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March 25, 2019
Roy Still King
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Statistical comparisons are somewhat useless. Brodeur had the good fortune of coming along at just the right time, playing his entire career during the NHLís Dead Puck Era. He benefited from clutching, grabbing, oversized goalie equipment, and the dreaded neutral zone trap. And manning the pipes for the New Jersey Devils is hardly the toughest gig in show business.
Brodeur has two enormous advantages over St. Patrick. First, Brodeur is the best puck-moving netminder in history, while Roy was, well, not the best puck-moving netminder in history. Roy was a one-man carnival whenever he wandered from the paint. Brodeurís dominance with the stick is responsible for the absurd geometry lesson behind every NHL net.
Brodeurís also tops when it comes to endurance. Heís started 70 or more games 11 times in his career. Roy never played more than 68 games in a season.
Yet Iíd still take Roy over Brodeur. Royís rabid competitiveness and unflappable confidence were unmatched, and he had the ability to inspire that same confidence in others, willing two rather ordinary Montreal teams to Stanley Cup championships.
Despite having his name on the Stanley Cup three times, Brodeur has never carried a team to a Cup the way Roy did. Brodeur was always insulated in New Jersey. He was never even the best player on his own team during those three championships, losing out on the Conn Smythe to Claude Lemieux, Scott Stevens, and Anaheimís Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Roy owns three Conn Smythes, and he only missed a fourth when Joe Sakic pumped home 18 goals in 22 games during the 1996 playoffs. Even then, Roy was the clear MVP of the Finals, allowing four goals in sweeping the Florida Panthers, and he closed it out with 1-0, triple-overtime shutout in Game Four.
Royís fourth Cup came at Brodeurís expense. The Avalanche trailed the Devils three games to two in the 2001 Finals when Roy went into New Jersey and pitched a 4-0 shutout in Game Six. He then beat Brodeur 3-1 back in Colorado to put another ring in his ear. Roy beat Brodeur when it mattered most.
Roy also wins on style points. He was cool as hell. He was a personality, a presence. Brodeur is just a guy who played a ton of games behind the most boring team in hockey. Yippee.
Brodeur hasnít won anything without Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer in front of him, either. Since the lockout, Marty is 12-18 in the playoffs.
This is actually a big season in terms of Brodeurís legacy. The Devils are the favorite to come out of the Wales, and if Brodeur can lead them to a fourth title without Norris Trophy winners protecting him, then I think he'd stand a chance in the Roy debate.
Brodeurís arm injury may prove to be a blessing. It forced the Devils to finally lighten his workload, perhaps keeping him fresh for a deep postseason run.
And before we label Brodeurís eventual wins mark unreachable, consider one Marc-Andre Fleury.
At the end of the 1996-97 season, a 25-year-old Brodeur had 119 career victories. Fleury has 104 right now, and he wonít turn 25 until next November 28. With Kid Crosby and Geno Malkin, the Penguins should be contenders for the foreseeable future. Fleury will also play his career under the ridiculous shootout scenario, making a string of 40-win seasons a distinct possibility.
Brodeur posted his first 40-win campaign in 1997-98. He was 25. Fleury notched his first 40-win season in 2006-07 at the tender age of 22.
Fleuryís biggest obstacle will be durability. Heís started only 84 games the past two years. If not for the health woes, Fleury would already be well ahead of Brodeurís pace.
The next few years will tell the tale. Once Brodeur turned 25, his win totals soared. Between 25 and 35, Brodeur put up 375 wins, averaging 41.7 victories per season. Remember, he lost a full year due to the lockout. So Fleury will only have to average 37.5 wins over that same 10-year span to keep pace.
Likely? No. Impossible? Hardly.
Fleury has won 28 of his 51 starts this season. That same winning percentage would produce 38 wins over 70 starts. Keep in mind, Pittsburgh struggled for most of the season, and Fleury has only recently found his game again after missing time with an ankle injury, and yet he still would have managed the necessary wins had he been healthy.
And before you scoff at the notion of Fleury starting 70 games, he started 65 as a 22-year-old, and heís been in net for 30 of Pittsburghís last 33 games, including a string of 19 consecutive starts that ended Sunday against Boston. If healthy, the kid can handle the action. The trick is keeping him healthy.
Anyway, itís just something to think about over the next few days when youíre hearing all the mainstream pinheads saying Brodeurís record will never be broken. I mean, the real reason it won't be broken is because an advanced race of space goats will invade Earth and enslave all its inhabitants, thus ending professional sports as we know them. But that should really go without saying.
Now hereís Brodeur and Roy talking about 551Ö