The New Jersey Devils entailed the greatest goaltender of all time for two decades, but who was Martin Brodeur’s best backup?
The goaltender’s crease in New Jersey hasn’t been the same since April 13, 2014.
There’s no need to dive into the Hockey Hall of Famers plethora of NHL records considering everyone is more than aware of his accomplishments. Instead, ESNY endeavors a plot twist in Brodeur and the Devils’ history.
Who was Brodeur’s best backup goaltender?
Let the debate begin.
For starters, let’s address the elephant in the room. Current New Jersey netminder Cory Schneider is not included in the equation. For this conversation, Schneider is acknowledged as Brodeur’s predecessor.
Here’s a list including all of No. 30’s notable backup/partner netminders since his rookie season in 1993-94.
Chris Terreri, Corey Schwab, Mike Dunham, John Vanbiesbrouck, Scott Clemmensen, Kevin Weekes and Johan Hedberg.
Fans might’ve expected a long list at first, but Marty simply didn’t have a ton of goaltending partners in his 21-year career.
While Vanbiesbrouck dressed for rival squads throughout his NHL career, such as the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Islanders, he’s a notable masked man that suited up behind Brodeur on two different occasions.
“The Beezer” was acquired at the 2000-01 NHL Trade Deadline from the Islanders in exchange for Terreri. He then returned from retirement late the following season. Vanbiesbrouck only appeared in nine career games with the Devils, which was unfortunate because if he lasted one or two more full seasons, he arguably could’ve gone down as Brodeur’s greatest backup.
#doyourememberwhen John Vanbiesbrouck @jvanbiesbrouck played for the New Jersey Devils? He appeared in 9 games over 2 seasons from 2000-02 with an overall record of 6-3-0 and a 0.920sv%. Now you know 😉 pic.twitter.com/6e6p54HFSt
— Essensa’s Blocker (@EssensasBlocker) May 7, 2019
No. 34 won six games for New Jersey while posting a 2.11 goals-against-average and .924 save percentage. While he owns the most career wins (374) out of any of the goaltenders on this list, “the Beezer” won’t be named Brodeur’s best backup considering his brief tenure and limited appearances.
Similar to Vanbiesbrouck, Weekes was also a familiar foe to New Jersey. The 1993 second-round draft pick dressed for the Islanders and Rangers prior to joining the Devils. No. 1 is likely remembered in Devils history for his play on the other end of the ice against Brodeur.
Weekes backstopped the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001-02 en route to the Stanley Cup Final. During that run, they executed a first-round upset of Brodeur and the Devils in six games — shutting out New Jersey in the elimination game as well.
With New Jersey, the 6-foot-1 goaltender only collected nine wins and was actually a backup for another Devils netminder at one point in time — we’ll get to that soon.
The current NHL Network analyst has always been a fan favorite. But sorry Weekes, you weren’t the best ‘tender behind Marty.
Let’s turn back the clock even further to the late 1990s. New Jersey actually selected another goaltender in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft other than Brodeur. Mike Dunham was drafted in the third round by then-general manager Lou Lamoriello and appeared in 41 games for New Jersey from 1996-98.
It seemed that Dunham was inserted into the lineup to push Brodeur, per se. No. 1 never finished a season in New Jersey with a losing record and posted GAA’s of 2.55 and 2.25, respectively.
The Johnson City, New York native eventually displayed a solid NHL career while dressing for the Nashville Predators, Rangers, Islanders, and Atlanta Thrashers (yes that was a real team at one point).
If Dunham stayed with Jersey, there’s a good chance he could’ve been Brodeur’s best backup of all time. But again, his tenure and exposures were too brief to award him the honor.
The debate heats up when Corey Schwab enters the conversation, in large part because the two-time Devil is only one of three goaltenders to earn a Stanley Cup ring with New Jersey.
The Devils also ended up drafting Dunham & Corey Schwab 📸. In fact, Lamoriello told The Star Ledger years later that Brodeur, Dunham & Schwab were the organization’s top 3 ranked netminders in the entire 1990 draft. Not a bad day’s work. pic.twitter.com/nWHrGq8n8R
— New Jersey Devils History (@DevilsOfYore) June 17, 2019
Schwab suited up behind Brodeur during the 1995-96 season, appearing in 10 games without a single win. The 1990 draft pick then re-signed with New jersey prior to the 2002-03 season and lasted with the team until the end of the 2003-04 campaign.
No, his numbers weren’t fantastic, but he was an above-average backup for Brodeur when called upon. Fans have to realize Schwab backed up Brodeur during the Hall of Famer’s prime seasons, so playing time was obviously limited knowing how much of a machine Brodeur was when it boiled down to starting games.
If Schwab saw more time in the net, perhaps he would’ve earned the honor, but he does indeed fall short in this case.
Johan Hedberg (New Jersey Devils) Bauer RX10 setup pic.twitter.com/DZTUojArG9
— Tendy Gear (@Tendy_Gear) August 17, 2013
While Johan “Moose” Hedberg only dressed with New Jersey for three seasons, the Swedish native was a commendable backup to Brodeur. Hedberg was also a member of the 2011-12 team that reached the Stanley Cup Final – a memorable and appreciated squad in Devils history.
What’s even more interesting is that Hedberg is ranked ninth in team history for all-time wins with 38. That’s an impressive feat considering his final campaign with the team was during a shortened season – even though he appeared in 19 games.
Similar to other goaltenders on this list, fans probably wish New Jersey acquired Hedberg years prior, due to the fact that he offered much value as a backup. Hedberg finished his career with 161 total wins.
We’ve made it this far through the list and it’s down to two netminders…
Terreri and Clemmensen.
Terreri won two Stanley Cups with New Jersey as a player in 1994-95 and 1999-00 and is second all-time on the team’s wins list with 118.
Let’s not forget the team’s primary starter, prior to Brodeur’s era, dressed with the Devils on two different occasions.
The Providence, Rhode Island native was a Devil from 1986-96 before they shipped him off to the San Jose Sharks. He then returned in 1998 and, as noted earlier, was later traded again. Most fans would agree that Terreri belongs in the conversation as one of the best backup goaltenders and primarily out of respect.
#OTD in 1995 the #isles beat the Devils 3-2 at #nassaucoliseum. Ferraro, Loney and Flatley scores for the #nyi, which was enough for Tommy Soderstrom who made 29 saves for the W beating Chris Terreri in net. #90s #oldtimehockey #nyisles #islanders #oldschool #vintage #nhl pic.twitter.com/RZgd6I3cDA
— IslesHistoryToday (@IslesHistorical) February 18, 2020
Terreri was a solid NHL goaltender until the Devils won their first Stanley Cup. But after that, the chances are No. 31 should’ve retired.
Terreri was an ideal veteran teammate and goaltending partner for Brodeur who certainly relieved the future Hall of Famer when needed, without rubbing Brodeur’s confidence the wrong way. He also handled himself professionally both on and off the ice.
Fans need to appreciate Terreri for those reasons. For a smaller-sized goaltender, he held his own too.
While the fan-favorite posted a commendable 8-3-1 record in 1998-99, he struggled the following season. Terreri finished with an abysmal 2-9 record during the Devils’ second Stanley Cup year and also lost his last four starts.
He wasn’t the most talented goaltender by the time the calendar struck 1999, that’s for sure.
That leaves with us Clemmer.
Scott Clemmensen's new masks, which finally arrived. He wore one on the right today in practice. pic.twitter.com/St1SW27Ty9
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) October 1, 2014
Yes, Scott Clemmensen was Brodeur’s best backup goaltender of all time.
While the Des Moines, Iowa native only won 32 contests in 68 career games with New Jersey, Clemmensen will forever have a special place in Devils fans’ hearts.
The 1997 eighth-round draft pick started off slow with New Jersey. Clemmensen’s first stint behind Brodeur was from 2001-02 until the end of the 2006-07 campaign when he managed to never win more than three games in a season.
After a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2007-08, the Devils’ best backup of all time made his mark in team history when he returned for the 2008-09 campaign.
After Brodeur suffered a long-term injury during the early stages of that season, the goaltending duties were left to Weekes and Clemmensen. It seemed that the moment rose for Weekes to shine and seize the moment in Brodeur’s absence, but after a few rough starts, head coach Brent Sutter turned to Clemmensen.
Clemmer appeared in 40 games that season and at one point recorded a seven-game winning streak. No. 35 posted a 25-13-1 overall record while earning a 2.39 GAA and .917 save percentage.
When he finally earned his opportunity as an NHL starter with the Devils, fans didn’t recognize the confident and sharp goaltender between the pipes at the Prudential Center.
While Clemmensen was a huge reason for the Devils earning another Atlantic Division title, he also went 3-0-0 vs. the Rangers that season and chipped in one shutout — talk about bittersweet for any Devils fan.
The former second string was the first Devils goaltender other than Brodeur to earn 20 or more wins in a season since 1993-94 (Terreri). Think about that…
Clemmensen hits all the checkmarks when it comes to being Brodeur’s best backup. But more importantly, he displayed success like no other replacement and did it when Marty and the Devils needed it most.