In December, Martin Brodeur made the decision to end rejoin the NHL only after a few short months. The Devils’ legend returned to the league, but not for his former team. This time, he donned a Saint Louis Blues’ uniform. Recently though, Brodeur asked the organization for some time off to mull his decision to come back. He has struggled mightily in his return putting up less than stellar numbers and in many ways ruining his image as a lifelong Devil. I decided to take a look at how much Brodeur’s play has dropped in his return and discuss if maybe the 42-year old would have been better off staying at home.
Brodeur absolutely ranks as one of the best, if not the best, net minder in NHL history. He only allowed 2.19 goals per game in his 20 years in New Jersey, which was the seventh best mark of all time. In playing just 7 games this year, Brodeur has allowed 17 goals and had his goals per game average jump to 2.24. That number is still phenomenal but it drops Marty 2 spots down the all-time list. Brodeur is saving 89.9 percent though which is not too far off from what he traditionally did in a Devils’ uniform. It has not affected his career average at all. The issue is that Brodeur’s declining play will likely continue to drop. He has played over 200 hundred more games played than any other goalie in history with 1266 appearances. That many games takes a toll on your body. It will continue to plague Brodeur as he continues to push himself. He might be the winningest goalie of all time but that is not the player the Blues have now. Brodeur is only 3-3 in games he has played the majority of the goalie minutes. The reality is that he is not getting any better and it is disappointing to see a legend of his caliber struggle.
Brodeur also looks wrong with a Blues’ logo emblazoned on his chest. For two full decades, Marty wore the Devils’ red and became the iconic centerpiece of their franchise. You cannot fault a guy for wanting to play longer but it is sure disappointing that the last image we will have of Brodeur will not be of him in New Jersey. He transformed in a legend at the Rock, earning four Vezina Trophy’s and winning five Eastern Conference championships and three Stanley Cups with the Devils. Brodeur joining the Blues does not negate nor replace any of that but it does somewhat tarnish his legacy, not as a hockey player but as a Devils’ legend. From now on, he will have NJ-STL written next to his name rather than just the NJ.
From the standpoint of the Blues as well, this just is not working. Saint Louis’ regular starter, Brian Elliot, is allowing only 1.86 goals against on average this season, the best mark in the NHL. Brodeur’s 2.87 goals against average represents a full goal per game more allowed when he is in net versus Elliot. That represents one of the largest drop offs of any team in the league. If you look at games where Brodeur has played the majority of the minutes he is only saving 89.3% of shots against him, 4 full points below Elliot’s number of 93.4% when he plays the majority of the minutes. The disparity has to make Saint Louis nervous about playing Brodeur in net. In many ways, starting him can easily be the difference between a win and a loss for the Blues.
Looking at the whole picture, it seems like Brodeur should have retired. I think he knows it too, which is why he is taking this time away from the team to reconsider everything that has gone on over the last six weeks. I think Brodeur is still a great player and one of the best goalies in NHL history but this decision to keep playing was absolutely a mistake. He hurt his image as a Devils’ great, does not give his new team a fair chance to compete on the level of the guy starting ahead of him and simply is not capable of playing as well as we have come to expect from Brodeur in the past. Marty made a great run but as it is for all great athletes, a time comes where it is time to walk off into the sunset.