Stevens started his career in Washington, where his solid defence and offensive ability helped the team make the playoffs for the first time. After spending a season in St. Louis, he was acquired by the New Jersey Devils. It was with the Devils that he earned a reputation as a fierce competitor and a hard hitter. Personifying the Devils' defense-first mentality, he captained the team to four Stanley Cup Finals appearances in nine years, winning three. In 2000, Stevens won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite his team success with the Devils, he never won the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenceman. His career came to an end after taking a slapshot off the side of the head, and he was forced to retire due to post-concussion syndrome. He was later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, his first year of eligibility.
The 1981-82 Kitchener Rangers were a team loaded with several future NHL players; the defensive corps included Dave Shaw and Al MacInnis, Wendell Young was the team’s starting goaltender, and the top scoring line on the team featured Jeff Larmer, Brian Bellows, and Grant Martin. Stevens and Shaw were an integral part of the Rangers’ defense, playing in every game of the season en route to the team’s Memorial Cup victory. In addition, both played in the OHL All-Star Game. Rangers coach Joe Crozier commented on Scott, "He’s come a long way this year... He’s strong, tough, handles the puck well and has tremendous hockey sense." Stevens would go on to lead all rookie defencemen in scoring, and he was named the second best defensive defenceman and second best body-checker in a poll of OHL coaches.
Stevens' debut with the Capitals coincided with the team's first playoff appearance as a franchise. During his first few seasons, the team emphasized a defense-first mindset for all of its players. Nowhere was this more obvious than the 1983-84 season, when Rod Langway won his second James Norris Memorial Trophy as best defenceman, Al Jensen and Pat Riggin combined to win the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed, and Doug Jarvis won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for best defensive forward; Bryan Murray was given the Jack Adams Award for best coach, as well. Stevens learned from Langway and defensive linemate Brian Engblom on the finer points of playing defense. In addition, Murray helped calm the fiery young Stevens, who would learn to fight less and play harder. Stevens spoke fondly of his time with the Capitals years later, saying:
We had a great bunch of guys and we worked hard. We were great defensively. We might have been at times a little challenged scoring and we might have been a bit challenged in the goal at times... But there are no regrets.|20px|20px|Scott Stevens|
Stevens was not without offensive ability, however. In the 1984-85 season, he set a team record for defencemen by scoring 16 power play goals, and tied a team record for goals by a defenceman with 21. Stevens led all Washington defencemen in scoring three times. In fact, his style led Murray to briefly considering moving Stevens to winger. During the 1987-88 season, Stevens finished second on the team in scoring with 12 goals and 60 assists for 72 points. He ended up finishing second behind Ray Bourque in the voting for the Norris Trophy. Over eight seasons with the Caps, Stevens netted 98 goals and 429 points in 601 games. Stevens also played in two All-Star Games in 1985 and 1989.
Stevens' signing had far-reaching ramifications on player contracts in the NHL. At the time, the deal made Stevens the highest-paid defenceman in the league. In addition, the deal included a $1.4 million signing bonus. Several defencemen considered superior players to Stevens, including Ray Bourque and Chris Chelios, were not making that kind of money, and Capitals defenceman Kevin Hatcher held out until he received a contract similar to that of Stevens. General managers worried that these players would begin demanding bigger contracts. The players did in fact ask for more money, and it was this escalation that was one of the factors in the 1994-95 NHL lockout several seasons later.
On the ice, Stevens was named captain of the Blues. He scored 5 goals and added 44 assists for 49 points, good enough for fifth on a team led by Brett Hull and Adam Oates. Stevens made the Campbell Conference All-Star Team as well. Unfortunately, the Blues were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Minnesota North Stars.
Stevens would not get an opportunity to continue his success in St. Louis, however. In the offseason following the 1990-91 NHL season, the Blues signed Brendan Shanahan from the New Jersey Devils. Much like Stevens the year before, Shanahan was a restricted free agent, and thus the Devils were entitled to compensation. The teams could not agree on what the compensation was; the Blues offered goalie Curtis Joseph, forward Rod Brind'Amour, and two draft picks, while the Devils wanted Stevens. The case went to arbitration, and a judge ruled that Stevens was to be awarded to the Devils in September 1991. Stevens ended the year winning the World Cup of Hockey (then called the Canada Cup) with Team Canada.
Initially, Stevens refused to report to the Devils for training camp. The Devils were already worried, after captain Kirk Muller walked out of camp. Stevens and his wife had made plans to settle in St. Louis, and Stevens wanted to end his career with the Blues. In addition, Stevens was concerned about the apparent lack of unity in the organization, citing Muller's walkout as proof. Several Devils players were upset over the feeling that Stevens was being forced upon the team; some players, including Ken Daneyko, wanted more money, while other players wanted general manager Lou Lamoriello to trade Stevens. Stevens would eventually report to the Devils three weeks later.
Stevens finished his first season in New Jersey fifth on the team in scoring, good enough for a spot on the Second All-Star Team. He earned a spot on the All-Star roster for the second consecutive season; he would go on to miss only one All-Star game for the remainder of his career as a Devil. In the offseason, Stevens replaced Bruce Driver as team captain, a title he would hold until his retirement (though Scott Niedermayer served as captain for the later half of the 2003–04 season while Stevens was injured).
After another season leading all Devils defencemen in scoring, Stevens stepped up his offensive game in 1993-94. He posted 18 goals and 60 assists totaling 78 points, good enough for the team lead. He won the NHL Plus-Minus Award, finishing with +53; only Vladimir Konstantinov has led the league with a higher plus/minus rating since Stevens' win. In addition, under his leadership, the Devils made it all the way to the Conference Finals against their arch-rivals, the New York Rangers, where they fell in double overtime of Game 7. Stevens came up short in his bid for the Norris Trophy as well, finishing as runner-up to Ray Bourque; the four-vote difference was the closest in Norris Trophy voting history.
After the 1993-94 season, Stevens was a potential free agent. Officials from the St. Louis Blues discussed a return to the team with Stevens, and he signed an offer sheet worth $17 million over four years with the team on July 4, 1994. Five days later, the Devils matched the offer, and thus Stevens remained in New Jersey. However, unbeknownst to the Devils, Stevens had already heard from St. Louis management before the free agency period began, which was illegal under NHL policy. After a five year investigation, the league fined the Blues $1.5 million USD, and awarded the Devils two St. Louis first-round draft picks. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello felt the punishment was not enough; he wanted five first-round draft picks plus damages. Despite the investigation, there was no evidence that Stevens was aware of any wrongdoing.
Despite the heartbreak of 1994, Stevens and the Devils would not be denied in 1995. After the season was delayed due to an owners' lockout, the Devils were off to a slow start, winning only 9 of their first 24 games. However, the Devils managed to hold their own in the Eastern Conference, and finished in the fifth playoff spot. After playoff victories over the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Philadelphia Flyers, the Devils faced the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Devils shocked the hockey world by sweeping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Wings for the franchise's first hockey championship. Stevens' reputation as a hard hitter was reinforced in Game 2, where he leveled Vyacheslav Kozlov with a body check that knocked Kozlov out of the game temporarily; it was later determined that Kozlov suffered a concussion. Stevens then famously turned to Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli, who was upset about the check, and said "You're next!"
Stevens started the 1996-97 season on a bit of a sour note, as he was suspended for one game following a high-sticking penalty against Igor Larionov during the first game of the season in which he drew blood. The team, however, returned to a solid style of play, and finished the season atop the Atlantic Division, though they would be eliminated in the playoffs once again by the arch-rival Rangers. Stevens finished second on the team among defencemen in scoring behind Scott Niedermayer.
Stevens' leadership continued into the next season. He signed a contract extension with the Devils, stating at the time that he wanted to finish his career in New Jersey. Stevens was especially important to the Devils' defensive corps, as longtime Devil Ken Daneyko was undergoing rehabilitation for alcoholism. However, he suffered a hip pointer injury against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and missed several games. Stevens once again had a good defensive season, although his lack of scoring kept him out of consideration for the Norris Trophy. The Devils finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, but were eliminated in the first round by the Ottawa Senators.
For the 1998-99 season, the Devils made several changes, the biggest of which was hiring Robbie Ftorek as coach to replace Jacques Lemaire. The team continued its focus on defence, as the solid corps of Stevens, Daneyko, and Niedermayer finished with plus-minuses of +29, +27, and +26, respectively. Unfortunately, the team was once again eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, this time by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 1999-2000 Devils focused more on offense, a fact reinforced by their 251 goals scored, good enough for second in the league. With four players scoring over 50 points, including rookie Scott Gomez's team leading 51 assists, Stevens' 29 points were only good enough for tenth on the team, and third among defencemen behind Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski. Stevens also set an NHL record, becoming the first player to play in 600 games with two teams. After finishing the season in fourth place in the conference, the Devils swept the Florida Panthers and dispatched the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games.
Just as in 1995, they met their rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, in the Eastern Conference Finals. After getting behind in the series three games to one, the Devils managed to win games five and six, setting the stage for game seven in Philadelphia. During the first period, Flyers star center Eric Lindros was skating through the neutral zone with his head down. Stevens leveled him with a thunderous body check, taking Lindros out of the game with a concussion. The game was only Lindros' second since returning from a concussion suffered in March against the Boston Bruins. Stevens was upset by the play, and had to be consoled by coach Larry Robinson during intermission. However, Flyers defenceman Dan McGillis admitted the hit was clean. Stevens had previously taken Flyers center Daymond Langkow out with a concussion after game 2.
The Devils faced off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Dallas Stars. Stevens and linemate Rafalski were tasked with the responsibility of shutting down Dallas' scoring line of Mike Modano, Brett Hull, and Joe Nieuwendyk. Stevens scored the game-winner in the first game of the series, en route to a Devils 7-3 victory; the goal was his third of the playoffs. The Devils went on to win the Finals in six games, after Game Five went to three overtimes and Game Six was decided in double overtime; Jason Arnott scored the Cup-winner, with Stevens earning the secondary assist. Stevens won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his leadership role on the team.
The Devils were keen to repeat as Stanley Cup champions at the start of the 2000-01 NHL season. Led by Patrik Elias' 96 points, a franchise record, and Alexander Mogilny's team-leading 43 goals, the team finished first in the conference. After defeating Carolina, Toronto, and Pittsburgh in the playoffs, the Devils once again made the Finals, this time against the Colorado Avalanche. Despite being up three games to two, however, the Devils could not finish off the Avalanche, and lost the series in seven games. Stevens was once again denied the Norris Trophy, as he finished third in the voting.
Stevens finished the next season with his lowest scoring total in his career, though he did become the youngest player ever to reach the 1,500 games played total. The Devils, however, fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Hurricanes, who went on to lose to Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals.
Stevens and the Devils once again had success in 2002-03, finishing first in the division. In addition, Stevens was named as captain of the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the first time, and finished the season with the fewest penalty minutes over a full season in his career. The Devils made their way through the playoffs, knocking off Boston, Tampa Bay, and Ottawa, to face the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Finals. The Devils and Stevens had a minor scare in Game 3 of the semifinals against Tampa Bay, when he took a Pavel Kubina slapshot off the side of his head and was forced to leave the game. Although there was uncertainty whether Stevens would return for Game 4, Stevens in fact returned, and did not miss a game throughout the remainder of the playoffs. In Game 2 of the Finals, he set the record for most playoff games by a defenceman, breaking the record by his former coach, Larry Robinson. As he had done in so many previous playoff series, Stevens created a defining moment with a check, laying out Ducks star forward Paul Kariya in Game Six. However, Kariya came back shortly thereafter and scored en route to a Ducks victory, forcing a seventh game. The Devils blanked the Ducks in Game Seven, 3-0, to win their third Stanley Cup in nine years. Stevens' appearance in Game Seven tied Patrick Roy's record for appearances in Game Sevens, with 13. Despite the play of Stevens, Martin Brodeur, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jeff Friesen, the Conn Smythe Trophy went to Ducks goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère; some speculated that there were too many worthy Devils candidates, resulting in a split vote among sportswriters.
The 2003-04 NHL season would prove to be the last for Stevens. Before ending the season, he surpassed former teammate Larry Murphy as the NHL's all-time leader in games played by a defenceman, when he appeared in his 1,616th game in November. Unfortunately, he missed several games in January with the flu, and while he was out, he was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome (which would eventually coerce him into retirement). Despite missing the second half of the season, he was still voted in as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Scott Niedermayer filled in as captain in Stevens' absence, but the loss of Stevens, as well as Daneyko, who had retired before the season, was too much of a loss on the defensive corps, and the Devils fell to the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs. In the off-season, Stevens recovered and continued to work out, and expected to return to the Devils for the 2004-05 NHL season. However, the owners' lockout shut out the entire season, and Stevens retired on September 6, 2005.
Overall, Stevens has played for Canada in:
Stevens left a lasting legacy on the NHL. Referred to as "Mr. Devil", Stevens was the longest reigning captain in Devils history. Later on in his career, he mentored the younger Devils defencemen like Colin White and Brian Rafalski, who was Stevens' defensive linemate. Longtime teammate Scott Niedermayer said of Stevens, he was "not the most vocal guy around", but he would talk to players when it was necessary. Stevens was honored by the Devils by becoming the first player in team history to have his number retired by the team; his #4 was raised to the rafters on February 3, 2006.
Stevens was also remembered as a hard hitter, leveling players who crossed open ice with their heads down. Among the victims of Stevens' body checks were Slava Kozlov, Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya, Shane Willis and Ron Francis, with whom Stevens was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. Some players have accused Stevens of playing cheap. After his check on Willis, Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Arturs Irbe said Stevens was "trying to kill [Willis] or put him out of the playoffs"; Stevens responded, "What kind of respect do I get?... Just because I'm a physical player, it's O.K. to come at me and do what you want? Hey, it's a hockey game. It's not figure skating. You know what? I can take a hit and I can give a hit. I don't care who it is. No one gets a free ride out there. I don't get a free ride, and no one gets a free ride from me." On the other hand, Kozlov did not blame Stevens for his hit, and said he was a clean player. Despite his penchant for hits, Stevens finished his career with only four elbowing penalties in the regular season. He was often credited with changing the momentum of a game not with a goal, but with a hard check. He was named the fifth most fearsome player in NHL history by the Sporting News in 2001. Dion Phaneuf is often compared to Stevens, and says he idolizes Stevens' style of play.
|1990-1991||St. Louis Blues||NHL||78||5||44||49||+23||150||13||0||0||3||+8||36|
|1991-1992||New Jersey Devils||NHL||68||17||42||59||+24||124||7||2||1||3||-5||29|
|1992-1993||New Jersey Devils||NHL||81||12||45||57||+14||120||5||2||2||4||-2||10|
|1993-1994||New Jersey Devils||NHL||83||18||60||78||+53||112||20||2||9||11||-1||42|
|1994-1995||New Jersey Devils||NHL||48||2||20||22||+4||56||20||1||7||8||+10||24|
|1995-1996||New Jersey Devils||NHL||82||5||23||28||+7||100||-||-||-||-||-||-|
|1996-1997||New Jersey Devils||NHL||79||5||19||24||+26||70||10||0||4||4||-2||2|
|1997-1998||New Jersey Devils||NHL||80||4||22||26||+19||80||6||1||0||1||+4||8|
|1998-1999||New Jersey Devils||NHL||75||5||22||27||+29||64||7||2||1||3||-2||10|
|1999-2000||New Jersey Devils||NHL||78||8||21||29||+30||103||23||3||8||11||+9||6|
|2000-2001||New Jersey Devils||NHL||81||9||22||31||+40||71||25||1||7||8||+3||37|
|2001-2002||New Jersey Devils||NHL||82||1||16||17||+15||44||6||0||0||0||+5||4|
|2002-2003||New Jersey Devils||NHL||81||4||16||20||+18||41||24||3||6||9||+14||14|
|2003-2004||New Jersey Devils||NHL||38||3||9||12||+3||22||-||-||-||-||-||-|
Eustis native's `common touch' praised ; Maine State Police honor Scott Stevens for his people skills and his alacrity in solving crimes .
May 31, 2006; BETTY JESPERSEN Blethen Maine News Service The Associated Press contributed to this report. Portland Press Herald (Maine)...