During the Devils’ recent nine game winning streak, Jamie Langenbrunner
picked up 10 assists. Coincidence?
Not when it comes to the efforts of the Devils’ new captain.
“There is not a lot of glitz to (my game); it is pretty much straight-forward, and that fits in with this coach,” Langenbrunner said. “Just make the right decisions. It’s the right way to play effective hockey.”
Brent Sutter certainly agrees and named Langenbrunner New Jersey’s new captain prior to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins last Wednesday.
“As you get older you realize more and more that the best leadership is always by example, and that’s what Jamie does,” Sutter said. “It’s just not a coincidence that with him in the lineup, things changed. There’s a reason why it has happened.”
Langenbrunner missed the first 17 games of the season after undergoing sports-hernia surgery. In 11 games this season, he has two goals and 10 assists. More importantly, the Devils got their game in order and won nine straight.
“Would it have helped us to have him in the lineup instead of sitting in the stands? Absolutely,” Sutter said. “But when a player is injured, you go to the game thinking; ‘How can I make myself better so when I do get back in there I help our team get better?’ It’s not just playing. It’s about mindset and helping them in the room and helping them prepare. It’s how you practice against them and compete against them. You’re always trying to make the other guy better, and that’s what Jamie does.”
Langenbrunner’s game certainly impressed Sutter, who waited until he was back in the lineup to make the decision official.
For his part, Langenbrunner said he was pleased with the honor but planned no changes in how he goes about his business.
"You're being honored by your peers and you're being honored by your organization," Langenbrunner said. "You're someone they're going to look to when things don't go so well, someone that's going to stand up for guys when something needs to be said, somebody that's going to lead by example by their play on the ice.
"I've tried to do that my whole career and I've been extremely fortunate to play, in my opinion, with some of the best leaders ever to play, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Guy Carbonneau and Kirk Muller. I've played with a lot of guys who have worn the 'C' and done an extremely good job with it. I'll try to pick a bit from each of them and do what I can."
Langenbrunner's teammates said it was a good choice.
"I could read between the lines that there was going to be a change," Patrik Elias, New Jersey’s former captain, said. "If anyone deserves it out of the guys, it's Jamie or Jay Pandolfo because they've been here for a while and Jamie obviously has accomplished a lot. He has been on winning teams and he's a great player, a great guy in the locker room."
Langenbrunner filled a position that had been vacant since the start of the season. Elias was the captain last season, but made a change at the start of the season, opting for Elias, John Madden and Paul Martin as alternate captains. Sutter had said he would wait "until everyone gets healthy" to name a captain, a possible harbinger that he had Langenbrunner in mind.
Madden and Martin were designated as alternate captains. Sutter's plan is to rotate the alternate captaincy monthly.
"Patty and I have a pretty good relationship. We went to lunch today and I think everything is good," Langenbrunner said. "Obviously it's not perfect for him but I think, in a lot of ways, it's a little relief for him. He can just play the game again.”
Sutter hinted that the return of Langenbrunner and defenseman Colin White from those long-term injuries were big factors in the team’s turnabout.
”I think the important thing is that we've found our way, how we want to play a team game,” Sutter said. “We've had certain things that have taken place. We started the year without Colin White on defense, who can play on any team's top two defensemen. And we started without Langenbrunner, who is a top six forward. You know, when you get those guys back, it adds experience. … We're just taking it a game at a time. We're focusing on the team we're going to play, preparing to play them, we play within ourselves and do the things that give ourselves the best chance to succeed.”
Langenbrunner, 32, a native of Cloquet, Minn., is a 14-year NHL veteran who has won two Stanley Cups with the Devils and the Dallas Stars. He broke in with the 1994-95 Stars and won a Stanley Cup with them in 1999. Langenbrunner was traded March 19, 2002, to New Jersey by Dallas with Joe Nieuwendyk for Jason Arnott, Randy McKay and New Jersey's first-round draft pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He was a member of the Devils' 2003 Stanley Cup champions.
Langenbrunner has 169 goals and 277 assists for 446 points in 749 NHL games. He is plus-44 in his career and has collected 636 penalty minutes. He has 31 goals and 47 assists for 78 points in 123 Stanley Cup Playoff games.