The NHL game has changed over the years, no doubt about it, but often we see players that remind us of a player from back in the day. If you’ve watched the New Jersey Devils at all over the past two or three seasons chances are you said to your buddy: Blake Coleman reminds me of John Madden. Or Kyle Palmieri reminds me of Jamie Langenbrunner. Guess what? You’re not too far off.
Both of those former Devils are Stanley Cup champions. Their names are on the Stanley Cup multiple times in fact. So let’s not confuse this as us saying that Coleman and Palmieri are on that level just yet, but there are aspects of their individual games that are very similar. Mainly it’s Coleman’s speed and prowess on the penalty kill and Palmieri’s ability to pump in goals in bunches and goals on the power play. IF the Devils become a Stanley Cup contender again in the near future, these two will likely be key cogs of that group.
Mad Dog Coleman
Over the last season and a half, while he has been with New Jersey, Coleman leads all Devils with five shorthanded goals and he’d be the first to tell you he should probably have more. His speed and tenacity on the penalty kill have earned him the right to be on the team’s top forward pair, and it’s also earned him what seems to be at least one breakaway opportunity every other game.
This season has been even better than last season for the pickle juice drinking Texas native. In 79 games last season Coleman finished with 25 points (13g-12a). This season through 46 games he already has 27 points (17g-10a) and is currently on a career high five-game point streak. “You saw him building towards this last year. The confidence he plays with,” Palmieri said when asked about Coleman’s rapid improvement.
“He kind of has that swagger about him, there are not many guys that can go out on the penalty kill, get as many chances as he does. A lot of times (on the penalty kill) you’re just going out there and you’re just making sure you’re getting pucks down into their end and keeping them out of your net.”
“He finds a way to give us momentum off penalty kills and he’s a guy who plays in the hard areas and goes to where the goals are scored,” added Palmieri. “It’s awesome to see him get rewarded for that.”
Madden had 17 shorthanded goals in his Devils career, nine of which came in his first two full seasons in the NHL. Madden’s partner on the PK back in the day was Jay Pandolfo, who wore no. 20 for New Jersey, which coincidentally is Coleman’s number. Madden also had seven game-winning goals over his first two campaigns and currently, Coleman has four, two in each season. Two times during his tenure in New Jersey Madden reached 20 goals (with a high of 23 in his second season). Coleman is sitting on 17 goals with 36 games remaining this season.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 16, 2019
Madden was also a face-off ace throughout his NHL career, and while he doesn’t take as many face-offs as he did in his rookie season, Coleman is certainly capable of winning face-offs and playing center if the Devils chose to implement him that way. If there is some way to hockey clone players, Coleman is about as close as it gets to cloning Madden. He’s also the prototypical player for how the Devils are trying to build their roster in the new era NHL.
“He’s really grown in his consistency and really understanding what his identity is,” coach John Hynes said of Coleman. “He’s a great example for a lot of young kids on our team and people in the organization where he spent some time in the AHL, he had an opportunity in the NHL and he really understood what his role is – and what his identity is as far as what he needs to be as a player. This year he hasn’t veered from it. He’s got some goals on breakaways, he’s established himself as an excellent penalty killer, and he’s put himself in position to play against the other team’s top line 5-on-5 which is going to increase your minutes.”
“It’s nice to see that a guy like that was developed in the organization. It’s a credit to the player too. There is development, but this is a guy that lives the right way, great physical fitness, and he’s very, very coachable; he’s willing to buy in and accept a role.”
Finding a Home in New Jersey
Palmieri, like Langenbrunner, began his career outside of New Jersey but both players realized their full potential their game once they joined the Devils via trade after a few seasons in Anaheim and Dallas respectively. Langenbrunner was already a Cup champion before the Stars dealt him away, but he hit the 20-goal plateau three times as a Devil after only doing it once in Dallas. 45 of his 67 career power-play goals came with the Devils and in three and a half seasons in red and black Palmieri already has 38 goals with the man advantage.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) January 15, 2019
“Pucks have found their way into the back of the net for me (this season),” Palmieri told The Hockey Writers following his team’s win over Chicago. “I want to keep going with that and try to stay healthy. We’re going to have to string some wins together to try to get back in the playoff picture.”
He is undoubtedly a part of New Jersey’s top-6 forwards now and for the foreseeable future, and his shot from the wing on the power play is a weapon that becomes even more lethal with Taylor Hall roaming around/attracting defenders. Hall has missed a sizeable chunk of games this season with injury and Palmieri has assumed the role of leading scorer and no. 1 threat.
The current Devils winger also has 18 game-winning goals since the trade before the 2015-16 season. While Langenbrunner topped out at 29 goals (2008-09) in a season with a career-high 69 points, Palmieri already has a 30-goal season (his first in New Jersey) when he had a career-high 57 points.
Palmieri and Coleman, along with Hall, Nico Hischier, Joey Anderson, Ty Smith, and Mackenzie Blackwood are the future core of this team at this moment and if they are lucky they will find a way to add a few more players like Palmieri via trade and Coleman via development. If the two 27-year-olds can one day bring a fourth Stanley Cup to New Jersey, they’ll be remembered just as fondly as Langenbrunner and Madden are.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.