Admittedly, I didn't want to be write this post. To me, Martin Brodeur was done as of July 2014, when it was apparent he would not be returning. I mentally made peace with that, an easy move considering Brodeur played like a 41-year old in the 2013-14 season. Brodeur became the most accomplished goaltenders of all time, he is the greatest to have ever played for the New Jersey Devils organization, and I loved watching him for years. I saw him from the very beginnings of his awesome 1993-94 rookie season through his final moment of sheer greatness (Game 5 against Los Angeles in 2012) and until last season, where Yankee Stadium showed the larger hockey world that his end was nigh. I didn't like witnessing his downfall, but I eventually had to accept reality. So when it was clear he would hit free agency last summer, I was fine with it.
Likewise, I was fine with him signing with St. Louis. He wanted to go elsewhere to play, someone gave him the chance, and so the world kept turning. Fine, whatever, let the Blues figure out why 42-year old goaltenders are rarely active in NHL history. And so they did and so that went and when the proper goaltender returned, that was that. Brodeur became a Blue, he was a Blue, and now he's with the Blues organization. I'm fine with that. To me, that's relevant to the Blues and to Brodeur. Not New Jersey, that decision was already made. Regardless of that, I have no ill feelings towards Brodeur. His legacy was ironclad, Blues contract or no Blues contract. Brodeur will need to commit a major crime or do something heinously awful for his #30 not to be retired and to not get into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018, the first year of his eligibility. The all-time wins, saves, games, minutes, and shutout records on top of three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, five Jennings, an Olympic gold medal, and having a rule created to limit his abilities (wonder how that will be changed in the near future) all guarantee his enshrinement in Newark, New Jersey and Toronto, Ontario. And I'm fine with that reality.
But I just realized from the various articles about it that he's likely to come back as a part of management and that's how today's news is actually relevant to the Devils. It may effect the future. From Tom Gulitti's post at Fire & Ice, here's the relevant piece: (My emphasis in bold)
"Doug Armstrong talked to me because they didn't want it looked upon in any (negative) way (toward the Devils)," Lamoriello said. "He's going to do it for the rest of the year. They gave him a chance to be there and where they're at in the standings and what they're doing they've asked him stay. They gave him an opportunity to play and that's certainly understandable. But, he'll be a Devil. That's not a question."
Brodeur has had an open offer to become part of the Devils' front office since he and the team mutually agreed to part ways after last season to clear the way for Cory Schneider to become the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender in New Jersey. The plan is for Brodeur to take Lamoriello up on that offer after this season.
"I'd be shocked if he's not here next year," Lamoriello said.
Brodeur will have a job in management next season, and this is where I think I have a bit of a problem. It depends a lot on something you and I won't really know until it happens, and maybe not even then we'll know: the actual job itself. If the position has little impact on how the team is run and it's there just to keep Brodeur involved, then fine. It's a reward for loyalty and maybe being direct with Lou for decades. It happens in a lot of places and if it doesn't affect the team, then it's no big deal. The rest of this post except for the very end is moot. However, if the position does or will have an impact on how the team is run, then I think this should be questioned. Specifically, what makes Brodeur a reasonable candidate for a management in hockey operations?
This is In Lou We Trust, not Blindly Support Every Decision Lou Makes. If it turns out that the position is some sort of assistant general manager position or some other function that will have an effect on how the team is constructed, then I think it's fair to ask about it. Right off the top of my head, here are a few: How good is Brodeur at player evaluation? Is he open to new ideas and concepts on team and player analysis? Can Brodeur handle negotiations, be it with agents or other teams? How involved will he be in decision making? Can he look beyond the short term? Is he able to take a hit to his pride for the greater good? (The goaltending drama of 2013-14 suggests not, but things can change) These are all valid questions for anyone in management on any team. Unfortunately, we also can't answer these questions, though Lou and some others could. All we know is that he was a goaltender for long, long time, he's one of the franchise legends, and Lou likes him enough to give him a job. It's a very nice gesture; but it doesn't guarantee a good choice for management - even if all he does is sit in the room when real decisions are being made about the team.
It's also in the best interest of the organization to compile suitably talented people throughout the organization. Lou's legacy is set and his ruthlessness has helped the team far more than it has hurt. But even he needs staff and people to handle different tasks, do research, and help make decisions. I believe of anyone else in hockey, Lou absolutely deserves to decide on his own terms when to leave. When that happens, I don't want ownership to be impressed by a legendary player being in the organization, name him the next general manager, and hope he's the next Steve Yzerman. It could happen. Maybe Brodeur really is a burgeoning talent from a front office perspective; but I don't think he should be accepted as a heir apparent until he proves his worth. I don't think any fan should either, especially if you're of the belief that Lou isn't what he once was either. Though, those fans are probably asking these same questions as well.
That said, I'm just raising questions on an assumption that this front office position will have any effect on hockey operations. Again, if it's just a job as a reward, then no problem. Even if it is, I'm not saying it's an outright stupid move. It's just an unknown at this point and so I think it's strange that he's had this open offer and he'll take it in the summer. There are some points keep in mind that can make one hopeful. It helps a lot that he's got a few months in the St. Louis organization to get his feet wet. He can at least determine whether this something he wants to pursue in addition to I also recognize that this involves a lot of knowledge on Brodeur off the ice - knowledge we may not have, but Lou and others in the organization would. They would know better of his talents or potential in management. And, in management, these skills can be taught. So it's not the end of the world if Brodeur is understandably inexperienced since he's been working on the ice for most of his life.
Ultimately, the root of my questioning should be at the root of a lot of these decisions in hockey and perhaps in sport. Specifically, it's in giving a lot of these positions to former hockey players, especially those who used to be in the organization. I recognize that a player is going to have more insight and have a different perspective than an outsider. At the same time, by that reasoning, Lou never should have been GM, president, and CEO of the Devils when he got hired in 1987 since Lou was never a pro hockey player, nevermind a member of the organization. It's more important to get people with the right talents than keeping it in the proverbial family. It's a good storybook ending to have Brodeur return to work for the organization he helped make great and who helped make him great. I just hope it's a good management decision when it happens. (And I really do mean management and not, say, coaching. I do not want a total newbie as a head coach.) At the end of the day, it should not be about what looks good, it should be about what makes the team better.
In any case, congratulations to Brodeur for making the decision to hang up the pads on Thursday. I guess we'll know what it is he'll be doing here, soon enough.