The Franchise Best Series comes to you to dive into the all-time best single season for every organization. This, of course, includes post-season results. Join us for a look back at some of the most memorable moments in each franchise’s history. Here is the New Jersey Devils best season.
The New Jersey Devils 1999-2000 season saw the team win their second Stanley Cup behind a star-studded roster. Three of the team’s players would eventually make it to the Hall of Fame and it could be argued that at least two others are deserving of the accolade.
New Jersey Devils 1999-2000 Season
Previous Year and Off-Season Additions
In 1998-99, the Devils finished first in their division, for the third year in a row. They were one of the strongest teams in the league but were upset in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was their third year falling short in the playoffs, continuing a very disappointing streak for New Jersey.
To turn things around, the Devils made a handful of deals in the off-season, though only two ended up having any importance. They dealt a fourth-round pick in the 1999 NHL Draft to the New York Islanders for Sergei Nemchinov. Nemchinov would go on to play in 53 games and have an admirable 26 points in the next season.
The more pressing trade, though, was the one that brought back Devils legend Claude Lemieux. Lemieux had played five years in New Jersey between 1990 and 1995. In that gap, he played 353 games and registered 259 points. He was also the hero of the 1995 Cup Run, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. The team brought him back for the 1999-2000 season after dealing away Brian Rolston and a first-round pick in the 2000 NHL Draft to the Colorado Avalanche. Lemieux went on to score 38 points in 70 games in the 1999-2000 season. It was also his last with the Devils.
Rookie of the Year
The biggest storyline of the regular season was Scott Gomez. The 1999-2000 season was his rookie year and he dominated the league. So much so that he would win the Calder Trophy, as the NHL’s best rookie, at the end of the year. In the 1999-00 season, Gomez ranked second on the team in scoring, only two points behind leading scorer Patrik Elias. In 82 games, Gomez had 19 goals and 51 assists totalling for 70 points. He wouldn’t match these numbers again until the 2003-04 season when he had 14 goals and 56 assists. The following season he was finally able to score more than 70 points. He netted 33 goals and 51 assists for 84 points, his career high.
Best Goalie Ever
Martin Brodeur also had an amazing year in 1999-2000. He had a career-high 43 wins, with a record of 43-20-8. He also had a save percentage of .910 and a goals-against-average of 2.24. Brodeur was almost exclusively in net for the Devils this year. He has been argued as one of the best goalies in league history and this season was another in a long line of outstanding years.
The reason this season is remembered in Devils history is due to their ability to score. The team ranked highest in power-play percentage, with just over 20 percent, and was an offensive powerhouse. Elias, Gomez, Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott were the team’s top four scorers and split time as the team’s top line. They totalled 266 points, 101 of those being goals. They were simply a force to be reckoned with. This is on top of the fact that the team had, arguably, the best goalie in the league and one of the best defensive groupings in years.
The Devils of this era were known for the neutral zone trap. While the team continued to play that system, it is important to note how it also led to offense. The Devils created turnovers in the neutral zone or defensive zone and quickly transitioned up the ice. In 1999-2000 the team scored 251 goals in the regular season. This was the highest total in the Eastern Conference, and second highest in the NHL.
The team’s top scorers were the aforementioned Gomez and Elias. At the age of only 23, Elias averaged a point-per-game with his 72 points in 72 games. He was easily the best player on the Devils and one of the best in the league. He only solidified this fact when he led the Devils in scoring the following year with 96 points, a career high.
The Devils didn’t make many notable trades during the year. They dealt away Vadim Sharifijinov (20 GP, 7 P) and brought in Deron Quint (4 GP, 1 P).
Easily the best on-ice addition the team made, though, was the addition of Vladimir Malakhov. The 31-year-old defenseman was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens. He only managed to play 17 games and scored five points before the regular season ended. In the playoffs, he matched his five points in 23 games. He was not a star player by any means but was the best that New Jersey brought in during the campaign. He helped solidify the defensive corps for the long grind to Lord Stanley.
Off the ice, things changed with just eight games left in the season. Lou Lamoriello made the shocking move of firing head coach Robbie Ftorek. Named as his replacement was Larry Robinson. Robinson would go 4-4-0 in his his first couple of weeks as head coach. Many fans and analysts wondered how a team would perform given the sudden and suprising coaching change.
The playoffs saw a burst of scoring from Arnott. He tied Elias for the leading scorer in the playoffs with 20 points in the 23 games played. Sykora was also a strong playoff performer with 17 points.
The team’s best playoff performer was Scott Stevens, though. The team captain only scored 29 points in 78 games during the regular season but blew up in the playoffs with 11 points in 23 games. Add in his stellar defensive work and Stevens was given the Conn Smythe Trophy as Playoff MVP.
The end result was one that the team was reaching for the past four years. They finally won the Stanley Cup, after four seasons of being one of the best teams in the league, the Devils finally lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They swept the Florida Panthers in the first round; disposed of the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games in round two; beat the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the Conference Final, and defeated the defending Cup Champs, the Dallas Stars in a six-game Stanley Cup Final. Arnott scored the cup winning goal in double overtime of game six.
The 1999-00 Devils were a legendary team in every aspect of the game. They had an amazing goal-scoring duo in the form of Elias and Sykora, great playmakers in Gomez and Arnott, a starting goalie that is one of the best in history and star defence with Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko. After a few years of failing in the playoffs, the strong Devils team finally won their second Stanley Cup in the 2000 playoffs.