When he announces his retirement from the NHL on Thursday, Martin Brodeur will join the St. Louis Blues front office. But New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello fully expects to have Brodeur back in the fold as early as next season.
All but three of Martin Brodeur’s NHL-record 691 wins are with the New Jersey Devils and even though Brodeur has joined the St. Louis Blues, his former GM fully expects him to come back home and pick up hundreds more victories.
The St. Louis Blues confirmed Tuesday that Brodeur, a sure-fire Hall of Famer in 2018, will announce his retirement Thursday. GM Doug Armstrong said Brodeur will remain with the organization in a management role, but Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, who drafted Brodeur in 1990 and won three Stanley Cups with him in the Devils net, said that arrangement will be a temporary one. He expects Brodeur to be working alongside him next season.
“Marty will be a Devil,” Lamoriello said. “I think he’ll be the first one to say that.”
Lamoriello said he has been in constant contact with Brodeur throughout this process and spoke to him as recently as Monday. Lamoriello said his impression that the Blues will be a temporary one. The Blues formally announced Tuesday afternoon that Brodeur will officially announce his retirement Thursday, with GM Doug Armstrong announcing that Brodeur will remain with the team in a management role.
“He’ll be back here,” Lamoriello said. “(In St. Louis) he’s going to be as close to being a player for the rest of the year as he was when he was playing. He’s going to be travelling with the team and working with them and looking at things in a little different perspective. But the door is open for him to come back here. This is not something I look at as a negative as all.”
It had always been assumed that once Brodeur retired, he would join Lamoriello in the Devils front office, so it took some by surprise that Brodeur had decided to join the Blues management team. There were suggestions that perhaps Brodeur and Lamoriello had experienced a falling out, which Lamoriello said is not the case. In fact, he said he fully supports Brodeur’s decision to fulfill a commitment to the Blues for the rest of the season.
“(Blues GM) Doug Armstrong also talked to me, so everything is totally respectful of the Devils in every way,” Lamoriello said. “This is not something that is a surprise, something that should be looked upon negatively at all. Anyone who does that is looking for something.”
Lamoriello is 72 and is in his third decade of running the Devils. In fact, after this season, he will have been the Devils GM for 28 years, eclipsing the 27 years Conn Smythe ran the hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That would put Lamoriello second on the all-time tenure list with one time behind Jack Adams, who was GM of the Detroit Red Wings from 1927-28 through 1961-62.
With that in mind, and the fact that the Devils have struggled in recent seasons, it’s safe to assume that Lamoriello will one day soon hand the responsibility to a successor. Brodeur seems the obvious choice if he wants to do it. Lamoriello has displayed a lot of loyalty to former players such as Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko and the notion of a superstar player such as Cam Neely or Steve Yzerman making the transition into a management role is more common now.
Lamoriello isn’t sure whether that’s Brodeur’s plan, but said he’ll likely find out over the next couple of months as he works with the Blues.
“You never know with these things,” Lamoriello said. “I think a lot of this will be determined by how much Marty enjoys this aspect of it. Not all players enjoy certain things. Maybe in this mind this is a little test prior to him making a commitment.”
Over the years, Lamoriello and Brodeur have had more of a father-son than GM-player relationship and both have been vitally important to the success of the other. Lamoriello and then-Devils head amateur scout David Conte made Brodeur the second goalie selected in the 1990 draft when they took him 20th overall with the second-last pick of the first round.
There were 19 other goalies selected that day, including Trevor Kidd, taken 11th overall by the Calgary Flames. All those goalies combined for a total of 797 career wins, compared to Brodeur’s 691. The only other goalies from that draft to win Stanley Cups were Roman Turek, who won as Ed Belfour’s backup with Dallas in 1999, and Corey Schwab, who was Brodeur’s backup with the Devils in 2003.
“What more can you say other than what his statistics and accomplishments say?” Lamoriello said. “When you look at statistics, the bottom line is winning and he’s done that. He’s going to go out as the greatest goaltender, if not one of the greatest goaltenders ever without question. I don’t think that’s disputable.”