The most jarring thing about seeing Martin Brodeur in Gatineau was the white mask. No red, no black, no Devils’ colours or logos or anything.
“I now look like any other goalie out there,” he laughs.
Brodeur is skating with Les Olympiques this week, joining son Anthony, who plays for the team. (Another son, Jeremy, is with OHL Oshawa.) As interviews run late on Tuesday, Anthony texts to see if Martin will join a group of players for sushi lunch. When someone jokes Brodeur is only invited to pay, he says he picked up a big dinner the night before.
It’s pretty special. NHL fathers don’t often get such opportunities with their sons.
But Martin Brodeur wants more. Another chance at big-league shooters, one more try to go out on his own terms. Last year was a frustrating one for him, Cory Schneider and the only NHL team he’s ever known.
Despite a massive outpouring from New Jersey’s fans at his final home appearance (“It was unbelievable,” he said), Brodeur didn’t enjoy the 2013-14 countdown. The missed playoffs, the loss of his starting job, the general disappointment, no one was happy.
“The last two seasons have been hard,” he said in an interview that will air during Wednesday night’s pre-game show. (A longer version can be seen Thursday.) “We missed the playoffs both occasions, and…my playing time was kind of cut a little bit and not to my liking…I thought I was going to play a lot more and be more productive.”
“I’d like to end it…not leaving like that.”
It’s easy to look at him, see a 42-year-old going to the Hall of Fame, and say, “No sympathy.”
But, whenever a situation like this arises, I remember an interview with Wade Redden when the Rangers sent him to AHL Hartford. Redden wanted to quit, but was convinced by Curtis Leschyshyn (among others) not to leave angry at the game. That always stuck with me. Redden gutted it out and wrote a much better ending.
Very few of us get to write our own goodbyes.
“I think I understand more than people think,” Brodeur said. “If I'm 30 years old and this is happening to me…I would be really upset. But now, I’ve played enough, I’ve done everything I needed to do. What I'm trying to achieve right now is something a little selfish because I want to play the game. I love playing the game, I don’t care what I did in the past in my career…and I’d love to help a good hockey team to maybe challenge for the Stanley Cup.
Brodeur says “there’s a date in my head” that is his deadline, but won’t reveal it. It’s believed there are four or five teams on his list, with a Western Conference lean. And, he understands he’s not the starter.
“I’m not here to steal anybody’s job,” he says.
He just wants a chance at one.
1. Brodeur has a job-in-waiting with the Devils. Will he be a GM? “I don’t know,” he said. “I know hockey, I’ve been around the game a lot, I’ve talked to Lou (Lamoriello) a lot about things, but I have to learn…If I like it, I’d love to be a GM, but I don’t know if I’m suited for it.” What about coaching? “No. It’s a lot of work to be a hockey player, it’s a lot harder to be a coach. So maybe thats why I don’t want to be a coach,” he said with a laugh.
2. Mike Cammalleri on playing with Jaromir Jagr: “He hasn’t asked much of me. With Jarome Iginla, we’d say, ‘If I do this, you should do this.’ (Jagr and I) are trying to develop organic chemistry, just understanding each other. The big thing I noticed…he’s so good at protecting the puck, slowing the game down, you have to be careful not to move at that speed. Then, it’s so much easier to check you. You have to be quick.”
3. Cammalleri was seen in New Jersey around the time he visited the Devils. He said he was going to a wedding. A lie? He laughs. “You know (Lamoriello). Nobody finds out about this, you don’t tell anybody.”
4. The NHL has heard the complaints about the dry scrape. The new protocol for this season is do it before overtime, instead of prior to the shootout. It's led to a barrage of tweets about slowing down the game, killing momentum, etc. During a conference call with the teams on Monday, the league reminded them to make sure the zambonis are ready, so the scrape is done “as quickly and efficiently as possible.” Personally, I found it just as much of a buzz-kill before the shootout, so why not get it out of the way sooner?
5. During a season-preview conversation with one player, he asked: “Have you heard that Nathan Horton will never play again? That’s the rumour.” Well, no I hadn’t. The Blue Jackets say they don’t believe it’s that bad, Horton is committed to his rehab and they’ll see how it goes. Whatever the case, it appears his back injury is worse than we realized. (That player is not quoted elsewhere in this blog.)
6. As is usually the case, both the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen compromised to get a deal done. Johansen gets what, at minimum, will be a four-year, $17.1 million deal (on the chance Columbus would offer cut-rate arbitration the year before he reaches free agency). What Columbus gets is Johansen locked up long enough for them not to have to worry about him until the contract fates of Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, Ryan Murray and the underrated David Savard are decided. This was pretty important to them.
7. Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston wanted to create consistent forward “duos” — Sidney Crosby/Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin/Patric Hornqvist, Brandon Sutter/Beau Bennett. Obviously, injuries wrecked that early season plan. And, as Chris Johnston reported Tuesday, Malkin could start the season as a winger, when ready.
8. If you’ve spent much time watching the Penguins during pre-season, you get an idea of some of the systemic changes the team is making. Pittsburgh liked the stretch pass, tipping it in deep, creating a race. Now, in transition, you can see Johnston wants his forwards to aggressively circle back. “If the puck is in the neutral zone, come back to it…so if the defencemen want to give it to you, you can accelerate through.” He will encourage his forwards to go back deeper than the defenders, if they can. That should allow even more speed.
9. The other offensive change comes once a puck carrier enters the offensive zone. At their height, the Penguins terrified opponents between the blueline and the top of the face-off circle. Johnston compared it to giving a quarterback six options, “depending on how many receivers there are.” Basically, he will demand a hard mid-lane drive from a teammate in order to give the player with the puck more choices. How the defence reacts to that attacker will set up Pittsburgh’s offence.
10. When Adam Oates was in studio last year during the Penguins/Rangers series, he explained how, when opponents dumped the puck into the Pittsburgh zone, Dan Bylsma wanted the defenceman on the opposite side to come over and retrieve the puck. That set up a quick reverse to evade forecheckers. New York was able to disrupt that, but Johnston won’t eradicate this philosophy, because Bylsma taught it well. “Our guys are very good at that,” the new coach said. He will, however, add some new options to spread out forecheckers.
11. Stan Bowman, asked if the plan is to recall Teuvo Teravainen only when he’s ready to stay for good: “If I was to write a script that’s the way it would go, but sometimes you have to adjust on the fly. It’s not the end of the world if he comes up for two weeks in November.”
12. The Blackhawks try to get contracts done early. Once they got Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed, it was about getting under the salary cap (Nick Leddy). Soon, Bowman will begin looking at the next players to deal with, which will be a little tricky until teams have a better idea of the 2015-16 cap number. Two on the list are Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad, who will be restricted free agents. Kruger is arbitration eligible, Saad not yet.
13. Bowman didn’t come right out and say it, but you get the sense that the development of Chicago’s young defencemen will determine the Blackhawks’ blueline future. Only Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and pleasant surprise Trevor van Riemsdyk are signed beyond this season. Adam Clendening, Klas Dahlbeck, Stephen Johns and Ville Pokka could make the decisions for him.
14. Some execs were surprised at the Leddy deal from the Chicago perspective, because the Blackhawks asked for draft picks from other teams, not players. Bowman said he wanted assets that wouldn’t hurt his cap situation right now, but Pokka (acquired in the trade) makes sense because he is a talented defender and that is where the Blackhawks will have a need. (It’s believed Calgary, Colorado, San Jose and Winnipeg were among those interested in Leddy.)
15. In the aftermath of the Islanders’ two big trades, there was a lot of speculation about the outcome determining Garth Snow’s future. Whenever Charles Wang’s name came up when Mike Milbury worked at Hockey Night in Canada, Milbury would say, “One thing about Charles: If you are loyal to him, he is loyal to you.” Wang owns majority control for two more years. Snow is his guy. And, a lot of his peers liked what he did.
16. Calgary’s Deryk Engelland told Cassie Campbell-Pascall that Phoenix and Toronto were the other bidders for his services.
17. P.K. Subban, asked who will do the talking in big, emotional moments now that Brian Gionta is gone: “I think we look for people to do, rather than say. I mean, I’m a firm believer that usually when you’re talking in those kinds of moments, most guys aren’t really even listening…I encourage my teammates to go out there and do, lead by example. Do your talking on the ice, that’s what we need…That’s the person I want to follow.”
18. Carey Price had an even better line. “The old saying is, ‘Talk is cheap and it takes money to buy whiskey,’” he smiled. “It’s true.”
19. Price made a beautiful glove save last week off Duncan Keith. We loved it, he didn’t. “I knew he was there, but he fumbled the puck a little and I overslid,” Price said. Should’ve hit you in the chest? “Yup.”
20. Through a friendship with Paul Coffey, Subban had the opportunity to spend some time during the summer with Wayne Gretzky. What did he learn from The Great One? “The interesting thing for me is the relationship that they still have with their teammates…You can still see that relationship between Paul and Wayne…I hope to have that same relationship with my teammates. We’ve started that.”
21. Apparently, the Canadiens are very happy with Michael Condon, who becomes the number three goalie in the organization with Peter Budaj’s trade. It’s another reason why they were comfortable doing it.
22. Word is one of the reasons Torey Krug and Reilly Smith ended their stalemates with Boston is both sides discussed the next contract, not just this one. Neither player can be extended until Jan. 1, but it wouldn’t be a stunner if much legwork gets done beforehand.
23. Another reason Buffalo went after Josh Gorges? He knows Tyler Myers very well. They’ve skated together in the summers for years. “I was finished (at WHL Kelowna) before he started, but (owner) Bruce Hamilton called me and said, ‘We’ve got a new defenceman here we’d like you to talk to,” Gorges said, adding he was told Myers had a chance to be special. They’ve kept in contact ever since.
24. Gorges’ advice to Myers? “Don’t think, just play. And, if you make a mistake, get to the bench and let it go.”
25. I’ve asked a few young players about the biggest adjustment to the NHL, and the answer is usually speed. Sam Reinhart, chose differently, picking strength. “I know a lot of moves players use, because I use a lot of them myself,” he said. But the power exhibited in them is, obviously, at a higher level.
26. Midway through last season, a really good scout said he thought Mikhail Grigorenko was dangerously crossing into “bust” territory. I kept it to myself; after all he was 19 and it’s too early for that. I followed up earlier this week and the same scout felt very differently. “He’s changed a lot of people’s opinions,” he said. If Reinhart doesn’t stick past nine games, does Grigorenko get the call to come back?
27. Ottawa had one request for both Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan: don’t let this hang over us too long. Ryan met with Paul MacLean about his role, and left satisfied. The team and the agents (Newport) resumed negotiations when the Senators came to Toronto for an exhibition game Sept. 24. Methot is a tougher case. Bryan Murray told reporters Tuesday the team’s latest offer didn’t seal the deal, as they are one year and several million dollars apart. He wants to stay. The team wants to keep him. But each side values this differently. What it comes down to is, how long is Ottawa willing to wait?
28. Ilya Kovalchuk is tied for the KHL scoring lead with 21 points in 14 games, and some tweeters were asking if he can come back to the NHL. In Sochi, he said he signed a three-year contract. From what I understand, there are no outs, although you never know if things could be changed should everyone want that. But, there is also a belief the Devils control any possible re-entry until he hits 35.
29. No new CBA yet for the officials, but doesn’t sound like it’s a problem. Both sides seem content with the way things are going. New this year: every referee and linesman wears a visor.
30. Great stuff from Washington’s Eric Fehr, who wrote a children’s anti-bullying book, called The Bulliest Dozer. It’s a different side of him, for sure. Too often, people are scared to step out of their comfort zone, worried they’ll be made fun of. Good on him for not being afraid to try.