Martin Brodeur

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With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

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As mind-blowing as it is to type this, it’s true: Tom Brady said goodbye to the Patriots on Tuesday. It’s something that’s difficult to process, even if you’re not a Patriots or even a football fan. Yet, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra chronicles for baseball, legends donning strange uniforms late in their careers is no new phenomenon, and certainly not limited to the land of pigskins. So what about hockey and the NHL, then?

Hockey fans have been treated to quite a few one-team legends, including Mario Lemieux saving the Penguins more than once.

Even so, there are plenty of legends who ended spent time in jerseys that just felt wrong. Let’s ponder the hockey answers to Brady leaving the Patriots, Johnny Unitas on the Chargers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards, and Babe Ruth on the Boston Braves.

Orr down hockey Brady comparison
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque leave Boston with very different results

At least with Brady, Boston-area fans couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Meanwhile, Bobby Orr’s career concluded with questions of “What could have been?”

Knee injuries ravaged his later career, and after 10 seasons, Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks. Between two seasons, Orr could only appear in 26 games for Chicago.

In something of a sequel, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque during his 21st season with the team, setting the stage for Bourque to eventually win a Stanley cup inspiring enough to essentially demand a parade in Boston.

Brodeur Blues Brady leaving Patriots hockey comparison
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Brodeur finishes with the Blues

If Orr on the Blackhawks isn’t the Brady comparison you think of for hockey, then it’s probably Brodeur appearing in seven games for the Blues after winning three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, and setting the all-time wins record over 1,259 games with the Devils.

(That contrast still makes me chuckle, to be honest.)

As awkward as Brodeur’s brief Blues stint was, it lacked the angst of how Orr’s career ended. That might make it closer to a 1:1 hockey comparison for Brady, although the QB could easily prove that his tank isn’t empty.

Much of this list shows examples of players trying to prove that they could still play, with most sputtering out after running on fumes.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hull of a change, and Howe

Bobby Hull already experienced quite a journey going from the Blackhawks to the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets (scoring 303 goals in the WHA alone). Hull’s final hockey and NHL season was especially odd, though, starting with 18 NHL games for the Jets before being traded to the Hartford Whalers, playing nine games for The Whale. Gordie Howe ended up being a Whalers teammate of Hull, which is … yeah, pretty mind-blowing. Bobby Hull also attempted a comeback with the Rangers.

(Howe’s legendary career featured quite the second [and maybe third?] acts after his Red Wings days, including playing with his sons, and somehow managing 15 goals and 41 points with the Hartford Whalers at age 51.)

Bobby’s son Brett Hull experienced a journeyman career of his own. Brett convinced the Coyotes to unretire Bobby’s number 9, but that story ended with a whimper (five games) as Brett realized he couldn’t adjust to the post-lockout style of play in 2005-06.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Random Red Wings

If you’re playing trivia and “This player finished his career/briefly played for this team …” comes up, blurting out Detroit Red Wings isn’t the worst bet.

Lightning round, sometimes involving Lightning

  • Mats Sundin stunned Maple Leafs fans by joining the Canucks. There was some Alfredsson-like logic of linking Sundin with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, yet the experiment lasted just 41 games.
  • Brian Leetch playing for the Maple Leafs was a little strange, but Leetch in a Bruins sweater will never look right.
  • Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens legend, as a Quebec Nordique? Yes, that happened. Jacques Plante bounced around quite about post-Habs, too, including eight games with the (gasp) Bruins.
  • Like Plante, Grant Fuhr pinballed around the NHL quite a bit after parting ways with the Oilers, but joining the Flames? Wow. Fuhr didn’t just play for the Calgary Flames, either, as he suited up twice for the Saint John Flames.
  • File Ed Belfour and Igor Larionov under “people you might not have known played for the Panthers.”
  • Olaf Kolzig was persistent in Washington as Godzilla could be in Tokyo, playing 711 of his 719 games for the Capitals. The eight other games came with the Lightning. (Vincent Lecavalier playing for the Kings was strange, but softened by his years with the Flyers.)

Feel free to mention other fish-out-of-water memories in the comments. Also, if you had to guess, which hockey legend will Brady mirror the most?

(Hopefully we won’t ever get that “Halloween Olajuwon as a Raptor vs. Patrick Ewing with the Magic” feeling from Brady’s final act.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: McDavid injury scare; More Kovalchuk magic

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Three Stars

1. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

Consider a handful of Jets as the true recipients of this first star.

To begin, Laine generated a hat trick on Saturday. This marks the eighth hat trick of Laine’s young career, although it’s remarkably his first since Nov. 24, 2018. Laine improved to 51 points (in 54 games) this season, already exceeding last season’s 50. As promising as it is to see Laine become more of a playmaker, it also must be thrilling to see him fill the net like he did against Ottawa:

Other Jets give Laine plenty of competition for the first star of that win, and of Saturday in general. Kyle Connor actually scored more points with four, collecting one goal and three assists. Neal Pionk authored a three-point game of his own (1G, 2A). Laine nabbed a hat trick, including the game-winner, giving him a slight edge.

(Interestingly, Laine scored all three goals on the power play.)

2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Couturier comes out on top in another situation where multiple teammates present an argument. Couturier generated one more goal (2G, 1) than Claude Giroux (1G, 2A) as both managed three-point outputs.

And, really, Couturier deserves all the plaudits one can provide as a perennial Selke candidate. Beyond the three points, Couturier enjoyed a +2 rating, fired five SOG, and went 14-4 on faceoffs. Even casual hockey fans should know Couturier is a star by now.

Coutrier and the Flyers blew the game open during this stretch, pushing Alex Ovechkin‘s pursuit of 700 to Monday.

3. Dillon Dube, Calgary Flames

It was tough to leave Mackenzie Blackwood (37-save shutout) and Jake Gardiner (three assists in Carolina’s comeback) out of the three stars.

Dube factored heavily in Calgary’s win and Vancouver’s fourth loss in a row on Saturday, however. Dube scored the game-winning goal and two assists, not needing an empty-netter to pump up his totals.

If Dube can put together NHL-quality work down the stretch, it would be huge for Calgary. He’s been a productive AHL scorer (at least a point-per-game in 2018-19 and 2019-20). There would be serious value in Dube merely becoming a useful supporting cast member for the depth-challenged Flames.

McDavid gets an injury scare

The Oilers are no strangers to crossing their fingers about Connor McDavid‘s knees. McDavid suffered a scare on Saturday, but the early word is optimistic. Dave Tippett told reporters that McDavid only suffered a bruised knee, and that it’s nothing serious.

Still, it’s a situation to watch, what with McDavid getting the knee iced during the game and also afterward.

Pronger honored

The Blues announced that Chris Pronger’s number 44 will be retired. It’s remarkable to ponder just how much Pronger accomplished with the Blues — including winning a Hart Trophy — and yet just as many people remember him most for impressive playoff runs with the Ducks, Oilers, and Flyers.

(On that note: I still believe Pronger should own at least one Conn Smythe Trophy.)

Saturday’s other best highlight

Honestly, this warrants a mention for Ilya Kovalchuk‘s celebration alone. It’s as if Kovalchuk is a totally new person (or his old self?) with the Montreal Canadiens.

Factoids

  • Kovalchuk moved into third place in NHL history with his 17th overtime goal (Sportsnet Stats).
  • Blackwood became the second Devil to generate shutouts in consecutive appearances. Good luck catching Martin Brodeur, though, being that he’s done so on eight different occasions. (NHL PR)
  • Nikita Kucherov ranks as the fifth player during the last 30 years to generate at least five different point streaks of 10+ games during the span of three seasons. Wayne Gretzky managed six from 1989-90 through 1991-92. (NHL PR)
  • Tanner Pearson continues to quietly produce for the Canucks. He’s tied for the second-highest total of points on the team since Nov. 12 with 34. (Sportsnet Stats)
  • Giroux generated his 800th regular-season point on Saturday. That places him fourth in Flyers history, and only 83 behind Bill Barber for second. Bobby Clarke will be tough to catch at 1,210, though. (NHL PR)

Scores

WPG 5 – OTT 2
BOS 4 – ARI 2
MTL 2 – TOR 1 (OT)
TBL 3 – NYI 1
PIT 3 – FLA 2
NJD 3 – LAK 0
PHI 7 – WSH 2
COL 2 – CBJ 1
EDM 3 – NSH 2
DAL 3 – STL 2 (OT)
CGY 6 – VAN 2
CAR 6 – VGK 5 (SO)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Devils fire Ray Shero, make Tom Fitzgerald interim GM

Devils fire Ray Shero
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It turns out Cory Schneider getting recalled is far from the biggest New Jersey Devils news on Sunday. In a surprisingly timed move, the Devils decided to fire GM Ray Shero, instituting Tom Fitzgerald as interim GM.

Technically, the Devils stated that Shero and the team “agreed to part ways.” Read the full statement from Fitzgerald and team executive Josh Harris:

“The New Jersey Devils and General Manager Ray Shero have agreed to part ways, effective immediately.

“Ray is a talented hockey executive and I am confident he will have great success in the future. However, Ray and I are in agreement that the Devils need to move in a new direction and that this change is in the best interest of the team.

“In the coming weeks and months, we will be launching a formal search for a new General Manager.

“We are very optimistic about our future and have a lot of talent, both on and off the ice.

“Tom Fitzgerald will serve as interim General Manager and he will receive support from Martin Brodeur, who will serve as an advisor to and on hockey operations.

“Our organization remains deeply committed to creating a sustainably winning franchise. Our fans deserve nothing but the best hockey. We thank them for their continued support as we work toward our goals.”

As you can see from the statement, Martin Brodeur will serve in the role as advisor to hockey operations.

The Devils face the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning not very long from now on Sunday. The timing is curious, opening the door for hypotheses. Did Shero and the Devils disagree on how to approach the trade deadline? Maybe the two sides even couldn’t hash it out on a specific player? Did something else happen?

Either way, the 2019-20 season has been a big letdown for a Devils team that made large investments (P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev trades, lucking into Jack Hughes) without much in the way of improvements. If the Devils are going to get things together, it won’t be with Shero at the controls.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Home sweet home: NHL execs flock back to familiar franchises

NEW YORK (AP) — Martin Brodeur has been back with the New Jersey Devils for eight months and only walked by his statue once. It’s harder to avoid his banner hanging from the arena rafters.

Brodeur returning to the place he spent the majority of his career sparked a recent run of executives going home to work for organizations they’re synonymous with. Steve Yzerman last month went back to Detroit as Red Wings general manager. In the past week, John Davidson became New York Rangers president and Mike Modano went back to his Minnesota playing roots as Wild adviser.

Yzerman, Davidson and Modano don’t have to avoid statues but do have to balance being beloved by their respective fan bases with the new pressure of succeeding in the front office. There are plenty of recent examples of fan favorite homecomings that didn’t work out: Pat LaFontaine in Buffalo, Ron Hextall in Philadelphia, Trevor Linden in Vancouver, Ron Francis in Carolina and Patrick Roy in Colorado are among them.

Still, the lure of going home is always strong.

”All the things with my banner in the rafters and my statue, this is what I did as a hockey player, but now I’m trying to leave my mark in a different way,” Brodeur said. ”I came back because I care about the success and the fans and the area. Regardless, you still feel the pressure because you want to do well. I’m a proud guy. I’m investing my time in this organization and I want to see them do well.”

While Brodeur and Modano are business-focused now, fellow Hockey Hall of Famer Yzerman and Hall-honored broadcaster Davidson are right in the fire of trying to rebuild proud franchises into championship contenders.

Yzerman won the Stanley Cup three times as Red Wings captain and is back in Hockeytown after eight years as Tampa Bay Lightning GM and another as an adviser. His family still lives in Michigan, he was tired of commuting and he considers the link to his playing days ”irrelevant” in undertaking this challenge .

”What I did as a player is done,” said Yzerman, who will work in the shadow of his No. 19 banner. ”I can’t do any more, good or bad. It really has no bearing on whether I’m a good general manager or not. I have a job to do.”

Davidson understands he has a tough job ahead to try to deliver the Rangers’ first title since 1994. After 13 seasons in St. Louis and Columbus gave him executive experience, parts of eight seasons as a Rangers goaltender and two more decades as team broadcaster before all that drew him back.

”I was here 28 years in a lot of different areas and that makes it a whole lot easier,” Davidson said after his introductory news conference Wednesday. ”I wouldn’t have left Columbus had I not been here originally and had a sense of home, a sense of people welcoming myself and our family back. …. It’s just this is a unique opportunity at a very unique time.”

When Davidson and wife Diana walked the streets of New York on Tuesday night, she turned to him and said, ”Doesn’t this just feel like we didn’t leave?” Thirteen years after leaving the broadcast booth to embark on a journey that has made him one of hockey’s most respected executives, he felt the same way.

Davidson was welcomed home like a conquering hero.

”There’s a lot of good feeling because John is a beloved person here in New York,” longtime broadcast partner Sam Rosen said. ”He was loved when he was a player, he was loved as a broadcaster and people now respect that he’s been a lead executive in the National Hockey League for more than a decade.”

Minnesota is in Modano’s blood after he was the North Stars’ first overall pick in 1988 and played there until the team moved to Dallas in 1993. Post-retirement, Modano spent three seasons as a Dallas Stars adviser, and while this isn’t the same franchise he played for, he’s excited to get back to where his NHL career started.

”It’s always been obviously a real sentimental thing for me, an emotional thing for me to start my career in Minneapolis and St. Paul back in the North Star era,” Modano said Thursday. ”I have a lot of fond memories with fans and friends and everybody involved in the hockey community there.”

Modano will work with owner Craig Leipold, who heralded the Hall of Fame center as ”an important part of our hockey culture in this state.”

The same is true of Brodeur in New Jersey after he backstopped the Devils to the Stanley Cup three times. His job as executive vice president of business operations is about as far away from the pressure cooker of tending goal as Brodeur can get, and it follows three hands-on seasons as Blues assistant GM.

”I went from my playing career right into hockey operations as an assistant GM, so the pressure and the day to day operations was always big,” said Brodeur, who sold his old house to Devils coach John Hynes and rents while traveling back and forth to St. Louis. ”You figure from the first day I walk into the NHL to last year, for me, every game, you get the mood swings, you got everything. I was kind of looking forward to kind of sit back and just kind of look at the big picture instead of the daily grind. It’s been a great change for me and for me family to be able to handle that.”

Hall of Fame defenseman Brian Leetch, who won the Cup with the 1994 Rangers and returned as an adviser, isn’t worried about the heavy expectations on Davidson or Yzerman to make the most of a second act.

”Steve Yzerman, John Davidson – any of these people that are in these positions that are successful, they put the pressure on themselves to be successful and to have a positive impact,” Leetch said. ”As much as there is outside pressure from media and the big city and fans, it’s really internal.”

AP Hockey Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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.