There may be no two goaltenders in NHL history whose names are linked like those of Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.
Roy was an innovator, has four Stanley Cup rings to his name, two of which came as a member of the same Colorado Avalanche which he now coaches, and he won three Conn Smythe Trophies, more than any player who has ever played the game.
Brodeur was his immediate successor. Of all the records Roy set during his playing days, and there were several, the only one Brodeur has left standing is playoff victories, of which he has 38 less than Roy. Brodeur is the all-time leader in regular season wins, wins in a season, shutouts, and playoff shutouts. He’s also a two time Olympic gold medalist.
With an injury to Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, however, there lies a possibility they could be tied together for another reason: there’s a possibility Roy could become Brodeur’s coach.
The Colorado Avalanche announced today that Varlamov is day-to-day with an injured groin, leading to the recall of Calvin Pickard from the American League to backup Reto Berra. If Varlamov is out for an extended period of time, it could be the final nail in the coffin for the Avalanche, who struggled out of the gate this season and have yet to get things back on track.
There may be cause for concern when it comes to Varlamov’s groin, too. In the last five seasons, Varlamov has missed 29 games in which a groin injury has been the disclosed cause of his absence. There have also been a few other games here and there that were listed simply as lower body injuries. He’s had hip problems, as well. Without a doubt, Varlamov is the most valuable player on an Avalanche team that is lacking on the defensive side of the puck. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a goaltender in the league that is as important to his team’s success as Varlamov is to the Avalanche. Suffice to say, Colorado should be exploring their options if they know the extent to which Varlamov is injured and how long they’ll be without him.
Which brings us to Brodeur.
Still an unrestricted free agent, Brodeur has made it clear he wants to return to action. In the right fit, with the right team, he thinks he can still be useful. As he recently told Yahoo!’s Nick Cotsonika, it’s “not about ego,” and he doesn’t want to close any doors that may open. And Colorado could be just that door.
There are obvious reasons why Brodeur shouldn’t be enticing to the Avalanche. For starters, he’s 42 and you couldn’t even accurately say he’s on the back nine of his career. If anything, he’s putting from an inch away and getting ready to head to the clubhouse. Last season with the New Jersey Devils, the only team Brodeur has ever known, he posted the worst numbers of his career. At even-strength, his save percentage was a pedestrian .902. His name was being spoken in the same breath as a handful of backup goaltenders and, in fairness, it deserved to be there. He wasn’t the Martin Brodeur that everyone had watched over the past two decades.
But the reasons for bringing him in could be plentiful. He knows the game and the position and if he can build a relationship with Varlamov, Berra, and even Pickard, he can coach them up. While his style may not be teachable, some of the fundamentals of his game may be – his puck handling would be a nice attribute for any of those goaltenders to learn. If you could get him to come to Colorado for the remainder of the season, who knows if you could formulate a relationship between him and the organization that could keep him in Denver longer in an advisory role. Long-term thinking on an almost entirely lost season isn’t the worst practice and Brodeur could be part of something bigger for the Avalanche.
However, there also remains the fabricated issue of the relationship between the Hall of Fame goaltender-turned-coach Roy and Brodeur. But, why? Why is it we even imagine it to be an issue? Is it because the two were, for the most part, competing against each other for title of Best Canadian Goaltender for most of the 1990s and into the 2000s?
The two were teammates at the 1998 Olympic games in Nagano, Japan. They weren’t by any accounts anything less than friendly with each other on- or off-ice. They’re both French Canadian goaltenders that rarely played each other. There’s no reason why the relationship would be strained anymore than it would be between Wayne Gretzky and any handful of the players he played against during his time in the league.
If the Avalanche are going to make a decision about what’s best for the team, they’re going to need to decide if they believe Brodeur can help them now. If Varlamov is out for an extended period, the sure-fire Hall of Famer might be an option. And while not the best one, he could be one that has more positives than negatives. If not, they could still consider Brodeur, but picking him up seems a lot less likely.
So while Brodeur waits for the right door to open, Colorado has to decide whether or not to go knocking on his. And wouldn’t that be something, to see two of the greatest goalies of all-time side-by-side as coach and player.