James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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A modest goal

Friday, March 22, 2013

Martin Brodeur didn’t just return to action (and win) for the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. He stole the headlines in doing so.


In case you decided to take the night off, a flukey Carolina Hurricanes own goal happened when Dan Ellis* vacated the team’s net awaiting a delayed penalty call. A wayward pass ended up taking a weird bounce and depositing itself in the Canes’ net before anyone can stop it and Brodeur ended up getting credited with the tally.


That’s Brodeur’s third career goal, although it’s amusing to note that he only actually took a shot on goal during one of the three (that famous empty-netter in 1997). The other two amounted to a combination of luck and perhaps simply being on the job more than anything else.


Brodeur’s goal and strong night brought up some interesting questions.




OK, this is as small a quibble as one can imagine, but I still must ask: why not include netminder goals and assists in fantasy? I’m not saying that they happen very often at all, but wouldn’t it be cool if one of the better puck-moving netminder’s secondary assists ended up being a tie-breaker instead of some arbitrary rule (or almost as bad: that the week ends in a tie?).


I’ll admit it’s probably not really worth the hassle in the grand scheme of things, yet if you’re the type to try to cover every angle, it would be fun to track.


Besides, it’s not like fantasy leagues avoid silly categories and distractions. If you’re in a league that lists shorthanded assists as a full category, you’re probably used to very rare numbers making a difference. (One could make a smaller argument for shutouts and game-winning goals, although I think it’s pretty easy to defend them, at least if you’re in a league with a lot of categories).


Anyway, just something to chew on: wouldn’t it be cool if the puck-movers got a subtle boost for their troubles?




Speaking of that puck-moving ability, a solid (yet sheltered) night like Thursday got me wondering about the underground argument that Martin Brodeur might have been - to a large extent - at the right place at the right time during his record-breaking career.


The claims are based largely on the fact that Brodeur hasn’t always blown people away in the save percentage category, at least compared to contemporary stars such as Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek.


Many will contend that Brodeur’s puck-moving skills might make up the difference, which is something that the blog Brodeur is a Fraud interestingly studied years ago. The Contrarian Goaltender found it difficult to find evidence that Brodeur’s skills with the puck on his stick limited the opposition in a tangible way.


Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes advanced the “there was a lot of luck involved” argument, and not just with his amusing goal. After outshooting the Devils 11-5 in the first period, the Hurricanes managed just seven SOG during the rest of the game. We’ll never know how Brodeur would’ve fared in another system because it looks like he’s a lifetime Devil.


Brodeur’s career, to many, is the ultimate hockey nature vs. nurture consideration. To some extent, I wonder if the future Hall of Famer came into the league a decade too early to be judged on a deeper level. When you look at the fascinating camera-based work being done to evaluate NBA players, I cannot help but wonder if hockey’s next in line for such intriguing innovations. Would we finally be able to capture the nuances of a constantly shifting game that way?


Maybe we just missed the chance to really examine how great (or lucky … or both) Brodeur really is and was.


Regardless, Brodeur’s overall numbers are impressive enough that I think only the most stubborn of number-crunchers will deny his place at least somewhere at the table of all-time greats. Not everyone will put him at the head of the table, though.


Jump for more fantasy hockey talk.


* - That wouldn’t be the only bit of bad luck for Ellis on Thursday either, as either his or David Clarkson’s skate appeared to cut his leg during another bit of randomness toward the end of the game. I’m not sure Justin Peters is a guy who can really be an answer for you in net, but with Ellis possibly out for a while and Cam Ward curbed, he’s at least worth noting.


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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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