If being a hockey immortal wasn't enough, if Martin Brodeur played on the other side of the river in New York or the other side of the border in Montreal, he'd be a hockey God. Except the reason the New Jersey Devils have had more success (and more Cups) than those two original six teams combined over the last 15 years is because of number 30's presence between the pipes.
No goalie in history has won more games than Marty Brodeur's 551 and if he keeps playing at this clip for about another four years at 40 wins per, he could wind up at around 730 for what has been a spectacular career. And if it hadn't been for Stephane Matteau's overtime heroics in 1994 and the man he just passed on the all-time wins list Patrick Roy in Game Seven of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, Brodeur may well have five Cups to his name.
There has been no more consistent, dominant or durable netminder than Brodeur, who has averaged 73 games played per season over the last 12 years, topping 70 games played in eleven of those season's. Brodeur has never had a Goals Against Average higher than 2.57, his lowest being an average of 1.88, set during the 1996-97 campaign. Marty has also cracked the 30 win plateau 12 times and 40 wins in seven season's, including a record 48 in 2006-07. As far as shutouts go, four times Brodeur has eclipsed double digits in a season, with his career high 12 coming in the same year as his 48 wins. Marty is closing in on that shutout record as well.
Keep in mind that in his first season Brodeur was sharing the load with Chris Terreri and the following season was shortened by a lockout and he had one full season completely wiped out by another one. By the way that highest goals against of 2.57 happened the year after the last lockout, you know the season where everything was changed in the rules to up scoring, reduce goalie mobility for handling the puck "the Brodeur rule" as it were and his first season without either Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer or Ken Daneyko on the blueline.
So what has Brodeur done in the subsequent season's since? In 2006-07 Marty upped his win total and shutouts to 48 and 12 respectively, lowering his goals against average to a staggering 2.18, while stopping the most rubber in his career with 2,011 saves. In 2007-08 (without Brian Rafalski mind you), Marty won another 44 games with his goals against a tick lower at 2.17, making the 2nd most amount of saves for his career with 1,921. Brodeur in the last two season's also played 155 games out of a possible 164, including a career high 78. Oh and by the way, the last two season's have resulted in Marty walking away with the Vezina Trophy, Brodeur has four of those.
Speaking of the Vezina Trophy, what is even more amazing than Brodeur winning four of them, is the fact that he didn't start winning them until the 2002-03 campaign. Apparently the 1996-97 year of 37 wins, ten shutouts and a 1.88 GAA wasn't good enough, nor the 1997-98 year of 43 wins, ten shutouts and a 1.89 GAA or two other 40 plus win season's.
Marty has been equally astonishing this season. Only played 19 games you say? Consider this, in 77 games last year Brodeur had four shutouts, this season in 19 games, four shutouts!
If those awards weren't enough, Brodeur also has a Calder Memorial Trophy and four times has won the William M. Jennings Trophy to boot.
Brodeur's playoff theatrics have been well chronicled as well with 95 wins in total with a career 1.96 GAA and 22 shutouts. From a classic duel with Dominik Hasek in 1994, to nearly derailing the Rangers date with destiny, to up-ending the mighty Detroit Red Wings in a 4-0 sweep in 1995 posting three shutouts during that Cup run, to scoring a goal against the Canadiens in 1997.
Of course then there were duels with the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs in the East as well with Patrick Roy, Eddie Belfour and J.S. Giguere in the West.
If there's one award Marty has yet to attain it is the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy he was conned out of. All Brodeur did that year was set an NHL Stanley Cup playoff record with seven shutouts, most shutouts in a Stanley Cup Final with three, against Giguere's Anahiem Mighty Ducks no less. And Brodeur became just the 3rd goalie to win the Stanley Cup with a Game 7 shutout.
Brodeur has also compiled over 30 Devils franchise records to his credit. Marty also holds or will eventually earn himself over 17 records, regular and post-season combined. If that wasn't enough, Brodeur is a ten time NHL All-Star, brought Canada an Olympic Gold Medal in 2002 and a World Cup of Hockey Championship in 2004.
Sure there will be some who will scoff and say Brodeur was a "system goalie" who played behind Hall of Fame or All-Star defensemen. True in a sense, but remember those trapping Devils didn't score a whole lot, meaning Marty had to steal a lot of nail biters. And fast forward to more recent times and one will realize that without those aforementioned defensemen, Marty achieved his single season high for wins (48) and shutouts (12) in the same season just two years ago.
None of his contemporaries are close and Marty is still going strong. Though one kid who does stand out to me as someone who could possibly change the fortunes of a franchise much like Brodeur has with the Devils is Columbus Blue Jackets rookie goaltender Steve Mason. Mason a top contender for the Calder Trophy, has the Blue Jackets sitting in 6th place with 80 points in the NHL's Western Conference. Mason has 28 wins with a 2.24 GAA and a league leading 9 shutouts. Very impressive indeed, but a long way to go to catch Marty the magnificent.
Mason started his pro career with the AHL Syracuse Crunch. Brodeur began his with the Utica Devils. Not too shabby from a couple of kids who got their professional start in Upstate New York.