Martin Brodeur might be human after all.
Once an elite goaltender Brodeurs’ recent post-season struggles have spelled doom for the New Jersey Devils.
This year was no different.
After a third consecutive first round loss, buried in the swamps of New Jersey went the Devils 2009-2010 season. It’s no coincidence that in net for all three of these playoff series loses was the aging four-time Vezina Trophy winner, 3-time Stanley Cup champion, Calder Memorial Trophy winner for NHL Rookie of the Year, and one of only two NHL goaltenders to have scored goals in both the regular season and the playoffs.
Brodeur, the only goalie in NHL history with eight 40-win seasons, is showing that at the age of 38 he’s no longer the great goaltender Devil fans are used to seeing. He has not made it out the first round since the 2006-07 season, and since the Devils 2003 Stanley Cup championship, his playoff record is 16 wins and 26 losses.
This is certainly not the win-loss record that’s expected from the greatest goaltender of all time, but when Brodeur’s consistently giving up goals that he’s expected to stop, this record should not be of any surprise.
(See Game 5 of the 2009-2010 Playoffs)
He has 602 career victories, and is the most successful athlete to ever wear a Devils uniform. Some may argue that is not saying much, but besides for the Detroit Red Wings, no other team in the league have won more Stanley Cups between 1995-2003, than the team from the Garden State.
But after another early playoff exit, the most accomplished goalie of all-time is on the decline, as Brodeur is no longer the best goalie in the game. Over the past three postseasons, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, and this year, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher, who in game 1 made his first postseason start in eight years, have all outplayed the hall-of-fame bound Brodeur in their respective series.
Although Brodeur’s a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (the award given to the league’s top goaltender) for the 9th time during his illustrious career after leading the league in wins (45), and shutouts (9), it’s what Brodeur has been able to accomplish in the postseason that has defined his legacy, and will continue to define the rest of his career.
A legacy that was built on winning Stanley Cups, coming back from 3-1 playoff series deficits, breaking Terry Sawchuck’s career shutout record of 103, having the most shutouts in a playoff year and for his career, and by becoming the NHL’s all-time career leaders in wins (552), has taken a hit. As the inability in recent years to advance past the first round will be the blemish that will stand out the most, at least for now. And until Brodeur proves that he can once again win the big game, the Devils are in trouble.
This year was supposed to be different, as this first round series was supposed to be against an inferior Flyers team, but Jacques Lemaire was out-coached. Offensive snipers Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise were shut down by the Flyers defense. And Brodeur was simply terrible as the blame for losing in the playoffs will forever fall on the shoulders of the goaltender – always has and always will.
As the Devils enter this off-season earlier than anticipated, many questions surround the future of the team. Will the Devils be able to resign unrestricted free agent, Kovalchuk, who’ll be seeking a major contract? With news breaking that Lemaire unexpectedly resigned as coach, whom will GM Lou Lamoriello put in charge for next season? Will free-agent defenseman Paul martin return? But the most important question should be, is Brodeur able to lead this team to hockey glory ever again?
Considering he’s slowing down and he is no longer an elite goaltender; the Devils should begin their search for Brodeur’s successor.
After Brodeur won his 552nd career game against the Chicago Blackhawks, he enthusiastically stated, “If this continues being fun, I’ll stick around for a long time.”
Brodeur should consider hanging up the skates, because it hasn’t been so much fun watching him, as the past three seasons have ended in anguish and agony.
But Brodeur’s career has been anything, but a disappointment. And watching him for all these years should have been a treat for all NHL fans, because it certainly was for the kid from New Jersey, who grew up idolizing Brodeur.