He is the NHL’s all-time leader in wins. He is the NHL’s all-time leader in shutouts. He is the NHL’s active leader in goals against average.
It’s not a question of whether Martin Brodeur will be elected to the Hall of Fame when he retires from the New Jersey Devils. The better question is whether they will give him his own wing when he finally gets to the Toronto shrine.
Brodeur has been a sensational goalie throughout his career, which began in the 1991-92 season when he was 19 years old.
Brodeur played the 1992-93 season in the minor leagues, but he has been playing in the NHL ever since.
Brodeur, 40, has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships throughout his career, and now that he has reached his advanced age—at least for his chosen profession—the tendency is to deify him even more.
But while Brodeur has recorded 656 regular-season wins, 119 shutouts and a 2.13 goals against average, he has not been infallible.
Some of his most memorable moments have come in defeat.
Brodeur led the Devils to the 1993-94 Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers. His team had a three games to two lead when Rangers legend Mark Messier issued his famous guarantee that the Rangers would not lose Game 6. Messier made good on his guarantee and scored a hat trick (two goals against Brodeur, one into an empty net) and then the Rangers won Game 7 on Stephane Matteau’s memorable double-overtime wraparound goal.
Brodeur also led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals last season with consistent play in series wins over the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. However, Brodeur could not overcome the relentless Los Angeles Kings in the Finals. On the opposite end, Jonathan Quick was just a little bit better than Brodeur.
Brodeur’s exalted status is well-earned. However, his legend has as much to do with his longevity as it does his excellence.
The proof is in his save percentage. Heading into the 2012-13 season, Brodeur has a .913 save percentage. That leaves Brodeur in a tie for 16th on the all-time list with Jean-Sebastain Giguere.
Heading the list is Dominik Hasek, who had a .922 save percentage while playing for four teams, most notably the Buffalo Sabres. The Boston Bruins' controversial Tim Thomas is second on the list with a .921 mark, while Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo occupy the next three positions.
In our subjective all-time rankings, Brodeur ranks fourth behind Hasek, Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden, while just ahead of Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante.
Brodeur clearly has been a dominant and consistent goalie with many spectacular and Hall-worthy moments. However, he is not the best goalie of all time and there is every chance that a goalie may play at a higher level.
However, when it comes to longevity and excellence over a long period, we may never see his like again.