Where does Devils legend Martin Brodeur rank among NHL’s all-time greatest goaltenders?

Martin Brodeur treated image
Martin Brodeur treated image

Forget those seven games he played for the St. Louis Blues (and, yes, there’s photographic evidence). Martin Brodeur is as synonymous with the Devils as Derek Jeter with the Yankees or Eli Manning with the Giants.

There wasn’t much to celebrate before he arrived in New Jersey, and there hasn’t been much since. But for 21 celebrated years, Brodeur lifted his team’s ceiling, innovated his position, redefined durability, scored a few goals and helped turn the Devils into a first-rate NHL franchise, with three Stanley Cups the ultimate testimony.

That’s why, in the Devils’ small bubble, his No. 30 will never be worn again — and his position as greatest player in franchise history will never be up for jostling.

The more worthwhile question is where Brodeur ranks all-time among the NHL’s best goaltenders.

As with most sports debates — Patrick Roy vs. Brodeur, Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, Tom Brady vs. Joe Montana — a consensus is near impossible, but it doesn’t make the topic any less fun to delve into.

For what it’s worth, here’s what longtime former Devils executive Lou Lamoriello once said about Brodeur:

“What more can you say other than what his statistics and accomplishments say? When you look at statistics, the bottom line is winning and he’s done that. He’s going to go out as the greatest goaltender ever without question. I don’t think that’s disputable.”

In other words, Lamoriello is taking the Wayne Gretzky stance: A resume so packed full of aggregate statistics and records that evidence becomes overwhelming to the point that the greatest-ever debate becomes … not much of a debate. In another sport, this could be called the LeBron or Barry Bonds stance.

Here are all (or most) of Brodeur’s accomplishments among goalies laid out:

● He’s No. 1 in games played (1,266). Roberto Luongo is next closest at 1,044.

● He’s No. 1 in wins (691). Roy is second at 551.

● He’s No. 1 in minutes played (74,438:20). Roy is second, more than 14,000 minutes behind.

● He’s No. 1 in shutouts (125). Terry Sawchuk is next at 103.

● He’s tied for most wins in a season (48 in 2006-07). Braden Holtby in 2016 also had 48.

● He’s No. 1 in playoff shutouts (25), one ahead of Roy.

● He’s second in both playoff wins and games played (113, 205) to Roy (151, 247).

As for hardware honors, Brodeur has three Stanley Cups (Roy has four), four Vezina Trophies (Jacques Plante won seven, Dominik Hasek won six) and five Jennings Trophies. In the more offbeat categories, Brodeur also has the most goals by a goalie (three, including one in the playoffs), had too many great playoff moments to count, is third all-time in goalie assists (45), and was so unusually skilled with the puck that the NHL created the Trapezoid Rule in 2006, which aimed to limit the area in which a goalie could handle the puck behind the net — it’s often referred to as the “Brodeur Rule.”

Got all that?

“Some of his records are Gretzky-like,” said John MacLean, a former teammate and coach of Brodeur’s, via NHL.com. “They’re going to be hard to break.”

The question then, is whether the overall body of work is what’s most important, because the argument against Brodeur would be that his highest peak wasn’t quite as good as some of the other great goalies.

Consider these notes:

● He led the NHL in goals against average only one time, in 1996-97. Roy did so three times and Hasek twice.

● He never led the regular season in save percentage, and his career mark (.912) is 42nd all-time, way behind fellow greats like Hasek (.922, best ever) and Ken Dryden (.921), though his mark is slightly ahead of Roy’s (.910).

● For most of his career, Brodeur played behind some of the great defenses in NHL history. Oftentimes, his shutouts were helped along by the fact that he didn’t have to face many shots, though his own ability to handle the puck equaled less chances for the other team. (The time the Devils held the Toronto Maple Leafs to six shots in the 2000 playoffs, for example.)

● According to Hockey Reference, Brodeur faced 40-plus shots only 10 times in his postseason career. He faced 20 or less 49 times. Conversely, Roy had 20 40-plus shot games in the playoffs and 20 with 20 shots or less.

Hockey people will do what they please with those numbers. Either Brodeur must be No. 1 because he has the most wins, shutouts and games played, or must not be because his traditional goalie stats are not as individually impressive as some others.

A possible compromise: If not the best to ever play goalie in the NHL, Brodeur is perhaps the greatest based on his avalanche of accomplishments, and his ability to stay cool in big moments.

“What I’m impressed by, and what makes him a great goaltender, is that he stops the puck when it needs to be stopped,” hockey lifer Mike Milbury told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “He’s cool. The pressure doesn’t bother him. Night after night he seems to be involved in 1-0, 2-1 games, and the pressure never seems to be a factor.”

Source: Yahoo Sports

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