For Devils fans and people who know him, the much anticipated return of Martin Brodeur may arrive as early as the end of the month. Along with his return comes the answers to the common questions that have been asked by Devils fans, analysts, bloggers, critics, and observers of the Devils. How will Brodeur be treated upon returning to the lineup? Who stays in net, who goes? Will the Devils trade Clemmensen? Will Marty's return affect the team's success?
In my humble opinion, I think there are three possible outcomes that can result from Marty returning to the lineup. The two major predictions are that Marty's return will only make the Devils better and the favorite to emerge out of the East, or his return will somehow lead to a collapse at the end of the season that vanquishes the Devil's chances of the division title and an easy first round playoff win, because he is immediately thrown back into net when he is not 100%.
Well Brent Sutter did say that Marty is going to have to work his way back into form. Sutter has been very strict on Marty's training, and he will not hesitate to keep him out of a game situation until he feels Brodeur is 100% healthy.
I'd like to acknowledge the best of the possibilities. The Devils are awaiting the near return of arguably the best goalie in the game and of all time. Brodeur has been consistent throughout his career, currently having the lowest goals against average in the modern hockey era, and holds several NHL records in his astounding fourteen year career. Two major reasons why the Devils have failed to go no further than the second round of the playoffs since their 2003 Stanley Cup championship is because they lacked consistent offense, and always burnt out Marty, who played continuous 70+ game seasons. Upon his return, Brodeur will have rested for three months, and should be fresh for the playoffs. This, along with the stupendous scoring contributions the Devils have gotten all season, compliments of Sutter's new system, seems like a formula guaranteed to at least get the Devils deeper into the playoffs and a strong run at winning their fourth cup.
The Devils started scoring right around the time they were endlessly plagued with injuries not even ten games into the season. The Devils maintained a winning record as players fell like flies, and rode an outburst of firepower from an offense that is top ten in goals for. When Brodeur went down, the Devils put their heads together and knew if they were going to stand a chance, everyone had to contribute and give a 110% effort, which is what happened. When Marty returns, there is a possibility that the excitement and the scoring can come to an abrupt end, not intentionally, but perhaps the players may subconsciously feel secure with Marty back in net, feel they can cut back, and assume Marty picks up the slack. Then we'll be watching boring 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 games, a predictable game flow, and a bare power play. We may still win games and get into the playoffs, but in the new NHL, especially in the post season, a low scoring offense may as well be a way the path to an early playoff exit.
What if the Devils collapse entirely and plummet in the standings? While Sutter said he won't just throw Marty in net and have him play every game, it depends how long it takes for Brodeur to return into full form...if he is able to get back into full form. If you put any goalie in a game situation, when he is only 80 or 90% healthy, but claims he is 100%, the outcome can be disastrous. Knowing how eager Marty is to get back into the lineup, this is a possibility Devils fans should not rule out. Along with the stress of getting into game form, Marty has yet to pass Patrick Roy's record of 551 career wins, a record, which we all thought he would have passed long ago at this point. A team cannot hang their goalie out to dry, but that does not mean a goalie can slack off in net, something Marty has seldom done aside from the occasional slump or bad game. There are situations when the goalie is at fault, and this can happen frequently if Brodeur is not in game form upon his return, and stresses over passing Roy's record, which he has been chasing for so long.