Devils Goaltending Legacy Runs Deep

The Devils announced today (June 22) that they had re-signed goaltender Scott Wedgewood to a two-year, two-way contract. The 22 year-old Etobicoke, Ontario native is in his fourth season of pro hockey, having started in 2012-13 with the ECHL’s Trenton Titans after being drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft (84th overall). After playing 48 games for Trenton in 2012-13, going 20-22-5 with a .900 save percentage and a 3.22 goals against average and one shutout, he moved up to the Albany Devils of the AHL where he has gone 31-30-9 in 77 career games over three years. With the A-Devils, he has six shutouts and a 2.62 goals against average.

Wedgewood and his fellow goalie in the Devils system, including Keith Kinkaid and Cory Schneider are the heirs to a great tradition within the Devils’ organization when it comes to goalies.

The Devils’ netminding tradition goes back to the franchise’s earliest days when Glenn “Chico” Resch was the face of the team upon its arrival in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chico had already gained a following in the New York metropolitan area while playing for the New York Islanders, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 1980. He would go on to play three full seasons and part of a fourth with the Devils, appearing in 198 games with the team, netting 49 wins against 113 losses. He was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers on March 11, 1986, the first and last deal the two rivals have ever made with each other. Chico would go on to become a successful broadcaster for the Devils for many years and his enthusiasm and passion for the team were well known, making him a beloved figure to a new generation of Devils fans.

The next great Devils goalie was a draftee of the franchise (2nd round/24th overall in the 1985 Entry Draft) who made an immediate impact upon his joining the team in late 1988: Sean Burke. Burke joined the Devils after leading the Canadian Men’s Olympic team to a fourth place finish on home ice in Calgary at the 1988 Winter Olympics. He would go 10-1-0 down the stretch for the Devils in leading them to a final Patrick Division playoff spot, a spot they famously clinched with an overtime win at Chicago Stadium against the Blackhawks on the final day of the season. Down that final stretch of games, he had a .883 save percentage and a 3.05 goals against average with one shutout. He would lead the Devils all the way to game seven of the Wales Conference Finals that playoff, ousting the Islanders and Capitals en route to the team’s only Patrick Division Playoff championship. In total, he would spend parts of four seasons with the Devils, going 62-66-23 posting a .876 save percentage and a 3.65 goals against average. He would end up with a very solid NHL career, playing 22 seasons with Hartford/Carolina, Phoenix, Florida, two stints with Philly, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Vancouver in addition to the Devils.

In the time between the Sean Burke era and the emergence of Martin Brodeur, the Devils got solid goaltending from such capable backstops as Chris Terreri (the Devils’ current goaltending coach, drafted by the Devils 5th round/85th overall in 1983) and Craig Billington (currently the assistant General Manager with the Colorado Avalanche, drafted by the Devils in the 2nd round/23rd overall in 1984). Other Devils goalies of note include fan favorite Johan “Moose” Hedberg (the current goaltending coach in Albany), Kevin Weekes (currently an analyst for the NHL Network) and Corey Schwab (who was drafted by New Jersey and had two stints as a Devil).

The success of Martin Brodeur in New Jersey is well documented. He not only set the standard for the franchise for more than two decades, but also for the entire NHL. Behind Marty was Jacques Caron, the Devils goaltending coach for most of Brodeur’s tenure with the team. He was to Marty what Francois Allaire was to Patrick Roy during his time with the Canadiens. Although Caron had a NHL career that lasted only five years and 72 games (with the Kings, Blues and Canucks), as well as a WHA career that lasted two years and 26 games (with the Cleveland Crusaders and the Cincinnati Stingers), his legacy will be as a coach to one of the all-time great NHL goalies.

When it became clear that Brodeur’s career with the Devils was winding down, the team did something that it rarely does when it comes to goalies: it looked outside the organization for Marty’s heir apparent. Acquired in a 2013 Draft day trade with the Vancouver Canucks, Cory Schneider is the future for the Devils. After struggling for playing time behind Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and then behind Brodeur in his first season in New Jersey, Schneider has really flourished when given the opportunity. He is the man that the Devils will be built on going forward and he has more than held up his end of the bargain. In his first season as the Devils undisputed number one, Schneider played in 69 games, going 26-31-9 behind a young defensive corps and an aging forward group. He had a .925 save percentage and a 2.26 goals against average with five shutouts. He was a workhorse with 3,926 minutes played and some even believe that he could have been in the running for a Vezina Trophy nomination had the Devils been a better and/or playoff team.

With a goaltending legacy that stands with the best the game has to offer, the tradition continues going forward. The masked faces of Devils goalies have often been the faces of the franchise throughout the team’s history. With guys like Cory Schneider, Keith Kinkaid and Scott Wedgewood leading the charge into the future, New Jersey’s legendary goaltending is in good hands.