So what allowed a goalie who was drafted 20th overall in 1990 (not even the first goalie taken in the draft) the opportunity to become the greatest goaltender of all time?
John McMullen, the owner of the Devils, stalked an unproven guy by the name of Lou Lamoriello to become president of his NHL hockey team in 1987. Yes, same guy that is still there 23 years later. He was known for his tough negotiating stance as Athletic Director at Providence College. He never played, coached or managed at the NHL level until he arrived on the scene in New Jersey.
He built a culture in the locker-room that still exists today - team-first, defence-first and wallet-first. In other words, you will play for a fair wage that fits the structure of the team. This is a great foundation for any goalie to win under unless you want to be overpaid.
Brodeur stayed in New Jersey under this system and his records will live long past the dollars he sacrificed to stay. After winning the Stanley Cup in his second year, he faced a bitter contract negotiation with Lamoriello. Marty realized where he wanted to stay and play, fired his agent and has been a Devil ever since. (There was speculation that St. Louis, with Mike Keenan as GM, was going to try to lure Marty there with an offer sheet but the league encumbered the Blues’ picks due to the Keenan and New York Rangers fiasco. The NHLPA stayed out of the fray not challenging the league’s stance and an offer never came.)
The New Jersey Devils had a twosome on defence that was the envy of the league: Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer.
Stevens landed in New Jersey because the St. Louis Blues had signed an offer sheet to a New Jersey player by the name of Brendan Shanahan. Compensation for the signing was a boat load of first-round picks. St. Louis had none because they gave them all away to sign Stevens. Compensation was to be ruled by an independent arbitrator.
Max McNab, the general manager for the Devils, wrote a brief that was brilliant and the Devils were awarded Stevens instead of Curtis Joseph and Rod Brind’Amour. McNab got the Devils a franchise player in Stevens.
Lamoriello made the deal for Niedermayer after trading Tom Kurvers to Toronto for a first-round pick. The Devils used that pick to draft Niedermayer. Here’s the trade breakdown. They traded their third best defenceman on their team (Kurvers) for the third overall pick in the 1991 draft (future franchise player, Scott Niedermayer). See how the defence is nicely coming into shape for Marty’s arrival?
The Brodeur factor
Marty is the right guy at the right time to play goal for the Devils. He has the absolute perfect temperament. On a defensive, goal-starved team it can get frustrating for a goalie. Not for Marty, who will shatter most goalie records in that environment.
He plays on a team that forces you to dump the puck in and he is the best goalie ever at handling the puck thus stopping every team’s offensive rush. He loves the city. (That one is hard to figure out). He has always had great backups like Chris Terreri, Jeff Reese and Scott Clemmensen to name a few, who didn’t mind watching, supporting and playing every second month.
The players that played in front of Marty through the years were unselfish and totally disciplined. Jay Pandolfo was a checker for years and what’s most impressive about that role is that he checked the opposing team’s best players without ever taking penalties and hurting his club. Bobby Carpenter was perfectly happy never to venture over the offensive blue-line.
Having your Dad as the photographer for the Montreal Canadiens for a few decades also put Brodeur in a favourable hockey environment right from the very beginning. Hanging around The Forum and watching the likes of Patrick Roy certainly didn’t hurt. This script could all have been written differently if a seven-year-old Marty Brodeur, when asked by his coach if he wanted to play goal or forward had answered another way.
The sky is the limit as to when Brodeur will stop shattering records. Today, when asked what is left to accomplish, he looks to the young players on the team like Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya and calmly replies that he wants to win them their first Stanley Cup.
Not fate, not luck, not talent, but all three, and a whole lot more, has led to Brodeur’s storied career. The journey to the record may have started with Lou Lamoriello’s hire, but it’s going to end with Marty as the greatest goalie of all time.
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