Is Martin Brodeur Exempt from Criticism? This Integral to Devils Failures?

Jack thetravellerCorrespondent IMay 16, 2009

Is Martin Brodeur somehow exempt from criticism? The answer is as obvious as the Devil’s shortcomings.

The last time I criticized Lou Lamoriello I received what amounted to e-hate. One fellow Devil fan sent me an email, telling me that in his opinion I was “no Devils fan” because I’d defamed the great Lamoriello.  Or should I say "dissed" the "Greatest GM in history." 

Another went as far as to call me a son of a b^%$h, for daring to criticize the “Big Lou.” And advised me “to be careful what I write if I ever wanted to set foot in Jersey again.” I felt I’d just insulted Tony Soprano, and my days as a writer and able bodied human were numbered at best.

But has any of this nonsense stopped me? Certainly not! I want my team to do well, and feel that the organization needs a bit of a wake-up call.

After the completion of this article, do I expect to have the numbers 3, 557, and 101 hurled in my direction? Sure. And I welcome it.

Those numbers will remind me of how many cups my Devils have taken over the past 14 season, how many games Martin Brodeur has won for all of us, and just how many times Scott Stevens, Scotty Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko and co. have slammed the proverbial door down on the likes of the Rangers, Flyers, Pens, Leafs, Sens, Stars, Ducks, and Wings.

I welcome the numbers as well as the criticism, and expect a healthy dose of it to be launched in my direction-preferably in the form of comments though!

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

However, as a loyal Devils fan, one who truly cares about his team, I must certainly not let this criticism stop me from expressing my opinions. My love, not feelings of hurt, for the New Jersey Devils is what’s driving me to write this article. Nothing more, nothing less.

Although the play of Martin Brodeur was instrumental in each of the Devils successful playoff campaigns, it has been just as integral to our recent failures. Make no bones about it, Martin Brodeur has been key to each of last two post season demises. There I said it.

Sure we need a center, Mottau should’ve hit the ice to block that pass to Jokinen, White should have played the puck instead of throwing that silly check on Eric Staal; there also should have even been an interference penalty called against the aforementioned Staal before the Jokinen goal ever happened.

And yes we need a top defenseman and power play specialist to play the point. We also need to lower our ticket prices, add a third jersey, for the purpose of marketing the team to the newest generation of fans and our inevitable future winter classic battle against the blue shits.

I’d also like to see more segments on MSG featuring Chico Resch and his gloriously healthy appetite!

But what we need first is a solution; a solution to a problem that’s only going to grow.

Brodeur’s painfully obvious decline accompanied with the media, the Devil's GM and coaching staffs overt fear of being critical of him is a big part of what's killing the Devil’s chances of success in the post lockout NHL.

Reminds me of how fearful we were when it came to questioning Bush and his desire to take us into a war that would inevitably cost us over a trillion dollars! Look where that landed us. Will this media gag order on criticism of Brodeur dismantle the Devils as well?

Although I’m being a bit too sarcastic for my own good, I believe that there is a very good chance it will.

I’ve already predicted the inevitability of Zach Parise’s departure if the losing does not cease asap, in an earlier article.

Let’s take a look back at the last two Stanley Cup Playoffs. Everyone was quick to condemn Sean Avery for his behaviour in ‘08. I can not tell you how many times I personally climbed out of my seat and screamed at the television set at the deplorable officiating that allowed the coward to abuse Brodeur!

Avery’s behavior was shocking and abhorrent to say the least, however that doesn’t take a away from the fact that Brodeur let in soft goal after soft goal against the Blue Shirts—a good chunk of which were scored when Avery wasn’t even on the ice.

But still, for arguments sake, let’s attribute his poor play in 2008 playoffs to nerves. Brodeur was rattled, and he is human after all.

Then what about his performance during this playoff campaign? Was Avery playing dress up again? This time not as a stocky runway model, but as a Finn? More specifically as Jussi Jokinen?

No Sean Avery was most certainly not involved in this years series against the Canes. He was too busy punching Simeon Varlamov in the face to be in Raleigh or Newark. Yet this series had a similar outcome to last years debacle against the Rangers, with Brodeur crying foul (Game Four antics), and our Devs sent packing.

This series saw the Great Martin Bordeur thoroughly outplayed by Carolina’s Cam Ward; as he was last year by the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist.

While Brodeur wasn’t awful, with the exception of games one and five when he performed well, he most certainly did not do his team any major favors. One just needs to think back to game seven for proof of his overall performance.

The Rutuu goal, giving the Canes the early lead, was as soft as they come. To let that kind of shot in, that early on in a game seven, is inexcusable. Although it seems to have been forgotten, due to just how quickly the Devs equalized the contest, and more importantly how shockingly the series ended, one should not dismiss the importance of that goal.

The Devils thoroughly outplayed the Canes over the first 55 minutes of the contest yet found themselves only ahead by the one tally.

If Brodeur had made the saves he gets paid to, he’s expected to; one needs to recall that Brodeur takes in a cool 5.2 mill a campaign, the Devs would have been up 3-1, and quite possibly clear of any late game Cardiac Cane heroics.

With that said I honestly feel a top goalie, a goalie of Brodeur’s supposed calibre, should be able to stop at least one of those last two shots.

The Devils certainly didn’t lose the series solely because of Brodeur’s game seven blunder and overall shoddy play, however I think its fair to admit that if Martin had performed even remotely close to Cam Ward, we’d have been watching the Ovechkin-Parise show, not the Ovechkin-Crosby one.

So what’s the solution? Or should I say, how should things have been done?

There is no easy answer. When you’ve played as long as Brodeur has, achieved as much success as the great man has, there’s no easy way to transition between goalies, however after the events surrounding this season, one need not have looked any farther than Scott Clemmensen, and his performance as a backup.

Brodeur’s selfishness and obsession with statistics and personal numbers, and Lou Lamoriello’s unwavering support has hurt us for the second straight year. Instead of bringing in Brodeur slowly, he played out the season as if the injury had never happened, and Clemmensen didn’t exist.

The purpose of a backup in hockey is not only to fill in when the “star” is injured, but to offer an option and some form of competition to a number one down on their game.

The backup should be brought in when the goalie performs poorly for a stretch, as Brodeur has each of these past seasons. It’s good for competition. When longterm Devils, Pandolfo, Madden, and Holik performed poorly they were scratched. When Brodeur played badly he was excused.

And it’s not as if we didn’t have a capable substitute. Clemmensen only finished the season with a higher winning percentage, six more wins compared to only two more losses, a better Goals Against, and a higher Save Percentage than Brodeur, yet he was dismissed like yesterdays news the second Brodeur returned.

I know it soundscompletely insane to suggest playing Clemmensen over Brodeur however when you look at it objectively its not all that outlandish.

Why didn’t the Devil’s even consider playing Clemmensen when Brodeur started looking shaky? With Brodeur’s position in hockey lore cemented as tightly as Lou Lamoriello’s wallet, there was no way anyone in the Devils organization would have let that happen.

Besides Brodeur would most likely have thrown a tantrum or thrown his stick at Sutter or poor Clemmer if he didn’t get his way. Sources tell me that Sutter was actually against bringing Brodeur back in the manner he was reintroduced into the line-up.

After all the Devils had really rallied around Clemmensen. That all ended once Brodeur reached his milestone and reality of the situation set in.

When the Devs lost seven of eight, back in late March, only two short weeks before the start of the payoffs, I knew we were in for a quick demise in this year’s postseason.

I had a sinking feeling that without some sort of a shakeup, it was simply a matter of time till Devils fans would be watching Rounds Two and Three, like the Devs themselves, as outsiders looking in.

Although Clemmensen was far from perfect, he certainly earned the right to have a shot at playing. When Brodeur’s play was spotty, he earned the right to have a chance at filling in. He earned the right to have that glimmer of hope.

Yet what did Lou do? For the sake of saving a bit of cash he sent Clemmensen back to Lowell, and let the Devils morale part with it.

Some will say, but Jack, “Forget the stats. Clemmensen’s a hack. He’s not a number one goalie! He’s over thirty and still in the minors.” I’m going to be told I am a moron for even suggesting Clemmensen be given an opportunity in the playoffs.

My response? Jonas Hiller! Look no farther than the Anaheim Ducks and the

Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Jonas Hiller story for your answer.

Giguère’s play, like the Ducks, was spotty at best this year, and he was been replaced by Jonas Hiller, after slightly injuring his groin. He went 9-2-2 to finish the season and the Ducks have never looked back.

I’m going to hear, “But Giguere’s no Brodeur!”

Although Giguère’s not what one would call a household name, he’s certainly no hack either. This guy only won the Conn Smythe in 2003, finishing ahead of Brodeur in the vote, and helped guide his squad to a Stanley Cup victory but two years ago. That’s more than I can say for Brodeur’s accomplishments of late.

Yet Bob Murray and co. felt they need to make the switch. Even if it were originally just to get

Giguère’s juices flowing, the move has paid massive dividends. I wonder what would have happened if the Devs had given Clemmer the same opportunity; the opportunity to at least at pushing Brodeur a bit.