With everything that Scott Niedermayer achieved in his Devils career, few had a better view than Martin Brodeur
Together they were part of a championship core that brought three Stanley Cups to New Jersey. Brodeur couldn’t be happier that Niedermayer’s No. 27 will be hoisted to the rafters Friday, when the Devils host Dallas.
“It’s a great day for the organization to be able to retire a jersey from a future Hall of Famer and a guy that did a lot of good things for this organization as far as his winning and paving the way for other players to be who they are,” Brodeur said Thursday. “I think it’s a great honor to have him in the rafters of our building.”
Niedermayer joins Scott Stevens (4) and Ken Daneyko (3) as the only Devils with retired numbers. For all of the Devils’ success, they have yet to take a forward’s number out of circulation.
“It shows where we’re coming from,” Brodeur said. “We built, or stabilized, the organization through defense. I think we’ve shown that in the years that we had a lot of success, as far as the way our defense scored, stayed together. You’re talking about three guys that played with each other for over 10 years. There’s not many organizations that can say that – that they had three defensemen that stayed that long together with that much success.”
All three d-men added something different. Stevens, a Hall of Famer, ranks among the greatest open-ice hitters the game has ever seen. Daneyko thrived on a gritty game in the trenches. Niedermayer’s style was speed and skill.
Put them together with Brodeur in net, and they were tough to beat.
“One was as hard-nosed as it gets, one was half way, and one was all offense, a skating, mobile defenseman,” said Brodeur. “It says a lot. If you could pinpoint a forward through these years, I think everybody would have a hard time to pin one down. But it’s easy to pin the defensemen. It’s just the way that we were built.”
Niedermayer's skill set was more than just blazing speed.
“You see other players in the League being able to skate, but it’s combination of reading the play, making the right decision and having that mobility that makes him so special,” Brodeur said. “A lot of guys could skate. Yeah, he’s special, he skates well, but I think it’s how he uses his speed, uses his mobility to come back into a play when he makes a mistake, or when he’s trying to push the offense, or it could be in overtime because he was a big threat and a good asset to have back there as far as carrying the puck and doing a lot of different things.
“He’s as good as it gets. There’s a lot of guys that could skate, but he was able to put it together and that’s what made him different than others.”
Brodeur even sees similarities between a young Niedermayer and Adam Larsson
, the 2011 fourth-overall pick who has quickly developed into an important part of this year’s club.
“Personality, you can see,” he said. “Just quiet guys. Skilled, there’s a lot of talent. I think not being scared of making mistakes. That’s what I tell [Larsson] all the time – it doesn’t matter if you turn the puck over. Just do what you need to do, and at the end everything’s going to come natural to him to make the right decision at the right time. Nieder was the same. He didn’t shy away from making what he thought was the right play.”
Now it’s Larsson’s turn to follow in the Devils’ proud defensive tradition.
“These are good examples for our kids coming up, with the Danos and the Scottys and Nieder,” Brodeur said. “That’s one of the things that I kind of told everybody: this is our history. This is an important day for the organization.”
Larsson will be one of many watching Friday’s ceremony at a packed Prudential Center. Niedermayer may not be known as a big talker, but when future Hall of Famers speak, people listen.
“You guys will be impressed with the way he conducts himself,” Brodeur said. “He’s a quiet guy but he cares about what’s going to happen. I talked to him a few times when we were in L. A., and I talked to him not long ago. He’s pretty excited, pretty nervous about what’s going to happen tomorrow. It’s nice to see.”