Martin Brodeur returns to the New Jersey Devils tonight, after missing most of the season with an injury. He’s obviously the most important player in franchise history and the backbone of the Devils semi-dynasty in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Obviously, they missed him dearly.
Wait. What? They’re in first place? They barely missed a beat by replacing the greatest goaltender of all-time withÂ career backup Scott Clemmenson, who’s already been sent back to the minors.
It pains me to say this, because I HATE the New Jersey Devils, but I think they employ the most efficient system in all of sports. And that might mean they are the best organization in all of sports.
Think about it.Â The Devils have won 3 Stanley Cups in the last 15 years and they’ve made the playoffs in 18 of the last 20 years, including 11 seasons in a row. They’ve done it all, whileÂ going through coaches the way fat guys go through toilet paper. AndÂ they’ve continuallyÂ lost their topÂ players to free agency, often to division rivals.Â In fact, there were only two constants the whole time, Brodeur and GM Lou Lamoriello.
The Yankees of the late 90’s had Mariano Rivera. The Pats have Tom Brady. The Spurs have Tim Duncan. If any of those teams had lost that one key player for an extended stretch during their dynasty days, their seasons would have been completely derailed. Well, Broduer is the hockey equivalent, and the Devils weathered his absence, and are no worse for the wear. That’s remarkable.
(Yes,Â Brady missed this season and the Pats managed to win 11 games.Â Still, they were home for the playoffs. Close, but no cigar)