took home team MVP honors on Thursday, when the Devils handed out their awards voted on by the players. Travis Zajac
was named the Devis’ Unsung Hero and Johan Hedberg
earned the Players’ Player.
It’s the second MVP selection for Elias, who shared it with Martin Brodeur
Elias leads the Devils with 61 points. On Wednesday he reached the 20-goal plateau for the ninth time in 13 full seasons. He recorded his eighth career hat trick last Friday against Philadelphia and his five game winners are second only to Ilya Kovalchuk
The Devils’ all-time leading scorer, Elias accepted the award from assistant coach Larry Robinson.
“Thanks to my teammates for this great honor,” Elias said. “It’s always appreciated and it means a lot to me even after all these years. As everybody mentioned, it’s been a disappointing season to all of us because we haven’t reached our goals, but what we’ve done in the second half is pretty impressive.”
The Devils were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday, and will miss the postseason for the first time since 1996. But Elias was brimming with optimism for next year.
“We have a lot of talented guys here, young guys that I think are becoming the fans’ favorite like Teddy [Mattias Tedenby
], who’s an exciting player to watch,” Elias said. “Jacob [Josefson] – it’s a credit to all these young guys, Mark Fayne
stepping up in a tough situation. I think we have something to look forward to for next year.”
Zajac has centered the Devils’ top line with Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri. With 13 goals and 30 assists, he surpassed 40 points for the fourth time in five NHL seasons, and leads the team with 696 faceoff victories.
“I’d just like to thank the players for their support in voting me for this award,” Zajac said. “There’s a lot of heart and souls on this team who could be up here, standing here, who deserve this award as much as me.”
Hedberg joined the Devils last summer to backup Martin Brodeur
. He’s been much more than that, though, backstopping New Jersey with a 14-12-2 record, 2.39 goals-against average and three shutouts.
“I’m very honored to win this prize, it means a lot to me,” Hedberg said. “It’s been a fun year. It’s a great bunch of guys, and unfortunately, we couldn’t reach the goal we had set up for ourselves. But there’s always a next year. This organization is going to be back where it belongs.”
Jacques Lemaire opened the ceremony with some levity, though he wouldn’t confirm his plans for next season.
“The question I have the most is if I’ll come back next year,” Lemaire told the attending season ticket holders. “Thank you for your concern. The only thing is, my wife is asking me if I’m coming back and I’m wondering if there’s too much coaching at home. So I could be in trouble.”
Or did he?
“I didn’t give you the answer for next year. The answer is I will be back,” Lemaire said, eliciting loud cheers before he continued: “I just don’t know what time.”
The coach thanked the coaching staff “for being able to live with me for this amount of days. I know it was painful, but keep going you guys. Be patient.”
He thanked the players, too.
“The group that is in front of you, to make me look good as a coach, thank you guys for the effort,” he said. “Thank you.”Late Robert Sullo named recipient of 2011 McMullen Award
Robert Sullo of Hazlet, NJ, was posthumously named the recipient of the 2011 Service to New Jersey Hockey Award.
Sullo, who passed away on February 21 following a battle with cancer, served for 20 years as the commissioner of the New Jersey Youth Hockey League (NJYHL) and as director of the Atlantic District of USA Hockey.
The award is named for the late Dr. John J. McMullen, who brought professional ice hockey to the Garden State in 1982. It has been presented annually since 1984 by the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils to an individual or individuals who have supported amateur hockey throughout the state.