Congratulations to Martin Brodeur on winning the 2008 Vezina Trophy. For the first time in his career, I believe that he was deserving of the award. It was a bit of a wide open race with Luongo having an off year. No goalie was able to particularly distinguish himself in save percentage, as 10 netminders ended up finishing between .920 and league leader Dan Ellis' .924. Both Nabokov and Lundqvist had the type of seasons we have traditionally associated with Brodeur - winning lots of games and posting slightly above average save percentages while facing few shots per game on good teams. Those are not the type of seasons that are generally deserving of a Vezina Trophy, as they tend to be a greater reflection of team defensive strength than outstanding goaltending play. Of the 3 goalies who were nominated I would definitely select Brodeur. Brodeur had a high save percentage on a team that was solid but not outstanding defensively, and likely ended up finishing fairly high in shot-quality neutral save percentage as well. I think the best goalie was either Brodeur or Tomas Vokoun, who had a strong year (.919) while facing the most shots in the league on a weak team in Florida.
Overall, Brodeur faced more shots than usual and especially more power play shots as the Devils were not as disciplined under Brent Sutter (only Kiprusoff faced more shots on the penalty kill this year than Brodeur). It has been primarily Brodeur's play on the penalty kill that is responsible for his improvement in recent years, and that was shown again this year with a .903 save percentage when a man down, 4th best among starting goalies. At even-strength, Brodeur was just 12th among starters. His .932 was actually behind rivals like Leclaire, Luongo and Hasek, and it was penalty killing that ended up making the difference.
Can Brodeur keep it up next year having turned 36? Based on standard career curves, we have to expect some decline as he continues to age, and it is doubtful that his team support will be any better next year. Penalty kill save percentages tend to be more variable than even-strength ones, so it is probable that Brodeur will regress to the mean somewhat in that area next season. Another potential warning sign is that according to Hockey Numbers, Brodeur led the league in save percentage against difficult shots (>20% chance of being a goal) with 74%. He was just 21st against average quality shots, which tend to be the most consistent category for goalies and the best one for ranking. Brodeur did exhibit a similar breakdown last year (and subjectively to me has exhibited that tendency throughout his career of making a great save and then letting in a stoppable one), so he probably has some ability to keep making the toughest stops, but will he retain that ability as he gets closer to 40?
Despite this year's setbacks, Roberto Luongo is waiting in the wings to take over the popular mantle of the best goalie in the league (in the eyes of many he already has), and is likely to return to form next season. Especially if Vancouver's new GM can surround him with talent Luongo is more than capable of having an Hasek-type elite season. If anyone can hold off the pursuit of time you would imagine it could be Brodeur, the NHL's goalie iron man, but his age plus likely worsening team factors plus a prime Luongo indicate that there is a fairly good chance this Vezina trophy will end up being Brodeur's last.