September 14, 2011
One of the greatest things about fantasy hockey — besides player drafts with cold beer, just like the WHA in the 1970s — is that it's a constant struggle between the partialities of a fan and the presumptions of logic. It's where nostalgia and necessity meet in a back-alley brawl over certain players on your draft board.
For example, I make it no secret I'm a New Jersey Devils fan, and I make it no secret that Martin Brodeur(notes) is rather high on my list of franchise favorites. I hit the trifecta when I drafted him a few years back in my fantasy league: Consistent starts, great numbers and a player for whom I'd be partial to anyway.
In 2011 … eh, not so much. He's missed chunks of two of the last three seasons, and he turns 40 this year for a team that's going to have to overcome a significant hole in its lineup (the injury to center Travis Zajac(notes)) to hang in the conference's best division.
As a fantasy owner and a Devils fan, do I keep Brodeur? Do I have faith that his numbers are going to rebound from last season?
New coach Peter DeBoer does, apparently, via the Star-Ledger:
"The expectation is that he has a career year," DeBoer told me. "I don't think that's out of the question. I watched what (Dwayne) Roloson did last year with Tampa at 42. I don't think there is anybody in this organization that doubts Marty has a lot left in the tank. That's what we're hoping for."
Brodeur will turn 40 on May 6 and he hopes to still be playing in the postseason.
DeBoer said he believes Brodeur should still be considered a serious Vezina Trophy candidate. "I think so. I don't see why a number in the age category would change that," DeBoer said. "He battled some injuries last year and the entire team had an off-year. I don't expect that because he's a year older those expectations would change."
The issue with Brodeur, beyond his workload, is that he's playing for a new coach and behind a blue line that's not exactly Stevens/Niedermayer/Rafalski/Daneyko back there. He could return to form, and the team in front of him might not be good enough to deliver the wins and defensive support he needs.
A serious Vezina candidate? Well, sure, in what might be his last NHL season, anything close to vintage numbers will probably earn a career achievement nod from the GMs. But does he still have that kind of season in him?
If nothing else, Brodeur will set another record this season: He's three losses away from passing Curtis Joseph(notes) and Gump Worsley to capture the NHL record for losses in a career by a goaltender. Of course, he's played a few more games than they have. (s/t Zachary Gabrielski for the stat.)