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Monday, June 9
Updated: June 10, 1:34 AM ET
Smart Devils should continue to prosper
By Terry Frei
Special to ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Devils represent neither a dynasty nor domination. Rather, their success -- three Stanley Cup celebrations in nine seasons -- involves a consistency of excellence over a span of a decade, and a financial approach that at least stops slightly short of the relative free spending of such franchises as Detroit, Dallas, Colorado and the (hated) Rangers. Whether to pay homage to their nickname or otherwise, the Devils also frequently bore the hell out of us, and they haven't even become automatic sellouts in the Meadowlands. General manager Lou Lamoriello fires coaches more often than his players change cars, and given the buy-and-trade practices of young millionaires, that's often. But the Devils win, including under the latest soon-to-be-ex-Devils coach, Pat Burns, and how can we argue with that? Especially given the Devils' semi-restrained financial approach -- which often is overstated to the point of ridiculousness -- it all adds up to the inescapable conclusion that Lamoriello, the one-time Providence University athletic director, is the best general manager in the NHL. And that means the Devils aren't disappearing from the ranks of the elite any time soon. In fact, if the next collective bargaining agreement involves anything from a "hard" salary cap to a luxury tax that makes extravagance doubly expensive, in effect, that can only play into Lamoriello's strength. And that's the savvy use of resources in the context of the league's times, taking such ineffable concepts as chemistry and character into consideration. Plus, Martin Brodeur isn't going anywhere. "I think it's important to know that it's not over for us, and we are going to try to build on this," Brodeur said late Monday night, after the Game 7 victory over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in Continental Airlines Arena. "I think we have a great bunch of guys. We have a great organization. We have a lot of young guys that are going to come up, like the one right beside me (Michael Rupp) who scored a big goal for us tonight. We hope that we are going to continue that. "Ten years, 20 years down the road, people will look back on what we have accomplished and they will say if they feel we deserve to be a dynasty or not. Right now, I don't think (it) is the time to call ourselves a dynasty." At age 31, Brodeur has this celebration business down pat -- or should that be, he has it down Patrick. With three championships to his credit, he now is only one behind Patrick Roy, and that's just one of the benchmarks and records established by the recently retired Colorado goaltender Brodeur will be chasing. After the game Monday night, in the Devils' dressing room, Brodeur trudged in -- whenever you're still wearing your pads, you trudge -- and climbed on the risers to do a brief interview with Canadian television. A little photographer was snapping away with his camera. It was Denis Brodeur, the former Canadiens' team photographer who once took photos of Roy in his Montreal uniform and glory. He is Martin's dad too. Martin Brodeur turned around and, with tongue in cheek (well, maybe) hollered, "Isn't there anything to drink? Didn't we just win something?" And within minutes, Martin was carrying a champagne bottle, as well as taking puffs from a cigar, which, of course, violated the anti-smoking rules of the building. But nobody complained. The funny thing about all of this is that the Devils were in a potentially perilous position going into Game 7, and the judgments of their nine-season run were hanging in the balance. If they won, they were the team that equaled the Red Wings' three championships over nine seasons. If they lost, they were in danger of being remembered as the team that twice in three seasons blew 3-2 leads in the finals. Now, the Devils are able to talk about what might have been if they hadn't let the 2001 championship get away, when Colorado won the final two games -- Game 6 at New Jersey and the Game 7 at Denver. Sometimes, we overlook the fact that failures can provide impetus, and that it's folly to assume that everything that followed would have followed in any case. But, yes, it's interesting to ponder the Devils' place in history if they had won four times since 1995. That's not Islanders or Oilers or Canadiens territory, but in this age of far more drastic player movement and what amounts to self-imposed financial constraints (such as they are), four times in nine seasons would be remarkable. "We had a great opportunity in 2001, and we didn't come through," said Brodeur. "I don't think we'll forget about that. Definitely, it's nice to be able to go back to winning ways and define our club as a great organization. But I still think that's something we wish we could have had.'' But three championship in nine seasons? In this era, and especially because it comes within a 15-minute drive (in slack traffic times) of the blank-check Rangers, and because it involves considerable roster evolution, that's what passes for dynastic. Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His book, Simon and Schuster's "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming," is available nationwide.