New Jersey Devils and Their Predicament with Brodeur

Nicholas SteblenkoContributor IIIDecember 21, 2011

TORONTO, ON - JUNE 14:  Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils accepts the Vezina Trophy for Top Goalie in the NHL onstage during the 2007 NHL Awards Show at the Elgin Theatre on June 14, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

At 18-years-old Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, stepped onto the ice for the first time as a Detroit Red Wing. Using his signature flat blade stick and playing with what would soon be known as an infamous chip on his shoulder, Howe began his illustrious career in the NHL.

Little known to those around him, Howe would go on to play 25 years in the NHL with those same Red Wings before leaving for the Western Hockey Association.

Up until that time, Howe was the face of the NHL, and ultimately earned himself the name, Mr. Hockey.

When I first started playing hockey in the early 1990’s, longevity and loyalty were becoming a thing of the past. When the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings, the league was changed forever. 

No one was safe from being traded and it became inconceivable to ever see another player do what Howe did.

Right around the same time I began watching hockey and understanding the game and its players is about the same time that the New Jersey Devils drafted Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur brought a spark to the organization under head coach Jacques Lemaire. He won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie during the 1993-94 season and never looked back, leading the Devils to three Stanley Cups and winning four Vezina Trophy’s for the league’s top goaltender.

Those who have watched Brodeur’s play over the years will agree that he is undeniably one of the best to ever play the game, with a signature style all his own. When Brodeur retires, he has a spot waiting for him in Hockey’s Hall of Fame.

As an organization, the New Jersey Devils have had their fair share of players come and go each season. Sometimes players opt for a second or even third stint with the Devils.

But every season, Brodeur is solid in net, and every season, New Jersey does not need to worry about their situation in goal.

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 23:  Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils salutes the crowd as he is named star of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes after Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on Apri
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

 Now in his 19th season with the Devils, Martin Brodeur is showing some signs of age and deterioration. Saves that once looked easy, now are sure-fire goals for opponents.

While he is still a great starting goaltender, Brodeur is nowhere near his once dominant self.

Most fans in the NHL believe that the Devils have done nothing to prepare for the future. But New Jersey has been drafting young talent for the past few seasons, obviously in anticipation of Brodeur’s exit.

As of right now, there are four prospects playing either in the American Hockey League with the Devils’ affiliate, the Albany River Rats, or in other junior hockey leagues while they develop.

Each player is 24 years old or younger and has shown promise at the every level, but the task ahead of them is to fill the shoes of a legend.

All of these questions that need answering are, for the Devils organization, a curse that comes along with a player like Brodeur.

His 19 seasons of elite goaltending has elevated the Devils into the upper echelon of the NHL, alongside teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens.

Unfortunately for New Jersey, the player that carried the organization for so long may also come back to haunt them.

The number 30 will hang from the rafters of the Prudential Center, serving as a reminder of how much one player can do for an organization.

Brodeur’s ghost will serve as a reminder for the next New Jersey goaltender. Every season deserves greatness in New Jersey.