That’s what a lot of onlookers seemed to be concerned about as they watched Martin Brodeur call it a career earlier today. After a seven-game stint with the St. Louis Blues, the 42-year-old netminder finally hung up his skates, shocking some by accepting a front office gig in Missouri.
This caused a strange reaction among St. Louis’ faithful. Blues fans and pundits more or less taunted New Jersey Devils backers, clearly believing that they’d hijacked the organization’s living legend by offering him a role as assistant GM.
— Bleedin' Blue (@BleedinBlueFS) January 29, 2015
It doesn’t seem as though the man himself sees things that way though. For Brodeur, this season was about seeing how far he could push it. Only nine wins stood between him and the ridiculous 700-victory plateau, and it’s tough to blame him for wanting to play for that square number.
He retires with just 691 career wins, good for the No. 1 spot among all goalies that have ever played in the NHL.
Brodeur’s list of accomplishments is so lengthy that it’s almost mind numbing to sort through. Nine All-Star game appearances. He made the postseason 17 times and won the Stanley Cup three times as the backbone of the Devils. Two Olympic gold medals. Brodeur is the NHL’s all-time leader in shutouts and games played, and he won the Vezina trophy four times as the league’s top goalie.
Writers are always looking for angles. That’s no secret. Search the term “Brodeur” on Twitter and you’ll see a slew of takes and interesting opinions on the goalie’s historic and ridiculous career. There are some questions about how he’ll be used in St. Louis. Many are wondering when he’ll head back to New Jersey to take on a front office job there. There’s one question no one has dared to ask, however. And in a world of constant internet access and 24-hour news cycles, it’s certainly noteworthy.
Who will be the next Martin Brodeur?
That’s an inquiry no one seems to be willing to make. That speaks to the timelessness of Brodeur’s accomplishments and how once-in-a-lifetime they are. The days of teams relying on one netminder for a decade-plus seem to have come and gone already. There are players in the position that have experienced some longevity, but nothing close to what Brodeur did as a Devil.
Now that he has retired, the active win leader in the NHL is Roberto Luongo with 390. That’s a difference of 301 wins, and it’s not like Luongo has been a slouch throughout his career. He’s 35 years old and entering the twilight of his career. Even if Luongo plays for another four seasons, he still might not be able to reach 500 career victories.
If you ask hockey fans to name the current generation’s most steady netminder, odds are good you’ll hear the name Henrik Lundqvist. Since 2005, “King” has been the go-to guy for the New York Rangers. For a workhorse goalie he’s been able to stay remarkably healthy, starting more than 50 games in every one of his campaigns (save for the lockout shortened 2012-13 season, in which Lundqvist started 43 of 48 games).
Henrik Lundqvist (332 wins) would have to win 36 games a year for the next 10 years to reach Marty Brodeur's 691 career wins.
— Ken Pagan (@KenPagan) January 27, 2015
Yet the 32-year-old goalie hasn’t even surpassed Evgeni Nabokov’s win total of 353 yet.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been plenty of outstanding puck stoppers, but Brodeur’s numbers are just about untouchable.
Folks like to talk about how unbreakable some of Wayne Gretzky’s records are, simply because the game is played in a different fashion now. That same argument can be applied to Brodeur and his lofty resume. Can a younger goalie like Tuukka Rask hope to eventually chase down “Marty?” Consider that the Boston Bruins back stop is 27 and has 122 career wins. By the time Brodeur was 27, he had already accumulated 284 victories and two Stanley Cup rings.
That’s how wide the gap is.
So that brings us back to the L word. Some may contend that Brodeur hurt his legacy by taking this kind of work in St. Louis, but in doing so they seem to be forgetting just how unstoppable this guy was for a long while. Hockey is a business, and maybe it would have been more romantic to see Brodeur play his final game as a Devil.
That’s not the way things worked out, though that shouldn’t mean that he gets an asterisk next to his name as the greatest goalie of all time.
All statistics appear courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and are accurate through games played on January 28.