In a few recent posts including John's GA Review for Brodeur and Mike's 2013-2014 Expected GA, the number of games Martin Brodeur should play was briefly discussed. With a younger and extremely capable goalie coming in to replace Johan Hedberg, it is finally time to see the number of starts for Brodeur fall dramatically as he comes closer to retirement. There are many things to consider when looking at the two talented goalies the Devils have fighting for the number one spot, but it seems to be a consensus from many writers that Schneider will take over that number one spot sooner rather than later - even as soon as this season for some. Here is a look at some of the factors to consider when looking at how many games to expect Brodeur to man the net for next season.
While Brodeur has been the assumed starter in net for what seems like forever, the future Hall of Famer finally has some competition who is fourteen years younger, has been more consistent, and has been looking to become the number one guy on his team for a few years. As John pointed out earlier this week, Schneider had a higher save percentage than Brodeur last season on a team that allowed more shots per game in Vancouver.
Since 2010-2011, Broduer has missed time during the regular season due to injury every year. He hasn't played more than 59 games in either of the last two full seasons. With his escalating age, his body seems to be more prone to injury, so a lighter schedule would do him good.
Another major factor to consider in how many games Broduer should play is the 22 back-to-backs in the Devils' schedule next season. I would expect Peter DeBoer to split the back-to-backs between the goalies to keep the team as fresh as possible. I can't imagine Brodeur starting both games of a back-to-back unless Schneider is unable to play.
Going deeper into the schedule, there is an extremely packed area in the schedule from November 20 through December 7. Within that 18-day period, the Devils have 11 games. The schedule there includes three back-to-backs and no more than one day off in-between the other seven games. Even worse, the team starts out this almost three weeklong trek in California. It also involves and home-and-home against Carolina (with a day off between games). The second game of that home-and-home is in Carolina, followed by a home game against Buffalo the next night. They also have an identical home-and-home against the Montreal Canadiens. There is no way one of the two goalies will power through that hectic part of the schedule, and I would expect Schneider to take on more of the load if it isn't split close to even. There are a few other weeks throughout the schedule that have tight turnovers from one game to another with no more than one day off between games. Again, I would expect Schneider, the younger and more agile goalie of the two, to get the nod more often than not in those situations.
While there are a lot of things that are working against Brodeur getting a majority of the starts next season, there are a few things that I expect to keep him in the race. For example, this is the first season in a long time in which Brodeur will have any competition for the number one spot. I think the competition could elevate his game and make it harder for Schneider to take over too quickly. Along with the level of competition, Brodeur has been full of surprises as he's aged. Just two seasons ago, Brodeur turned 40 on his way to backstopping the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. While neither of these two points have any numeric value or definite proof that Brodeur will succeed next season, they are worth looking into as the two net minders head into the battle for the starting job. Brodeur has always been known as a competitor who refuses to give up on a battle, and I would expect the goalie battle, while not a vicious one, to be the same.
On the other end of the competition scale, Schneider has been fighting to become a number one goalie for a few years with Roberto Luongo. He is used to having to prove his worth and work his way into a role with more responsibility. He will be just as tough of a competitor as Brodeur heading into next season.
So, how will the games be split between two capable goalies next season? I would definitely expect Schneider's season high of 33 games to be surpassed. Mike estimated a 55/45 split between Brodeur and Schneider giving Brodeur the lesser number of games between the two. Given all of the factors going into the competition including the strange schedule, Schneider's numbers improving while Brodeur's have been falling and the level of competition in bother players, I would expect something similar to Mike's estimation. It's safe to say the 22 back-to-backs will be split along with other condensed areas in the schedule. In other tight parts of the schedule, Schneider should take the heavier side of the load. I would also expect Schneider to play more games against western teams whith whom he is familiar while Brodeur may get the nod in a few more of the rivalry games that he seems to play so well.
I recently decided to play coach and as I worked through the 2013-2014 schedule deciding which goalie I would play, I ended up going with Schneider for 42 games and Brodeur for 40. With the compact schedule due to the Olympics and the extreme number of back-to-backs, I wouldn't be surprised if DoBoer ends up with numbers that are somewhat similar. Even though this is the case, I think Schneider should get more than 42 games. I would like to see Schneider's count closer to 47 with Brodeur in net for 35 games, which is extremely close to Mike's estimation.
How do you expect the schedule to be split between Schneider and Brodeur? Do you think Brodeur should still be considered the number one goalie in 2013-2014? How comfortable are you with the goalie tandem going forward? Do you think the competition between these two capable net minders will help or hurt them? Feel free to discuss in the comments below. Thanks for reading!