That should come as no surprise and generate no complaints from the New Jersey faithful. And even hockey fans from outside the Devils' fanbase can appreciate the 40-year-old’s decision.
As was reported by longtime Newark Star-Ledger scribe Rich Chere, the pending free-agent goaltender elaborated that he hopes to return to his career-long employer.
Why wouldn’t he? One could theoretically dismiss this pledge as being too raw and too soon after the end of the season. But given the nature of the 6-1 Game 6 loss that conceded the Cup to Los Angeles, Brodeur returning to kick ice chips over this sour memory is the only logical option.
Granted, of the five Kings goals the Brodeur allowed, three were the result of Steve Bernier’s five-minute boarding penalty at the halfway mark of the first period. For even a three-time champion and five-time finalist, warding off a penalty kill like that in an elimination game is a bit of a tall order.
Nonetheless, there were some, particularly Trevor Lewis’ raking in Dwight King’s rebound, that the goalie probably should have had. And the final stat line of five goals against and a .742 save percentage is a peerless pimple on Brodeur’s transcript.
And this was coming on a week after he had allowed four goals on 21 shots in a 4-0 loss that put the Devils in a 3-0 pothole.
However unfair it might be, those two outings will likely be remembered as much if not more than the multitude of more characteristic performances this postseason. That is why Brodeur should have every right and every opportunity to keep his spot in the Devils’ crease for another year.
He undoubtedly wants to ensure his final NHL game and final game as a Devil is a tad more memorable, even if it does not culminate in another Cup. And this season and postseason proved he is anything but washed up.
Besides, can New Jersey really bank on filling the future Hall-of-Famer’s pads so soon? Can the Devils honestly expect to duplicate, let alone build upon this past season with a different backstop?
Backup Johan Hedberg is only a year younger than Brodeur and has never been up to the same level of brilliance. And while the organization does boast a dense stable of goaltending prospects, they combine for a great scarcity of NHL experience.
For the sake of the organization, the best move would be to let go of Hedberg, another pending free agent, and bring up Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont or Jeff Frazee for at least a one-year apprenticeship under Brodeur.
If Brodeur is true to his every word—and it’s hard to imagine that he isn’t—he can help the situation by taking a hefty pay cut. After all, a thoroughly deserved chance to redress himself and his team after a night like Monday is one of those things that money can’t buy.
Over time, when nature takes its course, history will surely give more sizable sway to Brodeur’s three championships, his various milestones and records and his top-notch puck-handling that had him score a couple of goals.
Even so, if Game 6 is his last game with New Jersey, let alone in the NHL, it will still have a more visible spot in the memory bank than it will if he comes back for another ride.
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