February 07, 2014
Mention the name John Madden and most sports fans will think of the bombastic American football commentator.
But hockey fans will think of a different John Madden. This John Madden was the excellent defensive forward for the strict defensive minded New Jersey Devils. The shutdown center who was known for killing penalties and scoring big shorthanded goals helped the Devils win Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003.
Madden, an undrafted graduate of the University of Michigan, was a serious candidate for the 2003 Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
His teammates certainly would not have disagreed with that notion.
"He plays for us in every situation -- even strength, power play and penalty killing," said Devils captain Scott Stevens. "He's a tenacious and annoying checker who also has an underrated shot. He's definitely an important player for us."
"He's a smart, competitive guy who plays with an edge," Scott Niedermayer said. "Because of that, he's always in the right place at the right time. He's a big-play guy for us, and he always believes he can do it."
As for Madden, he was only concerned with team success rather than personal accolades.
"The most important thing for me is to compete," Madden said. "I want to compete hard in all areas of the game. If I don't feel, for whatever reason, that I've competed to the best of my abilities, I'm not happy with my performance.
"For me, I'm really satisfied when I can play a complete game. That means winning important faceoffs, making some defensive plays, making good decisions with the puck and being competitive on every shift."
Personal accolades would come to Madden. He won the Selke Trophy as the NHL's top defensive forward in 2001 and was runner up on 3 other occasions.
Madden scored 165 goals and 348 points in 898 career games. That included a couple of 20 goal seasons. But he never really got the chance to emerge as more of an offensive threat. You can blame that partly on the Devils' strict system, and credit Madden himself for his personal strict dedication to his craft
"It takes a lot of discipline," Madden said. "You have to keep your concentration. Some people might say, 'It's pretty easy to follow someone around.' But you know what? There are times when you want to join a rush or go for a rebound, [but] you know your assignment and you stay with it the whole game."
Madden briefly played in Chicago (where he won a third Stanley Cup in 2010), Minnesota and Florida before retiring in 2012.