Martin Brodeur

The National Hockey League is perhaps the professional sports league that is perhaps most willing to appeal to authority and defer to experience than any other. You can say it’s to do with how much hockey treasures its past, and maybe that’s true, but that doesn’t mean it’s not detrimental to the sport itself.

We got a pretty good case-in-point example of this when the Devils, predictably, gave Martin Brodeur the start in the Devils’ first-ever outdoor game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. It was very much a “thanks for everything” moment, and perhaps the team didn’t really care so much about the end result. The guy’s been the face of the franchise almost since he came into the league, so of course they were going to give him the start in that particular game. It was a Special Experience, and all that.

Of course, the fact that Brodeur got bombed for six goals against on 21 shots, bringing his save percentage for this, his age-41 season, below .900 for what has to be the first time ever after 28 games in his career. To judge any goaltender on a .714 save percentage in any 40-minute stretch is of course unfair, but this is in fact reflective of a trend that has plagued the Devils all year.

Asked why he was starting Brodeur, who went into the game with a .905 save percentage, over Cory Schneider, who was on the bench with his sitting at .928, coach Peter DeBoer said nothing about the experience or how much he’s meant to the franchise. What he said, instead, was baseless and ridiculous: “I’m not a big stats guy. I think those numbers are misleading.”

They are, in fact, not. The whole reason the Devils went out and got Schneider over the summer is that Brodeur is, at his age, very clearly on his last legs. This is likely his final season, and you can make a reasonable argument that even now he’s long overstayed his welcome. The number of times his save percentage in the last three seasons (.903, .908, and .901, respectively) even approached league average is zero, and this is the logical denouement, a bottoming-out so spectacular that it screams for a new solution. The fix is simple: Start Schneider more often than the guy who clearly doesn’t have “it” any more. His save percentage dropped after his relief appearance at Yankee Stadium, by one point, to his career average of .927. Which, you’ll note, is as more above league average than Brodeur’s is below it.

But Brodeur has played in 28 games to Schneider’s 26, and it’s very clear why: Nostalgia. No one could look at these performances over the course of a season and say the numbers are misleading. They, in fact, are telling you everything you need to know. Even if you want to say the team plays better in front of Schneider (likely not the case), then don’t you owe it to yourself to not continually trot Brodeur out there more often?

The Devils are, as of this writing, sitting on 55 points from 53 games, just a point out of a playoff spot behind third-in-the-Metro Columbus. However, there are two teams between them and that spot, as Philadelphia has 56 points from the same number of games, and Carolina has the same number of points from two fewer games. All of which is to say that two points are extremely important to the Devils right now, or at least should be. For DeBoer to rely on the plainly worse goaltender is an abdication of his actual responsibility as the steward of this team, and it’s as simple as that.

However, the quotes that came from Brodeur in the immediate aftermath of his being positively shelled are extremely telling.

“I told Pete if you want to put Schneids for the experience in a game like that,” Brodeur said. “I asked him. If you want, I’m OK with it. Maybe he would’ve done it anyway.”

Great stuff. This is like a No. 5 pitcher calling his manager out to the mound and saying, “Hey I know I walked nine of the first 14 batters I faced today but I’m cool if you wanna bring in someone else.” And then the manager uses his ace in mop-up duty. The combination hubris-slash-delusion it takes to say something like that with a straight face not only to the media but to your immediate superior, to whom you’re (supposed to be) accountable for your performance, must be amazing.

Then there were the excuses from Brodeur for why he was so bad in this one. They include but were not limited to the spectacle (“I’m sure [the number of odd-man rushes conceded] never would have happened in a regular game.”), the temperature (“It’s tough, especially when you’re playing in a game like that. I couldn’t close my glove or catch a puck. It was frozen.”), and the surface (“It was the worst ice I’ve ever played hockey on. As it went on, it was worse and worse.”) I understand it was like 24 degrees when the puck dropped, but Brodeur was fishing the puck out of net so often he should have built a shanty.

But again, that delusion is occurring on a mass level. The reason Brodeur felt within his rights to let his coach know that he would accept being pulled after allowing six goals on 21 shots is that he’s very clearly the one calling the shots. DeBoer, like Brodeur himself, is very much accustomed to making excuses for why a 41-year-old man can’t play a professional sport as well as a 27-year-old one.

DeBoer should be in the business not of soothing the ego of an over-the-hill subaverage goaltender, but rather trying to get his team into the playoffs. By starting Brodeur more often than he does Schneider, he’s simply not doing that. Tyler Dellow dug into the numbers and found that the use of the legendary, arguably-best-ever goaltender as often as he does, he has cost his team between two and three points in the standings. That number will continue to grow as long as Brodeur continues getting every other start.

At the end of the season, the Devils will be left to sort through the ashes of another missed playoff appearance, and wonder if getting Brodeur into 20 more games than he should have played was really worth it.

Comments (22)

  1. The great thing about all this talk coming after that parrticular outdoor game is that on…what…4 of the NYR goals, Brodeur actually had some horrible luck and had no chance from deflections. All he needed to do was say the gods werent on their side, and be done with it. Instead he has to whine about the ice and the cold and the sun and whatever else.

  2. Since you love the save percentage stat so much maybe we should break down Brodeur’s season a bit and look at the numbers. He had a rough October after missing the end of training camp. He was clearly NJ best goalie for Nov and Dec where he had a save% of .932 and .902. As someone who follows the team and actually watches them play more often than just when they play outdoor games I can tell you Deboer has done a good job of riding the hot hand (other than the outdoor game) and I agree that Schneider should carry the load for as long as he stays as hot as he has been.

    • Okay let’s look at the splits.

      Brodeur – 6 GP, .879
      Schneider – 6 GP, .915

      Brodeur – 9 GP, .932
      Schneider – 6 GP, .941

      Brodeur – 8 GP, .902
      Schneider – 6 GP, .892

      Brodeur – 5 GP, .862
      Schneider – 8 GP, .956

      Apparently all Schneider has to do to get more starts in any given month is have a save percentage 90 points above the other guy.

      • Let’s expand the splits.

        Brodeur – 6 GP, 2W-2L-2OTL
        Schneider – 6 GP, 1W-3L-2OTL

        Brodeur – 9 GP, 5-4-0
        Schneider – 6 GP, 3-2-1

        Brodeur – 8 GP, 5-2-1
        Schneider – 6 GP, 1-3-2

        Brodeur – 5 GP, 1-3-1
        Schneider – 8 GP, 4-1-2

        Apparently, all either goalie has to do to get more starts in any given month is win more than the other guy.

        • Schneider’s had some of the worst goal support in the league. That’s his doing?

        • I love how fans will go on and on about how hockey is such a TEAM sport unless we are talking about wins for goalies. More wins=better goalie is as ignorant as more wins=better pitcher.

        • My point was that Lambert’s snarky response about spilts was unfounded. Rob’s original point was that Deboer tries to ride the “hot-hand”. This is seen by more wins correlates to more starts. For whatever reason the Devils score more for Brodeur than Schneider. (Maybe the forwards leave the defensive zone earlier because they are more confident in Brodeur’s puck-handling ability.)

          Deboer’s only mistake was saying that he’s “not a stats guy”. If he said the Devils have 4 games in the next 6 days, would you be fine with that reasoning? Schneider even came out and said that Brodeur should start the game. How many of those goals would Schneider have saved anyway? One?

          • If Brodeur is such a better puck handler than Schneider then we should see a significant difference in the Corsi on ice corsi for the Devils as he would be limiting other teams shots by clearing the zone and creating more chances down the ice with better passes. Except, there is no significant difference between Brodeur’s on ice corsi which is actually .4% lower than Schneiders. What we do see a difference in is the on ice shooting percentage for the Devils in games with Brodeur has been 8.9% whereas for Schneider it is 5.8%. Is Brodeur some kind of role playing game piece of equipment that gives his team +3% to shooting percentage? Fuck no, the Devils have just happened to shoot 3% better with Brodeur as their goalie in this small sample size of games.

        • Yes, because goalie-play is the only thing that determines victory, right? You must be a big MAF fan…

        • @bmurphy84

          Corsi is not a statistic you can use to measure a goalie’s puck handling ability as they (almost exclusively) touch the puck as a result of a shot or a dump in. They (by rule) can’t touch the puck in the offensive zone and increase shots for. When Brodeur does get the puck, the forwards can leave the defensive zone early and get behind the opponent. This should lead to better shot quality, which you see in the different shooting percentages.

          I hope you haven’t watched either Schneider or Brodeur play in their careers. That’s the only explanation for saying “If Brodeur is such a better puck handler than Schneider”.

          • You know, it may seem intuitively that there would be, at best, only a very weak causative link between which of a team’s goalies is starting and how much that team scores, but can any stats nerds dig further into the correlation and figure that out?

            For example, why would (or, perhaps, “why DO”) the Devils score more for say, Schneider than for Brodeur? It may be due to luck, or at least primarily luck. But then, I can think of other possible factors: Brodeur’s well-known ability to play the puck, maybe; or perhaps a chemistry issue — the skaters play differently because of their relationship with or opinion of Schneider.

            Statistically, though, is there a way to figure this out?

          • @GM and Wrack

            If a goalie could influence how much his team scores then we would see it reflected in the possession numbers. On Ice Corsi registers all corsi events while you are on the ice. If Brodeur’s puck handling skills vis-a-vis Scheider impacted possession then he would be limiting the corsi events against by clearing the puck out of the zone more often and creating more corsi events for his team by connecting more often on breakout passes. As I pointed out earlier there is almost no difference between his on ice corsi as it is .4% lower than Scheinder’s. There is no statistical evidence that any goalie can create a 3% increase in his teams shooting percentage over any significant sample size. The evidence just does not exist to support that argument. There is only one logical reason why the Devils shooting percentage has been 3% higher with Brodeur, sample size.

            I have watched both significantly and while I admit on the eye test Brodeur looks better at handling the puck, there is no statistical evidence that it has led to better possession numbers for the Devils this season.

          • @GM and Wrack

            How much of a difference do you seriously think Brodeur’s puck-handling ability makes on how many goals the Devils score?

            Sv% splits are really stark here. Wins are a team stat not an individual stat.

  3. Thanks for identifying such a remarkable red herring in NHL history; a team trying to honor a hall-of-famer and hurting itself a bit in the process. Hockey teams are made up of people, not robots. Emotions can get in the way of results sometimes.

    • So Lambert should have written, “While it’s cool the Devils started their shitty goalie in this one specific very special game, pretty much every other game they start him is a mistake and they might miss the playoffs because of him.”??

      It was a high profile game where a boring team like the Devils got a lot of attention. Oh and Brodeur got shelled. Sounds like the perfect occasion to point out that the Devils have shot themselves in the foot by starting Brodeur more than Schneider.

      I’d agree with you if it was the Devils showing some class and giving their future HOFer a rare start in goal for a special game. They’re just using him so much.

  4. Im not saying that Schnieder hasnt been the better goalie so far, because he clearly has, but for you to suggest the reason Brodeur has started more games than Schneider is purely nostalgic reasons isnt fair. Schneider battled injury through Oct & Nov, which also coincides with the time Brodeur got hot. As I mentioed earlier Deboer has been good at riding the hot hand.

    • Rob is right, Schneider got hurt in late October, which is why Marty had so many more starts than him. So it’s really not fair to compare usage against a guy who wasn’t even available to play. That coincided with Marty playing REALLY well and, frankly, deserving the starts.

      There is a reason Schneider’s December stats were so bad, he LOOKED bad in those games as he was coming back from an unspecified injury that was probably a groin problem.

      There is also a reason that Schneider has started more in January, and it’s not only that his save% is 90 points higher than Marty, it’s that he finally took the job for himself. Cory has, more or less, been the starter here for 3 weeks since he finally earned it with his PLAY, not with the assumptions of his being better. With 29 games left, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schneider start 20 of them.

      ALSO LAMBERT, Dellow went on some rant yesterday about how stupid it is to start goalies in back to back games. Well, NJ has 22 sets of back to backs this season, which plays into usage.

      • To add to your point Neil, this isnt the first time this year Schneider has had the #1 job. Right from opening night Schneider put up better numbers for the first month, but just didnt get any goal support and couldn’t win a game. Marty struggled after missing time after his father’s passing. As the season went on, Marty picked it up and was getting wins, while Schneider continued to lose and eventually went down with an injury.

  5. Spot-on analysis. As a Devils fan I’ve been privileged to watch Brodeur play his whole career here. But enough is enough. There’s no rational explanation for Brodeur to be starting as many games as he has been.

    Even when he was on his hot streak earlier in the season, DeBoer kept playing him a little too much. After losing his first four starts, Brodeur put up seven wins in eight games. After that? Five losses in his next six games.

    All goaltenders are streaky. This is a simple fact of hockey. Goalies go on hot streaks and they go on cold streaks. Players do this as well. It’s part of being human. The problem is that people are using Brodeur’s hot streaks as evidence that he can be consistently good at some point. After 28 starts it should now be painfully obvious that Brodeur is going to continue to be inconsistent at best, and that the average is far below where it needs to be for the Devils to remain competitive.

    When Marty didn’t get pulled after the fifth goal on Sunday I joked that it was because Schneider needed to rest up so he can start the next 29 games in a row. As a Devils fan I really hope I’m right about that.

  6. Just before Schneider started playing out of mind this month and it looked like Deboer had finally given the crease to him, In Lou We Trust posted this article about how both goaltenders needed to improve their game:

    (One of the odd things Fischer notes, is that Schneider’s overall SV% was boosted by his PK SV%, and that Brodeur actually had a better even strength SV% until the Chicago game in December.)

    Each time Pete Deboer tried to switch between goalies this season to see who could have the hot hand, they both had some crappy performances thrown in between the good ones. Rob and Neil have already mentioned in the comments Schneider’s injury in October, Brodeur having some fantastic games in November, and the league high 22 back to backs, I’d also argue that the Devils being in the bottom end of the league for shot generation and scoring would be a bigger factor in why they are on the outside trying to sneak back in to the playoff race than just the nostalgia factor… Pete Deboer made a dumb comment with the “I’m not a stats guy” line instead of owning up to the sentimentality factor and it came back to haunt him.

    But regardless of my knee-jerk reaction to defend why things turned out the way they did with the goaltending split, it is time for Brodeur to retire and for Schneider to continue getting at least 85% of the starts for the rest of the season. As a Devils fan I’m thankful for all that he’s done for the franchise and disappointed that his “thank you moment” on Sunday turned into a nightmare.

  7. I can’t speak for the rest of the season as I haven’t seen the Devils much, but anyone who hangs more than one (the second) of those six goals on Brodeur is an idiot. His team played terribly in front of him and he got beat by a couple of crazy deflections.

  8. If I’m the Devil’s coach, I’m looking to put in a goalie who gets me the “W”.

    I don’t care about save %, GAA, or Corsi stats.

    Schneider’s numbers are almost all better across the board, except for Wins.

    Brodeur has more wins. If the team plays better around him and wins games, heck, I don’t care, the last time I checked, wins get you into the playoffs.

    If Schneider plays well, but doesn’t win games, don’t put him in.

    If Brodeur plays like garbage but wins games, put him in.

    The same goes the other way around. It doesn’t matter how you get a win, it matters on getting the win. If it’s an ugly win, come playoff time – nobody will care, but they sure as heck will care about losses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *