If I had a dime for every time a Devils fan has said to trade Cory Schneider this season, I’d be rich enough to buy out the team and manage them myself. Using hashtags like #TradeCory, Devils fans have expressed their frustrations and exasperations with him, which reflect their growing anger and irritation with the team and the organization as a whole. While I may not agree with them, I won’t tell them to stop expressing their opinions because you’re entitled to them, especially as a fan of a sports team. However, I am captaining the Cory Schneider defense squad and if I alone have to defend him, so be it.
#1 goaltender and NHL All-Star Cory Schneider has spent about nine years in the NHL, playing in 321 games (as of today, March 8th, 2017). His career numbers at this point? A 143-118-45 record, a 2.24 goals against average, a .923 save percentage, and 23 shutouts. This is his fourth season with New Jersey and he’s been excellent. He’s been exactly who we thought he would be and he has undoubtedly been the backbone of this team. He gives his team a chance to win, night in and night out. He’s not always going to be perfect every night but he gets more crap from Devils fans than he deserves.
A lot of this #TradeCory discussion happens after losses (which don’t rest entirely on Cory’s shoulders) but some of it happened right before the trade deadline. Even if trading Cory was a viable option and not certifiably crazy and ludicrous (like I think it is), what would the return be? The Devils have 11 tentative draft picks in this year’s draft alone. Even if a trade discussion occurred and GM Ray Shero was willing to listen to other teams, are you crazy? Who would take Cory’s place? Is anyone ready to pick up that mantle?
Most teams would kill to have a goaltender like Schneider. Look at teams like Dallas, like Vancouver, or even Winnipeg and Buffalo. The franchise has been blessed with great goaltending and has good goalie prospects down the road but right now, Cory is one of the best in the world and we have to understand just how lucky we are.
Yes, Cory has rough patches, as every single goaltender in the league does. Despite the team starting the season 9-3-3, they’ve long relinquished the playoff spot that they held for a few weeks. You can point fingers all you want and a lot of fans want to place the blame on Cory, and to a lesser extent, Keith Kinkaid. Schneider did have a bit of a rough start and it took him a while to find his footing. As of today, his record is 19-21-10 with a 2.65 GAA and a .914 save percentage (two shutouts). He’s been great since the beginning of the New Year but the team hasn’t really helped him out. The defense did see a stark improvement within the last few months but were abysmal to start the season. Schneider had stretches where he gave up 3, 4, 5 goals a game but those weren’t entirely his fault. He was screened constantly by his own players. Some of those goals came off of bad bounces. The team, as a whole, has had bad puck luck this season. The Devils defense had a lot of new faces, namely Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincey, and a lot of young kids, in Jon Merrill, Damon Severson, and Steven Santini. Captain Andy Greene and John Moore were out for a good amount of time. Schneider didn’t get much help from his defense and even when he had bad nights, the team didn’t score enough goals to bail him out. Even worse, when he’s on top of his game and not letting in any goals, the offense, again, fails to score enough for him.
Schneider carries this entire team. He has a lousy defense and low-scoring offense in front of him but he consistently stands on his head and allows his team the opportunity to win every night. He makes saves when he needs to. He has excellent rebound control. He is just so good at what he does. This team would be at the bottom of the league without him. But Schneider is the last line of defense, not the only one. He is the team’s best, most hard-working player and he, in all honesty, deserves much better.
After Martin Brodeur (yeah, remember him?) went to the St. Louis Blues and eventually announced his retirement, we expected Schneider to pick up where Marty left off but that’s not fair to him. Schneider is his own goaltender and his own person. Devils fans have been spoiled with unreal goaltending; Marty is one of the greatest to ever play the game but to expect Schneider to be like his predecessor is an injustice and frankly, a bit unrealistic. Devils fan Rachel says, “Cory does a pretty damn good job. If we replaced him, [he’d] still get hate because he’s not Marty”.
Allie, another Devils fan, echoes the same sentiment, saying, “if any other goalie were to take the job of being starting goalie after Marty, they [the fans] would be saying so many worse things about the other goaltenders” and she’s right. Kinkaid gets a lot of slack from Devils fans too when he starts. Scott Wedgewood has been injured too often. Mackenzie Blackwood and Ken Appleby are still learning and developing. The point is is that no matter who came after Marty, Devils fans were never going to be satisfied. There would always be something or someone to complain about. Devils fan Filipe makes an excellent point as well: “we could’ve literally replaced Brodeur with a goalie that’s the perfect combination of Brodeur, Hasek, and Roy, and people would still complain.” So there you go.
GM Lou Lamoriello probably brought Schneider in at the wrong time too and that can be debated. Marty was still undoubtedly the starting goaltender for the Devils at the time of the trade and had a year left on his contract. The Devils traded their 9th overall pick to the Canucks for Schneider and looking back on the trade, who won, who lost, etc. can all be argued endlessly. Vancouver later traded Roberto Luongo to the Panthers and placed their confidence in Ryan Miller. That 9th overall pick turned into Bo Horvat, who’s going to be a really good player for the team going forward. But who won the trade really doesn’t matter to me. What does matter is what happens to Schneider now.
Cory Schneider turns 31 in about a week and a half. He is in his prime but his window to win a Stanley Cup is closing and I want nothing more than to see him hoist that beautiful piece of hardware just once (more than once would be nice too but let’s not be too greedy). The team in front of him is young and inexperienced, and most of them have never won the Cup, let alone play in the postseason.
With the upcoming expansion draft, having a goaltender like Cory Schneider is more important and valuable than ever. Deciding who to expose is a conundrum but deciding who to protect is a no-brainer. His current contract keeps him in New Jersey through the 2021-22 season and he does have a no-trade clause in place. I want Cory to stay in New Jersey and I want him to win a Stanley Cup with the Devils. I will defend him no matter what.