Should Brodeur have retired?

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.

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What are the Devils looking for?

On December 26, the New Jersey Devils’ front office informed coach Peter DeBoer that he was being let go. It was a move that made sense based on where the Devils sat in the standings but I fail to understand the firing past that. I am not saying that DeBoer should have been kept on past this season but I do not know what New Jersey was thinking severing ties before even reaching the midpoint of the season. It is time to take a second look at DeBoer’s dismissal.

Now, I understand that DeBoer was struggling to get positive results from his team, as New Jersey went 12-17-3 this year with him as the coach. The Devils ranked among the bottom teams in the league in terms of goals per game and goals allowed per game. New Jersey’s special teams were struggling as well as the penalty kill ranked in the bottom third of the league. The Devils are also tied for most shorthanded goals allowed with five. All of the shortcomings were abundantly clear for DeBoer’s ability to morph the Devils into a competitive team. Clearly, he was not getting it done any more as the lead man in New Jersey. The Devils organization recognized that and took care of it. That is not the issue. The issue is New Jersey’s course of action after the front office has taken in the days following DeBoer’s release.

It is becoming painfully more obvious by the day that the Devils’ organization did not have a plan in place for how they would proceed following DeBoer’s firing. The team, now more than a week later, has still not announced a head coach. General Manager Lou Lamoriello hinted that the front office might not name anyone head coach for the remainder of the season and instead will have three coaches picking of the slack, making them all assistant head coaches. Not only is that unconventional, it just does not make sense. I understand that DeBoer was struggling as the coach but why would you fire him if you do not intend to replace him. I fail to grasp the logic behind the move.

It has not lead to any newfound success either. The Devils have gone 1-3 since firing DeBoer and are dropping further down the standings. New Jersey now sits 11 points behind the rival Rangers for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While that margin is not insurmountable, it is highly unlikely that the Devils earn twelve more points than New York the rest of the way. So, it does not seem like the Devils’ organization fired DeBoer to make a run at the playoffs either, making this move even more head-scratching. New Jersey does not have enough easy games in January either to make me think that it could potentially climb back into the playoff conversation. The Devils only play three teams this month that do not have more wins than loses. That does not exactly make me too confident.

So once again, the Devils had every right to fire DeBoer. I am not in any way questioning the motive behind the move. I am just perplexed by the handling of the ensuing situation. The New Jersey front office needs to find some stability at head coach because this new model for coaching they are implementing is not very effective. I hardly think that this team stood a chance of turning itself around if DeBoer had stayed on. However, as New Jersey regains star Patrick Elias from illness, thus making the team infinitely more competitive, it makes me think that the Devils would have been better off keeping DeBoer for the time being and waiting until season’s end to let him go. As of right now, I see a team with no direction and no hopes of finding one without a legitimate head coach.