Home > Season Recap > The 2010-2011 Player Review: Johan Hedberg

The 2010-2011 Player Review: Johan Hedberg

Johan Hedberg proved to be invaluable to the Devils this season. Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. To start the brand-new feature, we lead off with Johan Hedberg.

Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello always shops for a goalie during the offseason. The organization doesn’t need a starter, with Martin Brodeur firmly entrenched as the franchise leader and one of the best in the game. But he can’t start every game (although he tries), which means a rotating door of backups routinely sit the bench and start between 10-12 games a season. This year, Lamoriello pegged Hedberg to hold that spot. He didn’t seem like a big piece to the overall puzzle, but Hedberg became an important piece to the Devils season and contributed to the team’s second-half turnaround.

Hedberg came to the Devils after four uninspiring seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers. He spent most of the time splitting duty with various goalies, never becoming the undisputed top goalie. His numbers weren’t great, as he recorded only one year with a save percentage above .900 and two with goals-against averages under 3.00. Lamoriello brought him in on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, handing him a no-trade clause. With that, the Devils had their backup situation settled.

With Brodeur patrolling the blue paint, Hedberg expected to play a limited role this season. Fantasy hockey projections pegged him for only 17 games played. But rarely do things go according to plan. A Patrick Kane shot injured Brodeur’s elbow during the second period of a game on November 3, forcing Hedberg into action. The injury hampered Brodeur for most of the month, making Hedberg the number one starter. In 10 November games (eight starts), Hedberg went 4-2-1 with a 1.56 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. It’s no surprise the Devils played NHL-.500 hockey that month, going 5-5-1 with Hedberg as the starter.

Brodeur would return to the net in December, relegating Hedberg to backup duty once again. But he wouldn’t wait long to step back into the starting role. After relieving Brodeur in a 4-1 loss against the Maple Leafs on December 26, Lemaire stuck with Hedberg over Brodeur.He started five of the next six games, but couldn’t buy a win. His performance was unspectacular – a 2-4-0 record with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage – and he once again found himself on the bench. The roller coaster ride, however, wasn’t done.

Yet another injury to Brodeur gave Hedberg yet another chance to be the team’s number one goalie in February, near the beginning of the team’s second-half run. The Devils backup replaced Brodeur during a February 6 game against the Montreal Canadiens. Brodeur tweaked his knee, spraining his MCL in the win. With him on the shelf, Hedberg stepped into the spotlight. He turned in his best stretch of the season, recording a 7-1-0 record in nine games (eight starts) with a stellar 1.14 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. He recorded two shutouts during that time as well, helping propel the Devils on their second-half surge.

It would all end for Hedberg after the stellar February. Brodeur returned to the net, and Hedberg didn’t make another start until April 3. He finished the season 15-12-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. His goals-against ranked 11th in the league, which surprised several people. His performance earned him the annual Players Player award from his teammates.

Hedberg won the Players Player Award for the 2010-11 season. Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

No one knows what the future holds for Hedberg and the Devils. With no viable backup candidates in-house, New Jersey will need to find another backup. Lamoriello would like to keep Hedberg, telling Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record they “certainly want Hedberg back.”

Hedberg wasn’t sure whether he’d return. He spent the season away from his family, and while he had fun, he didn’t know if he wanted to do that again.

“I don’t know what their intentions are and I don’t know my intentions are either, to be honest with you,” Hedberg told Gulitti. “I had a fun year. I enjoyed it a lot. I’ve learned a lot. But for the future, I don’t know. If they want me to come back, I liked it. Let’s put it that way. For me, it has to be something that we all as a family are going to be in on.”

“The Moose” stepped up big this year, playing a key role for the Devils. By the end of the season, several fans were sported wearing moosecaps around the Prudential Center, bellowing out “Moooose” after every save. He definitely became a fan favorite and clearly fit into the Devils locker room. Without a doubt, Hedberg was a surprise success for the 2010-2011 Devils. He proved to be worth every penny of his contract.

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