Time For Brodeur To Move On?
It shouldn't end this way for Martin Brodeur.
As the backup to an as-yet-unproven goalkeeper on what may be the worst New Jersey Devils team ever.
And, Mickey Mouse past acknowledged, that's saying something.
Having looked across the river and seen the kind of professional farewell the fabulous Yankee closer Mariano Rivera received this past season, Brodeur might have reasonably envisioned the end might work out the same for him at some point, some day.
But he hasn't said he's retiring after this season. And while Rivera was the closer in the Bronx to the end, Brodeur has informally ceded his role at the No. 1 goalie to Cory Schneider after a two-decade run.
"I think he’s in the net now to stay. I don’t see that’s going to change any time soon," said Brodeur earlier this week.
So while Teemu Selanne is feted everywhere he goes this season, Brodeur seems fated to be anchored ignominiously to the end of the New Jersey bench wearing a ball cap, not good enough for a Devils team that has one win and is headed for a lottery pick it won't get to use because of the league-administered punishment for giving Ilya Kovalchuk an illegal contract.
Kovalchuk has bolted to the KHL, of course, leaving Brodeur and his mates to contend with the messy situation left behind.
The Devils are horrible now and there's no help on the horizon. The departures of Zach Parise and David Clarkson over the past two seasons, two players who seemed to define themselves as Devils, have been indications Lou Lamoriello can no longer convince players to stay for anything less than market value, as he was able to do for many years with Brodeur and others.
It's ugly in Newark, folks. Really ugly.
Schneider, after losing again on Thursday in a shootout to his former Vancouver team, chose his words carefully over his new status.
"It was nice of him to say," Schneider told reporters, "but I think results are measured in wins, and right now I’ve only got one and the team’s only got one. So it’s not like I’m putting a stranglehold on this thing. I need to win some more games and get some more points for our team.
"It’s still early. I think we kind of alternated starts there at the beginning. A lot can happen now until the end of the year. We have a tough schedule with a lot of back-to-backs where they need both of us ready to go and playing well. Right now I just happen to be getting a few looks in a row here."
There's no easy answer here for the 41-year-old Brodeur, who experienced the joy of having his son, Anthony, drafted by the Devils in June, but then lost his father this fall. He is winless in four appearances with an .865 save percentage, which has some suggesting he can no longer play at a high level.
That seems rather premature. He could even take over again if Schneider falters.
But Brodeur doesn't seem to think so.
It could be the answer here, if Brodeur wants it, is a trade.
Unthinkable, right? Maybe not.
He certainly embraced the acquisition of Schneider for Jersey's first round pick last June, embraced the scenario that they would share the job as a way of easing himself out and easy Schneider in.
But now he's No. 2 and the team is going nowhere. It's not hard to project that some team, a contender, would be more than happy to have Brodeur, who's $4.5 million contract expires this season, on the bench as insurance when the playoffs begin.
Pittsburgh? Boston? Montreal? Detroit? Washington?
Heck, the Carolina Hurricanes, with Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin out with injuries, could use him now.
Brodeur may not want to go anywhere, and he seems destined for a front office job in Jersey when he does stop playing.
That said, his older boys are spread out now, one at a famous Minnesota prep school and the other playing junior in Gatineau (Anthony is 3-2 so far in six appearances). If he were to move, the relocation would be for a matter of months, rather than years, as this certainly appears to likely be his final season.
He toyed with the idea of playing somewhere else two summers ago when the Devils were dragging their heels on a new contract offer. Maybe that got him thinking.
A trade wouldn't happen now, if it happens at all. It would occur around the trade deadline.
But it makes a lot of sense. It might not be the ending Brodeur imagined.
But it would be better than what he faces now.