By Jake Aferiat
In 1990, the New Jersey Devils made a franchise altering decision: Drafting Goaltender Martin Brodeur with their 20th overall pick. The move would pay dividends for the next 23 seasons, as Brodeur established himself as the premier goalie in the entire league. Brodeur retired on January 27, 2015, and is set to join the St Louis Blues’ front office.
Brodeur revolutionized hockey. He was the first goalie known to use a hybrid stance, instead of the more conventional butterfly stance. He was an excellent puck handler, had excellent reflexes, and his positioning was always impeccable. In fact, he is one of the reasons that the NHL changed the rules on where goalies can handle the puck. Brodeur, like Gretzky, set records that may never be broken, and that is why he should be regarded as a top player of all-time.
Brodeur’s career is at the point where words won’t do it justice, so the numbers will speak for themselves. During his 24-year career, he was awarded the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender) four times. That’s more times than Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux, and Alex Ovechkin won a Hart Trophy (MVP). Brodeur is also the winningest goalie in NHL history, at 691 wins. He sits 140 wins ahead of second place Patrick Roy. Brodeur also holds the record for most 40 win seasons (8), most 30 win seasons (14), most consecutive 40 win seasons (3), most consecutive 35 win seasons (11), and most consecutive 30 win seasons (12). Brodeur is also the only goalie to eclipse the 600 win mark, and just the second to eclipse 500 wins.
Brodeur was a regular season master, but come playoff time, he was a hero. Brodeur won 113 games in his playoff career, second most all-time, including the maximum 16 games three times (3 Stanley Cups). For seven seasons in the playoffs, Brodeur recorded a Goals-Against-Average (GAA) below 2, and his career GAA in the playoffs is 2.02. The ridiculously low GAA total is thanks to an NHL record 24 shutouts in the playoffs, one of which was during a Game 7 which won the Devils the Stanley Cup in 2003. Perhaps what’s most impressive about his postseason career is that in 2003, Brodeur shut the Ducks out 3 times in 7 games, recording 3 or more shutouts in the postseason for the second time in his career. He made the playoffs 17 times in 23 seasons with New Jersey, and without him, they wouldn’t have those Stanley Cups.
Martin Brodeur’s career is sensational, remarkable, and record setting, yet despite this, people talk about Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky, or Gordie Howe as the best hockey players of all-time. True, it’s hard to compare a position player to a goalie, but goalies are hockey players too. Any true hockey fan would be remiss not to bring up Marty’s name in the all-time greats discussion.