With Martin Brodeur on the shelf, the bulk of the goaltending load will fall to Kevin Weekes. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
Why would a team bother to develop any goalies when it has Martin Brodeur in its system? The New Jersey Devils are about to find out now, as they face the long-term prospect of a goaltending tandem consisting of Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen.
With the news Brodeur could miss up to four months with surgery to repair the distal bicep in his left elbow, the Devils will finally be forced to live with Brodeur out of the lineup long-term and face the fact they haven’t drafted or developed goaltenders particularly well since taking Brodeur 20th overall in 1990.
(By the way, a distal bicep rupture occurs when the tendon connecting the bicep muscle to the elbow is severed, causing the muscle to break away from the bone. Sounds painful, doesn’t it?)
In 1990, the Devils hit the jackpot when it came to goaltending. Not only did they trade down and pass on Trevor Kidd, they managed to get Brodeur, Mike Dunham and Cory Schwab all in the same draft.
But in the 18 drafts since, the Devils have selected just 12 goaltenders – Judd Lambert (221st in 1993), Luciano Caravaggio (155th in 1994), Scott Swanjord (259th in 1994), Chris Mason (122nd in 1995), Frederic Henry (200th in 1995), Jean Francois-Damphousse (24th in 1997), Clemmensen (215th in 1997), Ari Ahonen (27th in 1999), Matus Kostur (164th in 2000), Jason Smith (197th in 2003), Josh Disher (185th in 2004) and Jeff Frazee (38th in 2005) – not one of whom has made much of a contribution to the franchise.
Only Mason and Clemmensen have proved to be NHL commodities so far. And while Frazee has displayed some promise, the Devils’ long-term goaltending prospects look far from certain.
That has never been a problem until now. Brodeur has played 86.4 percent of the Devils’ games since he became a full-time NHLer in 1993-94 and hasn’t played fewer than 70 games in any one of the past 10 seasons.
That’s the kind of workload that can make an organization a little complacent about filling the position. What it also does is prevent a team from developing anyone else in that position because it knows players will either be mired in the minors or stuck on the bench playing a handful of games each season.
That’s about to change and it will be interesting to see whether or not Weekes is up to the challenge. At least he has been a No. 1 goalie in the past, which is more than can be said for most members of Brodeur’s backup parade over the years.
For more great analysis, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.