Takin' a T/O with BT: Martin Brodeur Makes 552 His Winning Number

xx yySenior Writer IMarch 18, 2009

On Tuesday evening, history was rewritten: a tie was broken, a changing of the guard occurred, and the old King was bumped to No. 2.

Patrik Elias bumped John Maclean as the Devils' all-time leading scorer, netting his 702nd point on March 17.

Unfortunately for Patrik, this day will go down in history for another reason, an even bigger reason, as Martin Brodeur took over as the all-time leader in National Hockey League history for regular season wins by a goaltender with 552.

Well, I guess if you're going to get snubbed by someone, it may as well be the best.

It finally happened: A moment that had become increasingly more realistic since Brodeur won his 16th game last season—to give him 500 for his career—was finally captured. After a stunted playoff run and a serious arm injury, Brodeur finally surpassed Patrick Roy's record of 551 wins.

552 and counting.

That, in and of itself, is scary.

Brodeur is soon to be 37 years old. If it wasn't for a freak injury, it'd be fair to say that Brodeur may be somewhere in the 575 range today, and we're talking about the first goalie to reach 600 wins for his career, not simply the wins record.

People wondered if he was going to be rusty coming back from his injury—he wasn't.

In fact, he's almost been better since coming back: Before getting hurt in early November, Brodeur had five games with three or more goals allowed (two five goal games), two shutouts, and a 6-2-2 record.

Since coming back he's lost once in nine games, nabbed two early shutouts, and only allowed more than two goals once.

Sometimes even the best need rest, I guess.

Then consider the fact that this will be only the second time since 1995-96 that Brodeur will have appeared in fewer than 70 games, and he had four 40-win seasons in five years coming into this year.

Fact is, I wouldn't put 700 career wins past this guy. Even if he played until only age 40 and won 30 games a year, he still posts 650 wins.

This makes the fact that the NHL locked out the 2004/05 season even more tragic—now this is history.

As it is now, Brodeur is the NHL's wins leader. He's four shutouts away from passing Terry Sawchuk as the Shutout King, one behind Patrick Roy (23 to 22) in terms of all-time playoff shutouts, and he sits 10th all-time in goals-against average.

If I were to tell you that's a Hall of Fame resume, I may as well jump out a window: It's obvious. A 4-year-old could make that assertion.

But is he the best ever?

The immediate and easy answer is yes. He's won the most regular season games in NHL history, (assuming everything goes as planned) he'll hold the mark for shutouts, and he's been one of, if not the most consistent goalie in league history.

The less popular answer is that Martin Brodeur is only one of many goalies that has contributed to a historically deep echelon of greatness.

For one, there's something that he doesn't have that Roger Crozier, Glenn Hall, Ken Dryden, Bernie Parent, Billy Smith, Ron Hextal, Bill Ranford, Mike Vernon, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Cam Ward, and Patrick Roy have that Brodeur doesn't have—a Conn Smythe award.

Now the one argument is that the Conn Smythe is a subjective award, and I agree. To win a Stanley Cup a team's goalie has to play like the Most Valuable Player for an entire season, as well as the two months that the playoffs run.

No matter what the situation, Brodeur has always done that. He wouldn't be in the situation he is today if he hadn't.

Brodeur was also the beneficiary of playing on some very strong, very deep New Jersey teams. Some of those goalies who own Conn Smythe trophies were propelling teams of unknowns, keeping their heads above water. Brodeur's crew was a well-oiled machine, always acting as if they'd been there before.

There's no doubt that Brodeur was a huge reason for those New Jersey Stanley Cups, but he was never in the spotlight for the same reason as a Jean-Sebastien Giguere: It was usually the Devils being the Devils in conjunction with Brodeur being superhuman, not just Brodeur being superhuman (much like Giguere was) that brought Swamp City the title.

Staying with the second season, as much as Brodeur has won over his career, there's one wins record he's not close to touching yet: the all-time playoff wins record.

Patrick Roy is still the all-time Playoff wins leader with 151, 56 wins ahead of Brodeur's 95 career wins.

Roy played a lot in the post-season—17 seasons to be exact—while Brodeur has only 13 to his credit.

When looking at the average length of their postseasons, the difference may look small—14.5 games per postseason for Roy to 12.9 games for Brodeur—but multiply that over the course of a few extra post seasons, and you've got a fairly big difference.

If Brodeur continues to fall victim to what's become consistent early exits in the past few post-seasons (He's only played more than 10 post season games in just one of his past four post-seasons), then he'll have trouble meeting those gaudy post-season numbers.

Then again if he keeps playing like this, there's no telling how deep he could go into future playoffs, and if he keeps it up this year he may be tying Patrick Roy with his fourth Stanley Cup ring (and maybe eventually Grant Fuhr with five).

Individual awards-wise, Brodeur undoubtedly ranks among the best: Four Vezinas, four William M. Jennings trophies, and a Calder Trophy. The Calder Trophy is probably the most impressive because the award has been around since 1932/33 and only 15 goalies have ever won it.

That's exclusive company.

So is being one of just a few men being able to be named "the best ever" at a position—any position—in a professional sport.

And you know what? By the end of his career, and probably right now, Martin Brodeur may very well be the best ever to step between the pipes of an NHL net.

But that doesn't mean that men like Ken Dryden, Terry Sawchuk, Bill Durnan, Turk Broda, Tiny Thompson, Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, Gump Worsley, or Reggie Vachon should fall through the cracks of history; without them, Martin Brodeur may not be where he is today.

Congratulations Marty, you've undoubtedly earned this honor. Here's to many more sparkling years.


Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so via his profile. You can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.


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