Martin Brodeur was great, but will retire as another who hung on too long
FILE - This June 24, 1995 file photo shows New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur smoking a cigar while talking to reporters after the Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings 5-2 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, to win the championship, in East Rutherford, N.J. Seventeen years after making his Stanley Cup Finals debut for New Jersey in a win over the Red Wings, Brodeur, 40, has led this proud franchise back to title round. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm, File)
New Jersey Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save as New York Rangers' Alexei Kovalev (27) skates in on goal during the first period, Monday night, May 23, 1994 at New York's Madison Square Garden. Brodeur stopped 25 of 26 shots on goal as the Devils beat the Rangers 4-1 to lead the Eastern Conference final series 3-2. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New York Rangers? Stephane Matteau (32) scrambles for a loose puck in front of New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer (27) on Thursday, May 19, 1994 in game three of the Eastern Conference finals at Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Matteau sent the puck into net to give the Rangers a 3-2 win in double overtime and a 2-1 lead in the series. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
Detroit Red Wings' Bob Errey (21) is roughed up in front of the net by New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur(30) in the first period of game 4 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. (AP Photo/ Ron Frehm)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur gets knocked down in the crease by Boston Bruins' Glen Murray during first period NHL playoff action at the Boston Garden, Sunday, May 7, 1995. Brodeur shutout the Bruins, 5-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
New York Rangers' Wayne Gretzky (99) goes after a loose puck as New Jersey Devils' goalie Martin Brodeaur makes a save during the second period Monday Feb. 17, 1997 in New York. Brodeur made 30 saves in the 2-2 tie, extending his unbeaten streak to 12 games and the Devils' to 11, the longest in team history. Gretzky's goal-scoring drought reached 20 games, the longest in his career, but he assited on both Rangers goals. At left is Devil's Jason Smith.(AP Photo/Ron Frehm)
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save against the New York Rangers during the first period Wednesday night, Dec. 16, 1998, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Devils won 6-3. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur drops to the ice and lifts his glove to make a save on a shot during the third period against the Boston Bruins in Boston, Thursday, Jan. 28, 1999. Brodeur, who stopped all 40 shots he faced, helped the Devils beat the Bruins 2-0. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur holds up the Stanley Cup during a celebration in the arena parking lot Saturday , June 14, 2003, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Devils beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to win the cup. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, right, sticks aside the puck as Florida Panthers' Mark Parrish skates in during the first period Sunday night, April 16, 2000, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Devils won 2-1 and lead the Eastern Conference best-of-seven quarterfinal series 2-0. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur smiles after practice Wednesday, June 6, 2001, in East Rutherford , N.J. The Devils lead the Colorado Avalanche three games to two for the Stanley Cup. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
The puck gets by New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur for a goal by Colorado Avalanche winger Alex Tanguay during the second period of the final game of the Stanley Cup in Denver on Saturday, June 9, 2001. (AP Photo/Fred Jewell)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, right, and Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Cole (26) mix it up in the goal crease during the first period Saturday, Oct. 19, 2002, at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.(AP Photo/Bob Jordan)
New Jersey Devils' goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night, Nov. 19, 2002, in East Rutherford, N.J. The devils won, 4-3, in overtime. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild during the third period Saturday, Jan. 26, 2002, in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild's Pascal Dupuis, center, and New Jersey's Tommy Albelin (6) of Sweden look on. The teams tied 2-2. (AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
Canada's goalie Martin Brodeur looks at the puck bounce back out after a goal by Belarus' Ruslan Salei during the second period of their semifinals match in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics Friday, Feb. 22, 2002 in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, right, is run into by Philadelphia Flyers' Donald Brashear during the second period of a first round NHL playoff game Monday night, April 12, 2004, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Devils won 4-2. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
** THIS CORRECTS THE SPELLING OF ST. PAUL ** FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH YEAR-END STORIES -- FILE -- ** Eastern Conference goalie Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils dives to save a shot as teammate Pavel Kubina (23) of the Tampa Bay Lightning watches during the second period of the NHL All-Star game in St. Paul, Minn., in this February 8, 2004 photo. (AP Photo/Pool,Dave Sandford)
** FOR USE AS DESIRED WITH VANCOUVER OLYMPICS PREVIEW STORIES ** FILE - In this April 30, 2005, file photo, Team Canada's goaltender Martin Brodeur gloves the puck inside the goal on a controversial goal by Latvia's Girts Ankipans during second period action at the IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships in Innsbruck, Austria.Winter sports are a passion in the Great White North. But for many of Canada's 33 million residents, hockey is the only game that matters, the only sport in which a gold medal absolutely, positively must be won for the Vancouver Olympics to be considered a success in the country that invented the game. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, File)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) clears the puck from the face-off circle as the Philadelphia Flyers' Simon Gagne (12), chases during overtime as the Flyers defeated the Devils 3-2 in an NHL hockey game at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) reacts in the third period during Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals against the Los Angeles Kings, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
New Jersey Devils' Jaromir Jagr, right, of the Czech Republic, celebrates with goaltender Martin Brodeur after the Devils defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 4-3, in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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When asked, Lou Lamoriello wouldn't call it "disappointing," but I could tell he was politicking.
"I don't want to use the word disappointing. There was time for a change to be made. We had made a significant trade and investment, and no one who understands that better than Marty Brodeur," the longtime New Jersey Devils executive told me when I asked if he was disappointed the legendary NHL netminder would not retire with the organization for which he tended goal for 21 seasons. "I certainly would've liked to see him play last game in Devil, but these days that's the exception not the norm."
The 42-year-old will announce his retirement Thursday in St. Louis about nine months too late. His legacy won't be ruined, but his tenure in St. Louis will unfortunately go down as the final chapter of his Hall of Fame career.
For Devils fans, Brodeur's legacy will likely never be tarnished. They'll remember him as the fresh-faced, happy-go-lucky kid from Montreal that took them to the Eastern Conference final his first full season as starter, then carried them to three Stanley Cups - and four trips to the Cup final - in the subsequent eight years. They'll remember his four Vezina Trophies, his 10 All-Star appearances and will quickly defend his underratedness and how the NHL created the trapezoid rule to limit his puck possession.
"What more can you say about Marty than what his statistics say and the success he's had?" Lamoriello told me Tuesday, "not only the wins, but winning championships and conferences. He's been a pillar of excellence and will go out as one of the best to ever play the game."
But, for many others, Brodeur is something very different - and his tenure with the Blues proves that. Rival fans mocked his weight and his marital infidelity. Some deemed him a whiner - mostly because of this image and this one as well - and all that was perpetuated when Brodeur made media wait what felt like an eternity after his pulling during last winter's Stadium Series loss at Yankee Stadium.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. He was friendly and affable to media - a fellow reporter told me during the lockout-shortened 2013 season that Brodeur was "the best" and hoped he would "never retire" because of his honest and thoughtful answers. He started the trend of goalies speaking the mornings before games - but stopped doing that later in his career. He also has a sharp and biting wit, and this reporter has been on the wrong end of it at times.
But last season - the one in which he shared the Devils' net with Cory Schneider - felt different. His candor was the same, he still knew what was going on around the League, but he seemed bothered. He was less political than the face of a franchise should be - most notably when he tweaked Lamoriello when asked if the Devils should have re-signed Zach Parise.
"For us, our team, we had time to try to make a deal before losing him for nothing," Brodeur told NJ.com last year. "We could have signed him way in advance of that season and overpaid for him. But overpaying for him would have been less money than he got from Minnesota, you know? It just didn't happen."
It wasn't just me. Other media members thought things were different. And, I know I hoped he would retire after last season - after he claimed a win in the 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins in the team's season finale and the crowd serenaded him with one final "Mar-ty!" chant. His contract ran up, and the Devils made it clear he would not return, but he refused to call it quits, sitting in purgatory until signing in St. Louis on Dec. 2.
He gave the Blues and the NHL one last great moment when he pitched career shutout No. 125 on Dec. 29 against the Colorado Avalanche, but that'll go down as his last win. Now he'll join the Blues organization in an front-office role.
Lamoriello said he expects Brodeur to return next season to New Jersey in a similar role to the one he's taking in St. Louis. He understands the wait - he told me "It's our intention to have him back next year. [St. Louis] gave him an opportunity to play, and he got emotionally involved ... I respect that." - and maybe the Devils and Brodeur can ride happily ever after back into the sunset.