It would be funny if it weren't so predictable.
When Brian Elliott went down in a heap on a semi-innocnet looking play, I thought he was OK. When he couldn't skate it off, I got worried. When he threw his stick in the hallway, I knew it wasn't minor. Then the trainer whispered in Ken Hitchcock's ear, I knew it wasn't good — who whispers good news?
From my couch I tweeted this:
Who is the Blues 3rd goalie? Martin Brodeur?— Joe Barker (@_JoeB) November 26, 2014
It was meant as both a joke and a hunch. If Elliott was indeed going to be out for some time, the Blues needed help. The dirty little secret of the offseason was the Blues never addressed having a backup to the backup. In years past, Ben Bishop or Jake Allen was waiting in the AHL for his call. Now? Jordan Binnington. He is 21. He has played 51 professional games. He is raw.
So, again, when Elliott went down, you knew Doug Armstrong would have to react. If you know Armstrong and Hitchcock like I think I do, then you knew what was coming: Martin Brodeur.
While Marty isn't a former Star, he is a former member of Team Canada. He is familiar. Jordan Binnington is new. He's unproven and, frankly, that's the worst thing you can be under this regime. Remember when Vladimir Tarasenko sat out playoff games his rookie year? Yep.
The Blues don't trust Binnington because he's young. Jake Allen is young, but he's been around and has proven himself in the AHL. Because the Blues no longer own their own AHL team, Binnington was forced to the ECHL last year because the Blues couldn't have both goalie roster spots. Had ownership not sold the AHL team, Binnington would probably be a little more seasoned — he's only played 11 AHL games.
So, of course, the brain trust brought in Martin Brodeur. The issue? He's no longer good. He's below league average. He's on the same level as jokes like Ondrej Pavelec. His save percentage the last four years is .903, .908, .901 and .901. League average since then has been .913, .914, .912, .914. You could make the strong argument the Devils missed the playoffs last year because they gave Marty too many loyalty starts.
Let me spell it out: He's below average. Well below, in fact.
The Blues would rather go with a below average goalie who used to be good than a young goalie who has a lot to prove. Binnington had a .922 save percentage in 40 ECHL games last year and a .925 in nine game with the AHL this year. He's got upside.
But that's not the direction it seems the wind is blowing.
Signing Martin Brodeur makes things complicated. Jake Allen is the goalie of the future, and of the present. He should get all the starts, unless it's the second game of a back to back. Brodeur publicly pouted in New Jersey about splitting time. He's delusional and thinks he's still got it — even though it went away a few years back. Is he cool with playing once a week, if that? Is he OK playing in an entirely new system with a roster full of guys he's never played with? Marty was in the Devils organization for longer than Allen has been alive. Can he adapt at age 42 to different things?
Then there's the tricky matter of Elliott's injury. If it's serious, but not surgery serious, and he'll be back this season ... what happens when he comes back? Marty, Allen and Elliott can't share the net. All three would need to clear waivers before heading down to the AHL — and you know Marty isn't going to the AHL. Does Allen lose out on starts? Does Elliott? Is Marty going to be cool with taking the Matt Walker Press Box Tour of America?
So that's the route the Blues seemingly want to take: Bring in a 42-year-old filled with questions. There are other alternatives.
For one, give Binnington a shot. He didn't even get a practice in before they freaked out and brought in the old guy. Give him a period, a start. The Blues are going to make the playoffs this year. Give him a game and see what he's got. Allen was unproven two years and saved the Blues season. Give Binnington a chance to prove he's part of the future.
Option two: Get a backup somewhere else. AHL and NHL rosters are littered with pure backups. Someone who can ride the pine for weeks at a time and not hurt you when they get the spot start. At the AHL level, I'm talking about a guy like Mike McKenna — and not just because he's a local guy. He's got experience with the Blues organization AND backing up Allen during the lockout season. He's got a .932 save percentage this year in 13 AHL games. His NHL numbers have never been that stellar (.891 save percentage in 21 games), but we're not talking a ton of starts here.
The Blues don't HAVE to go after him, but a guy like him. Someone who has no illusions of starting games.
The simple fact is this: Jake Allen was always the 1-A this year. Elliott's out so the A is gone. Let him ride it out. Give him a chance to be The Guy. Maybe see what Binnington offers. Maybe see what else is out there. Brodeur is past his prime. He was once great, but that was before the last lockout. He's 42. What upside do the Blues have besides inducting him into the weird jersey hall of fame with Wayne Gretzky?
Marty's not going anyhwere. The entire league looked at him and said "Naw." The Blues can, and should, do the same.