By Steve Lichtenstein
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I know it happens all the time.
Ray Bourque and Brian Leetch are among the NHL icons who eventually came to a mutual agreement with their long-time employers that it was time for them to switch uniforms.
I don’t want Martin Brodeur to join that club.
The 41-year-old Devils goaltender has expressed a willingness to waive his no-trade clause should he be delivered prior to Wednesday’s deadline to a destination that meets his requirements—i.e. a contending team that has an opening for a starter.
Rumors are flying around Minnesota, where Brodeur is supposedly one of several backstoppers being considered by the Wild that they think will give them a boost in the postseason. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello might be tempted to pull the trigger should he receive a fair price that would likely include someone to provide some scoring to his offensively meek club.
I’m begging you, Lou. Don’t do it.
Before we get into the sentimental, let’s look at the hockey logistics.
The Devils have no need to be sellers at this point. They are a mere three points out of a playoff berth with 20 games to go after Sunday’s disappointing 4-2 home loss to San Jose. Though the eighth-place Red Wings have two games in hand, the Devils play them twice this week.
I don’t disagree with the Devils’ decision that Cory Schneider has usurped Brodeur as the starter, as he has put forth superior numbers in similar ice time. But even though Lamoriello surrendered last year’s first-round pick to acquire him from Vancouver, let’s remember that Schneider is still largely untested when the spotlight’s the brightest. His career postseason mark is a mere 1-4. Schneider’s record in shootouts, which unfortunately decide a lot of hockey games, is 6-10, with a .592 save percentage that ranks 65th out of 79 active goaltenders.
Don’t tell me the Devils have no room for Brodeur, the most accomplished goalie of all time.
Just two seasons ago, Brodeur was instrumental in the Devils’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. It’s not his fault that the Devils since lost top scorers Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk without receiving anything in return.
He’s not that shabby now, so why not keep him around in case Schneider gets injured or his game goes to pieces?
Brodeur’s specialty has always been winning. In addition to owning three Stanley Cup rings in his 20 seasons, Brodeur holds the NHL record for most regular-season victories and only Patrick Roy has more playoff wins.
This is a man who was so good at his job that the league revised its rules in 2005 in an attempt to neutralize him. That trapezoid that limits where a goalie can roam to play the puck—that should be renamed the Brodeur-oid, for it was Brodeur’s exceptional skating and puckhandling ability that brought about the change.
That’s the stuff of legends, like when the NCAA banned dunking because of Lew Alcindor (known more widely as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
Players like that deserve a special sendoff, the way Major League Baseball honored Mariano Rivera last season.
I want to see Brodeur get the same treatment, as true hockey fans across the continent understand his greatness. Montreal, a city where Brodeur routinely broke so many hearts through the years, would surely provide an emotional tribute to its native son and national Olympic hero. Even the Rangers, whose fans detest Brodeur almost as much as Denis Potvin, would show off their class in Brodeur’s final appearance at Madison Square Garden.
But it won’t seem right if Brodeur is donning a jersey with something other than the Devils logo.
I know—silly me for thinking there’s room for such sap among the profiteers and gougers that run the NHL. And there’s always the possibility that Brodeur on his own demands a trade this week or bolts as a free agent in the offseason because he feels he has more to give on the ice than the Devils will allow.
What a shame if that were to happen.
If Brodeur does indeed get moved before Wednesday’s deadline, then I’m glad I didn’t delete on my DVR what would otherwise be a rather innocuous Devils-Islanders game from Saturday. It’s a keeper because for the final time, Brodeur skated off the ice as a New Jersey Devil leaving behind his trademark—another win.
For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Jets and the NHL, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1
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