Brodeur, Allen and the Blues Crease
When a lower body injury sidelined Brian Elliott for an undetermined amount of time, it seemed inevitable Blues GM Doug Armstrong would pick up the phone.
As encouraging as Jake Allen’s early NHL outings may have been, rolling with the 24-year old and 21-year old Jordan Binnington wasn’t on the cards for an aspiring Cup winner like St Louis.
Enter the most successful netminder of all time, whose bonus laden $700k deal helped the Blues out of a tight spot, but whose presence now raises questions over the impact on Allen’s development.
The Hockey News’ Matt Larkin penned some of his thoughts on the impact Brodeur’s arrival might have on Allen – and he makes some valid points.
St Louis isn’t under pressure to win right now – their window will remain open for a while longer courtesy of a young core, of which Allen is a part.
So there is time to let the New Brunswick native play, learn and develop.
But saddling him with the bulk of the workload while Elliott is out isn’t necessarily the answer either. Allen only broke in to the Blues line up last season, playing 15 games – so some kind of support was (clearly) needed while Elliott is sidelined.
Armstrong had options when it came to bringing a veteran stop gap in – as well as Brodeur; Tim Thomas, Tomas Vokoun and Ilya Bryzgalov were all available at the time.
So why Brodeur? Especially given his slow decline over the past two seasons. It’s fair to say the move raised eyebrows.
Sportsnet’s Matt Brown nailed many of ‘the positives’ on a recent episode of the One Puck Short Podcast – the Blues defensive system will protect Brodeur somewhat, while the 42-year old brings a winning pedigree and useful skills to a club competing for a Cup.
For a team that hasn’t quite been able to get a leg up on its Conference rivals in three straight post seasons now, a player with Brodeur’s experience might juts make the difference when it comes to handling the mental side of success.
St Louis knows how to ‘lose’ – Brodeur might be the guy who can teach them how to win.
And that extends to Allen, who now has the chance to learn from one of the most successful goaltenders of all time.
Brodeur’s determination alone should be a lesson to Allen, and the Blues, in what it takes to be the best. Larkin referred to the damage having a “legend breathing down his neck” could do to Allen, but it could be the making of him.
Allen has the chance to pick Brodeur’s brains, whilst also competing for his place – and that may be the biggest benefit Brodeur’s presence could bring. Allen has to ‘earn it’.
Brodeur wouldn’t have signed in Missouri if he didn’t think he would play – or at least be able to compete for playing time – and after securing back-to-back wins for the Blues, he’s laid down something of a challenge for Allen.
In terms of his development, that’s as much of a positive as anything else – if it’s really Allen’s crease, prove it.
The former Devils star’s stay in St Louis will be short – at the very most it might extend in to next season, but it will likely be a one season situation; perhaps less when Elliott is healthy. If Allen is the kind of guy to buckle in that situation, what does it say about his long term prospects as an NHL starter?
If he ‘can’t take’ being yanked and then sitting in the next game, is he really the guy to back stop St Louis to a Stanley Cup?
In Allen’s defence, the Blues were collectively terrible against the Islanders during the first period of Saturday’s game – and needed something to shake them up – and the last few days won’t change Allen’s status as the Blues projected, long term, #1.
But as part of that job he will face adversity, he will face challenges and he will need to be mentally tough if he is to succeed.
‘Fending off’ Brodeur is his first serious challenge – until now his ‘job share’ with Elliott has been carefully managed and his ice time as good as guaranteed as part of the tandem.
Now he has to bounce back from a bad game and reclaim his place in the crease. Again, if he wilts at the first sign of adversity, you have to question his chances over the long term.
This isn’t to say Allen cannot excel, prove his merits and become the goalie St Louis hoped he’d be when they parted with Ben Bishop and Ryan Miller to keep a path open for Allen.
Equally, perhaps after two games it’s a little excessive to build up or tear down the ‘Brodeur experiment’ quite so much.
But again, from a development point of view, this could be a good week to see what Jake Allen’s made of – especially as the Blues face the Islanders again on Thursday.
One of Brodeur’s greatest strengths during his storied career was his ability to bounce back – now it’s Allen’s chance to show he can do the same.