SANTA CRUZ, July 5, 2013 – For fans of the New Jersey Devils, the past several years have been tense. The team has remained competitive but the unavoidable fact has been that iconic goaltender Martin Brodeur is nearing the end of his stellar career. Given Brodeur’s body of work, the championships and the records he possesses, nobody can truly replace him. For a franchise which values stability, the Devils are arriving at the twilight of his tenure without a
It has not been easy for any goalie drafted by the Devils during the Brodeur era. He plays a lot and a back up goalie could grow old waiting for their chance to get a decent amount of quality starts. Any goaltender entering the Devils system must immediately give up any aspirations of one day starting, let alone supplanting Brodeur as the clear number one.
Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello is no fool. He knew the day would come when number thirty would be hanging them up. The Devils have drafted several goalies with the hope that at least one of them would define themselves as the next franchise goaltender.
In 2005 the team selected Jeff Frazee and, in 2010, the Devils drafted two goalies, Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont. At the close of this season, Wedgewood and Clermont had split time between Devils affiliate clubs in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL). Frazee, who the Devils were hoping would be the guy, yielded his starting job with the Albany Devils (AHL) to Keith Kincaid, an un-drafted free agent.
For all their preparation and the inevitability of Brodeur’s pending retirement, the Devils goaltending prospects have not projected out the way the club had hoped. It was supposed to be Ari Ahonen, a first round pick in 1999, then it was Frazee. Finally, the team pinned their future to the idea that one of the two 2010 picks would emerge as Brodeur’s heir.
The closest goalie to taking over is Kincaid who was never drafted.
Everything changed for the Devils last week during the 2013 NHL entry draft, where they found themselves with the ninth overall pick. Enter the Vancouver Canucks, who had been nursing a toxic goalie situation for the last few years. Both Roberto Luongo and Corey Schneider considered themselves starting goalies and things were tense in Vancouver.
Each player had, at different times, been rumored to be on the way out. The discord was apparent to everyone and, by the end of this season, the assumption in Vancouver was that Luongo would be moved and Schneider would take the reigns.
Vancouver coveted the Devils’ first round pick, so much so that they traded Corey Schneider to New Jersey for it. The move was roundly blasted by Canucks fans who thought they should have asked for more. Bo Horvat, who Vancouver selected with the ninth pick, had better be a heck of a player.
For the Devils, life after Martin Brodeur appears settled. Schneider and Brodeur will platoon in net with Brodeur still getting most of the starts. The upcoming season is the last of Brodeur’s contract and he will be turning 42. He has nothing left to prove and so it would appear to be a seamless transition to Schneider, 27, who has been a starter and has played in a Stanley Cup final.
Schneider is a Massachusetts guy so the move puts him closer to home and Lamoriello has always coveted U.S. born college players.
There will never be another Martin Brodeur but the future in goal for the New Jersey Devils appears to be as bright as ever.
Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.
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