The Hockey News' Matt Larkin published a concern column for Jake Allen yesterday. Martin Brodeur has won two games, and apparently it is messing with Jake Allen's head:
What does it do to the talented kid named Jake Allen?
Remember him? The team’s top goaltending prospect? The guy who made Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller expendable? He posted a .944 save percentage in three October starts. He slipped to .909 in November but went 6-1-1. Since St. Louis made the Brodeur signing official, Allen has surrendered seven goals in four periods. He got the hook Saturday afternoon after allowing three goals in the first frame versus the New York Islanders before Brodeur won the game in relief.
The No. 1 worry in my mind when the Blues inked Brodeur was what it might due to Allen’s pysche. Allen is 24 and just cutting his teeth as an everyday NHL netminder. Bringing in the winningest goalie of all-time isn’t the same as bringing in Ilya Bryzgalov, Tomas Vokoun or even Tim Thomas. Brodeur signing means he’s going to play, at least a little. There was the immediate possibility a youngster would hear footsteps the moment the ink dried.
I think now's a good time to trot out "correlation does not equal causation" here. Yes, Allen has not played well in his last two starts; the Blues haven't played well either. The first period against the Islanders on Saturday was one of the worst periods of hockey that the Blues have played all season. The third period against the Hawks on the 3rd was also a shoddy, shoddy period of play. I'm unsure if the whole team went "Oh my God, Marty Brodeur! Let's have a mental mishap! We're nervous!"
Chances are much higher that the hiccups are because Allen is 24. He's young, he's learning, and having Brodeur with the Blues as a mentor shouldn't make him nervous, it should help. Allen's getting playing time - he's starting tomorrow night's game - but as long as Brodeur keeps playing reasonably well, he should get some time too.
No, the issue here is with Brian Elliott. Regardless of how many times the team says that Brodeur is temporary and that Elliott and Allen are the guys the team is relying on, there's always going to be a nagging thought floating around in the back of everyone's head. Doug Armstrong has a strong loyalty to his guys, and Brodeur by way of Team Canada is one of his guys. Elliott seems to know something's up. From an interview with Jeremy Rutherford, here's what Elliott had to say when asked about the move to bring in Brodeur:
"I don't know what my take is. I'm just trying to get better myself. You want the team to keep winning when you're out. We've had some big injuries with (Jay Bouwmeester) being out and (Alexander Steen) now. Backes taking that shot to the face. Little things are going to happen throughout the year and anybody that comes in, you want them to do well and keep the team rolling."
That's a nice little 'I don't really know what to think because I might not trust my GM" line. Elliott reiterates this later by saying in response to Armstrong's statement that he and Allen are the guys:
"That's what has been told to us. Things change all the time in this business, so you just have to be prepared for it. But as far as myself, I just want to get back as soon as possible and be part of the team. You want to be a rock back there that everybody can count on."
That isn't confidence. Maybe that's why Elliott has been included in trade rumors with Patrik Berglund. If the Blues pin all of their hopes on Brodeur and Allen for the playoffs and blow off Elliott, they're making a mistake. Elliott has been rock solid during his tenure here (with that one exception where he was sent to the minors to work some mental stuff out). Writing him off for a goalie who hasn't played like himself for five seasons and a young 24 year old kid who is still learning the game would be a mistake and, in my opinion, a bigger breach of professional loyalty than if Armstrong lets Brodeur go when Elliott recovers.
Allen will be here for a while; he has nothing to worry about and can learn from Brodeur. Elliott will be the subject of rumors and conjecture until Armstrong decides what to do with Brodeur, and that is unfortunate.