Kukla's Korner

Devil's Advocate

Finding a fairy tale ending

In a perfect ending, Martin Brodeur hefts the Stanley Cup over his head and makes a graceful exit, the way the great Lanny McDonald did way back when.

And Brodeur may still get to achieve that rare ending, but he will likely have to wear another uniform to do it.

In recent days there have been enough media reports going around to make you realize something is likely to happen to Brodeur's status with the New Jersey Devils in the coming days.

"I hope it will never happen , but if there is a situation that could be really fun for me and really good for the Devils, why not?" Brodeur told Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger. "It's not like I'm going to play 25 more years here."

Still ...

"I'm not looking for that," he told Chere. "I want to get back into the playoffs with this team and try to do something with this team. I would say 99 percent I'd say no right now. But for a little bit of time (in the spring)? Nobody is going to remember it, really. It wouldn't be that big of a deal."

Brodeur doesn't want to see his career end in a whimper, and you can't blame him for that. But the Devils are life-and-death to make the playoffs this season, a flawed team that remains solid defensively, but just can't buy a goal on most nights.

Now factor in that Cory Schneider is playing like the No. 1 goalie everyone envisioned him to be when he was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks. He is the goalie of the present and future in New Jersey. Brodeur has been a solid 1A. He hasn't been the problem, and truth be told, any trade will not bring back what the Devils need to solve their short-term problems. So, the any deal would involve getting Brodeur to a contender.

"If you would have asked me that question say three years ago, I would have said there is no way because I felt that I had two more years to go," Brodeur told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "I don't know if I'm ready to move on somewhere for another two years or so and redo my life somewhere. But if, and we always talk about ifs, if there is an opportunity that the Devils are seeking and they ask me and I think it could be a good fit and a fun fit for two months or three months, then who knows?

"But it's not something that I want to do. That's my point. People have to understand, I'm never going to ask for it. But whatever happens I'll be back here anyway. Regardless in what capacity, this is where my life is going to be. It's going to be attached to the Devils. That's my hope, so I want anything good for them. Hey, if I'm able to get them something back -- they haven't gotten anything from me yet besides winning hockey games."

Brodeur wants to play. He has played too many games over one of the great careers in this league to be happy sitting on the end of the bench. So, the decision will be his. Brodeur will mull it over and then talk it out with Lou Lamoriello. There rarely has been a relationship like this in pro sports. Brodeur has been all about the Devils in his career, and Lamoriello has worked hard to make the goalie comfortable and happy.

"When you spend so much time (together), sometimes you don’t need to talk," Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. "Body language can just tell you. He knows what I think and what I’m used to and how different and how difficult it is."

This season hasn't been easy for Brodeur. He seemed to grab to top spot early in the season, but Schneider is now playing most every game. Brodeur hasn't rocked the boat. No diva behavior, no hissy fits. Brodeur has been around long enough to know that time marches on and takes players with it. His time is nearing an end and nothing that happens now will take the slightest luster from what he has accomplished and what will happen in the not-too-distant future when his No. 30 goes to the rafters at Prudential Center and he moves into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Is he the greatest goalie in NHL history? Argue among yourselves, but he certainly should be in every discussion. He has been the face of the franchise in New Jersey and brought three Stanley Cups to the Devils and competed in two more Finals. If he had played across the river, there would be a statue of him in front of Madison Square Garden. If he had played in Montreal, they probably would have named the building after him.

So, if Brodeur opts to move on, Lamoriello will certainly try to accommodate him. But that leads us to the bigger question. Is there a team out there looking for a veteran goalie to step in and carry the load? A team with a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup?

Some reports say the Minnesota Wild are a logical landing spot. Others hint at the Nashville Predators. Neither screams Stanley Cup winner to me.

Or maybe the Devils add some offensive punch and Brodeur is content to take one last ride in New Jersey.

Lots of maybes and lots of rumors, but the odds seem stacked against a fairy tale ending on the ice this season.

Filed in: | Devils Advocate | Permalink
  Tags: martin+brodeur

Comments

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“He hasn’t been the problem.”

I don’t know, I would argue that goaltending (not necessarily just Brodeur) has really been a weakness in New Jersey for the last 3-4 years.

Statistically speaking Brodeur has not been a particularly good NHL goalie since 2010, and an awful one since 2012; maybe it was harder to notice when his only competition was Hedberg and easy to call “not the problem” when the team scoring was just as inept, but now that NJ has a legit quality NHL starter it should be obvious that Brodeur doesn’t have much left to give.

I will grant that the stats very likely underrate goalies playing in NJ; hockey analysts have broadly agreed for years that the Devils’ official scorers probably undercount shots relative other NHL buildings, meaning Devils’ save percentages appear worse than they really are. But even very generously adjusting for scorer bias, it’s hard to get a combined .8997 save percentage over the last two years to look like “not the problem.”

Brodeur has his legions of fans and certainly deserves them; few goalies in NHL history have been as good (I don’t personally see a compelling case for him as GOAT but he’s definitely in the top 10) and none have achieved the same amount of team success.

But at 41 I think he’s just not very good anymore. And not in the “well he’s lost his job to Cory Schneider but he could still help a contender struggling in net somewhere” sense. In the “he’s probably not good enough to start anywhere except maybe Winnipeg” sense. He can still put together brief runs of decent games here and there, but his age and his overall level of performance over his last ~170 games or so would suggest he is just not a reliable NHL starter anymore.

That’s my take anyway. In case it’s not clear, thanks for blogging here—I always enjoy reading your stuff.

Posted by Sven22 from Grand Rapids on 02/09/14 at 12:46 PM ET

Avatar

Hey Sven,

Agreed with many of your points, but this season, I don’t think Brodeur has been the problem, the woeful offense has been the culprit. But I agree that seeing a top contender making a move for him appears to be remote at best.

IMHO, I think he stays put if the best alternative is a move to Nashville or another middle of the pack club.

Posted by pcoffey on 02/09/14 at 02:11 PM ET

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I am an all around NHL fan. I love to watch Atlantic Division, and root for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just because I cheer for the Flyers, doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with the other teams in the division, specifically the New Jersey Devils. Devils Advocate will provide you with the most important Devils news, filled with my opinion about the selected topic.

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