For a 27-year-old goalie with legitimate aspirations for a Team USA Olympic spot, Cory Schneider just can’t catch his break. He was stuck as the No. 2 in Vancouver and even after he finally wrestled that No. 1 job away from Roberto Luongo last season, still found himself the odd-man out, albeit for cap reasons. Schneider moved from a tandem with one past Team Canada goalie to another when he was shipped to New Jersey at the draft.
But with Martin Brodeur in the final year of his contract at age 41, it looked like a bit of torch passing would go on in New Jersey. Brodeur was still going to get a fair amount of starts, sure, but the belief was Schneider would get most of them. And especially after Brodeur started the season with four-straight losses and 17 goals allowed in his first five games, it looked like the Devils crease was mostly going to be Schneider’s.
Yet here we are in late-November, a month in which Brodeur has started eight times to Schneider’s four. And after news this morning that Brodeur would start his third straight game Wednesday night against Carolina he had this to say to NorthJersey.com reporter Tom Gulitti:
“It’s Groundhog Day for me. I can’t seem to escape it. I’m just trying to work hard and do what I can. I’d just like to see the ice a bit more is all.”
If a Devil wants to play a cruel prank on Schneider, they should cue up I Got You Babe on his alarm clock.
Including tonight’s start, Brodeur has been given the nod in 11 of the team’s past 15 games and is starting his third in a row for the second time this season. The first was due to a brief injury absence to Schneider, but this one is purely based on Brodeur’s play. He has won five of seven, allowing only 10 goals in that span with a .943 save percentage.
Another interesting long-term wrinkle to watch is, despite the fact many are assuming this will be Brodeur’s final NHL season, the goalie himself refuses to commit to that timetable. He’s in the final year of his deal and could be a free agent after this season. Would the Devils really let their long-time franchise cornerstone walk if he wanted to play another year? On the other hand, would they want Schneider as part of a tandem again next season, in what would be the final year of his contract before unrestricted free agency? Since NHL careers only last so long, Schneider will eventually get to a point where he takes the matter into his own hands and find a spot where he is the undisputed No. 1. These scenarios will unfold depending on how the rest of this long season goes.
Brodeur has the better record, Schneider the better numbers so far. The Devils clearly acquired Schneider to be the heir apparent to Brodeur, but at what point will they commit to him as the No. 1? The only time Schneider has made consecutive starts this season was a three-game stretch from Oct 19-24, right before he was injured. So maybe all it will take for Schneider to get his break is a cold streak for Brodeur, in which case today’s Sad Panda quote will become an afterthought. Schneider still may end up with more starts.
Either way, Schneider is an experienced tandem goalie, even though he has all the talent to be an unchallenged No. 1 in the NHL, and will handle this situation with the same dignity he did in Vancouver. He proved more than capable of dealing with this situation behind Luongo and will likely continue to take the high road in New Jersey. But when he signed his current three-year pact with the Canucks in 2012, he probably didn’t think he’d still be the second piece of a tandem in 2013-14.
Buck up, Schneider. The next time you think of a groundhog, think of this little hell-raiser.
I'm alright. Nobody worry 'bout me. Why you got to gimme a fight? Can't you just let it be?