Sunday, February 21, 2010

How the Marty Has Fallen

For some reason, I like weirdos. As a result, I tend to have a lot of friends who are goalies. I say "are," because even if they haven't strapped on the pads in ten years or more, a goalie is always a goalie. Those of you who have friends who are goalies...or who are goalies yourselves...know exactly what I mean. A quick poll of some of my goalie friends last night delivered a unanimous decision on Martin Brodeur's play against the U.S. The verdict? What the hell was he THINKING?! Most of that opinion was born in the aftermath of the American's second goal, which was the direct result of Brodeur's deciding to play a spot of cricket on an incoming floater. Instead of gloving the puck like a normal goalie would, he instead batted it out to the point with his stick, directly onto the blade of Brian Rafalski. Rafalski, of course, smartly returned it to the back of the Canadian net at top speed. What the hell indeed.

To be fair, the question should properly be what the hell were Steve Yzerman and Mike Babcock thinking for going with Brodeur in the first place? Yzerman earlier said he wanted to give Team Canada a younger, fresher approach than we'd seen in Turin. Youth was the ticket, he said. He backed it up by including youngsters like Crosby and Toews up front and 20-year-old Drew Doughty on the blueline. Veterans like Pronger and Neidermayer were supposed to be there to provide a steadying influence and some experienced leadership. That's all well and good in theory, but the veterans are looking more like old guys than venerable all-stars, especially in goal.

Brodeur has had a great career. He's got the Cups and the Vezinas and the stats. Ten years ago, Brodeur would have been a great choice to start for Team Canada. These days, though, we see a 37-year-old Brodeur who's playing way too many games for the Devils and who has developed a disturbing habit of fading down the stretch and into the playoffs. Brodeur has been insulated for all of his career by the tight New Jersey defence. At the Olympics, with a team that had exactly one practice together before starting the tournament, he doesn't have that smothering security blanket. That means there are going to be defensive miscues and big, honking breakdowns in front of him, and the goalie must be extra-sharp and extra-quick. I'm not sure Brodeur is capable of doing that anymore.

Look at the goalies who are really shining in this tournament. Ryan Miller is 29. So is Ilya Bryzgalov. Jaro Halak is 24. These are goalies who are in, or heading into, their primes. Brodeur is coming out of his, and last night it showed.

If Team Canada means to learn a lesson from staying too long with the tried and true, which in Torino turned out to be the tired and blue, it needs to start in goal. If it's supposed to be a young, hungry team, it needs a young, hungry goalie. Sure, it's risky to put all the country's hopes in Roberto Luongo, who's never won a Cup, or Marc-Andre Fleury who famously blew the World Junior gold medal game in 2004 by mishandling the puck. But, is it any more risky to try something new than it is to expect a 37-year-old Brodeur to rediscover the form of his youth?

The fact is, Brodeur won't be there in four years' time. Team Canada will have to learn to get along without him sooner or later. For the sake of this year's medal hopes, it's time to let the past go and ride a good goalie who's still in his prime. Brodeur has done his time for his country, but I think that time has passed.

8 comments:

David said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Marty is finally getting to play the puck freely, as he loves to do...His bravado as a "rear skater" was an awesome sight to behold...Too bad that it bit him on the ass! Had the balance of luck tipped the other way, he would have been a heroic innovator of his position...adn Canada would have sung his praises as the prototype for future hybrid-style goaltenders.

Shan said...

I've never been a Brodeur fan. In fact, I don't like him at all.

And I fully expect them to start Luongo next game and hopefully he'll play well and continue into the medal round.

However, I don't think Brodeur is "done" the way you suggest he is. In fact, knowing he played a bad game, I bet if he were given a second opportunity, he'd play really well.

Patrick said...

Last night he looked like Aebisher. It was pathetic--i.e. filled with pathos--enough, and it felt like watching Superman trying to fly in a suit of kryptonite.

Luongo or Fleury are next. There is no second opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Dear Marty:

Thanks for everything. Its been a great ride.... but take a seat.

Anonymous said...

Lemaire needs the Devils to have faith in Brodeur. Their whole system is about everyone doing their job. Babcock won't want to go with Fleury because he won't respect the guys who took the cup away. Luongo showed up for the Worlds because he was out of the playoffs, but Yzerman isn't the old gang, so that doesn't count.

And that is what team canada (yep little c) is all about. Parochial interests. (Also there is a little thing about hockey fans over rating goalies but why spoil a good point;)

AndyF said...

Marty's been good, but not as good as his record seems. HockeyAnalytics.com ran some numbers and showed Brodeur's brilliance to be a bit of a myth. I think this site sprouted out of that analysis:
http://brodeurisafraud.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Agreed - I am a goalie and he broke the gospel rule period as follows if you are going to play a loose puck into a crowd doit along the boards otherwise it becomes a rebound throwing it out front for anyone to pick-up better to leave it alone or smother it and cool the play down get everyone to settle a bit - this works every time unfortunatley Little secret marty is looking for the assist and trying to help the defence as a secondary this will fail when you have other olympians to do that, that's why they got o the team!