Just over a decade again now, the New Jersey Devils made an improbable splash at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft being held in New Jersey. Despite the cascade of “boos” when Gary Bettman stepped to the podium, and him telling the crowd, “I think you’re gonna want to hear this” eventually the news broke that the Devils had traded their 9th overall selection to Vancouver for Cory Schneider. Initial reactions were positive, as the roar from the crowd indicated when the move was announced:
At the time, the Devils had the legend himself Martin Brodeur in net, and Johan Hedburg as the backup; Schneider was an upgrade on the aging pair of veterans and was poised to challenge for the starter’s role. In his first season with the Devils, time was split between he and Brodeur, as Marty still felt he had something left in the tank for that final season on his contract. Despite the team somehow putting up more wins in front of Brodeur (19 in 39 starts to Schneider’s 16 in 43 starts), it was indeed Cory who would post the better statistics with 1.97 goals against per game and a .921 saver percentage against Marty’s 2.51 GAA and .901 SV%. The win percentage disparity does prove how effective Brodeur’s puck handling was and how it helped push the team’s offense, but I digress here.
Schneider would go into 2014-15, his second season with the team, as the unquestioned #1 when the team elected not to re-sign Brodeur despite his desire to continue playing. As the now unchallenged #1, Schneider posted an even better .925 save percentage in 69 contests (68 starts) although this effort would be for naught as the Devils only won 26 games.
Let that sink in for a second there.
A .925, better than both Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid’s SV% from a historic season where the Devils won 52 games. And the team in front of Schneider could only muster half of the wins. How is that even possible?
Well, when you look at this and the picture below from Cory’s first season in New Jersey, it’s not really surprising.
See as we all have the power of hindsight where we are now, we could maybe say that the Devils making a move to acquire Schneider was a mistake. While Lou Lamoriello didn’t want to admit it (and would step down in the Spring of 2015 possibly as a result), the Devils needed to rebuild. Players who were key cogs at the time had left, others were aging towards ineffectiveness, and other youngsters who were expected to become full time contributors just didn’t pan out. The Devils needed to start trading off players to acquire assets and while they would be better about that under Ray Shero, the fruits of being bad wouldn’t be ready until Tom Fitzgerald took over.
But what of Cory Schneider, the man whom this article is about? Well, some would say that the reason the Devils didn’t truly bottom out during those early-mid 2010s was because of Cory. On a truly awful stretch of Devils teams, Schneider was the bright beacon who had us believing that maybe we only needed the attempted retool and not a full rebuild after all. His 2015-16 was stellar as well, with a .924 SV%, while he had a down year with a .908 in 2016-17 in his 60 appearances. From there, injuries truly began to take their toll, as Schneider would only make 79 appearances across the next three seasons in New Jersey. His save percentage continued to creep down before bottoming out in 2019-20 at .887. His tenure with the team would ender in a whimper when the Devils placed Schneider on waivers for purpose of a buy out on October 8, 2020.
While things didn’t end the way anybody wanted them to, Schneider deserves to be celebrated for what he did while wearing the red and black. He was a good soldier for a long period of time playing behind some absolute stinkers of Devils teams. It also wasn’t his choice to join a rebuilding team while in the prime of his career and posting some of the best stats in the NHL at the time, despite the team being pretty much a disaster on ice. Had Cory in his prime been behind a roster such as the Devils one from last season, there’s no telling how far that group could’ve gone.
So thank you Cory Schneider for being a player worth watching even when the squad as a whole wasn’t exactly the best product on ice. Best of luck in retirement!
What are your favorite memories of Cory Schneider as a Devil? Were you one of the fans who was happy when the Devils acquired him? Do you think the Devils wasted his prime, or are you happy he was here when the rest of the team wasn’t as entertaining as he was? Leave any and all thoughts below and thanks as always for reading!