End of an Era in New Jersey?

Martin Brodeur trade rumors

 

Being a goaltender in the National Hockey League is of one of the most demanding jobs in sports. A goalie is the last line of defense, a goalie can win or lose a game singlehandedly, and a goalie can be the hero of 20,000 fans any given night, or their enemy. For New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, he has been the hero of generations of Devils fans for the better part of a decade, but is the time for this legendary goaltender in the Garden State at and end?

By looking at the statistics of a 20 year career, they certainly speak to a man that has arguably been the greatest goalie in the history of the league, and one that even changed the game. 682 career wins, 124 shutouts, 1248 games played, 3 Stanley Cups, 4 Vezina trophies, and other countless records can easily cement Brodeur as the greatest to ever put on a pair of pads. But what makes Brodeur stand out amongst others is his passion to play for one team his whole career, and not demands tons and tons of money he did not deserve to do so.

Brodeur has always made it his main objective to remain in New Jersey and help them compete for a Stanley Cup year in and year out. This is what makes him admirable amongst not only Devils fans, but hockey fans as well.  His decision to come back with the team for two more years after leading them to the Cup finals in 2012 was questionable by some. But after the 2012-2013 season was marred by another lockout, the decision seemed like a smart move, as Brodeur was ensuring he would suit up for Jersey’s teams for one last final season.  The decision to not ride off into the sunset at the end of that season was an interesting move, but Brodeur wanted to prove he still loved the game and could compete at the NHL level despite his age.

But in a current season mired by uncharacteristic performances and the introduction of Cory Schneider as the seemingly new number one goalie, it has become apparent that there may be a changing of the tides in Newark. Brodeur has voiced his opinion numerous times the past few seasons that if the Devils wanted to finally change ways and go to a younger goaltender, Brodeur may entertain the notion of being traded to another team. Granted, despite being 41 years of age, Brodeur has been consistent seemingly all throughout his career, and the backstopping of the Devils to their fifth Stanley Cup appearance in 2012, seemed as if he could retire on top.

Fans of the team and Brodeur however feel that the goalie that put New Jersey hockey on the map has been lacking something this season. It is not his compete level or love of the game, but his consistency and ability to make the big save that can turn the tide of a game.  With the emergence of Cory Schneider as one of the best goalies this season, Brodeur has taken the role of number 2 it seems since earning the starting position way back in the 1990s. Yet, Brodeur is not the type of player and competitor to relinquish that spot easily, and it can be no surprise that while on the outside Brodeur supports the decisions of the team, inside he is a man torn.

Does he choose to remain with the team that seemingly built his career, and in turn he helped turn into a perennial contender, or decide to take his talents elsewhere where maybe, they may be better appreciated? One cannot take away what Brodeur has done for the franchise, being the face of the team since his first game. But is that enough to allow him to remain starter when on any given night Schneider seems to give the Devils a better chance to win?

Currently, the talk of Brodeur wanting to seek ice time elsewhere came upon the heels of his performance against the New York Rangers at the NHL Stadium Series. From the outset, there was debate whether or not Brodeur or Schneider should have started the game, with Schneider playing the better hockey, or Brodeur the start simply for what he has done for the team in their first NHL outdoor game. At the beginning, it seemed as if the right decision were made. Then the second and third periods occurred, and with the inability of New Jersey to put together a sixty minute effort and Brodeur to not make the patented big save, Brodeur was pulled for Schneider following the second period. Critics will say that the team did not help Brodeur and while that may be true, how many times have Devils fans seen the team play poorly in front of Brodeur, but number 30 was there to bail them out? It seems that that big game or big save factor has been missing from Brodeur’s current game day heroics.

With the NHL in the Olympic break, it will allow Devils management and Brodeur to reevaluate the situation and see if anything happens come trade deadline. For many, it is hard to envision Brodeur in any other sweater not having the New Jersey crest on the front, and will be interesting to see how fans react should Brodeur leave to patrol another crease. Devils fans can only hope that whether Brodeur ends the season with New Jersey or another NHL club, he does so with the same dignity and class he has shown in his entire NHL career because anything else would be less fitting for one of the greatest goaltenders in history.

Peter Rossi

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