Kansas City and Colorado
In 1972, the NHL announced plans to add two expansion teams, including one in Kansas City, Missouri owned by a group headed by Edwin G. Thompson. The new team was nicknamed the Scouts in reference to Cyrus E. Dallin's statue of the same name which stands in that city's Penn Valley Park. In the team's inaugural season, 1974–75, the Scouts were forced to wait until the ninth game to play in Kansas City's Kemper Arena, and did not post a win until beating the Washington Capitals, their expansion brethren, in their tenth contest. With 41 points in their inaugural season, the Scouts finished last in the Smythe Division; only the Capitals had fewer points in the NHL. Kansas City fell to 36 points the following season, and had a 27-game win-less streak, three short of the NHL record, which was set when the 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets went 30 games without a win. The Scouts had difficulty drawing fans to home games, and National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) leader Alan Eagleson publicly expressed concerns about whether Scouts players would be paid.
Logo of the Kansas City Scouts. The franchise was located in Kansas City from 1974 to 1976.
After two seasons in Kansas City, the franchise moved to Denver and was renamed the Colorado Rockies it played at the McNichols Sports Arena. The team won its first game as the Rockies, 4–2, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rockies were in position to qualify for the playoffs 60 games into the 1976–77 season, but a streak of 18 games without a win caused them to fall from contention. The Rockies ended the campaign last in the division with a 20–46–14 record and 54 points, and improved to 59 points the next season. Despite having the sixth-worst record in the League, the Rockies beat-out the Vancouver Canucks for second in the Division by two points and gained a playoff berth. The Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Rockies from the playoffs in the Preliminary Round.
A lack of stability continually plagued the team. In their first eight years, the Scouts/Rockies went through ten coaches, none lasting two full seasons.
The franchise never won more than 22 games and did not return to the playoffs after 1977–78 in its six seasons in Colorado. Prior to the 1978–79 season, the team was sold to New Jersey trucking tycoon Arthur Imperatore, who intended to move the team to his home state. The plan was criticized due to the existence of three other NHL teams in the region. In any event, their intended home in the Meadowlands was still under construction, and there was no nearby facility suitable even for temporary use; the franchise ultimately stayed in Denver. In 1979, the team hired Don Cherry as head coach and featured forward Lanny McDonald. The Rockies still posted the worst record in the NHL, and Cherry was subsequently fired after the season. After two more years in Denver, the Rockies were sold to a group headed by John McMullen (who also owned Major League Baseball's Houston Astros) on May 27, 1982, and the franchise moved to New Jersey. As part of the relocation deal, the Devils had to compensate the three existing teams in the region – the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Flyers – for encroaching on their territory.
1982–1993: Building the foundation
On June 30, 1982, the team was renamed the New Jersey Devils, after the legend of the Jersey Devil, a creature that allegedly inhabited the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. Over 10,000 people voted in a contest held to select the name. The team began play in East Rutherford, New Jersey at the Brendan Byrne Arena, later renamed the Continental Airlines Arena and then the Izod Center, where they called home through the 2006–07 season. The Devils were initially placed in the Patrick Division. Their first game ended in a 3–3 tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins, with their first goal scored by Don Lever. Their first win, a 3–2 victory, came in New Jersey at the expense of the Rangers. The team finished with a 17–49–14 record, putting them three points above last place in the Patrick Division.
In the following season, the Devils were criticized by Wayne Gretzky after a 13–4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. In a post-game interview, Gretzky said that the Devils were "putting a Mickey Mouse operation on the ice." Later, Gretzky said that his comment was "blown out of proportion." In response, many Devils fans wore Mickey Mouse apparel when the Oilers returned to New Jersey. Also in the 1983–84 season, the Devils hosted the annual NHL All-Star Game. New Jersey's Chico Resch was the winning goaltender, and Devils defenseman Joe Cirella tallied a goal as the Wales Conference beat the Campbell Conference 7–6. Overall, the team did not achieve much success. Head coach Bill MacMillan was fired 20 games into the season, whereupon Tom McVie was named the new coach. The Devils won only 17 games and after the season, Doug Carpenter succeeded McVie.
The Devils assembled a core of players that included John MacLean, Bruce Driver, Ken Daneyko, Kirk Muller and Pat Verbeek, with Resch as their goaltender. Their record improved each season between 1983–84 and 1986–87. However, they were unable to reach the playoffs. Despite their improvement, the Devils remained last in the Patrick Division in 1985–86 and 1986–87. McMullen hired Providence College athletic director Lou Lamoriello as team president in April 1987. To gain greater control over franchise operations, Lamoriello appointed himself general manager before the 1987–88 season.
First version of the Devils logo, used from 1982 to 1992. The green border was replaced with a black one in 1992.
The 1987–88 Devils garnered the franchise's first winning record. On the final day of the regular season, they were tied with their rivals, the Rangers, for the final playoff spot in the Patrick Division. After New York defeated the Quebec Nordiques 3–0, the Devils needed to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks for a post-season berth. The Devils were trailing 3–2 midway through the third period when John MacLean tied the game, and with 2:39 left in overtime, he added the winning goal. Although the Rangers and Devils both finished with 82 points, the Devils had two more wins, sending them to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history as the New Jersey Devils. The team made it all the way to the Wales Conference Finals in the 1988 Stanley Cup playoffs, but lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games. In that series, head coach Jim Schoenfeld verbally abused referee Don Koharski after the third game, screaming at him. During the exchange, Koharski fell and Schoenfeld said to him "Good, 'cause you fell, you fat pig! Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!" Schoenfeld was given a suspension by the NHL, but due to a favorable court order, he was able to coach in the fourth game of the series. In protest, referee Dave Newell and linesmen Gord Broseker and Ray Scapinello refused to work the game. Three off-ice officials – Paul McInnis, Jim Sullivan and Vin Godleski – were tracked down to work the game. After the injunction was lifted, Schoenfeld's suspension was imposed in the following game.
The next season, the Devils once again slipped below .500 and missed the playoffs. Among the post-season player changes Lamoriello made in the off-season was the signing of two Soviet stars – Viacheslav Fetisov and Sergei Starikov. The Devils drafted Fetisov years earlier in the 1983 Entry Draft, but the Soviet Government did not allow Fetisov, who was a member of the national team, to leave the country. Shortly after, the Devils signed Fetisov's defense partner, Alexei Kasatonov.
The team changed coaches midway through each of the next two seasons. Schoenfeld was replaced with John Cunniff in 1989–90, and Tom McVie was hired midway through the 1990–91 season and helmed the team through its third-straight Division Semifinals' elimination in 1991–92. Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic "Miracle on Ice" team, was brought in for the 1992–93 season, but when the team yet again was eliminated in the Division Semifinals, he was fired and replaced by former Montreal Canadiens head coach Jacques Lemaire.
1993–2000: Championship franchise
Under Lemaire, the team played during the 1993–94 regular season with a lineup that included defensemen Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko; forwards Stephane Richer, John MacLean, Bobby Holik and Claude Lemieux; and goaltenders Chris Terreri and Martin Brodeur, the latter goaltender was honored as the NHL's top rookie with the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Devils scored 330 times in the regular season and set a franchise record with 106 points, second behind the New York Rangers in the Atlantic Division. The Devils and Rangers met in an Eastern Conference Finals match-up, which went seven games. Going into Game 6 in New Jersey, the Devils led the series three games to two. Before the game, Rangers captain Mark Messier guaranteed that the Rangers would win Game 6. Messier led his team back, netting a natural hat-trick to help the Rangers overcome an early 2–0 Devils lead and force a decisive contest. In Game 7, the Devils' Valeri Zelepukin tied the score at 1–1 with 7.7 seconds remaining, but the Devils were defeated in double overtime on a goal by Stéphane Matteau.
Despite the setback, the team returned to the Eastern Conference Finals during the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers four games to two. They swept the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings to win New Jersey's first-ever Stanley Cup, as they brought the Cup across the Hudson River from New York, after the Rangers had won it the year before. The 1995 Devils team became the first to give the players a day with the Stanley Cup, a tradition that lives on with each Cup winner. Claude Lemieux was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. The success came amid constant rumors that the team would move for the third time in its history to Nashville.
Staring at the prospect of losing the team, the state agreed to fund a renovation of the Devils' arena.
The Devils missed the playoffs by two points the following season, with a 37–33–12 record. They were beaten by the Tampa Bay Lightning for the last playoff spot in the East on the last day of the season, after a 5–2 loss to the Ottawa Senators in a must-win game. It marked the first time in 26 years that a defending Cup champion failed to reach the playoffs. For the remainder of the decade, the Devils won at least 45 games every season, but were unable to make a deep playoff run. Despite posting 104 points in the 1996–97 season and 107 in 1997–98, they were ousted by the Rangers four games to one in the Conference Semifinals of the 1997 playoffs and in the Conference Quarterfinals by the Senators four games to two a year later. Lemaire resigned after that season and was replaced by assistant coach Robbie Ftorek. However, the next season ended as the previous one, with a Conference Quarterfinals' loss, this time to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 1999–2000 Devils engraved on the Stanley Cup. The club won its second Stanley Cup that season.
Late in the 1999–2000 season, Lamoriello made the decision to fire Ftorek and replace him with assistant coach Larry Robinson, which the New York Post's Mark Everson described as "pure panic" at the prospect of another early-round playoff elimination. The Devils were in position to reach the playoffs, but Lamoriello reacted to a stretch of 17 games in which the team went 5–10–2. New Jersey followed the move by defeating the Florida Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers during the post-season to make the Finals. In the Finals, the Devils reached the top again, defeating the defending champion Dallas Stars in six games to win the Stanley Cup for the second time. Veterans such as Stevens, Holik, Niedermayer, Daneyko, and Brodeur were joined by new players acquired in the intervening five years, including Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, Jason Arnott, Alexander Mogilny and Calder Trophy recipient Scott Gomez. The Devils' second championship run included a come-from-behind victory in the Conference Finals. They trailed the Flyers three games to one, but rebounded to win three-straight games and the series. This was the first time in NHL Conference Finals history that a 3–1 series deficit was surmounted. This series featured a hit that captain Scott Stevens laid on Flyers center Eric Lindros in the seventh game, which effectively ended Lindros' career in Philadelphia. Stevens was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, as the Devils clinched the Stanley Cup on Arnott's goal in double-overtime of Game 6 in Dallas.
In 2000, McMullen sold the team to Puck Holdings, an affiliate of YankeeNets, for $176 million. The owners wanted to program Devils games on what eventually became the YES Network and move the team to a new arena in Newark. Neither of these proposals became reality under Puck Holdings' ownership. For the start of the next season, Lamoriello was appointed CEO of both the Devils and the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He remained at the helm of the basketball team until it was sold with the intention of moving it to Brooklyn in 2004.
2001–2007: Third Cup and lockout
Led by the Elias-Arnott-Sykora line (The A Line) on offense and the goaltending of Brodeur (who appeared in a record 97 games between the regular season and playoffs), the Devils reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the second-straight year in 2001. They lost the series to the Colorado Avalanche despite leading 3–2. John Madden became the first player in franchise history to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy for top defensive forward. In the 2001–02 season, they were expected to be contenders once again, and they finished the season as the third-best team in the Atlantic Division, with 95 points. The Devils entered the playoffs as a sixth seed, but lost in the Conference Quarterfinals to the third-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.
The Devils present President George W. Bush with a jersey after winning the 2003 Stanley Cup championship.
In 2003, the Devils finished first in the Atlantic Division with 108 points. Their playoff run included a seven-game Conference Final series victory, decided in the final three minutes on a goal by forward Jeff Friesen, over the Ottawa Senators. In the Stanley Cup Finals, the Devils and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim had a back-and-forth battle, as both teams won all of their home games. The Devils brought the Stanley Cup to New Jersey for a third time, defeating the Mighty Ducks in the seventh game of the Finals in New Jersey. After the series, Daneyko, a long-time fan favorite, announced his retirement. Brodeur was awarded the Vezina Trophy as outstanding goaltender in the regular season for the first time in his career, having won 41 games in the regular season to top the NHL.
In the 2003–04 season, Brodeur took home the Vezina Trophy again. Despite losing team captain Scott Stevens in the 38th game of the season to a concussion, the Devils finished second in the Atlantic Division with 100 points. With the sixth seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers four games to one. In March 2004, near the end of the season, Lehman Brothers executive Jeff Vanderbeek purchased a controlling interest from Puck Holdings and resigned from Lehman Brothers to assume full-time ownership. He had been a minority owner since the 2000 sale. Like Puck Holdings/YankeeNets, Vanderbeek largely left the Devils in Lamoriello's hands.
Vanderbeek was a strong proponent of the proposed arena in Newark, which first received funding from the city council during Puck Holdings' ownership in 2002. After legal battles over both eminent domain and the city's financial participation in the arena project, the final deal was approved by council in October 2004, during the early months of the lockout, and the groundbreaking occurred almost exactly a year later. Nonetheless, in January 2006, financial issues threatened to halt the deal, as the Devils did not provide the city with a required letter of credit until the last possible day.
led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships, and is the NHL's all-time leader in goalie wins, shutouts, and awarded goals.
Though construction was well underway, in late summer 2006, new Mayor of Newark Cory Booker promised to reevaluate the deal and considered backing out. In October, Booker conceded there would be "a first-class arena built in the city of Newark, whether we like it or not," and soon after the Devils struck a deal including both property and monetary givebacks that appeased city officials. The arena, which was named the Prudential Center when Newark-based Prudential Financial purchased naming rights in early 2007, opened shortly after the start of the 2007–08 season.
The 2004–05 season was canceled due to the lockout; many Devils players played in European leagues and in the hockey world championships. Patrik Elias, who was playing in the Russian Superleague, contracted hepatitis A. Faced with Elias' indefinite recovery timetable, plus the loss of defensive stalwarts Scott Niedermayer to free agency and Scott Stevens to retirement, Lamoriello signed veteran defenseman Dan McGillis and two former Devils, winger Alexander Mogilny and defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, none of whom finished the season on the ice. In July 2005, the team announced that head coach Pat Burns would not return for the 2005–06 season after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time in little more than a year. Assistant coach Larry Robinson, the team's head coach from 2000 to 2002, was promoted to start the season.
The Devils struggled early in the 2005–06 season, ending the 2005 calendar year with a 16–18–5 record. Robinson resigned as head coach on December 19, and Lamoriello moved down to the bench. Once Elias returned from his bout with hepatitis, the team quickly turned around, finishing 46–27–9 after a season-ending 11-game winning streak capped with a 4–3 win over the Montreal Canadiens. During that final victory, which clinched the Devils' sixth division title, Brian Gionta set a new team record for goals in a season with 48, topping Pat Verbeek's 46. The win streak to close the year was also an NHL record. The Devils won their Conference Quarterfinals playoff series against the Rangers four games to none, but were eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in the Conference Semifinals.
In the off-season, the Devils hired former Montreal Canadiens head coach Claude Julien to replace Lamoriello behind the bench. However, in the last week of the 2006–07 Devils season, with just three games left, Julien was fired, and Lamoriello once again reprised his coaching role. The Devils went on to win their seventh Atlantic Division title and earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference after finishing ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins by two points. They then defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the Conference Quarterfinals, but fell to the Ottawa Senators in the Conference Semifinals in five. The conclusion of the series marked the end of the Devils' time at the Continental Airlines Arena.
2007–2013: Move to Newark and return to Finals
Before the move to Newark, the Devils hired their 14th coach in a 26-season span, Brent Sutter. As the Devils' pre-season came to an end, prospects Nicklas Bergfors and David Clarkson made the final roster. The Devils opened their new arena, the Prudential Center, on October 27, 2007, against Ottawa after opening the season with a nine-game road trip. The game ended with a 4–1 win for Ottawa. In the last game of the 2007–08 season against the Rangers, the Devils won in a shootout, giving them home ice advantage over the Rangers in the playoffs. The Devils lost the series against the Rangers 4–1, losing all three games at home. Brodeur won the Vezina Trophy for the fourth time in five years for his performance in the regular season.
For the 2008–09 season, the Devils signed Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik, both making their second stints with the team. The Devils were forced to play without Brodeur for over three months after he tore a biceps tendon in November, but strong play by backup goalie Scott Clemmensen kept the Devils atop the Atlantic Division. After his return, Brodeur broke Patrick Roy's record for regular season wins on March 17, 2009, with his 552nd victory, while Patrik Elias became the franchise's all-time leading scorer with his 702nd point. The season also served as a break-out year for 24-year-old Zach Parise, who led the team with an impressive 45 goals and 94 points. In the Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 playoffs, the Devils were eliminated in a Game 7 loss in which the Hurricanes scored two goals in the last minute and twenty seconds to erase a 3–2 Devils lead.
In the off-season, the Devils announced that Sutter was stepping down from his position, citing personal and family reasons; he became the coach of the Calgary Flames shortly afterward. Jacques Lemaire returned to the head coach position. During the 2009–10 season, the Devils made a trade to acquire star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk from the Atlanta Thrashers. The Devils had their 12th 100-point season in their last 15 attempts. They finished the season in first place in the Atlantic Division, second in the Eastern Conference, and played in the post-season for the 13th-straight time. Their seeding matched them up against Philadelphia in the Conference Quarterfinals, and they were eliminated four games to one.
during the 2011–12
season. He was one of four players to score over 30 goals with the Devils that season.
After Lemaire retired from coaching, the Devils announced that the team's all-time leading scorer, John MacLean, would become their new head coach. During the off-season, the Devils signed Kovalchuk to a 15-year, $100 million contract, keeping him in New Jersey until the conclusion of the 2024–25 season; the move came after the NHL had rejected a 17-year contract for allegedly circumventing the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The League still penalized the Devils for trying to circumvent the NHL salary cap with a money fine, a third-round draft pick in 2011 and one future first-round pick within the next four seasons. MacLean led the team to a record of 9–22–2, and after sitting in last place in the NHL on December 23, he was removed in favor of Lemaire, coming out of retirement for his third stint as head coach of the Devils and second in less than two seasons. Just a few days later, struggling captain Jamie Langenbrunner was traded back to Dallas after nine seasons with New Jersey. With the injured Parise missing most of the regular season, the team struggled offensively, finishing last in goals scored. Despite this, the Devils managed a mid-season turnaround, winning 22 out of the next 25 games. However, the Devils still failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 1996, ending their 13-year streak.
In the 2011 off-season, Lemaire once again retired and was replaced by former Florida Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer. DeBoer's new system helped develop a strong offense, which had seven 40-point scorers by the season's end and broke an NHL record for the best regular season penalty kill since before the Expansion Era. Four players – Kovalchuk, Elias, Clarkson and newly named captain Zach Parise – scored 30 or more goals, with Kovalchuk and Elias also finishing the season among the NHL's top ten-point scorers. Rookie forward Adam Henrique totaled 51 points and earned a Calder Trophy nomination for rookie of the year. As the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Devils defeated Southeast champions Florida before overcoming both divisional rivals, the Flyers and Rangers, to win the Conference and return to the Finals after nine years. Facing the Los Angeles Kings in the Finals, the Devils lost the first three games, but won the next two while facing elimination. In Game 6, the Kings defeated the Devils and captured the series.
During the 2012 off-season, Zach Parise signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild, leaving the Devils after one season as team captain. The Devils entered the lockout-shortened season with Bryce Salvador as their new captain. However, the Devils failed to repeat the performance of the prior year, finishing 19–19–10 in 48 games and missed the playoffs.
2013–present: Harris–Blitzer era
The Devils' longtime financial struggles worsened during the 2012–13 season, and at one point the team needed to borrow $30 million to meet their payroll. This prompted owner Jeff Vanderbeek to sell the team. Andrew Barroway, the attorney who loaned the team the $30 million, was one potential buyer. Ultimately, the team was sold to Josh Harris, owner of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, and David S. Blitzer, for over $320 million. The sale was formally announced on August 15, 2013. During the offseason, Kovalchuk announced he would retire from the NHL, expressing a desire to return home to Russia along with his family. In addition, 30-goal scorer Clarkson also left the Devils, signing a 7-year deal with Toronto. With the departures of Parise and now Kovalchuk and Clarkson, the Devils were in desperate need of offensive help. In an effort to full the void, the Devils signed veteran Jaromir Jagr, who despite being 41 years old, led the team scoring in the 2013–14 season. During the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, hosted in Newark, the Devils acquired goaltender Cory Schneider from Vancouver in exchange for the Devils' first-round draft pick. Schneider split goaltending duties with the 41-year-old Brodeur, which led to some controversy over who should be the starting goalie for the Devils. Despite Schneider's 1.97 goals against average leading the NHL, the Devils missed the playoffs by five points due to lagging offensive production. In the 2014 offseason, the Devils saw the departure of NHL all-time wins leader Martin Brodeur, who was not re-signed and subsequently joined the St. Louis Blues. Brodeur, who had spent his entire 21-year career with the Devils, played only seven games with St. Louis before announcing his retirement.
The 2014–15 season opened with the Devils' roster suffering with injuries, and consequently the team accumulated losses. On December 26, Peter DeBoer was fired from the head coach position. To replace him, Lamoriello invested in two head coaches, former Devils player Scott Stevens (who had been DeBoer's assistant for two years) and Adam Oates, with Lamoriello himself supervising the team during the first months. The Devils finished the season as the sixth-worst team in the League, 20 points away from a playoff spot and with just one victory in the last 11 games.
During the 2015 offseason, Ray Shero was named the Devils' new general manager, and John Hynes was named as the new head coach. Lou Lamoriello resigned as team president and became the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, replacing Dave Nonis, who was fired at the end of the season. In the 2015–16 season, the Devils finished seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 84 points, missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The team finished in last place in the Eastern Conference the following season with 70 points; this was the first time that they finished last in the conference since the 1985–86 season. However, they won the ensuing draft lottery to secure the first overall selection in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, which they used to select Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier.
In the 2017–18 season, the team recorded its best start in franchise history, going 9–2–0 in their first 11 games of the season. Forward Taylor Hall set the franchise record for points in consecutive games, recording a point in 26 straight appearances. Hall finished the season sixth in the NHL in points (93) and earned nominations for the Hart Memorial Trophy for the league's most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay Award for the NHL's most outstanding player. On the back of Hall's impressive performance and with aid from goaltender Keith Kinkaid and rookie Hischier, the Devils clinched a playoff spot for the first time since the 2011–12 season with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Devils' playoff run ended in the First Round where they lost 4–1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a seven-game series. After the conclusion of the playoffs, Hall became the first player in franchise history to win the Hart Memorial Trophy.