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Last year's ranking: 40
Title track: 19
Fan relations: 26
Stadium experience: 40
Bang for the buck: 78
There's really no other way to explain New Jersey hockey fans' undying devotion to a franchise that always seems to be in the relocation conversation, barely avoided bankruptcy last summer before being sold for a reported bargain-basement $320 million, has finished 20th or lower in attendance for 11 consecutive seasons and has missed the playoffs the past two. The devil is in the details.
A closer look helps explain why the Devils rank in the top half of the Ultimate Standings in all but two of our nine categories. They play in a pristine building, the 7-year-old Prudential Center, that provides a stadium experience superior to anything offered by their local rivals (New York's Rangers came in at No. 67, while the Islanders finished dead last at 122) -- even if they can't fill it. The folks who do show up feel appreciated, with a fan relations score in the top 25 percent of all pro sports franchises.
Also, the product on the ice is better than it seems. The Devils made the finals in 2012, eliminating the Rangers along the way. And while the headliners from that team are gone (captain Zach Parise to his native Minnesota, sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to his native Russia and 42-year-old future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur to unrestricted free agency), savvy GM Lou Lamoriello retooled with a talented young squad that could surprise in the weak Eastern Conference this year -- even if only the die-hards know it.