Sunday, July 7, 2013

Draft Day Moves and the Secret Fantasy of Every Devils Fan

The Devils made a couple of moves at the NHL Draft this year to sure up their goaltending future hopefully for many years to come. They traded their first round pick (number 9 overall) to Vancouver for Goaltender Cory Schneider.

Here's how it looked on TSN:
I remember the booing of Bettman in that video being much much louder as well as the cheering for the trade.

And at the end of the night, the Devils traded for a 7th round pick near the end of the draft (from LA in exchange for a 7th round pick next year) and they made this move:
Based on my video of the pick of Anthony Brodeur, son of the franchise goalie, there was a lot more excitement in the room.

So what does this all mean for the Devils?

First and foremost, it's an acknowledgement that Martin Brodeur, the 20 year franchise goalie, is not going to be around forever. The senior Brodeur is 41 years old and will be until the 2nd round of next year's playoffs. Since this past season was shortened for the lockout, and he was injured for part of what was left, we can say that it's been more than a year since he played a full season (a season in which he led the club to the Stanley Cup Finals). We don't know what next season will bring for him, whether his skills will deteriorate enough to want him not to play any longer. I've been wondering for years what the Devils plan was for the next goalie for the Devils. The guys in Albany certainly didn't look like they were going to make that next step and take over in net. Johan Hedberg, only a year younger than Brodeur, has been the backup for the past couple seasons, so we knew that wasn't going to be the plan.
With Cory Schneider, it seems clear what the plan is. Schneider is 27 (he turns 28 next spring) with his NHL future ahead of him. If we're lucky, we could have Schneider for a decade or more. Not many franchises these days are blessed with the same goalie for 20 years like the Devils have been. I've taken that for granted. Schneider has logged time in net for Vancouver during 5 NHL seasons, with the majority of his work over the last 3. He's never played more than 33 games during a season (2 full seasons and 1 short season), but played 30 games this past year after the lockout. He does have 3 seasons at AHL Manitoba and his last 2 seasons at Boston College where he never played fewer than 36 games before making the jump full time to the NHL.
I've also heard Lou Lamoriello state that Brodeur is still the Number 1 goalie. I'm guessing the plan is to phase in Schneider while decreasing Brodeur's work load. Brodeur has 1 season left on his contract and Schneider has 2, so I'm thinking a lot of that phasing in work has to be done in the upcoming season. I can't see Brodeur's workload being cut all the way to 41 games unless the entire schedule is built with 41 sets of back-to-back games (on a side note, have you ever looked at the AHL schedule? they play 2 or 3 games every weekend). But maybe a 51/31 split. I don't know.
There's always a chance that Brodeur doesn't feel ready to let go after his contract is up and signs on for one last season with the Devils (and in the NHL). As long as he still has the skills (and we won't really know that until we see him play at the end of the 2013-14 season), I'm all for that.
One other thought towards a Brodeur swan song not happening until 2014-15 is 700 wins. Marty has 669 regular season NHL wins right now. 31 wins away from 700 all time. He's already the all-time leader (he set that in March 2009). I honestly don't think any other goalie will ever reach 500 all time, let alone challenge Brodeur's record (whatever it ends up to be), but to me, that mark of 700 wins could be something too tempting for Brodeur to pass up. The Brodeur that we're all used to (getting 40+ wins in 75+ games, which he hasn't done since 2009-10) could knock that out sometime in March of the upcoming season. But each of the last 2 full seasons, Brodeur has played about 70% of the Devils games, and this past season with the lockout and injury, he played in 60%. He's only won 46% of the games in which he's played in those 3 seasons (and exactly half over the past 2 seasons). Even if he has a season like the Stanley Cup run of 2011-12 with 31 wins in 59 games, he just barely makes it to 700 when the contract is over, and I don't think he'll see that much playing time next season, so I just don't see a way where he won't need one more contract extension to make it to 700 wins.
So maybe Brodeur calls it quits after 2013-14 and they hand the reigns to Schneider to play a full workload for the first time in 2014-15, and maybe Brodeur comes back in an even more reduced rule in 2014-15 in order to go out in style joining the 700 win club. That's also the end of Schneider's contract (barring an extension, which by law, the Devils cannot negotiate until the contract's final year in 2014-15).
I'm sure history will show that Lou Lamoriello gives Cory Schneider a long term contract extension to be the Devils regular goalie taking him past 2015. But you never know how things will work out. Maybe the secret fantasy of every Devils fan gets to play out. The Devils drafted Anthony Brodeur, a goalie just out of high school, and of course, the son of the franchise goalie Martin Brodeur. That draft pick (and preceding trade) was likely nothing more than a goodwill gesture to draft a kid that wasn't going to be drafted this season (or possibly ever) that was also half-show for the draft being in the Devils home arena. But the thing about draft picks is that we just never know what the future will bring. Some draft picks work out and are remembered forever, and some draft picks are forgotten. And some of the best players in the league at any given time aren't even drafted.
Let me play the "what if" game. What if Anthony Brodeur (playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League next season, and maybe the AHL beyond that) develops into an NHL goalie like his father (he has the DNA of both his father and his father's father, who was an Olympic goalie for Canada). 2 years from now, the younger Brodeur will be 20 years old, and for all we know, he could be NHL-ready. 2 years from now, his father could be retiring and Schneider's contract could be up. So maybe, just maybe, in October 2015, one Brodeur era in New Jersey ends and another Brodeur era in New Jersey begins. Or maybe he comes up in 2016. And the longest of longshots, we get 20 more years of a Brodeur in net in New Jersey. That's the secret fantasy of every Devils fan. And that was certainly the cause for excitement in the arena (you hear it in my YouTube video) when the trade was announced and Anthony Brodeur was drafted.
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