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Top Shelf: Brodeur a beauty, but Roy the king

Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur at the 1998 NHL All-Star Game. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

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Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur at the 1998 NHL All-Star Game. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

For a guy who lives in a bilingual country, my French isn’t what it should be.

Roy, I know, means ‘King.’ Or, at least it did until last night, when Martin Brodeur bumped Patrick Roy out of top spot on the NHL’s all-time wins list. In the days leading up to his achievement and now, in the immediate aftermath, I’ve been contemplating the meaning of ‘Brodeur.’

With Roy (OK, ‘king’ is actually ‘roi’ in French, but play along) it was always easy to see how the man lived up to his name. There were times he simply was the king; a supreme ruler on the ice, carrying teams that had no business winning multiple playoff rounds to Stanley Cup championships.

But the king certainly wielded a double-edged sword.

His massive ego put him in the mental state required to believe he could single-handedly elevate his team to victory. It was at the root of one of the Stanley Cup final’s most subtly stunning moments. Right after stuffing Tomas Sandstrom on yet another brilliant scoring opportunity during the ’93 showdown, Roy shot the L.A. King a wink as if to say, ‘I’ve got a save for every shot in your arsenal.’

But Roy also possessed a royal temper that flared up on numerous fronts and, ultimately, led to his blow-up style breakup with Montreal.

Brodeur, on the other hand, has an excellent working relationship with his boss, Lou Lamoriello. He happily draws a slighter salary from the Devils GM with the understanding Lamoriello will put those savings toward helping New Jersey remain a contender.

In 2002, Brodeur helped Canada to a long-overdue Olympic Gold in Salt Lake City. Roy wasn’t there because he wasn’t among a small group of players immediately named to the team months and months before the event began. Neither was Brodeur, but he didn’t take it as the slight Roy did and jumped at the chance when Team Canada called him for duty.

Maybe Brodeur means ‘loyal.’

It could also translate to ‘consistent.’ Nobody gets to 552 wins without being really good all the time. Brodeur may have benefited from playing on defensively sound squads, but he also rarely had much room for error. There are more than a few 2-1 squeakers on that long list of W’s.

Roy, despite his brilliance, wasn’t above the odd bad game or highly embarrassing moment borne out of misplaced showmanship. Check the clips and you’ll find more than one slapper from Cam Neely or Ray Bourque beating Roy from a little too far out during playoff games at the old Boston Garden.

Yeah, I think Brodeur should have stopped one of Mark Messier’s goals in the famous ‘We Will Win Tonight’ Game 6 of ’94. And part of me believes he could have gotten over to that post a little quicker in overtime of Game 7, when Stephane Matteau sent the Rangers to the final and Madison Square Garden into a state of bedlam.

But to put it plainly – and admittedly, with a heavy reliance on anecdotal evidence – I think Roy was more susceptible to the odd back-breaker than Marty.

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One thing the king undeniably has is disciples. We’re now seeing a second generation of Roy-inspired butterfly goalies, dropping to stop in the mold he created.

Brodeur is the most normal goalie in the world except when it comes to on-ice form. He represents a merging of styles, relying mostly on seemingly antiquated stand-up techniques, but flopping to the ice when need be. Basically, he has free-styled his way into the record books.

Brodeur could translate to ‘hybrid.’

Or maybe it just means ‘happy.’ Few players flash a more natural smile than Brodeur, who is engaging with the media, honest in his opinions and genuinely emits the feel of a person who knows how lucky he is and enjoys every aspect of his charmed life.

And while Brodeur is as competitive as anyone who’s ever manned a crease, his easygoing persona certainly stands in contrast to Roy’s volatile aura.

The two most winningest goalies in NHL history are bound by championships. Roy has four Cups, Brodeur three, but when you factor in Marty’s gold medal, we’ll call it an even split of high-profile accomplishments.

Where their stories diverge is the role each played in those titles. Roy has three Conn Smythe Trophies, more than any other player since the league started naming playoff MVPs in 1965. That he is one of the best post-season performers of all-time is beyond debate. Take ‘one of the’ out of the previous sentence and it still has a ton of legitimacy.

Brodeur was a vital contributor to every title his teams won. It’s not his fault the Devils – or Team Canada for that matter – didn’t need him to turn aside 40 shots a night.

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the fact not one of the Devils’ Cups is purely defined by the play of Brodeur. I in no way think Brodeur can be defined as interchangeable, but I have to believe there were three or four other goalies in the league who could have played the role he did on each of New Jersey’s championship-winning teams.

Both titles Roy won with the Habs were a direct result of his play, which for two months in the springs of ’86 and ’93 hit a level no other stopper in the NHL could emulate at that time.

Maybe this is the year Brodeur takes home his first Conn Smythe and we end up spending the summer talking about Marty’s Cup.

Until then, though the records continue to fall, someone else will always be the king.

Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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