The Devils announced on July 30 that the team had come to terms on a new, long-term contract with defenseman Andy Greene. As per team policy, terms were not disclosed right away. Greene, the 31-year-old Devils’ stalwart from Trenton, Michigan (who will turn 32 on October 30) will anchor a defense corps that is getting much younger, as players like Adam Larsson and Jon Merrill are expected to make the team, while Eric Gelinas (a restricted free agent), if he does not sign elsewhere, would also be expected to be a member of the big club come October. Greene’s leadership, he was named the winner of the Unsung Hero award by his teammates in 2013-14 for the second time in five seasons, should be a great fit with the young players he will be playing alongside for the next few season.
You also have to look to Greene as a future team captain. The Devils have historically looked to their defense for their captains (think Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Bruce Driver and current captain Bryce Salvador) and it is clear that Greene is being groomed for that spot once Salvador retires or otherwise leaves the team. Greene has the tenure and has proven himself to be a great leader. With this new longer-term contract, that is likely where he is headed.
Greene is a guy right out of Lou Lamoriello’s Devils mold. He played NCAA hockey for Miami University of Ohio (of the CCHA) for four seasons from 2002-03 to 2005-06. Some of his college honors include being named to the 2003 CCHA All-Rookie Team, the 2004, 2005 and 2006 CCHA First All-Star Teams, the 2004, 2005 and 2006 CCHA All-Tournament Teams. He was named the 2006 Offensive Defenseman of the Year (skills he showed more and more of last season for the Devils), 2006 Defensive Defenseman of the Year and was a member of the 2005 NCAA West Second All-American Team and the 2006 NCAA West First All-American Team. He went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Devils on April 4, 2006. He was assigned to the Lowell Devils of the AHL and was an All-Star in 2006-07. He made his National Hockey League debut with the Devils on January 12, 2007. He represented Team USA in the 2010 World Championships, where he had two assists in six games played. As Lamoriello said in a press release issued by the Devils on the subject: “As a senior member of the Devils’ defense, we consider Andy Greene one of the core players on our roster. We look forward to Andy being with our organization on a long-term basis.”
In Greene’s eighth NHL season last year, he put up some impressive offensive numbers, finishing second on the Devils defense with 32 points. He had eight goals and, most importantly had 13 power play points. In 477 games with the Devils over his entire NHL career, Greene has 28 goals, 121 assists and 149 points total to go along with 154 PIMs. He has appeared in 147 straight games since March 6, 2012 and has played in more games for the organization than any other current Devils’ defenseman.
His emerging offensive output cannot be overlooked either, especially on the power play and in overtime and late in games (think his late-game heroics in Boston and Washington last year). As Devils MSG Plus analyst Ken Daneyko has pointed out on broadcasts, Greene is learning exactly when to pinch in and when to play it safe. His hockey sense allows him to know exactly when to move into the offensive play and it has paid dividends for him on the stat sheet. This is the kind of thing that Greene can help a young defenseman such as Larsson or Merrill with and make the entire team better as a whole. Add to the fact that the Devils still have one of the best defensemen ever coaching with them in Hall of Famer Scott Stevens; Greene looks to be stepping into a great situation both for himself and for the team.
While his familiar number “6” has been patrolling the Devils blueline for almost a decade, Greene has gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the NHL and the hockey world. He was passed up for a spot on the US Olympic team this past winter in Sochi, having not even been invited to the team’s camp last summer. This was a move that was largely derided by Devils fans and media who follow the team on a daily basis. But with a more offensively infused game allowing him to show up on the highlight shows a little more often, he has been turning heads. While still playing a solid defensive game, Greene has slowly worked his way towards being recognized in a league that seems to put highlight reel goals and offense way above the guys who work hard defensively and quietly get the job done.
While his newly shown offensive skills are a bonus, it is Greene’s defense and his leadership that are most appealing to the Devils and the reason that they signed Greene to a long-term deal. Andy Greene might never get his true due as an NHL All-Star or a Norris Trophy winner (which all too often goes to the defenseman with the most offensive points and not the best overall defenseman in the league), but he will just keep doing what he does best with the Devils and that is making the strong defensive plays and knowing just when to join the offense and pick his spots. His two-way abilities make him the ideal special teams player: someone who can anchor the power play with another player like Gelinas at the points and a great penalty killer. Greene’s ability to stay healthy, as shown by his iron man streak and his total number of games played also give him added value.
He may get lost in the shuffle nationally, but here in New Jersey, fans know that Andy Greene is worth every penny of his new contract.