All this talk recently about where Martin Brodeur ranks all-time among goalies got me thinking about where I would rank him. So I decided to start comparing goalies and make a top 10 of my own. I eventually settled on the list below. Obviously rankings like this are always going to be subjective and highly debatable. Even when you try to look at it objectively like I did, you have to decide which factors you value the most when comparing goalies.
I took everything into account — longevity, wins, postseason performance, awards, statistical categories led — but what I wound up valuing most was dominance. I wanted guys who were the very best in the NHL. The longer they were the best, the higher they climbed. Being consistently good over a long period of time is obviously going to help, but being truly dominant is what really stood out to me. I use stats like adjusted goals-against average and goalie point shares a lot. If you need those stats explained, click here. It’s also worth noting that save percentage has only been around since 1983, so it obviously wasn’t used for goalies who played before then.
I decided to make the list from 1950 to present because that just felt like a good place to make the cut-off. I also wanted to stick to names the average fan would recognize. So, apologies to the likes of Bill Durnan and Clint Benedict, who certainly would have been in the discussion had I gone back further. Other honorable mentions include Curtis Joseph, Ed Giacomin and Johnny Bower.
10. Ed Belfour
Belfour ranks third all-time in wins, ninth in shutouts and ninth in goalie point shares. He played 17 seasons and was a top-10 goalie more often than not. He also had several seasons when he ranked among the very best in the game. He led the league in virtually every statistical category in 1990-91, ranked first in adjusted goals-against average in 1997-98, and ranked first in save percentage in 1999-2000. He won two Vezina Trophies and led his teams to the Stanley Cup final three times, winning in 1999 with the Stars.
9. Bernie Parent
Parent doesn’t have the longevity of others on this list thanks to a career-ending eye injury in 1979, but he certainly has the dominance. His 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons are two of the best in NHL history. He led the league in wins, adjusted GAA and goalie point shares both years. The Flyers won the Stanley Cup both years and Parent won the Vezina and Conn Smythe both years. Parent finished in the top three in goalie point shares three other times as well. He ranks fifth all-time in adjusted GAA.
8. Tony Esposito
Esposito ranks fourth all-time in goalie point shares, seventh in wins and 12th in adjusted GAA. He was one of the game’s best for more than a decade, as he ranked in the top three in goalie point shares 11 times from 1969 to 1981. He also won three Vezina Trophies during that time. The only blemish on Esposito’s resume is that he never won a Stanley Cup. His Blackhawks fell to the Canadiens in the final in both 1971 and 1973. Esposito helped popularize the butterfly style.
7. Martin Brodeur
Let’s start with the records — Brodeur ranks first all-time in wins and shutouts, thanks in part to his 19 seasons in the league. He has won four Vezinas and three Stanley Cups, and has been to the Cup final two other times. Now on to why he’s so “low.” Brodeur has been consistently good throughout his career, but, despite the four Vezinas, has rarely been the best in the game. He has never led the league in save percentage and has ranked in the top five just four times. He led the league in adjusted GAA just once and goalie point shares just once. If you still need convincing, check out Cam Charron’s recent column for The Score.
6. Glenn Hall
Hall led the NHL in goalie point shares a record six times and was named a First Team All-Star a record seven times. He played every minute of every game for seven straight seasons from 1955 to 1962, and he ranked first or second in adjusted GAA six times from 1955 to 1969. Hall reached the Stanley Cup final six times with three different teams, but won just once, in 1961 with the Blackhawks. He was also the first goalie to regularly use the butterfly style.
5. Patrick Roy
Speaking of the butterfly style, Roy led its revival in the 1980s. He ranks second all-time in wins and goalie point shares and ninth in adjusted GAA. Roy won four Stanley Cups, three Vezinas and three Conn Smythes. He led the league in save percentage four times and adjusted GAA three times, but goalie point shares just once. If there’s a knock on Roy, it would be that although he had a lot of very good seasons, he never had one that ranks among the top 20 in history. Adrian Dater of The Denver Post recently wrote an article on why Roy is the best ever, but he seems to be under the impression it’s only a two-horse race.
4. Terry Sawchuk
Sawchuk held the all-time wins record for 39 years before Roy passed him and claimed the all-time shutouts record for 46 years before Brodeur eclipsed him. He ranked in the top two in both adjusted GAA and goalie point shares every year from 1950 to 1955, and led the league in wins each of those seasons. He led the Red Wings to six Stanley Cup finals and won three, then won a fourth with the Maple Leafs in 1967. Four of Sawchuk’s seasons rank among the top 50 all-time in goalie point shares.
3. Ken Dryden
Dryden only played eight years before retiring in his prime, but what an incredible eight years they were. He led the league in wins four times, shutouts four times, adjusted GAA four times, and goalie point shares four times. He won six Stanley Cups, five Vezinas and a Conn Smythe. Dryden’s 2.027 career adjusted GAA is 0.133 goals better than anyone else in NHL history and 0.340 goals better than anyone since 1950. He owns five of the top 50 seasons using adjusted GAA.
2. Dominik Hasek
You could make the argument that no goalie has ever had a more dominant six-year stretch than Hasek’s run from 1993 to 1999. He led the NHL in save percentage in each of those seasons and led the league in goalie point shares for five of them. He also won five Vezinas and two Hart Memorial Trophies (the only goalie to ever win two) during that span. After battling injuries in 1999-2000, he returned with another Vezina season in 2000-01, then led the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup title in 2001-02. Hasek owns five of the top 18 seasons using save percentage and three of the top 14 using goalie point shares. He ranks third all-time in adjusted GAA, second since 1950.
1. Jacques Plante
Where to start? Plante won six Stanley Cups and a record seven Vezina Trophies. He led the NHL in adjusted GAA eight times, two more than anyone else in history and four more than anyone since 1950. He led the league in wins five times, shutouts four times and goalie point shares four times. He’s the only goalie on this list to own five of the top 100 adjusted GAA seasons and five of the top 100 goalie point share seasons. He was the first goalie to regularly wear a mask and the first goalie to regularly play the puck outside the crease. Hard to argue with that resume.