We have a fan-run paper that we sell outside every Blues home game. Most stories and bits never run on the website. But with the Blues taking a 10-day break for that little game in Columbus this weekend, we decided to run some of our recent stories that are still relevant. This column appeared in Monday's paper when the Avalanche came to town. It's still relevant because Brodeur has extended his leave from the team until next week.
By Average Joe
The Martin Brodeur Experience in St. Louis continues to be an embarrassment for all parties involved.
Wednesday afternoon the Blues announced on its website that the third goalie, and much ballyhooed midseason acquisition, Martin Brodeur was gone. The official wording was that the 42-year-old netminder had taken a leave of absence.
Marty - and it's always Marty when people associated with the organization are talking about him - last appeared in a game Jan. 2. He allowed four goals in a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks to ring in the New Year.
After that game, Brian Elliott returned from injury and the Blues went about the plan of getting Elliott and the Future Goalie Jake Allen reps in both games and practices. Brodeur was a healthy scratch for a few games because that was always the plan - when Elliott got back, he and Allen would be the starter and backup.
When Brodeur was signed, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was asked what would happen when Elliott's injury would heal.
"[Marty's] going to go and he's going to play when he's asked to play, and when Brian's ready, he'll be back in here," Armstrong said to the assembled media when the signing was announced. "Our goaltenders are Brian and Jake. We believe in them."
Not a lot of gray area there. Brodeur was seen as a short-term solution that would be pushed aside for the long-term future of the team. The Blues believe Elliott is the goalie of the present and Allen the goalie of the future.
So after 10 days without getting a start, Brodeur bolted.
"Kind of caught everybody off guard ... we didn't know what was going on and still don't know what's going on," Hitchcock said in the Post-Dispatch.
This leave of absence sure sounds like a player going AWOL, and then he got the OK from people who wouldn't dare question the legendary Marty.
Hitchcock, the head coach, has no idea what's going on. Brodeur and his agent aren't talking. All we know is that Marty is taking some time off to be with his family and reevaluate things.
The whole situation is, again, a farce. The Blues organization has bent over backwards to kowtow to Marty. When the team announced his signing, they did a cool Twitter video showing his name being sewn onto his jersey. He's been plastered all over the team's website and Twitter stream.
And the love didn't stop there. Darren Pang turned Marty into Poochie. Even when Broduer wasn't on the ice, Pang worked him into broadcasts. "One of the things Marty has taught this team is how to skate on slick surfaces like ice," is pretty close to some of the banal observations Pang made during games. It was all Marty all the time.
Hitchcock, from day one, has been praising Marty as this sort of demi-god. Even after Marty bolted, Hitch fired up the praise machine.
"But him being here, man, it was really helpful," Hitchcock said. "It was helpful to every piece of this organization: trainers, coaches, players, management. He shared information that you just can't buy, can't pay for. I'm hoping that whatever he decides with his family that he comes back to us ... we can help him a little bit maybe in whatever he wants to do, but he can help us a bunch. Selfishly, we're hopeful that he does come back."
Couple of things about that, coach. First thing, he wasn't helpful on the ice which is the most important part of a player's worth. He appeared in six games and put up a 2.87 GAA and 89.9 save percentage. As a starter, he made five of them and was 2-3. In his three losses he gave up four, six and four goals and in his two wins he had a shutout (where he faced 16 shots) and two goals.
He wasn't good. He was below average for an NHL goalie. He was nothing special and he didn't help the team. He's not some mascot, he's an NHL player. If Jordan Binnington put up those numbers (and he could have) he would have been on the first shuttle back to the AHL and no one would bat an eyelash.
Secondly, you literally paid for his insight. He got $60,000 in win bonuses and a portion of a $700,000 salary. Unlike a coach's salary, that counts against the cap. If you want Marty as a coach, let him retire and wear a suit like all the other ones.
Brodeur has had an amazing career, but it's over. The rest of the NHL knows it. Fans know it. Only Brodeur, Hitch and Armstrong seem to not realize it.
Earlier this week the Buffalo Sabres honored the greatest goalie of all time, Dominik Hasek, by retiring his number. During the fawnfest that deservedly followed, I came across this quote from an NHL.com interview with Red Wings coach Mike Babacok. Speaking with writer Joe Yerdon, Babcock was asked about taking away the starting job from Hasek at the end of his career.
"The hardest thing to do is coach superstars at the end because Father Time gets us all. It just does," Babcock said. "But what's made them superstars is they never believed anything anyone told them negative. They just didn't believe it. They just get [mad] and say, 'I'll show you.' It's been the same for every star that I coached that retired. It's hard at the end, but what makes you so good is that mental toughness that says, 'I can do it, I can do it. Screw you, I can do it.'"
Brodeur is still in that screw you mode - at least he appears to be. He signed up to be a backup and the third man in a two-man rotation. This was the only job that opened up for him and those were the conditions he was given. And yet, after 10 days without a start (he dressed for some games as a backup), he packed his bags and went home. The Blues seemed content to let him hang around, collect checks and backup a few games (he was actually pretty good off the bench, earning a win against the Isles and blanking Chicago). Marty? He wasn't feeling that. Play or go home.
He went home and the Blues should just let him stay there and end this entire experiment.