In just about a week, it would seem that Devils fans’ worlds have been turned upside down. Martin Brodeur, the rock of the franchise, the all-time games played, shutout and wins leader for the team and the NHL is now playing for a different team. Scott Gomez, a player once booed for his defection to the hated New York Rangers, is now a Devil again. And injuries have overtaken the team to the point where some games seem like wars of attrition. It is a changing landscape for the Devils. The only question is how everyone around the team will adjust to them.
First up came the news that Marty Brodeur had been brought in to practice with the St. Louis Blues. The thought was that St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock would take about a week to look at Brodeur and decide whether or not to sign him. With injuries to number one goalie Brian Elliott and an inexperienced backup in Jake Allen, the Blues were certainly in need of some reinforcement in the crease. Earlier this week, Brodeur was offered a one year contract with bonuses based on how many points he earns the team and signed, meaning that he will now be chasing NHL win number 700 as a member of the Blues. His first start for the team is projected to come Saturday, December 6 versus the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum. For Devils fans there are some pros here: number one, he is in the Western Conference and as such, the Devils will not be in direct competition with him and, number two, the Devils have already seen the Blues for both of their games, when they dropped both games of a home-and-home back in early November. Another pro for Devils fans is that the Blues are a likeable, young team and if Brodeur can contribute to them winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, I am sure most fans would have no problem in rooting for them. Should the Devils remain out of a playoff spot and, ultimately not make the playoffs, I, for one, would have no problem in rooting for St. Louis. Here’s to wishing Marty all the best as he starts this next chapter of his career.
The real question with Brodeur is what happens once Elliott does come back. Will he remain a number one, or will Elliott take back his spot? This move may seem exactly what the doctor ordered for St. Louis now, but things do have a chance to get kind of sticky later on. After all, Brodeur “losing his spot” to Cory Schneider is part of what led to him and the Devils parting ways in the first place. Brodeur still wants to play, and that is great. If he feels he can still go, then he deserves to continue to play. The story will be if he will wow St. Louis management enough to supplant the much younger Elliott as the Blues’ number one goalie. Time will tell, but for now, Brodeur gets to play and St. Louis gets a superstar and real NHL legend to mind the nets for them while they wait for reinforcements.
After that bombshell dropped, Devils fans learned that an old friend would be returning to the fold. Scott Gomez, who had been practicing with the club, but had not been permitted to travel with them, was signed to a contract. He was immediately put in the lineup for Tuesday’s game against Pittsburgh, a 1-0 loss, and had about 22 minutes of ice time. The signing of Gomez came after a rash of injuries that has included Adam Henrique being in and out of the lineup, Ryane Clowe dealing with a head injury, defensemen Jon Merrill and Bryce Salvador dealing with injuries and Travis Zajac being put on injured reserve. To add to that, Patrik Elias, Stephen Gionta and Jaromir Jagr all left the Penguins game with injuries. Jagr’s injury was of special significance since it came on a late hit to the head from Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, for which he was handed down a two game suspension, though no penalty was called on the ice on the play.
The Gomez signing is, however, a bit of a stopgap. The Devils have the oldest roster in the league and will need to get younger. Also, Mike Cammalleri has been taking on the bulk of the scoring. Other guys will need to step up to distribute the scoring all around. Relying on one guy for the bulk of your scoring is dangerous because, should Cammalleri (who just came off the IR) get hurt again, there is no one there to fill the gap. Since the end of November and their Western Canadian roadtrip, the Devils have had a rough go of it. Especially dropping leads in the games at Calgary and at home against Detroit, only to lose in the shootout. Hopefully, with the right maneuvers and roster changes, the team can tinker its way into winning some games. We will see, but as the saying goes: the waiting is the hardest part.
I would also like to say a few words about the recent passing of Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau. Although I am too young to have seen him play, Mr. Beliveau was someone that I enjoyed reading about as a kid. As many have said since the news broke, he was a class act all the way, similar in a way to New York Yankees great Joe DiMaggio (which is interesting since, as was reported on the NHL Network, Beliveau was just as much a baseball fan as he was a hockey fan growing up – his idol was Ted Williams). Former Devils coach and fellow Canadiens great, Jacques Lemaire wrote a piece on the Devils official website where he eulogized Beliveau and described what an honor it was to have played with a man as great as him. Even for a Devils fan born ten years after he retired, the impact of Beliveau’s career could be felt by me. Merci Mr. Beliveau and Godspeed.