addition to being behind Langenbrunner in the bottom six. Tom Chorske was a solid depth winger for the mid-90s Devils, so he'll be at the left wing. Bob Carpenter, who's been a bottom-six center for the most part with New Jersey, would center them. This is more of a traditional checking line than the third line I chose, which could free up that third line to be a bit more aggressive.
For the extras, I went with two sentimental choices. Neal Broten was absolutely crucial for the 1995 Devils team that won the franchise's first Stanley Cup. He did not last long in New Jersey, but for that alone, I'd want him as a spare forward. That he's been a successful and experienced center in his career helped that decision as well. Lastly, I chose Jim Dowd as a homer New Jersey pick. Dowd was a decent depth forward, mostly defensive. Should there be any issues in the bottom six, he could draw in. There weren't too many other great choices. One could've made a case for Corey Millen on the basis of one 50 point season in 1993-94, but that didn't sway me. Mike Rupp has been an extra forward for the Devils as well as a bottom six guy; but he really didn't do much. If one had to positively, absolutely include a goon, then my choice would've been Mike Peluso over Jim Korn and Cam Janssen. I did not, so I didn't.
This fantasy team of All-American Devils looks pretty good on paper. I'd say the wingers are more impressive than the centers. I think Johnson might be a reach for a second line, but that's because I'd prefer Rolston's defense to better mesh with Langenbrunner and Pandolfo. Otherwise, the franchise luckily has had twelve American forwards in various parts of a line up to fill in without being too ridiculous. Ironically, the all-time team is deeper at right wing than the actual team. At defense, I'm a fan of the top-four and I think the third pairing could work with others. It gets a bit dire after, say eight defensemen, but since I only had to pick seven, it's more than acceptable. In net, Schneider's the man and Terreri is the next best option. While I may be biased, I don't think there was a big miss other than not including Phil Housley somewhere; but again, I wanted to limit myself to Americans who played more than just a little bit with the team. I think I did just that for this fun, imaginative exercise. I would be comfortable to defend this as the all-time, all-American Devils roster. (Though, I'll defer some of the older players to those more well-versed in the team's history.)
However, would you agree that this is the all-time, all-American Devils roster? Do you think this would be the right way to construct them (e.g. are the pairings right, the lines right, etc.)? Was there someone I should've included instead of someone else? If so, who and why? What do you think about some of the American Devils of the past, would they measure up to the American Devils of today? Please leave your answers, thoughts about these players, and even your own all-time, all-American Devils roster in the comments. Thank you for reading and have a happy Fourth of July.