We watched yesterday as Brodeur earned his 688th win in what could turn out to be his last game for the New Jersey Devils and quite possibly the last game in his career. Despite the Devils inability to reach the playoffs for the second straight year, fans at The Rock stood and cheered as the entire team raised their sticks at center ice in appreciation of their fans. A few of Brodeur’s teammates pushed Brodeur back to center ice so that he could take one final bow just in case this is the end.
So what now? It appears that Brodeur is unwilling to let go of his career and adamant that he can still play at his age but statistically, Brodeur struggled to put up decent numbers this season, finishing 71st in save percentage. In fact since turning 40, Brodeur hasn’t had a Save Percentage better .901 in a season. That stat alone makes it difficult to make an argument that he can still play at a top level. There is no denying what Marty has done over the past 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils but there is also no denying that at 41, expecting to be a starting goaltender in the NHL might be a little unrealistic.
Brodeur spoke at length after his 3-2 win over the Bruins that he feels he can still play and that he isn’t ruling out a return to New Jersey. The one thing we do know, if Brodeur were to return to the Devils this summer, he shouldn’t expect to be the starter. In fact, I can’t really think of one team in the NHL, except for maybe the New York Islanders where that wouldn’t be the case.
The Greatest Ever?
If Brodeur decides to retire this summer, he would do so with the NHL records for wins (688), shutouts (124) and games played (1,259), all of which come as a member of the New Jersey Devils. For the fans of the New Jersey Devils, that is something extremely special. As for how special that is to Brodeur, that is something he will have to consider if the offers come in this summer.
There have been many arguments against Brodeur throughout the course of his career that his wins total has been inflated due to the shootout but take the following into consideration before you throw away his wins total. Brodeur has only 42 wins in the shootout but yet due to three lockouts during his career, 152 games were not played. Surely Brodeur could have won 42 games out of those 152.
Let’s also not forget that the “Trapezoid Rule” was put in place almost exclusively for Brodeur because of the element he brought to the Devils and the NHL when he was allowed to play the pucks in the corner. Name one other athlete in all of professional sports that had a rule implemented into the game to take away an advantage that said athlete brought to said game.
I’ll give into the argument that Brodeur benefited from playing with guys like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko during an era of hockey most known for its neutral zone trap. But if I am going to give you that, you at least have to give into the fact that those guys were either retired or playing elsewhere when the NHL changed its rules in 2005-06 and yet he was still one of the NHL’s top goalies. Brodeur won back-to-back Vezina Trophies in 2007 and 2008 at ages 34 and 35 with a .922 save percentage in 2007 and .921 save percentage in 2008, his best numbers in that category for his career.
My Thoughts on Brodeur
I do believe that Brodeur is the greatest goalie to play during my lifetime. Since I didn’t live through some of the other greats, there is no way I can consider him the greatest of all time. There is no way the Devils would have won 3 Stanley Cups and appeared in 2 other Finals without him but I also believe that he’s hung on a little too long. There is no doubt in my mind that had the Devils been able to defeat the LA Kings in 2012, Brodeur probably would have left the game on top, much like Daneyko did in 2003. There’s also little doubt in my mind that the loss to those Kings in 2012 is the reason he’s still here.
Look at Brett Favre, who is my best comparison to Marty Brodeur. In 2010, Brett Favre took the Minnesota Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship before the Saints found a way to win to win the game in OT. That disappointing loss to the Saints wasn’t how Brett Favre wanted to end his career so he returned for one more season, one more highly forgettable season if you’re a Vikings fan.
Brodeur didn’t want to end his career losing the cup and probably felt that the pieces were there or close to being there to return to the Finals. After an amazing post-season run in 2012 that came up a little short, Brodeur signed a 2 year contract with the Devils but unfortunately, the aging Brodeur combined with the departures of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, those key pieces Brodeur thought would be there, the Devils found themselves missing the playoffs in both of those years.
Last summer the Devils made a surprise trade at the NHL Entry Draft that saw Cory Schneider get shipped to NJ. Shortly after the trade, I remember seeing an interview where Brodeur looked completely shocked that the Devils appeared to be focusing on life after Brodeur.
At the start of the season, it appeared that the Devils were going to try and even the playing time between Schneider and Brodeur but eventually Schneider was outplaying Brodeur and earning the right to be considered the Devils #1 goalie. Brodeur was outspoken during the season that he wanted to play more and if NJ wasn’t going to give him the opportunity to do so, then he would gladly remove his NMC from his contract and go play somewhere else. Schneider ended up playing in 45 games through the 2013-14 season meaning that Brodeur started 37 games, which in my opinion aren’t true backup goalie numbers.
Put aside Martin Brodeur’s personal life. It has nothing to do with hockey and shouldn’t come into any discussion about the NHL yet opposing fans and players love to bring it up but I am not going to sit here and tell you that I am a fan of Martin Brodeur the person. In 2003, I sat down and watched the Devils Stanley Cup video and was shown a version of Brodeur that didn’t thrill me. Many season ticket holders I know have told me stories about the times they met Brodeur that never painted a pretty picture. His constant belly aching throughout the 2013-14, whether media made or not, was too much for me to tolerate and I got to the point that I wanted the Devils to deal him at the deadline.
Once the Devils were eliminated from playoff contention, I was very much in favor of Brodeur starting the last 2 games at home for the Devils. I am also very much in favor of Martin Brodeur calling it a career and hanging up his skates because I don’t want to see him in another NHL sweater but at the same time, I truly don’t feel that he has the skills to compete as the number 1 goalie anymore and feel that his presence on the bench won’t allow Cory Schneider to feel that the Devils are trusting him with their future.