Ken Daneyko gives his take on the end of Patrik Elias’ storied career and the wild events of the Devils-Flyers back-to-back set.
MSGNetworks.com: Obviously, the biggest news occurred off the ice with the official announcement of Patrik Elias‘ retirement. We sort of saw this coming, but what was your initial reaction when you heard the news?
Ken Daneyko: My reaction was that Patty seemed very content and firm with his decision. This was the right time. He had the whole season and this was something that he thought about with his family. He sets the standards high for himself with the remarkable career that he’s had. He seemed like he was at peace with his decision.
He was very grateful to the Devils and to Ray Shero for giving him the time to really make this decision. The bottom line, he goes down as statistically the greatest offensive player in Devils history. There’s no doubt about that. He’s been a part of the organization for so many years and rightfully will have his jersey retired next season.
We’re looking forward to that day. He’s a true Devil and obviously, from me, there’s huge respect for someone that shows loyalty and believes in the organization. The crest on the front is more important than the name on the back. Nobody epitomizes that more than Patty did.
MSGNetworks.com: Elias was such a driving force on two of the Stanley Cups you won. Do you have any specific favorite moments of his career?
Ken Daneyko: There were plenty! I’ve always said that the bigger the game, the more you could count on Patrik Elias. He always was a big-game player and he always seemed to be clutch.
The two that stand out was when he scored the game-winner late in the game against the Flyers in Game 7 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Final that helped us overcome a 3-1 deficit. And of course, the pass that to Jason Arnott to win the Stanley Cup in double-overtime against Dallas in 2000. Patty was front and center in both of those and certainly was one of the biggest reasons why we won the Cup.
MSGNetworks.com: Now that he’s stated his intentions to retire, the focus shifts to his Hall of Fame credentials. How would you go about arguing his case for the Hall of the Fame?
Ken Daneyko: He has a lot of things going in his favor. These type of things, whether it be the Hall of Fame or the Top-100 list discussion, are subjective. Everybody has different views. Having played with him and seen what he’s done in big spots and what he meant for the Devils, I might be a little biased in his favor.
What he has going for him is that he was such a clutch player, two Stanley Cups, 20 years with the organization which I think has to be part of that Hall of Fame conversation. That shows commitment and that’s special. I think leading the team in all offensive numbers, over 1,000 points and 400 goals, all those accomplishments help his case, too.
There’s a lot more than numbers that factor into it with any player, including Patrik. Everybody has different views, but with everything I mentioned, anytime you’re voting for somebody to be in that elite company, those intangibles factor in as well. Championships are a part of that and Patrik was a key part of the championships we won. I could go on and on with the reasons why I think he should be in the Hall. Whether the Hall of Fame voters feel the same way, we shall find out. But he’s certainly got a great case for it.
MSGNetworks.com: Getting back to things with the current team, they’re coming off what was a bizarre set of events in their back-to-back set against the Flyers. One of the things you touched on in Saturday’s post-game show was what happened with Dalton Prout and Radko Gudas. What did you see and is it encouraging for the Devils to display that type of physical play?
Ken Daneyko: There’s still the element of playing for each other and coming together. The physical aspect is a part of that at times. Dalton Prout showed that and Travis Zajac showed that.
That’s also an important part, it’s not just your tough guys. Toughness doesn’t just mean being a fighter. It’s guys like Zajac doing that, playing together, playing for each other and being a family. Travis Zajac is someone most people wouldn’t necessarily associate with that type of play, but he cared for his teammate and those things can go a long way.
It’s especially important for teams that are rebuilding and are trying to go in the right direction. Those moments and instances in a game can be a rallying cry. It takes different steps and elements to become a good team and to become a team in itself. That’s team togetherness and team toughness. No matter who’s on the ice, if you feel the other team is taking liberties, you respond together and stand up for each other.
As for their win on Tuesday, we saw the Devils come home and pick up a victory against the Flyers. Keith Kinkaid was terrific and he probably had his best game of the season. He was outstanding, but the game was a lot tamer.
I liked the fact the team called up Luke Gazdic and Ben Thomson for the game. Some people might ask why they did that, calling up physical players at this time of year, but you wanted to make sure nothing got out of hand. Believe me, players know when you call up guys like Gazdic and Thomson and that’s one of the reasons why the game was tamer. Those guys are smart enough in this day and age not to do anything foolish. I thought they played well and the fourth line as a whole played strong.
All these things go a long way in building a team moving forward.