During the offseason, The Hockey Writers will be doing a ten-part series on the success stories of the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils. Despite missing the postseason for the second consecutive spring, the Devils had a memorable season that they can build upon for the 2014-15 season. The ninth success story focuses on the longest tenured Devils defenseman, Andy Greene. The 31-year old was awarded the 2013-14 New Jersey Devils Unsung Hero Award, as voted on by the players, for his performance during the season.
Reliable: A Consistent Presence in Every Game
The only current players that have been with the organization longer than Greene are Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac. Since making his NHL debut on January 12, 2007 against the Atlanta Thrashers at the Continental Airlines Arena, Greene has established himself as one of the most consistent members of Jersey’s Team. He was the only defenseman and one of four players on the team in 2013-14 to have played in every game. In fact, in the previous two seasons and in three of the last four, he has appeared in every game. In 2013-14 he finished with 32 points, second amongst New Jersey defensemen behind Marek Zidlicky. His plus/minus of +3 was tied for second on the team, behind Jaromir Jagr’s staggering +16.
Greene’s eight goals during the season were a career high, eclipsing the six goals he scored in 2009-10. His first goal could not have come at a better time. The Devils had won just one of their opening ten games on the year and were winless in all seven road games. A trip to Boston against the defending Eastern Conference Champions could not have started worse with New Jersey ending the first period down 3-1.
They would enter the third period down by just one goal after Greene and Steve Bernier picked up the assists on Damien Brunner’s 4th goal of the season late in the second. With just over a minute remaining in regulation Zidlicky knotted the score at three and 22 seconds later Greene’s first goal of the season, the team’s fourth power-play goal of the game, would put the Devils ahead with 45 seconds to go. The defense would shut the door from there on out and New Jersey had their first road win after a thrilling comeback. With his first of four multi-point games during the season and a game-high 25:44 of ice-time, Greene was named the game’s First Star.
Respectable: A Leader at Both Ends of the Rink
From November 8 through November 12, Greene picked up an assist in three consecutive games. In the final game of the streak Greene had an assist on the first of two Ryan Carter goals against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. The Devils held on for a 3-2 win over their archrivals.
Two games later in a showdown at the Prudential Center against the Metropolitan-division leading Pittsburgh Penguins, Greene got the Devils on the board with a shot from the blue line that found its way past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Once again the leader in ice-time with 27:04, Greene finished with a +2 plus/minus and was named the Second Star of the Game.
Greene had a season-high five-game point streak from November 23 through November 30 in which he scored a goal and had five assists. It started with an assist at the San Jose Sharks and ended with the primary assist on Bernier’s overtime winner, the first overtime goal in his career. It was the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres.
Greene also had a pair of clutch overtime winners of his own during the 2013-14 season. On December 21, the Devils traveled down to Washington to take on the Capitals. One night earlier, Greene forced overtime with a power-play goal with 5:02 left but the Devils fell in the extra session to the Anaheim Ducks. Looking to get back in the win column, Zidlicky put the Devils on the board first. The Capitals responded with three goals in the second period, setting up the need for a rally in the final frame.
Jagr cut the deficit to one but Alexander Ovechkin responded to put Washington back up by two with 11:53 remaining. Zidlicky and Zajac scored for New Jersey to force overtime for the second consecutive night. This time, however, the result would be different.
Greene started a rush up the ice from the Devils own end with a pass to Elias. The Czech winger sent it over to his fellow countryman in Jagr. Jagr took the shot that net minder Braden Holtby initially stopped but the rebound went right to the man who started the play and Greene batted the puck into the net with his stick. Just like that the Devils rally was complete with a stunning 5-4 win. Greene was named the Third Star of the Game.
Relive Andy Greene’s Overtime Winner at the Capitals that finished an improbable rally:
Later in the season on March 20, the Devils hosted a former captain and his new squad as Zach Parise and the Minnesota Wild came to the Prudential Center. Greene got the secondary assist on the game’s opening goal by Michael Ryder. The Devils built up a 2-0 lead heading into the third period before Ryan Suter got Minnesota on the board 21 seconds in. Jagr put New Jersey up 3-1 but the Wild stormed back to force overtime.
Same place, same result. After a dazzling effort by Elias to get into the Wild zone, he centered a pass to Adam Henrique, who was at the foot of the crease. Henrique redirected the puck off goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov but it bounced right to an open Greene. With the puck on his stick and a wide open net, Greene sent the crowd home smiling with a 4-3 victory over their former teammate turned foe. He was also named the First Star of the Game and his 21:45 of ice time was second on the team, behind Henrique’s 22:18.
Enjoy Andy Greene’s Overtime Winner at the Rock against the Wild:
Responsible: A Coach’s Dream
Entering his contract year after signing a four-year contract worth $12 million in the summer of 2011, Greene has continued to be consistent and reliable on the blue line. Coach Peter DeBoer spoke words of praise at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season. As reported by Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger, “Andy Greene and the season he had. I thought he was outstanding. Arguably, he might’ve been our MVP in my mind for how he played every night, the amount of minutes and what we asked him to do.”
Greene played at least 21 minutes in every game this season except one, the 2014 Coors Light Stadium Series match-up with the Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Yet regardless of how many minutes he is on the ice, he is always responsible with the puck. Prior to the Olympic break this season, DeBoer stated, “He’s not a flashy, end-to-end defenseman like a (Erik) Karlsson in Ottawa or something like that, but we’ll watch a whole game back and Andy Greene won’t make a mistake with the puck. He’ll make the right decision every time. He’ll always be in the right position. That’s a rare quality to have that type of consistency in your game. And coaches love that, obviously.”
Greene went on to win the Unsung Player Award for the 2013-14 season. With the youth movement well underway in Newark and a deep pipeline of prospects in Albany and beyond, Greene will be counted upon to be a leader in 2014-15. After another successful season behind him, 2014-15 will not be different for the soon to be 32-year old, who still has quite a few years left in his skates.