Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
June 26 2014 12:09AM
Just when you thought the rumour mill couldn't get any more crazy, we have this - New Jersey Devils legend and soon to be Unrestricted Free Agent Martin Brodeur having a conversation with Tim Leiweke, as the two take in a Toronto Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre. Technically, Marty is here to take part in David Clarkson's Golf Tournament, but we're at the not-really-tampering stage of free agency. Considering their prior interest in him, and with a few days before contracts can be signed, is there a possibility that the 42 year old ends up in Blue and White?
Martin Brodeur is one of the most revered goaltenders of all time. He's played in more games than any goalie. He's 130 wins ahead of Patrick Roy for the most all time. He's got three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) and an appearance in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. He has more shutouts than Terry Sawchuk, a record many thought was unbreakable. He his resume is stacked. He even has three (2 regular season + 1 playoff) goals!
With James Reimer out, the Leafs will likely need a backup goaltender, and who better than the one of the best ever to mentor Jonathan Bernier? The Leafs were apparently looking into Brodeur last year as well, before he ended up re-signing in New Jersey. With so much experience, he has to be able to teach a thing or two to their new starter, right?
So, What's The Problem?
Martin Brodeur was a good goaltender in the past. Many will argue the greatest of all time. But there is one little problem with this situation; Martin Brodeur in the present is a terrible goaltender.
"It can't be that bad!" you may exclaim. But it most definitely can. The last time Martin Brodeur has had an above-average save percentage in the National Hockey league was the 2009/10 regular season. Since then...
|Year||Save Percentage||League Average||Differential|
I don't know if you're keeping tabs, but that's awful. Like, when Andrew Raycroft singlehandedly brought a contending-quality Leafs team out of the playoffs out of the playoffs in 06/07, he was 11 points below average. Brodeur was even worse than that last year, and will only continue to regress.
Let's look at this for example:
First of all, it's hard to look at that and consider Brodeur to be above Roy and Hasek in way shape or form. Even "quality of shots" loses its lustre a little when you consider the size of the sample, and you can see that Brodeur is consistently good, but never really dominates for more than a handful of years at a time, and flat out drops the ball every couple of playoff runs. Anyway, that's not the point I'm trying to make.
Let's look at Dominik Hasek, who as far as Save Percentage and being relative to the league average goes is probably the best goaltender of all time. Even he regresses, beginning at his age 42 year, before finally dipping under the curve at Age 43. Still higher than Brodeur's last two years, though. If that's the fall that he had, can you imagine what happens with Brodeur next year?
If you replaced Brodeur's 0.901 with James Reimer's 0.911 (which is going to run him out of town), the New Jersey Devils allow 9 fewer goals, jumping over the Detroit Red Wings and Washington Capitals in goal differential. These are the two teams that were ahead of them in the way of clinching the 8th playoff seed. If Reimer has Brodeur's 0.901, Toronto allows 12 more goals, bringing them from 22nd to 26th in league goal differential.
Also, there's the whole fact that Bernier seems to be accustomed to the idea of being a starting goaltender, that Brodeur can't really give pointers on being in a "big market", and the fact that Brodeur's actual playing style is radically different from the rest of the league's and pretty much advised against by any modern goaltending coach.
Lastly, it appears that Tim Leiweke is about as subtle in negotiations as a punch in the face. This would be great if it was the Leafs acquiring an impact player in a position of need (say, Paul Stastny), but you have to imagine that this speculation will drive the return on James Reimer down even further, unless they trade him in the next five days. Even then, it's likely done some damage.
Is It A Good Idea?
From a "winning hockey games" perspective, acquiring the winningest goaltender in NHL history is actually the worst thing the Leafs could do. In the fans eyes, Brodeur should never wear a jersey other than the one he's worn for so long with the Devils. In the statisticians eyes, the same will be said, with the additional note that he should have retired about four years ago.
Now, if the Leafs aren't focused on winning games next year, then go for it. Split him with Bernier and keep the team's game plan as identical as the year that just passed. Just flood him with pucks and watch a Raycroft or Toskala-like catastrophe unfold. Because, you know, Connor McDavid would look nice in blue in white.
Photo courtesy of @hinsperger, Twitter