It is becoming increasingly clear Martin Brodeur will finish his NHL career someplace other than New Jersey if he wishes to play next season, but not so clear at all where the all-time goaltender will finish this season. Brodeur is expected to ponder his options during the winter recess, to consider whether requesting a trade would be mutually beneficial for him and the Devils, who have their noses pressed against the outside of the playoff window and are in severe danger of missing the tournament for the third time in the past four seasons. After 20 seasons, the Devils’ net belongs to someone else. No one ever had a longer run as a club’s No. 1 than Brodeur — not Frank Brimsek, not Turk Broda, not Jacques Plante, not Glenn Hall, not Tony Esposito, not Dominik Hasek, not Patrick Roy, and not even close. The Devils’ net belongs to Cory Schneider, who Saturday night started his sixth straight game, eighth of the past nine and 12th of the team’s previous 15 matches. It doesn’t matter if you want to think Brodeur dropped the ball and lost the job near third base at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago — that’s not it. The fact is, the transition had begun before that, and given the chance to take over, as was the plan from the moment Schneider was acquired from the Canucks at last June’s draft in exchange for the ninth-overall selection, the 27-year-old grabbed onto the job and refused to let go, almost as if afraid Roberto Luongo would somehow emerge from the shadows and snatch it away from him. In his 13 starts leading up to the pre-Olympic finale in Washington, Schneider was 7-2-4, allowing two or fewer goals 12 times while recording a 1.43 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. This wasn’t an inheritance, nor was it a coup. This is simply the natural order of business, even if there probably has never been anything more unnatural in NHL history than Martin Brodeur sitting on the bench as a backup. The only thing harder for a 41-year-old goaltender than playing every night is playing once every three weeks. There’s a different skill set required for backing up than starting, different mental and physical preparation necessary for success. No one ever has gone from starting 70 games a year to sticking around for long to start 15, and it’s not because the great ones are too proud. It’s just too difficult. Brodeur had been playing pretty well before the misadventure in The Bronx. He had gone 5-2-2 in his previous nine starts with a 2.21 goals-against and .916 save percentage. The Devils, who simply don’t score, were winning as much with him as with Schneider. But there’s no going back now, and everyone in New Jersey knows it. The issue for Brodeur to mull over the break isn’t one of his legacy; nothing that comes now can tarnish it in the least. Brodeur’s status as one of the five best goaltenders in NHL history is carved in granite. The issue is for Brodeur is two-fold: whether, a) he would feel comfortable leaving the Devils and joining a new team three-quarters of the way through the season; and, b) whether there is a playoff contender with the need for a goaltender of his pedigree to start at least half of its games. Maybe the Wild, relying on rookie Darcy Kuemper to seal a wild-card spot, would be an option. Maybe the Predators, challenging for a wild-card berth, would be an option if Pekka Rinne can’t return sooner rather than later. This isn’t about next year, when options will be more readily apparent over the summer to Brodeur, assuming he doesn’t want to retire. By the way, those people who continually disparage his work over the last few seasons? He carried the Devils to within two games of the Stanley Cup two years ago while outplaying Henrik Lundqvist along the way. This is about the rest of this year. Maybe Brodeur will opt to stay as insurance for the Devils’ playoff chase in case Schneider goes down. Maybe this is where he would be most comfortable finishing the season, and maybe his career, as well.
Lots to mull for Devils’ legend Brodeur
New York Post | Feb 9