How Much Will Brodeur Play This Season?

It’s a short season. You’ve probably heard that enough times to make your ears bleed, but you can’t really get away from it. You’ll hear a LOT this year, particularly from lazy broadcasters on national television (Just kidding, Pierre!). One of the things we  wondered about in our breakdown of this year’s schedule was how the Devils will handle their goaltending split this season.
Tom Gulitti of The Record asked Pete DeBoer if he has an idea of how the split will go:

“I haven’t put a number on it. That’s just going to go by feel. Obviously, he likes to play game. I also think with the number of games we’re going to be playing in a short amount of time that we’re going to need both guys and that’s something that’s going to be a moving target as we go through the season.”

On whether he’d split the back-to-back games (10 sets) between Brodeur and Johan Hedberg like he did last season (except for once):

“That will be a feel (decision), but I thought it worked well last year.”

Corey Griffin

As has been the case for nearly two decades, the Devils’ fate rests on Brodeur’s broad shoulders. Keeping him fresh enough for a stretch run and possible playoff action is arguably DeBoer’s biggest chore this season. While backup Johan Hedberg plays an excellent Troy to Brodeur’s Abed,  he’s still 39 going on 40. It’s not like you can throw him out night after night, either, to give Marty an extended break if he comes up tired. First, let’s take a look at how much Marty played during the 48-game season of 1994-95:

1994-95: 38 starts out of 48 games (79.2 percent)

The 48-game template gives us a good template of how many starts a team with a legit 1A goalie can expect to get in this sort of season. That said, Marty was 22 at the time and really, it was his first full season, although he did split starts the year before. So obviously, it’s a little ambitious to expect Marty to start 80 percent of the time season. So let’s take a look at the last two seasons:

2010-11: 54 starts out of 82 games (65.8 percent)
2011-12: 59 starts out of 82 games (71.9 percent)

Okay, now we’re talking. The last two years the Devils have made a conscious effort to limit Brodeur’s games after years of him starting 70-plus times a year, including limiting his action in back-to-back sets. If not for the lockout, I’d have expected another mid-50’s season, especially given the extended playoff run and lack of time off this summer. So, if you apply the average of the past two seasons (68.9 percent) to a 48-game schedule, you get 33 starts. That would leave 15 starts for Hedberg, at least 10 of which would be the second half of back-to-backs. However, if you take into account that (realistically), even the best goalies are unlikely to play more than 38-40 starts given the compact nature of the schedule, I think 33 is still a little high. Assuming both players are healthy all season, I expect Brodeur to get 30 starts with Hedberg getting the other 18. That means Brodeur would start 62.5 percent of the games and should be entirely fresh for the playoffs.

Thoughts? How many games do you guys think Marty will start this season? Is 18 too many for Hedberg? Let me know in the comments.