Martin Brodeur on new role with Devils, Hall of Fame (PHT Q&A)

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It’s been a busy few months for Martin Brodeur. In August, he left his position as St. Louis Blues assistant general manager to take on the role of executive vice president of business development with the New Jersey Devils, the franchise that he spent 1,259 of his 1,266 NHL games with. A little over two months later he was inducted as part of the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class.

In his new gig with the Devils, he’s still getting a grasp on everything but he’s finding his hockey playing background is coming in handy.

“I think the fact that I played the game of hockey, I think there’s a lot of value for the business people here to kind of pick my brain about what the game’s all about, what the players are comfortable and not comfortable to do,” Brodeur said. “I played here so long I know a lot of people around the arena. I’m sure it’s going to get a lot different moving forward, but right now it’s really a learning curve, sitting down with meetings and understanding a little bit about the business and where everything’s coming from.

“I’m fortunate to work with [Devils president] Hugh Weber, who’s been president in different organizations. He’s been here for a little while and it’s nice to learn and see how everything works on that part. They’re teaching me about business and I’m teaching them a bit about the game of hockey at the same time. It’s been good.”

Brodeur works 3-4 days a week and commutes back to his home in St. Louis to spend weekends with his family. After spending 55 days in Europe last season while with the Blues, the Hall of Famer wanted to take a step back and enjoy retirement.

We chatted with Brodeur earlier this season in his office inside Prudential Center to see what life was like these days for the legendary netminder and how he’s enjoying the switch from hockey operations to business development.

Enjoy.

Q. How did you go from playing to assistant GM to this position?

BRODEUR: “It happened quickly. [Blues GM] Doug Armstrong called me and said he needed me for a couple of months. I was going to retire anyway and so I said I’ll try it. I had never played for a different organization and it always intrigued me a little bit, so I took the challenge and went over there. When everybody got healthy I was not going to play, so I said it was time for me to move on. I was getting ready to get back to Jersey and Doug asked me if I wanted to stay as an advisor for the rest of the year — watch the games, travel with the team. I already had my apartment there and I told my wife I might as well just check it out and find out if I like it or not. I did that the rest of the year and I was going to move back to Jersey and [Doug] called me up and offered me the assistant general manager job.

“I still live there now. It was good. It was a good learning curve. I think the organization were really good to me. Now it’s just a different challenge. I think to be a good GM you have to understand the business of hockey a little bit and I have no clue. When I was there I was picking Doug’s brain and other people there, and now I’m living it. Obviously, I’m not sure what the future will bring me, I’m not worried about it, but I think I’m learning most of what’s going on in hockey outside of playing the game.”

Q. Did your curiosity for this side of the game develop later on in your career?

BRODEUR: “Later on. When retirement was eminent I had a lot of conversations with [former Devils GM] Lou [Lamoriello] about how it works, where the money comes from, how do guys generate [revenue], just a lot of questions. I wanted to do something to stay busy. I thought hockey was the [direction] I would go in and that’s what I did. It’s just that I didn’t think about how demanding it was and with your family and the little one at home and the wife, it’s like OK, we’ve got to be careful here.

“It’s something that always intrigued me a little bit, that aspect — who deals with what and how everything goes. When you’re in management in hockey you understand a little bit because you’re doing some of the travel for the team, the plane, the hotels, the meals. When you play, everything’s given to you. You don’t even know who’s doing what. You learn a lot about the game when you work on the other side. I was lucky enough to be exposed a lot in St. Louis to everything and now here it’s a different scale because what the Devils are. Right now, I’ve barely touched the Devils. I’ve touched the big umbrellas of the 76ers, Prudential Center, Devils. There’s a lot to learn and a big staff, that’s why I think it’s going to take me a long time because there’s so much — where everything’s coming from, from game ops to season tickets to suites to the 76ers to the building to the renovation of a building, real estate for a big company that wants to build up Newark. So you’re involved in a little bit of everything. It’s been really interesting and a big learning curve for me. I’ve been asking a lot of questions.”

Q. Do you see yourself getting back into hockey ops in the future?

BRODEUR: “Yeah, maybe. That’s not what I’m looking for for the near future. That’s not my goal. Tomorrow if somebody would offer me [a job], I would definitely decline. But in the future I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is good for me, my family. I’m commuting back and forth from St. Louis. This is a good setup. My weekends are spent with my family. I know with hockey ops I need to be ready, I need to be older, I need to get more experience if I ever want to do that again. I might just get really comfortable doing this because so far it’s been good.”

Q. Why didn’t you want to go in the coaching direction?

BRODEUR: “I did it for a couple of months when we fired Ken Hitchcock [in St. Louis]. I enjoyed it. I think it’s really rewarding. At one point it just got to be a lot of downtime, especially for a goalie coach because it’s not like you’re doing the X’s and O’s. But it was a fun experience, I really liked it. I think if I didn’t have a family that would be an unbelievable job to have. It’s not for everybody but I enjoyed it. I thought I was OK at it, I don’t know how good I was. But my goalie played well, so that was good.”

Q. You won Stanley Cups, Vezina Trophies, Olympic gold medals, you have a statue outside. Has the magnitude of being a Hall of Famer hit you?

BRODEUR: “It’s mind-boggling. First, you don’t expect to get a statue, that’s for sure, and you don’t expect to be in the Hall of Fame. Winning a Stanley Cup, that’s your goal, that’s what you work for. I played a team sport so you go out there and success is driven by the people that are around you and it makes you better. You can distinguish yourself a little bit out of the pack and people give you accolades, but when that phone call happens, even though everybody thought I was going to get the phone call you still, when you get it, it’s something.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Another shutout for Jarry; Draisaitl puts Oilers back in first

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Three Stars

1. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins. Another big win for the Penguins on Friday night, and they owe this one to Jarry as he recorded his second consecutive shutout and stole the show in Phil Kessel‘s first visit back to Pittsburgh as a visiting player since the offseason trade. Jarry has been getting the bulk of the starts over the past couple of weeks and is making a pretty convincing case to keep getting them as he improved his season save percentage to .942 with Friday’s win. He has stopped all 61 shots he has faced over the past two games and has won six of his past seven appearances.

2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers. Thanks to the Arizona Coyotes’ 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh, the Oilers were able to jump back ahead of them for first place in the Pacific Division with their 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Draisaitl was again one of the big impact players for the Oilers by factoring into both of the team’s goals. He opened the scoring in the first period by banking a shot in off of Kings defender Drew Doughty, then set up Alex Chiasson‘s game-winning goal just a few minutes later. With his two points he takes over sole possession of the league lead in the scoring race with 53 points, moving one point ahead of his teammate — and linemate — Connor McDavid, who now has 52 points. No other player in the league has more than 44 points right now.

3. Jakub Vrana, Washington Capitals. Vrana continued his hot streak — and great season — on Friday with a pair of points, including the game-winning goal, in the Capitals’ 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks. He now has at least one point in seven of his past nine games, including three multi-point games. His goal on Friday was already his 15th of the season and has him on pace for close to 40 goals this season.

Other notable performances from Friday

  • Shea Weber was great for the Montreal Canadiens in their 2-1 win over the New York Rangers, but he also had a painful night by taking a puck right to the face. Read all about it here.
  • Alex DeBrincat scored for the second game in a row (his seventh goal of the season) as the Blackhawks were able to get a 2-1 shootout win in New Jersey. Corey Crawford was also great in net for the Blackhawks, stopping 29 out of 30 shots throughout regulation and overtime three out of five shots in a five-round shootout.
  • Mikko Koskinen stopped 35 out of 36 shots for the Oilers in their win over the Kings.

Highlights of the Night

Nate Thompson gives the Canadiens the lead with his game-winning goal against the Rangers.

When you record consecutive shutouts you probably have a lot of big saves on your individual highlight reel, and this was probably Jarry’s best of the night on Friday against the Coyotes. This helped protect what was at the time a one-goal lead.

The Blackhawks were 2-1 shootout winners in New Jersey and it was rookie Kirby Dach scoring the winning goal in the fifth round on this slick move.

Blooper of the Night

This could have been a problem for Capitals goalie Braden Holtby as he nearly put the puck in his own net.

Factoids

  • The past two days have seen almost every game across the NHL be decided by just a single goal. The only two that have been decided by more than one goal were only decided by more because of late empty net goals. [NHL PR]
  • Claude Julien moved into a tie for sixth place on the Canadiens’ all-time coaching wins list on Friday night. [NHL PR]
  • The Oilers’ power play is one of the big reasons they are in first place in the Pacific Division so far this season. [NHL PR]

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 2, Arizona Coyotes 0
Montreal Canadiens 2, New York Rangers 1
Chicago Blackhawks 2, New Jersey Devils 1 (SO)
Edmonton Oilers 2, Los Angeles Kings 1
Washington Capitals 3, Anaheim Ducks 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canadiens’ Shea Weber bloodied after blocking shot with his face (Video)

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The Montreal Canadiens picked up a hard fought (and much needed) win in New York on Friday night by knocking off the Rangers, 2-1, thanks to a late goal from Nate Thompson with a minute to play in regulation.

It was a painful win for captain Shea Weber.

He was once again a workhorse on the Canadiens’ blue line, playing a game-high 24 minutes, finishing as a plus-one, attempting five shots, and blocking five in the defensive zone. One of those blocks in the first period left him bloodied as he slid to the ice and was hit directly in the face by a shot from Rangers center Ryan Strome.

You can see the play in the video above. He somehow did not miss a shift after that play.

Weber has been one of the consistent bright spots for the Canadiens this season and is showing that he can still be a dominant, impactful player. His biggest problem the past few years has been staying healthy enough to remain in the lineup so he can make that impact. So far this season that has not been a problem. He already has 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in the Canadiens’ first 30 games this season while posting some of the best possession numbers of his career. His 0.76 points per game average would also be the highest mark of his career.

The Canadiens’ win on Friday was only their second in their past 11 games.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Hurricanes remain ‘hopeful’ for a Justin Williams comeback

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When Justin Williams announced in September he would be “taking a break” from hockey, he didn’t shut the door entirely on a possible comeback at some point this season.

“Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game,” wrote the 38-year-old Williams.

With the Hurricanes sitting in an Eastern Conference wild card and only two points away from a top three spot in the Metropolitan Division, adding a veteran goal scorer like Williams would only help. What he brings on and off the ice is immeasurable, and it was clear last season just how valuable he was to a budding young team. The team is hopeful he’ll return to play and are keeping the lines of communication open.

“We continue to talk with him. I think he’s working out a little bit more on his own right now,” Hurricanes GM Don Waddell told the team website this week. “I think he’s going to start coming to the gym a little more. That’s a positive sign. What that end result is yet is still a mystery to all of us, but we’re hopeful that maybe there is an opportunity there to have him come back.”

Waddell isn’t the only one who’s unsure of a Williams return. Williams himself sounds like he’s been back and forth on what his future holds, according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour.

“I don’t know. I think we’re getting closer to a time where if he doesn’t, then he’s not,” Brind’Amour said. “He’s got to get in game shape and do all that, so there’s a time frame for that. There’s still time for that. … We talk quite a bit. We mostly talk about kids and how’s coaching going. I’ll ask if he’s staying in shape or getting in shape, and he’ll some days say, ‘Yeah,’ and then say, ‘Ah, maybe.’ So, we’ll see.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Kessel returns to Pittsburgh trying to find his game for Coyotes

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When the Arizona Coyotes acquired Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins back in August (for forward Alex Galchenyuk and defense prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph) it gave them the type of player the organization had been lacking for years: a bonafide star forward, and one that was capable of scoring at a level that no Coyotes player had reached in close to a decade.

For a team that was just a couple of games away from the playoffs a season ago — despite an absurd season-long run of injuries that consistently decimated the roster — it was the type of move that could not only generate excitement within the fan base (it did, and they have the season ticket sales to prove it), but also give the team the last extra push it needed to get over the hump and end what is currently a seven-year playoff drought.

With Kessel set to make his first visit to Pittsburgh since the trade on Friday night, the Coyotes have put themselves in a great position to end that drought, sitting on top of the Pacific Division after 30 games thanks to their 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

What is perhaps most surprising about their current spot in the standings is they have done it while getting minimal offensive impact from Kessel, even with his two-goal effort in Thursday’s win.

The early numbers are kind of staggering given the high bar Kessel has set for himself over the years offensively.

  • His six goals are his fewest through 30 games since his rookie year in 2006-07 (five goals).
  • He has been held without a goal in 26 of the team’s first 30 games.
  • He has just one even-strength goal on the season, with the other five coming on the power play (including both goals on Thursday — one of which was also an empty-net goal).
  • He is on pace for just 16 goals over 82 games. If he does not improve on that it would be his lowest total since his rookie year (11) and the first time since 2007-08 (his second year in the league when he missed 10 games) he did not top 20 goals in a season.

Some decline in his overall production should have been expected.

Not only because he is another year older (32) and another year away from his prime, but because he went from playing on a veteran, star-laden roster in Pittsburgh that plays one of the most up-tempo styles in the league, to a young Arizona team that, while talented, does not have Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in the middle of its lineup.

Even with all of that in mind this is still a pretty significant drop across the board, but it does not mean all hope is lost for him this season. Like any elite goal scorer Kessel can be notoriously streaky and score goals in bunches (this is not a knock on Kessel; it’s a reality for all players across the league), and it’s also not the first time he’s started a year slow. In his first year with the Penguins back in 2015-16 he had just nine goals through 30 games before getting hot in the second half, then catching fire in the playoffs on the way to the first of back-to-back Stanley Cups.

While Kessel has not exactly lit the world on fire for the Coyotes, the trade has not exactly been a rousing success for the Penguins.

For all of Kessel’s flaws as a player, the Penguins absolutely miss his presence on a power play unit that been mostly dysfunctional this season. A lot of their power play the past few years ran through him, from his ability to gain entry into the zone (a problem for the Penguins this year), to his playmaking, to his ability to finish. Even with all of his struggles in Arizona offensively his five power play goals are more than any player on the Penguins.

They also have not received anything close to what they hoped they would from Alex Galchenyuk, which is starting to become a pretty big issue. He has just two goals through his first 20 games and has mostly been relegated to fourth-line duty. Even with the Penguins missing several regulars in their lineup he has not topped the 10-minute mark in three of the team’s past four games, while general manager Jim Rutherford on Thursday (via The Athletic’s Josh Yohe) that Galchenyuk is not a lock to remain in the lineup when everyone is back. Galchenyuk always seemed like a one-and-done player in Pittsburgh from the very beginning — Joseph is the key long-term piece — but they probably expected more than this.

The funny thing about all of this is the trade has not really done much for either team through the first quarter of the season, but both teams have still managed to put themselves on solid ground.

The Coyotes are healthy and in first place and still have the hope that a Kessel goal-binge is lurking somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

The Penguins are overcoming their injury issues, playing the way they want to play, and finding ways to collect points while they wait for their regulars to return.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.