For years Devils fans have always wondered what life would be like without Martin Brodeur in goal. We as fans have been blessed knowing that every year we have maybe the greatest goalie ever between the pipes and sometimes we may have even been spoiled. Devils fans, reporters and NHL insiders have always wondered why the Devils have not drafted or groomed a goalie to eventually replace Brodeur after he retires, well the future is now here and with no young goalie to replace him we as fans now know what many other NHL fans go through every year.
Brodeur's injury came as a surprise and was diagnosed as a bruised elbow, but clearly watching the action live you could see that it was worse than first diagnosed. The rock of this organization will now have surgery on Thursday and will look to return to game action in three to four months. The Devils will now rely on Kevin Weekes, with Scott Clemmensen as his backup, to hold the fort for what will likely be 40 to upwards of 55 games. Clearly it was stated by Lou Lamiriello that the Devils will not pursue a goalie and Kevin Weekes will be the man.
So Devil fans the future is here, so where does this organization go and how to do they handle this setback? Now more than ever the pressure will be on Coach Sutter's shoulders. A coach who was brought in to lead this team through a transition into the new NHL and bring more accountability of the players and bring the best out of them. Is he the leader we expected, when he was hired? But which players will be he be counting on:
1) Kevin Weekes: After barely playing the past few seasons can he be an adequate NHL goalie again? He will not be Brodeur, but Devil fans will be surprised and keep us above water.
2) Elias / Zajac / Gionta / Langenbrunner: The Devils will give up a few more goals and these players will need to be productive not in spurts, but every night.
3) Rolston / Holik / Martin / Greene: The return of these veterans players will give the Devils a healthy line-up and definitely a better defensive club and more leadership on the ice with these four guys in the line-up.
4) Vrana / Bergfors / Salmella: Can these three guys rookies make a greater impact, especially offensively, to make up for the loss of the injured veterans and can they push for playing time even when the vets return.
5) Special Teams: Most important will be the special teams. The Devils have struggled to score goals on the power play and even worse has been the penalty kill. They will need to win the special teams battle every night to win games as they will not have Brodeur to steal games for them night in and night out.
So fans, remain calm during these tough times. This may make the Devils a better team in the end. It will make players more accountable and they will be asked to do more knowing that there is no safety net back between the pipes. Some nights may be ugly, but be patient and we will see if the Devils mature over the next 40 games.