Is Brodeur's future in Jersey or St. Louis?
Dan Di Sciullo - NHL Editor|
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Martin Brodeur finally decided to hang up his pads this week, a decision that was hardly surprising considering the future Hall of Famer has nothing left to prove on the ice.
The big question now is whether the longtime face of the New Jersey Devils plans to spend his post-playing career in the Garden State or if he'll make his new home in St. Louis a permanent one?
The 42-year-old goaltender ended his magnificent career as a member of the Blues and is following up his retirement announcement on Thursday by immediately joining the Blues' front office as a senior advisor to St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong.
But, is Brodeur's decision to take the job in St. Louis a sign he is still bitter about the way things ended in New Jersey, or is the advisory position simply a stop-gap before he eventually transitions to front office work for the Devils?
Lou Lamoriello, the Devils longtime GM and the man who drafted Brodeur in the first round way back in 1990, doesn't seem worried that his former franchise goaltender will choose St. Louis over Newark in the long run.
To hear Lamoriello explain it, Brodeur's decision to take on a role in the Blues front office is simply a case of the veteran fulfilling a commitment to a club that gave him one last shot at manning an NHL crease.
Lamoriello has said he's made a standing offer for Brodeur to join the Devils' front office whenever he was ready to retire from the game, and the goalie could've accepted the offer right now.
"He could have come back even now if he wanted to, but this is something he and I talked about," Lamoriello said. "He made a commitment to St. Louis. They gave him a chance and players asked him to stay, so he'll travel with the team and be in the coaches' meetings with players. He might even find out whether he likes this business or not, who knows?"
But, until Brodeur himself chimes in and gives credence to Lamoriello's take on the situation, there will continue to be speculation that the legendary goalie is snubbing the Devils.
Most of this drama stems from the way Brodeur left New Jersey, a franchise he won three Stanley Cups with while rewriting the NHL record book over a consistently great 21-season run.
In the end, however, it was pretty clear Brodeur was unable to end his time with the Devils on his own terms. The club made a splash at the 2013 NHL Draft by acquiring Cory Schneider in a blockbuster trade with the Vancouver Canucks, a move which signaled the beginning of the end for Brodeur's playing days in New Jersey.
Brodeur and Schneider had a fairly even share of net duties during their one season together with the Devils, with the younger netminder making 43 starts to Brodeur's 39. Although Brodeur boasted the better record -- 19-14-6 to Schneider's 16-15-12 mark -- the new kid on the block's season was superior to the cagey veteran in just about every other way.
Schneider boasted a 1.97 goals against average and a solid .921 save percentage during his debut campaign with the Devils, while Brodeur struggled to a 2.51 GAA and .901 save percentage. Flash forward to the present and Schneider is still sporting a .921 save percentage this season while making 42 of New Jersey's 48 starts. Brodeur, meanwhile, had a 2.87 GAA and .899 save percentage in seven appearances with the Blues, a team that counts itself among the best defensive clubs in the NHL.
Although it was obvious both last season and in 2014-15 that Lamoriello made the right decision in choosing the present over the past, it never seemed to sit right with Brodeur.
To his credit, the always honest Brodeur made it known he wasn't happy about being forced to share starts with Schneider. Some folks would call his attitude selfish and they wouldn't be wrong, but it was more complicated than that.
After all, having a bottomless supply of confidence in his abilities is one of many things that made Brodeur perhaps the greatest goaltender of all time. Simply agreeing with public opinion about Schneider being the better option in net for the Devils would not have been consistent with what we've come to know and love about Brodeur.
And it's hard to blame Brodeur for not taking other people's opinions about his play to heart. Long before Schneider arrived in Jersey, the critics declared Brodeur should call it quits, only to watch as the cagey veteran proved himself still worthy of an NHL starting job.
One of those junctures came as recently as the spring of 2012 when Brodeur anchored the Devils' run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Heading into that postseason the majority of us covering hockey believed Brodeur was too old to get it done in the playoffs anymore but he proved us wrong.
This week, however, Brodeur finally accepted the inevitable and called it a career. But just because he eventually arrived at the same conclusion as Lamoriello did when opted not to re-sign Brodeur last summer, doesn't mean he is over the perceived snub.
Maybe we should believe Lamoriello when he says everything is hunky dory with him and Brodeur. This could turn out to be a case of much ado about nothing if this summer Brodeur cuts tied with the Blues and takes a job with the Devils just like Lou said he would. Then again, if Brodeur keeps his post with St. Louis into next season it will become increasingly difficult to take Lamoriello at his word regarding this situation.
Like everyone else, the hockey media loves a conspiracy. So, until Brodeur gives us a real reason to stop speculating there's a rift between him and Lamoriello this story isn't going anywhere.