At age 40, Martin Brodeur is the league's oldest goalie. The life-long New Jersey Devil surpassed Patrtick Roy as the all-time winningest goalie in 2009 and just kept on going. Later that year, he passed Terry Sawchuk for the most shutouts ever.
And last season, at a time when most thought the storied career could be coming to a close, Marty helped the Devils make a surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals.
The veteran has appeared in nearly 1,200 regular-season games since 1993, earning four Vezina trophies, five William M. Jennings trophies and a Calder Trophy for rookie of the year honors.
Now though, the main question surrounding Brodeur seems to be when he'll decide to hang up his skates. With more than 650 wins and 120 shutouts—along with a goal and 40 assists—Marty has nothing left to prove.
Still, he seems intent on continuing his impressive career.
With a lockout-shortened season, questions arose as to whether it would spell the end for the goalie. Brodeur opted not to play in another professional league, as so many of his peers did. Would age catch up with Marty? Would the time off leave him too rusty to return to the world's most competitive league?
Those questions were answered pretty quickly once the season started. Through three starts, Brodeur was 3-0 and only let in three goals on 81 shots while recording a shutout. He was making saves no one else makes anymore—stacking his pads and rolling on his back—but he looked good doing it.
Now though, that's changed. In his three starts since, he's 0-1-2. He's allowed 14 goals on 97 shots, he looks slower and less alert, and even his stick-handling has suffered dramatically. His play has been bad enough that it's forced some fans to question whether Marty is still ready for this league.
The answer is simple though: Yes. Martin Brodeur is still very much an NHL goalie, and the lockout will likely prove beneficial in the long term.
The problem is that Brodeur doesn't like to sit through games. As a starter in his young days, he regularly started most games. From 1997 to 2008, Marty started at least 70 games each season, leading goalies in games played five times during that period. After a major injury caused him to miss the first large chunk of games of his career, Marty rebounded in the 2009-10 season with 77 games played, 45 wins and nine shutouts—all at age 37.
Brodeur's game has changed since then, though. He's started fewer than 60 games each of the last two seasons, and it seems to have helped him: While he suffered his first losing season in 2010-11, that was more a reflection of the team than the goalie. Last season, we saw how effective he and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg could be when working in tandem.
And then last year's playoffs came. Brodeur started every game and finished with a 14-9 record, a .917 save percentage and a 2.12 goals-against average. The message was clear: Marty still had the skill to play.
He might need more time off, but when big games come around, he's up to the challenge.
Then came the lockout. Brodeur was forced to miss more than three months of what would have been his 19th-straight season as a starter. With some young stars honing their skills in the minor leagues and others competing on international stages in Sweden, Russia, Germany or elsewhere, it almost seemed as if Brodeur could be left behind.
But then the season started, and we saw the same Marty we all know and love. There was no rust to shake off; the goalie was ready to play. While his skills have slowly declined over the years, all of the instincts and game smarts are still there. And because of a goalie stance that doesn't put particular strain on his body, Marty's not going to see a quick decline in his abilities.
Over the past two seasons, we've seen Brodeur reduce his role and hand over more starts to Hedberg, and it's worked. Through all of last year's playoffs, he looked fresh and ready to play. This lockout should just work as an extension of that philosophy.
Brodeur was able to spend three months staying in shape but without the stress of multiple professional games every week. Now that's he's back, he still faces a starting goalie's workload, but Hedberg has already gotten two starts, and more are sure to come. Brodeur is sure to get the majority of starts, but he also has 34 fewer games this year to worry about.
What Marty showed in last year's playoffs is that, with rest, he can still play an elite game. By missing out on the first three months of the NHL season, Brodeur was basically just given a chance to get some extra rest.
After all, he had to play later into the season than any other goalie besides Jonathan Quick.
Brodeur's not going to lose his skills: He's been playing too consistently for far too long. He's not going to lose his edge because of a couple extra months off, and he's not going to forget how to play. All the lockout has done is give Marty additional time to rest and recuperate.
Now, with the lockout over and the season underway, Brodeur is looking at 25-30 starts rather than more than 50. With the Devils playing relatively well, there's no reason to suspect they'll miss the playoffs, and if and when that comes around, Brodeur will be that much more rested to make a deep run.