June 22, 2010
But with a schedule release and a Hall of Fame announcement and a coaching change and a big trade and a free-agent signing and a free-agent farewell, Niedermayer's announcement was low-key and efficient, but memorable.
In other words, completely in keeping with the rest of his NHL career.
Here are five things we'll remember about Scott Niedermayer. Well, six if you count the salt-and-pepper classic on the right.
1. The Silver and Gold
Niedermayer, 36, was one of the most successful athletes of the last two decades. He's the only player in hockey history to have won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Championship, World Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior title. He's the only player in hockey history to have won four Stanley Cups and two gold medals.
Since he was 19 years old, he missed the Stanley Cup playoffs twice, including this year.
So yeah, he was a winner.
2. The Blue Line Glide
Niedermayer often looked like a defenseman with unparalleled skating ability, and he made it look effortless. That carried over to the power play, where Niedermayer's command on the point was glorious: That smooth skating and puck control near the blue line; the way he'd sail against the current while the other players prepared for either a pass or a shot. His influence can be seen in the way players like Mike Green(notes) help run the power play. He didn't reinvent the wheel; he just showed how smoothly it could ride.
3. The Untapped, and Trapped, Legacy
Niedermayer finished his career with 740 points, which Paul Coffey had amassed by the time he was 26. But Coffey wasn't a blue-liner for the defense-first Devils in the 1990s; and his best years weren't played during the trap era, either.
Niedermayer's were, and there's going to always be a "what if?" aspect to his career numbers -- especially when he posted the two best offensive years of his career after leaving the Devils and after the lockout. He's an elite, legend-for-his-era defenseman; what would his stats have looked like in a different era?
4. The Devils Defense
Untapped potential aside, Niedermayer was also an essential part of one of the best defensive teams of the last 20 years. As he said in his press conference Tuesday:
When I started my career in New Jersey, I was lucky to join a distinguished group of defensemen - Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, Viacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Bruce Driver and Tommy Albelin. It was an amazing group that taught me a lot and helped me the transition into the NHL.
Eventually, Brian Rafalski(notes) joined that core group of Stevens, Niedermayer and Daneyko; the foursome was the foundation, along with Marty Brodeur, for Cup teams in 2000 and 2003. There were times when Niedermayer was in Stevens' shadow. But he was an essential part of the group, eventually its leader and the Devils have never been able to replace him.
5. Finally, The Goal Against Detroit
There were more important tallies for the Devils in their history. John MacLean in 1988. Jason Arnott(notes) in 2000. But as a 21-year-old in Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals at the Detroit Red Wings, Niedermayer helped the team on its way to a sweep with this calling-card tally on a brilliant end-to-end rush.
Fare thee well, Nieds. May there never again be a trade rumor linking you to the Canucks because you were from B.C.