The Best Ever? NHL Goalie Martin Brodeur Retires

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NHL goalie Martin Brodeur retired this week at the age of 42, prompting some, including Newark Star-Ledger reporter Steve Politi, to declare that Brodeur is the best goalie in NHL history.

I think if you look at the entirety of his career and what he’s been able to accomplish, I don’t know what box he didn’t check off.

Steve Politi, Newark Star-Ledger

Politi joined Bill Littlefield to make the case.

BL: How has Brodeur earned that status, in your opinion?

SP: I think if you look at the entirety of his career and what he's been able to accomplish, I don't know what box he didn't check off. He's got 140 more victories than any other goalie in NHL history and if you divide his 691 victories in half, only 17 other goalies have had more than that.

So it's incredible to think about. He's won three championships with the Devils; he changed the game of hockey because of his puck-handling ability behind the net forced the league to put a trapezoid back there to make sure the goalies didn't go out there and stall offensive play in the league. So any way you look at it, in my opinion, he's the greatest.

BL: The stats are impressive, of course: 691 victories and three Stanley Cup wins, four time Vezina Trophy winner, Rookie of the Year in 1993-1994. But there is one important award Brodeur has never won, right?

SP: Yes, he was never named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the playoffs. I believe he was stolen of that award in 2003 when Jean-Sebastien Giguere of the Anaheim Ducks won it instead in a losing cause in the Stanley Cup Finals. You know, that said, I think a lot of people, if you're taking the other side of this, look at Brodeur as a product of the Devils' system, of their success, of their great defense — not having to face a lot of shots.

You see that a lot from people who favor other goalies like Patrick Roy, who won four Stanley Cups — more than Brodeur — or [Dominik] Hasek, who was so dominant. So there are people who will disagree with this opinion, and they have facts to back it up as well.

BL: Brodeur played 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, and then briefly for the St. Louis Blues this season. He certainly didn’t need to pad his stats. Why did he go to the Blues?

[sidebar title="Clint Malarchuk's Brushes With Death" width="630" align="right"] Former hockey goalie Clint Malarchuk suffered a life-threatening injury on the ice has struggled with mental health problems off it. He writes about both issues in his new book "A Matter of Inches." [/sidebar]SP: He just wasn't ready to stop playing. I remember talking to him about this, and just the idea that Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were having these goodbye seasons with the Yankees, and I asked him why he didn't want that. And his answer was simple: he just enjoyed playing and didn't really mind the fact that he was going from the guy who started 70 games in 12 seasons to a guy who was the backup, essentially.

He just wanted to be around a team and play. He really didn't have a great season in St. Louis but had some moments, you know. So I wonder if he really is walking away from the game at the time he liked or if the choice had been made for him.

BL: Brodeur’s 691-win total is extraordinary, and you point out that the NHL goalie with the second most wins is Patrick Roy with a mere 551, and that Brodeur has twice as many victories as all but 17 other goalies in NHL history. So why isn’t he everybody's choice for the best ever NHL goalie? 

SP: I mean, it's just one of these great things that people love to debate. Especially in a sport like hockey, where you really can't debate who the best skater was of all-time — that's going to be Wayne Gretzky, unless you're truly a contrarian — or the best defenseman of all time -- that's going to be Bobby Orr -- so this is the one area where it's a little fun to go through and debate.

BL: You covered Brodeur for many years and you write of him that he was open and honest. Tell me a little about that.

SP: I've dealt with a lot of the superstar athletes, and Marty didn't have that ego where you were afraid to approach him or afraid to ask him questions. He was very introspective. He was not the superstitious type. He'd talk to you an hour before he skated onto the ice. He didn't take himself too seriously. He was extremely competitive, but I think he was kind of an average guy who loved playing his sport, and I hope he comes back to the team and the front office.

BL: That's an interesting point. Brodeur will now join the St. Louis Blues’ front office, but there’s talk that he may return to New Jersey. Is that where he belongs?

SP: Yeah, absolutely. I think he will. He made a commitment to the Blues this season. He's very well-liked by the Blues. But when the year ends, I'd be very surprised if he didn't come back to and take some sort of role with the Devils. Certainly there will be a ceremony to retire his No. 30 up in the rafters early next season. I think he's got a good eye for players and personnel and that kind of thing, so it'll be a natural transition.

This segment aired on January 31, 2015.



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