Monday, December 8, 2014

Weekend wrap: Brodeur returns (but it's a bad idea)

A look back at the biggest games and emerging story lines of the NHL weekend.

Theme of the Week: A Legend Returns

Martin Brodeur is back in the winner’s circle. After 21 years in New Jersey, a two-month layoff, and plenty of skepticism that he could still play at an NHL level, Brodeur signed with the St. Louis Blues last week. He made his first start on Thursday, looking merely OK in a 4-3 loss to the Predators. Then on Saturday, he earned his 689th career win, and first as a Blue, in a relief appearance against the Islanders.

And while it’s always nice to see a legend return to the spotlight, the whole Brodeur situation seems … odd. That starts with the image of him wearing a Blues uniform, which will take plenty of getting used to. But it goes beyond that, because the Blues and Brodeur don’t seem like they should be a fit.

For one, the Blues already have two pretty good goaltenders in veteran Brian Elliott and youngster Jake Allen. The latter has struggled somewhat, and Elliott is sidelined by an injury. He’s listed as week-to-week, and there have been conflicting reports as to just how long he’ll be out, but nobody seems to think that his season is in jeopardy, which means at some point the Blues are going to have three guys for only two spots.

It’s possible that the plan here is to just use Brodeur as a stop-gap until Elliott is back and then go forward with the Elliott-Allen pairing. But the rumor mill now says that the Blues could be looking to move Elliott, which would leave them with Allen and Brodeur to carry their Cup hopes.

That would seem like a questionable strategy, given that Brodeur hasn’t been all that good for a long time. Here’s a list of all the goalies who’ve played 100 or more games since 2010, ranked by save percentage. Note that Elliott sits at the very top of the list. Then check out where Brodeur ranks. Prepare to scroll.

Maybe the change of scenery helps. And there’s no criticizing Brodeur for wanting to come back; he deserves to go out on his own terms, and his legacy is intact no matter what. But from the Blues’ perspective, things get trickier. They’re one of the league’s better teams, well positioned to make a run at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. They could have said the same last year, when they made a midseason blockbuster to land Ryan Miller. I liked that deal at the time, but it didn’t work out, and the Blues ended up spending a ton of assets on a few weeks of average-at-best goaltending. They’re not spending any assets on Brodeur, so the risk factor is lower. But the odds of success seem lower still.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong, both for the sake of the Blues and for a future Hall of Famer who deserves to go out with a trip deep into the playoffs, not to the waiver wire.

Cup Watch: The League’s Five Best

The five teams that seem most likely to earn the league’s top prize: the Stanley Cup.

5. Detroit Red Wings (17-6-5, plus-18 goals differential) Our fifth spot has become a revolving door of teams with nice records that aren’t quite considered true contenders yet. That’s as good a description as any of the Red Wings right now, after they’ve won three straight to move into a tie for top spot in the division.

4. Anaheim Ducks (18-6-5, plus-6) Goals differential is a tricky thing. The Ducks continue to win, but they’re all close games; they haven’t had a victory by more than one goal since October 24. History tells us that that kind of success in one-goal games is unlikely to continue, but for now they’re a top-five team.

>> Read the full post on Grantland

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