Time to Give Devils' Brodeur His Due as the Greatest of All Time

By Steve Palumbo

I saw a recent online pole that asked the question, “Who is the greatest goaltender of all time?” I of course clicked New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. It seemed like an easy choice despite that fact that I’ve followed the Devils for the majority of my life. Once my vote was recorded the pole results were revealed. It was no surprise to see that Patrick Roy was number one in votes, but I was a bit shocked to see that he was blowing away the rest of the field, including Brodeur.

My pick, Brodeur was a distant second. How could this be? Has it really become that easy to overlook arguably the best netminder to ever suit up? How could an active NHL great be so far behind a guy that hasn’t played since 2002-03?

Since the day he hit the ice in his vintage blue mask and pads that clashed badly with the red and green Christmas tree jerseys, Martin Brodeur has been wowing hockey fans from South Florida to his native Montreal and all points in between. His quirky hybrid style and his incredible ability to control the puck changed the way the game was played and how future goaltenders would play the position.

Brodeur’s resume is about as impressive as I have seen. He’s is literally the “Wayne Gretzky” of goaltenders. He holds several NHL records and by the time he retires he will hold most if not all major goaltending records. Brodeur is the all time leader in NHL wins with 625. He holds the NHL record for shutouts with 116. He’s won three Stanley Cups. He has 99 playoff victories. Brodeur has 13 seasons of 30 or more wins including 8 seasons of 40 or more. Brodeur was also the youngest goalie to reach 300, 400 and 500 wins. He’s even scored two goals in his illustrious career.

He could get to 650 wins this season. If he contniues play he could even chase down 700 wins. Those are amazing numbers, even more impressive when you remember NHL-NHLPA labor disputes cost Brodeur an additional season and a half worth of games, or another 50+ wins.

Considering what Brodeur has accomplished thus far its hard to imagine the public holding such little regard for his place in history. Critics suggest that Brodeur was fortunate enough to hide behind the Devils suffocating defense for years. It hasn’t helped that since the retirement of Scott Stevens and the departure of Scott Niedermayer after the 2003-04 season the Devils have only been past the first round of the playoffs twice. It seems as though Brodeur’s recent regular season struggles and poor playoff showings support the belief that Marty is just a product of the Devils’ system defensive style of play.

Last season was a complete and total nightmare for Brodeur and th Devils. The 39 year old netminder struggled early. He had an abysmal .853 save percentage in December. Critics came flying out of the woodwork to point out how rapidly Brodeurs’ skills and reflexes had declined. There was even talk that the Devils should trade him while they could still get a decent return. Who were people kidding?

Once the calender changed to 2011 he looked more like his old self. He posted a .925 save percentage in January, February and March. He put up those types of numbers with guys names Fayne, Salmela, Tallinder, Volchenkov and Greene in front of him. Although he finished the year with a .903 save percentage, his worst since 1994-1995, he proved he can still be a dominant NHL goaltender. The red hot second half quickly erased all the “washed-up” talk.

Entering the final year of his current contract and with the talk of possible labor issues on the horizon it’s possible this could be the last hurrah of Brodeur’s outstanding career. Brodeur must build on that momentum in the upcoming season and cement his spot in history. Although it’s ridiculous to me that Marty has to prove anything to anybody, it’s imperative that New Jersey make it to the playoffs and win at least a round or two. Not only would this give Brodeur some additional media attention it would prove that Brodeur is not just a product of the “system.”

I expect Brodeur to have a very good year. If he can put up numbers like he did in the second half of last season he could easily have one of the best statistical seasons of his career. People need to open their eyes and realize players like Brodeur don’t come around often and he should be considered the best goalie of all time.

Sorry Mr. Roy but Marty’s better!

Follow me on twitter! @westcoastdevfan

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