The New Jersey Devils 2015-16 season is long over. The locker room was cleaned out months ago and the players are engulfed in their offseason routines. But as fans look forward to next year, there is no denying that the 2015-16 season symbolized a milestone for the franchise. It previewed the future and displayed that the team was evolving as well as embracing a new era. Last season may not jump out to the average hockey fan as special. However, for the Devils’ faithful, there were plenty of memorable moments that they will not soon forget.
5. Introducing Ray Shero and John Hynes
It would be safe the say that when Ray Shero was announced as New Jersey’s new general manager, fans felt a wave of whiplash. Former general manager Lou Lamoriello was synonymous with the franchise. Nevertheless, the feeling around the team was beginning to stale and change was almost guaranteed. Shero had his own thoughts about the Devils and where he wanted to see the team go, which was readily apparent when he provided a dose of revitalization by hiring John Hynes has head coach.
Prior to his introduction, many New Jersey fans did not know much about Hynes. As time went on though, the more they heard, the more they liked. He was an innovator. Someone who did not make excuses and believed in hard work. Hynes saw what he had, and built a game plan around players’ strengths. The team faced adversity and went through plenty of ups and downs but the season never completely unraveled and Hynes deserves credit for that.
For some teams, having a 30-goal scorer on its roster is second nature. At one time, the Devils were in that category. But it has been well documented over the last several seasons that New Jersey has been offensively challenged when it comes to scoring. Even last year, 30-goals seemed like a steep ask, especially when the team lost one of its top players, forward Michael Cammalleri, to an injury. However, forwards Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri prevailed. Both players achieved the career milestone during the final game of the season.
While 30-goals is a terrific individual stat for both Palmieri and Henrique, it also boosts the team. The Devils desperately need more offense and having two of the team’s core players reach that milestone provides confidence going into next season. It places Henrique and Palmieri into a different class of players and after their performances last year, both are highly deserving of that distinction.
3. The Hudson River Rivalry
The rivalry between the New York Rangers and Devils goes far beyond the ice and reaches well into the stands. The match-up is not only a 4-point victory, it also offers bragging rights. New Jersey’s dismal 2014-15 season was capped by a New York series sweep over the Devils. Nevertheless, New Jersey got back on track last year and won the season series 3-1 and in many cases played some of their best hockey. From forward Sergey Kalinin’s Gordie Howe hat trick, to the Devils’ first victory of the year, the rivalry delivered positive memories for New Jersey fans.
2. The Elias Show
There are many words fans would use to describe lifelong Devil, forward Patrik Elias. Skilled, elite, loyal and iconic are just a few. But dramatic may not have immediately come to mind. At least that was the case prior to New Jersey’s final game of the season. After missing the majority of the year due to a lingering knee injury, fans were not sure if they would see Elias play again. But with his future undetermined, Elias returned to play in front of the home crowd in New Jersey’s season finale. The fans chanted and the energy around Elias was one of pure excitement. He played a strong game and the Devils wrapped their season with the victory.
Nevertheless, all New Jersey fans truly wanted to hear was the goal horn and Elias’ name being announced. Just like countless times before, number 26 did not disappoint and delivered with just 15.9 seconds left in the game. It was the final goal of the season and it may have been the most memorable.
1. Brodeur’s Homecoming
Feb. 9, 2016 is not a day that many Devils fans will soon forget. New Jersey walked away with a 2-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in Connor McDavid’s Prudential Center debut. However, it was the pregame ceremony that had fans on their feet and some wiping tears from their eyes.
The familiar “Marty” chant rang out as former Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur’s number 30 rose up into the rafters. Brodeur was more than a goalie to New Jersey and fans wanted to say thank you. His jersey retirement ceremony provided speeches from old teammates, and was led by former Devils television announcer Doc Emrick. However, Brodeur again stole the show as he exuded emotion and sincerity. The ceremony officially closed an unforgettable era and legendary career.