Taylor Hall is supposed to be number 4. That’s what he was for the Oilers. However, the Devils rightly retired #4 in honor of Scott Stevens. This left Hall looking for a new number. And boy, did he pick a provocative one.
Taylor Hall has decided to don number 9 with the Devils.
From the Hockey Reference, this is the list of players to wear the sweater with the same number.
Wilf Paiement 1975-1980, Lanny McDonald 1980-1982, Don Lever 1982-1985, Kirk Muller 1986-1991, Tom Chorske 1992-1993, Bernie Nicholls 1994, Neal Broten 1995-1997, Vadim Sharifijanov 1997, Brendan Morrison 1998-2000, Jiri Bicek 2001-2004, Bruce Gardiner 2002, Craig Darby 2003, Zach Parise 2006-2012, Harri Pesonen 2013, Bobby Butler 2013, Jacob Josefson 2013, Mike Sislo 2014, Mattias Tedenby 2014, Joe Whitney 2014, Martin Havlat 2015, Jiri Tlusty 2016
First off, there are a few whoppers in there in terms of important Devils. Neal Broten was one of the biggest reasons for our 1995 Stanley Cup win, joining the team mid-season and averaging almost a point per game and finishing second on the team in playoff scoring. Kirk Muller left the franchise as its all-time scoring leader and is now 3rd behind only John MaClean and Patrik Elias. But without question, the one in the crosshairs here is Zach Parise.
No one has owned the number for longer than a year since Parise and it is hard to live up to the hype. Before this year, the Devils hadn’t had a 30-goal scorer since 2012. Parise scored 30 in ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, and ‘12. He was injured in 2011.
That last paragraph is why I am writing this article. I know that the number 9 on the back of the sweater may seem inconsequential, but sports people care. That’s why we retire great numbers. That’s why Hockey Reference, the Devils website, and several other online sources record numbers. When you assume a number you assume an identity with which you will be irrefutably associated should you wish to leave any mark on the team. It is for that reason that I think Hall’s choice of 9 is so monumentally important — it finally gives the Devils fans a chance to exorcise the demons of the Parise departure.
The gap he left as the premier scorer — along with the retiring of Ilya Kovalchuk -- sparked the downward spiral that lead to the end of the era in which the Devils made 5 Cup appearances and won 3. It plunged us into an undeniable abyss. Ignoring the injury-plagued 2011 season, the Devils had not finished with a PTS% below .540 since 1995-96. They have now done that in 4 consecutive years after Parise has left. The inability to find someone else to associate with number 9 since then symbolizes the franchises inability to rise from the ashes Parise left in his wake.
But now, it’s different. Henrique and Palmieri both scored 30 goals in a magical final game of the season — so that ghost has passed. The Hockey Writers rated the Devils as the 9th best prospect pool in the league and it is anchored by some truly exciting forward prospects who are proving we can cultivate forward talent from within again. And lastly, Devils fans will have a new name they can picture above “9” for the near future in Taylor Hall.
We wrote several articles about how the Devils were moving into a new era with the departure of Marty, Lou, Conte, etc. Yet, we did not write many on what the new era would be. The Hall, Henrique, Palmieri trio has the potential to be one of the best young triads in the NHL and with the demons of number 9s past fought off, we can finally move on and enter the new era of Devils hockey. It has finally arrived.
What do you think? Am I overreacting? Is it just a number? How did you feel about him choosing Parise’s old number? Leave your thoughts below. I’m interested to see what you guys think.