By SEAN HARTNETT
Martin Brodeur had the chance to retire in glory as an iconic one-franchise player. Having led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships and with nearly every career regular season goaltending record attached to his name, Brodeur has nothing left to prove.
The best way for Brodeur to have closed his glorious career would have been announcing his retirement prior to last season's April 13 season finale. He would have departed in a fashion befitting his splendiferous résumé. The NHL as a whole would have embraced the final weeks of Brodeur's career. He would have departed with dignity, and symbolically passed the torch to Cory Schneider.
Following the April 13 season finale at Prudential Center, Devils teammates urged Brodeur to salute the fans at center ice. Brodeur raised his stick to the air to rapturous applause. Devils fans were ready to say goodbye, but Brodeur wasn't.
Now, the winningest goalie of all-time appears content playing the waiting game. Brodeur recently told Pierre Durocher Le Journal Montreal that teams have already reached out to him, but none of the offers were "interesting" enough for him to sign.
"Teams have shown interest in my services at the beginning of July, but these destinations were not interesting to me," Brodeur told Le Journal. "I want to be part of a team that has a real chance to win the Stanley Cup. It is certain that I would still act as a number 1 keeper, but it does not bother me to participate in only 20-25 games during the season if I know I'll have fun playing within a winning team."
How out of place did a returning Michael Jordan look in a Washington Wizards jersey? Wasn't it strange when Joe Namath finished his career in the uniform of the Los Angeles Rams?
What's Brodeur's main motivation?
"I want to be part of a team that has a real chance to win the Stanley Cup," he told Le Journal.
This isn't Ray Bourque leaving the Bruins in a search an elusive career-fulfilling Stanley Cup. What Brodeur is doing is desperately hanging on to a game that's clearly passed him by.
Waiting with your fingers crossed for a starting goaltender to get injured should be a strong enough signal for Brodeur to understand that it's time he hang up his equipment and call it a day.
Three Stanley Cups, most regular season and playoff shutouts and an NHL record 688 regular season wins with a single franchise – it's been a glorious ride for Brodeur and a ride that should have ended in New Jersey.
WHY WOULD ANY TEAM WANT A DECLINING BRODEUR?
Last season, Brodeur recorded a .901 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against average. These aren't attractive numbers. Present day Brodeur is slightly below a replacement-level goalie.
Despite losing a heartbreaking 12 of 12 shootouts last season, the Devils would have been better served relegating Brodeur to bench duty earlier in the season. Brodeur played 39 games last season. Switching to Schneider on a full-time basis would have likely made the difference in New Jersey making the playoffs. The Devils finished three points behind the Wild Card-clinching Blue Jackets and Red Wings.
At the advanced age of 42, there isn't any reason to believe that Brodeur is capable of resurgence in the twilight of his career. You would have to look back to 2008-09 as the last season that Brodeur played like an elite goaltender. Brodeur went 45-25-6 with a 2.24 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Why would any team want to have a sub-replacement level Brodeur on their team? Any team looking to bring in Brodeur in a tandem situation would place intense pressure on a younger goalie who might be the long-term solution between the pipes.
Perhaps, NHL general managers will do Brodeur a favor by saving him from himself. No one wants to see Brodeur leaking in goals as a frustrated backup in an unfamiliar jersey. It's clear that Brodeur doesn't want to play for a non-competitive franchise. As long as a contending team's no. 1 goalie doesn't suffer a long-term injury, Brodeur will have no choice but to retire as a free agent and a career Devil by default.
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