Eight different goaltenders have manned the New Jersey Devils’ net since Martin Brodeur’s departure from the team after the 2013-14 season. To put things in perspective, the Devils witnessed six goaltenders other than Brodeur who appeared in at least one game from No. 30’s rookie season in 1993-94 until the end of 1999-00 season. Keep in mind that Brodeur was starting in a majority of those games during that span while posting 30 and 40 wins a season. It’s apparent that the Devils and their fans are really missing Brodeur right now.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
At the time, it was just a matter of who was willing and able to play the role as a backup for Brodeur, which typically required starting fewer than 10 games a season. In fact, from 1993 to 2000, a Devils goaltender other than Brodeur only appeared in 20 or more games on two occasions: Chris Terreri (44 games) in 1993-94 and Mike Dunham (26) in 1996-97. To make matters even more compelling, Terreri was the only netminder during that time (1993-94) to record more than 10 wins in a season (20) while backing up Brodeur.
New Jersey also won two Stanley Cups in that duration and missed the playoffs once, in 1995-96. Unlike Brodeur’s first six seasons with New Jersey, the Devils haven’t possessed a goaltender who’s earned more than 27 wins in a season since the Hockey Hall of Famer’s era ended in the Garden State.
Entering Saturday’s contest against the New York Rangers, the Devils have won a total of 142 games out of 431 regular-season contests played since Brodeur’s departure. The two-time Olympic Gold medalist alone earned 242 wins in 433 games played during his first seven seasons with the team (1993 to 2000), which also entailed his rookie campaign in 1993-94 and the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.
Eight different goaltenders in five seasons is a carousel of masked men to strap on the pads for New Jersey. That’s especially true when you consider that the team invested a contract worth $42 million over seven seasons into one of them, Cory Schneider.
Goaltender Keith Kinkaid showed signs of hope during his magical run in 2017-18 when he posted 26 wins, but he’s now a backup for the Montreal Canadiens, and for good reason. Then there are goaltenders such as Eddie Lack, Ken Appleby and Scott Wedgewood who are forgettable masked men that appeared in a combined nine games post-Brodeur.
Unfortunately, Schneider hasn’t acted as a legitimate starter since his fourth season with the team. Keep in mind that No. 35 was recently sent down to the American Hockey League on Nov. 19, to receive more playing time with the Binghamton Devils.
Matters still haven’t been promising since one of the team’s highest-paid players was sent down the AHL. Fans have to figure that Brodeur’s predecessor in Schneider will have his contract bought out by season’s end; and while Louis Domingue offers more stability than Schneider and Blackwood, any success he’ll display in Jersey is more than likely short term. Prior to joining New Jersey, Domingue has never earned an opportunity as a team’s legitimate starter for a full NHL campaign while spending parts of five seasons between the Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning (2014-18).
MacKenzie Blackwood may be the answer for the Devils’ future in net, but at 22 years old his transformation into an NHL No. 1 goaltender could take a couple of more seasons – or at least that’s the hope. The Thunder Bay, Ontario native has posted a 1-2-0 record while recording a save percentage of .884 since Schneider’s demotion.
The reality also is that the Devils goaltending pipeline isn’t strong when it comes to the organization’s prospects pool, either. That leaves concerning questions marks not only for the remainder of the season but moving forward if Blackwood ends up not panning out as a true No. 1 NHL goaltender.
How Much Do they Miss Brodeur?
New Jersey was spoiled by the three-time Stanley Cup champion’s ability to play in 60-plus games a year and win a majority of those starts in convincing fashion. In fact, the four-time Vezina Trophy winner appeared in 70 games or more in a season 11 times.
Yes, there were years when Brodeur’s team provided plenty of defensive support for him, but there’s no questioning his ability to compete on a nightly basis nor his longevity. He made the big and timely saves throughout his career, and you can argue he carried the Devils during the mid-2000s, post-Scott Stevens’ tenure.
When the Devils’ lineup didn’t have the necessary energy to win hockey games on a consistent basis, he provided that uncanny spark or two-pad stack save that turned around a lifeless and average New Jersey squad. His swagger between the pipes was one of a kind, to the point where he delivered when everyone was counting on him.
There’s no arguing that element has been missing in net for New Jersey since he left, regardless if he was ready or not to hang up the skates during his last two seasons. The energy and aurora at either the Continental Airlines Arena or Prudential Center have never been the same since No. 30 was lifted to the rafters.
New Jersey had it made with Brodeur for two decades, and now the fans are experiencing what plenty of other NHL cities such as Philadelphia have witnessed for years at a time. Devils fans laughed at other teams’ on-going goaltending struggles, such as the Philadelphia Flyers’ issues in net since Ron Hextall retired in 1999. But now the City of Brotherly Love has welcomed its rivals into the sphere of goaltender headaches.
Devils fans used to confidently wear a current goaltender’s jersey into the arena, but with the team’s current tandem that’s no longer the case. Now, No. 30 is still the only goaltender’s jersey fans should see walking around the Prudential Center because the team misses the face of the franchise that much more with its ongoing struggles in net.