As hope for a 2012-2013 NHL season continues to fade, one of the first things that comes to my mind is how missing an entire season affects aging players. As a passionate Devils fan the first player that I think of is Martin Brodeur. In this past offseason, Brodeur signed a two-year contract worth $9 million to remain with New Jersey and put off what will be an emotional day for long-time Devils fans, “Marty’s” retirement. With the lockout in mind, I look back on the career of arguably the greatest goaltender of all time and wonder how much greater the legacy could have been.
While Brodeur owns many all-time records, he has endured several lockouts making his statistics even more impressive. His first experience was in the 1991-1992 season, although this only postponed a part of the season and Brodeur had yet to become the starting goaltender for the Devils. However, he has been through two lockouts since, not including the ongoing lockout. In 1994-1995, 35 games were cancelled. In 2004-2005, the entire NHL season was lost. It seems increasingly likely that the 2012-2013 season will be cancelled as well. So, when adding up the numbers for a legendary career that hasn’t yet come to an end, where could Brodeur’s numbers have placed him amongst the greatest of all time?
Let me briefly explain how I came up with these hypothetical statistics. I assumed that Brodeur would have started 0.83 of the games played in 1994-1995, as he did in the shortened season, so I expanded his statistics accordingly. For the 2004-2005 season, I used his average statistics from the previous two seasons. I did not incorporate his statistics in 2005-2006 due to the rule changes that came from the lockout that year. Lastly, I repeated that process for this year and assumed the entire 2012-2013 season will be cancelled.
Below are the statistics that I could calculate with the information I had at my disposal:
Brodeur already holds the record for most wins with 656, but his 736 would have ranked 185 wins ahead of second-place Patrick Roy (who was active for the 1994-1995 lockout). His 119 regular season shutouts already rank 16 ahead of Terry Sawchuk’s 103 for the most of all time, but 136 would be more than double that of the second-ranked active player on the list, Roberto Luongo with 60 shutouts. This doesn’t cover his playoff statistics, for which he ranks second in playoff wins with 113, behind Patrick Roy, and first in playoff shutouts with 24. While these hypothetical statistics do not move Brodeur to new all-time ranks, they expand his already impressive lead in these goaltending categories. This also overlooks his relevance in save percentage and goals against average, for which he ranks quite highly and could perhaps have ranked even higher had he had the extra playing time during the peak of his success.
As impressive as these statistics are, the awards Brodeur has earned over his career have been equally impressive. He is a ten-time NHL All-Star and is the only goalie to have achieved eight 40-win seasons. He has also won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender in the regular season) four times, the Jennings Trophy (goaltender(s) with a minimum of 25 starts for the team with the fewest goals against in the regular season) five times, the Stanley Cup three times, and the Calder Memorial Trophy (best rookie). He has also had success at the international level, winning two gold medals at the Olympics (2002 and 2012) and a gold medal at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, all for his native country of Canada. What may be even more impressive is Brodeur’s influence on the rules of the game. As perhaps the best puck-handling goalie of all time, there are no others that can claim a rule was added (the addition of the trapezoid, otherwise known as, “The Brodeur Rule”) to limit their influence in the flow of the game.
As one of the most decorated and highest-ranking goaltenders in hockey history, one could make a convincing case that Martin Brodeur is the greatest goalie of all time. That case may have been even more convincing had he not missed about two full seasons (and counting…) of hockey. I consider myself an extremely fortunate fan to have grown up watching such a dominant player bring so much success to my favorite team. In spite of the ongoing lockout, I can only hope that Brodeur continues to play for at least a few more years and strengthens his already incredible legacy.