New Jersey Devils legendary goalie Martin Brodeur turned 40-years-old during last Springs march to the Stanley Cup Finals. After the season he was rewarded with a two-year contract extension that was intended to bring him past his 42nd birthday. Fast forward to today and the season is on hold while the NHL owners and players decided what they want more on their pizza, cheese or pepperoni. Does the delay mean the end for Brodeur is drawing near faster than expected and who will replace him when the time comes?
Obviously the lockout is unsettling for all hockey fans, but those in New Jersey cannot help but watch every anxious hockey-less second tick by. For every game lost in the labor dispute, that is one less game Brodeur has left in the tank. Experts have been predicting the decline of MB30 for years and any lengthy time away from the game will only help to re stoke those flames and validate those arguments.
The good news is that Devils’ President and GM Lou Lamoriello has been grooming Brodeur’s future replacement for years. We know it is not going to be back-up Johan Hedberg, because he too is a bit aged…in a good way, like wine or cheese. But, I digress.
The Devils have four very good goalies in their system; Keith Kinkaid, Jeff Frazee, Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont are all competing for ice time somewhere within the organization.
Frazee was drafted by New Jersey in the second round of the 2005 NHL entry draft. He has been a mainstay in the Devils system since the 2007-08 system, seeing time in both the AHL and ECHL with Lowell, Trenton and Albany. He appeared to have a break-out year statistically in 2008-09 while in Lowell. Frazee started 54 games and finished with a 28-22 record and a .920 save percentage.
Since then his numbers have dropped considerably. Some of that has to do with playing on bad teams. Some of it has to do with his own inconsistent play. With the re-signing of both Brodeur and Hedberg, Frazee seems doomed to a life in the minor leagues; at least while his with the Devils organization.
Clermont was drafted by the Devils in 2010 and is a Montreal native just like Brodeur. It would seem fitting to replace one French Canadian with another one. I assume that’s possible, but Clermont is not that guy. Last season he played 31 games with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL, finishing with a record of 13-10, a goals-against of 4.42 and a save percentage of just .891.
In fact, Clermont has only had a save percentage over .900 once since 2007-08. That came in 2010-11, when he played two games with Albany, earning a 1-1 record and a .925 save percentage. He plays a good positional game with his size, but tends to react slow to the puck. He needs to fix that before he is ready for a real look.
The next two guys are the ones that believe are the future for the Devils in net.
Scott Wedgewood was drafted in the third round, 84th overall, by the Devils in 2010.He is entering his first pro season with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL. In his first game he made 31 saves for the victory. Wedgewood is a hybrid goalie in the mold of a Brodeur. He is often the hardest worker on the ice and can be the type of goalie that can log a ton of minutes and will carry his team when needed.
One thing Devils fans will love about Wedgewood is his ability to handle the puck. He, just like MB30, often acts as third defenseman and can make crisp outlet passes. He is considered to be the favorite to assume the role of Devils’ starter when Marty is ready to walk away.
My favorite of the four is Keth Kinkaid. He is one of those undrafted college gems that Lamoriello has made a career of signing. After player two successful seasons with Union College he stepped into a big role with Albany in 2011-12, playing 42 games. Kinkaid’s 17-20 record is respectable considering the AHL Devils only won 31 games and finished last in their division. He showed a lot of promise in his first year as a pro.
Kinkaid is another very good puck-handling goalie. Maybe even better than Wedgewood. He will require another couple of seasons in the AHL before he is ready to assume a full-time starting job in the NHL, but he and Wedgewood should prove to be one of the better young goalie tandems in the league in the next few seasons.
So, while waiting for a hockey season that may never come is starting to wear thin on Brodeur’s career and my patience, I am at peace with L.A.F (Life After Marty) because I know the Devils net will be well guarded for many, many more years to come.
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