Let The Debate Continue: Why Martin Brodeur Is the True Great
Let me start by saying that I totally get it. At the time when Patrick Roy entered the league, no one had ever seen anything like him. He was brazen, he was huge, he was athletic, hell, he was an impenetrable wall on given nights.
It can be hard to reason with the fact that anyone could have surpassed him, especially someone who came into the league while he was still dominating. But let’s leave emotion aside and let the numbers speak for themselves. We may never see someone like Patrick Roy again. But there will never, EVER, be a goalie as great as Martin Brodeur.
First, I’ll address the previous article. The talented Christian LaFontaine gave us reasons against everyone but Roy, and showed us how St. Patrick’s numbers stack up against the competition. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very, very, close contest. And there may never be a decisive winner. But I want to address one particular idea, mostly that wins, shutouts, and games played “mean basically nothing.” If these statistics don’t measure the effectiveness of a goaltender, then what does?
OK, sure, ‘Games Played’ sort of skews the other statistics. No one played more NHL games than Martin Broduer in the crease, and Marty appeared in 237 more than Roy, the next-closest. This allows for him to grab more wins and more shutouts since he has more chances. But remember, it also allows him more time to mess it up. He faced more shots, so he needed to be consistently better in order to have a higher save percentage… which he did (.912 to .910). He also needs to provide that consistency to allow fewer goals per game… which he did (2.24 vs. 2.54). Perhaps that is a function of the era they played in, but their careers overlapped for 13 years. They faced much of the same competition for the majority of their careers. Brodeur’s best years came at the same time that Roy’s did, and the numbers lie in Marty’s favor.
(Oh, and while we’re at it, since when is longevity NOT a measure of how good an athlete is? If a player participated in more games than anyone at his position and remained this effective, doesn’t that prove his greatness?)
But let’s say those numbers aren’t a fair metric. We need to use another one. Wins are too much of a team metric. Shutouts are too individualistic and give too much credit to the goalies. What then shall we use? I submit a new metric for your consideration: Point Shares. This uses things like shots against, goals allowed, and time played and averages them out against the same numbers as the rest of the league for a given year, allowing us to see how many points, on average, the player contributed to their team that season. It follows a similar metric as Win Shares in baseball, for those familiar with that.
First, by using this metric, we find out something we already knew. Roy and Brodeur are more similar than they are different. Brodeur and Roy are within 92.5% of each other in similarity, closer to each other than to any other goalie. However, when we look at the points shares they accumulated, we find that there is another record Broduer holds: no other goalie ever accumulated as high a points share as him (207). No one. In fact, Roy isn’t even in second place. Roy’s highest points share in a given year (14.4) wasn’t as high as Brodeur’s third best number (14.9; his best ever was 17.1). And before we bring in the games played record as a handicap, realize that Brodeur had more point shares than did Roy over the same number of games; Brodeur had 202.8 to Roy’s 198.34 in the same amount of time.
And let’s not forget the amazing intangibles Brodeur brought to the game. He scored more goals than any other goalie. Just let that sink in for a second. His puck handling skills were so impeccable that they had to outlaw him from playing the puck anymore. Every time you see that trapezoid, remember Marty flinging the puck up to his forwards to start a breakout.
Brodeur broke all the records. Brodeur dominated the games he played in. And he, more often than Roy, was responsible for the success of his team.
This is a candidate I take very seriously. If not for a shorter career, The Dominator may have topped everyone in some of these categories. His save percentage is out of this world at .922, third all-time and only behind two active goalies who have played half as many games. He finds himself in the top ten of ever major statistical category and, let’s be honest, was probably the most entertaining goalie to watch, maybe ever. Who didn’t love watching Hasek flail about to make an awesome save? He also grabbed an astounding 6 Vezina Trophies, more than Brodeur or Roy.
But his theatrics had their negative side. He also led the league in losses once in his career and saw some years cut short by injury. While his point shares per year dominated (pun intended) the other two at his best, he did not show the consistency later in his career to continue that success. Hasek is very much in the discussion, but he lags too far behind in some of the vital stats that set Brodeur and Roy apart.
Wait…why is he in this debate?
No. Seriously. Why? He wasn’t even the best goalie on his own team in many of the years he played (see the above net-minder). There are a lot of goalies who should’ve entered this conversation before Osgood. Give me Belfour. Give me Plante. Give me Johnny friggin Bower. Just don’t give me Chris Osgood.
To close, I repeat: This is an extremely close contest. The eye test tells you they are extremely similar. Numbers are close. But while the numbers themselves may be close, they favor one goalie across the board. And it tells us what we in New Jersey have been saying for years: MARTY’S BETTER.