Modernization of Martin Brodeur (Now in St. Louis)
Martin Brodeur joined the St. Louis Blues on a tryout Friday morning and it nearly broke Twitter thanks to a seemingly endless run of “how strange does that look” comments for a goalie the spent the first 22 years of his Hall of Fame career with the New Jersey Devils:
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) November 28, 2014
For all the focus how odd it felt to see the 42-year-old Brodeur wearing a Blues jersey, a set of mostly white Vaughn pads and gloves (there is some Devils red on the sides of the pads) and an all-white CCM mask, a closer look at the equipment itself reveals some of the evolution Brodeur has undergone over the past couple of seasons.
InGoal Magazine took a closer look at the belated modernizing of Brodeur’s equipment in the October 2012 edition, which was the first time he added actual knee stacks to his pads. Also referred to as the “landing gear” by some, those multi-layered flaps attach to the inside of the pad, giving the goalie a place for his knees to land when he drops into a butterfly and allowing the pad to rotate around the leg and seal the ice.
Up to that point Brodeur, who was famous for eschewing the butterfly trend, only had two tiny semi-circular stubs on the inside of his pads, which explains in part why they never rotated properly when he did drop down.
It wasn’t the only change in Brodeur’s equipment that season, either.
After a season in which he got a piece of a lot of shots that still ended up in the net, Brodeur added two and a half inches to the total circumference of his Vaughn 9500 glove (the same model Jimmy Howard uses), finally bringing it up to the NHL maximum of 45 inches.
The shape and size of Brodeur’s pads also changed two years ago.
The 6-foot-2 veteran had 1.5 inches added to the height of his Vaughn 7600 pads, going from a 35 + 0.5 set up to a full 35 + 2 pad. Brodeur also decreased the taper atop his pads, going from just nine inches wide at the top before the changes to 10.5 inches after.
As the photos and video from his Blues debut showed, that evolution has continued, with no more extra tapering at the top apparent, a change that started last season with the Devils:
Of course not everything has changed.
Brodeur still has a leather strap and buckles to connect to toe of his skate to the pad, and the boot is heavily tapered around that skate, with softer foams used to really allow a tight, connected feeling at the bottom of the pad.
“The biggest difference is he wants the boot so soft so it molds around the skate, completely opposite of how a lot of goalies want it hard to raise it up and off their skate,” Mike Vaughn told InGoal. “He likes it to be very connected, so it has lower density foams instead of high density foams, so it will bend and mould around his foot.”
The extra control helps Brodeur makes more old school saves with the toe of his skates up. You can see the evidence in the puck marks on the inside of his pads, an area no other goalie in the NHL gets marked up like Brodeur:
So how will Brodeur’s style fit in St. Louis, where the Blues are looking for experienced help after Brian Elliott injured his knee in a crease collision with the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night?
Brodeur owns the NHL record book with 688 wins and 124 shutouts in the regular season, not to mention three Stanley Cups and four Vezina Trophies. He backstopped New Jersey to a Stanley Cup Final in 2012, but Brodeur’s career .912 save percentage has been dragged down by .901 save percentages in each of the past two seasons and he’s been well below the NHL average for four straight years now.
Brodeur’s game has evolved over the past couple of seasons. He is still more of a pure skater but has gotten less aggressive with his initial positioning against both rush chances but especially on end-zone play. But Brodeur is a goalie who relies more on his incredible ability to read plays and react, relying more on instinct than technique. He once told InGoal blocked shots were like “grenades blowing up in front of him,” and while the Blues are a middle of the pack team in terms of the number of shots they block, they do collapse down to the front of the net, which means the sight lines New Jersey consciously tried to provide Brodeur will be harder to find.
That said, the Blues are a good defensive team under Ken Hitchcock. Brodeur cited that as a reason they were so high on his list as he waited the past two months for a chance to keep playing, and the way St. Louis takes care of pucks in front of the net should benefit a goalie whose outdated recovery techniques can leave him scrambling on rebounds.
The bigger question will be whether Brodeur is willing to play the backup role, which can include an extra 20 to 30 minutes on the ice for shooters after practice. He is on record as embracing it, but there were times last season in New Jersey he admitted the extra work expected after practice might not befit a goalie of his age and stature.
That was one reason a couple goalie coaches told InGoal their team was not being interested in Brodeur this summer, and will be among the criteria evaluated in practice Monday and Tuesday before making a decision mid week.
Beyond that, the questions include what happens once Elliott returns. The Blues have already indicated he will be out at least two weeks and their interest in Brodeur has led to speculation it could be a lot longer. But if Elliott, who was among the NHL leaders with a .931 save percentage when he got hurt, isn’t out long then St. Louis would be left with three goaltenders who all require waivers before being sent down to the American Hockey League.
Who knows? By then Brodeur may have played well enough to stay. Or maybe he will prove the naysayers right, and reinforce the belief he should have retired a Devil. Or maybe he plays just well enough to earn another job somewhere else. And the internet can break again when he takes the ice in yet another different jersey.
All that matters to Brodeur is he isn’t ready to quit just yet, something he made clear again on Friday: