With confidence, I can say every Devils fan appreciated John “Mad Dog” Madden during his time in New Jersey. He earned a permanent roster spot in the fall of 1999 – the same time Brad Pitt graced the world with Tyler Durden, and Mariah Carey topped the charts with Heartbreaker.
Looking back, it is crazy to think he was not selected at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. Madden had a successful 13-year career playing with four different teams. His NHL resume includes multiple Stanley Cup rings and a Frank J. Selke Trophy. Here’s a look at his career then and now.
Calling New Jersey Home
Madden signed with the New Jersey Devils as an amateur free agent on June 26, 1997, after catching the attention of general manager Lou Lamoriello. His early years were spent with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Albany River Rats. He made his NHL debut against the New York Rangers in January 1999, and it was not until later that month that he earned his first career point against the San Jose Sharks.
The 5-foot-11 forward landed a permanent spot on the Devils roster for the 1999-2000 season. He built chemistry with linemate Jay Pandolfo, and thanks to their defensive prowess, the Devils remained one of the stingiest teams in goals against in the NHL. He was one of a handful of rookies on the Devils who won the Stanley Cup in 2000, the first of two Stanley Cup victories during his time in New Jersey. His second was lifted in 2003 after Game 7 against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Cup Final.
In 2001, Madden was the recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game, beating both Joe Sakic and Mike Modano.
“He certainly does fit a role,” head coach Larry Robinson said in an interview in 2000. “He’s very responsible defensively. He’s got very quick acceleration. He’s able to outhustle a lot of loose pucks. He’s scored some big goals for us,” (from ‘The Devils Will Feel a Rookie’s Absence’, New York Times, 05/19/00).
Continuing his Career
On July 1, 2009, Madden signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks worth $2.75 million. He appeared in 79 games and finished the regular season with 23 points. The Ontario native provided veteran leadership and took a young Jonathan Toews under his wing. In the 2010 Playoffs, Chicago defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 to win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
Madden continued his career with the Minnesota Wild, appearing in 76 games and earning 25 points. He signed the final one-year deal of his playing career with the Florida Panthers on Jan. 4, 2012. The Panthers reached the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and faced none other than the Devils in the first round.
It was a fitting end for Madden, whose season with the Panthers reunited him with Chicago teammates Tomáš Kopecký, Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg. Unfortunately, the Panthers were eliminated in Game 7. In September 2012, Madden announced he was hanging up his skates after 898 career games.
Madden Retires… Sort of
The same day Madden announced his retirement from the NHL, he accepted a job with the Montreal Canadiens, scouting and evaluating amateur free agent players at the college level. A little over a year later, he headed back to the Panthers as an assistant head coach. He remained in South Florida for three seasons before taking his coaching talents to the AHL.
“John Madden has a winning pedigree, having been a part of three Stanley Cup championships and a collegiate national championship as a player and being a part of the coaching staff that helped the Florida Panthers become one of the NHL’s most improved clubs over the past three seasons,” said Blue Jackets assistant general manager Bill Zito in 2016. “He is a smart, energetic young coach who we believe to be the best person to lead our prospects in Cleveland,” (from ‘Columbus Blue Jackets name John Madden new coach of Cleveland Monsters’, Cleveland.com, 08/29/16).
Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
Madden parted ways with the Cleveland Monsters in 2019. On Sept. 22, 2020, he joined the San Jose Sharks as an assistant head coach, where he will be working with the forwards and the penalty kill.
“John, when we sat down, he had a package ready for me. He said I’ve done some research, I have some analytics,” San Jose head coach Bob Boughner said in an interview. “The things that came out of that for me: He’s very prepared. Strong work ethic. Believes in the same things that I believe in to win. He brings a winning pedigree.”
Madden remains a role model for young defensive forwards and an inspiration for players who go undrafted. Devils fans will always remember his successful rookie campaign and the integral part he played in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final. He has found success as a player and will look to replicate that magic behind the bench.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.