QOTW answers: Brodeur, Hasek, Roy dominate your all-time goalie list

March, 11, 2009

As Martin Brodeur approaches Patrick Roy's record for all-time wins in the regular season, we decided to hash out a debate that realistically has no definite answer: who is the best goalie of all time? But there was some solid debate from our intelligent puckheads at ESPN.com.

Let's take a look:

WB Philp: Hey Pierre! It won't be popular, but I am going old school on this one. George Hainsworth is the answer. He dominated the 1920's and 1930's between the pipes. He won the Vezina Trophy each of his first three years in the league. In 1928-29 he had the greatest single season in NHL history allowing a total of 43 goals in 44 games and posting 22 shutouts! He led all goalies in games played for nine straight years from 1926-36 and had a GAA of 1.50 during that period! He won Stanley Cups in 1930 and 1931 with the Canadiens. He retired with a GAA of 1.91, the lowest in NHL history and 94 shutouts (104 if you count WHA totals), the record until Sawchuk broke it.

My take: Love the old-school answer to kick things off. Obviously, Hainsworth played in a very low-scoring era and players had straight stick blades, but he was the best of the best during that time and you can't discount that. Great answer!

100Habbie: Tough question, Pierre. Start with a great from each era and debate forever from there. Masks, growing pads, crease changes, stick technology and other changes in the game mean that a great goalie from one era may have been a minor leaguer in another. If we can define greatness as "dominance relative to their peers", then we at least reduce the question to wins, save percentage, goals-against-average and the fear struck into opposing players. Separating goalie stats from team performance is especially difficult -- look at Grant Fuhr's win total, derived from offence more than goaltending. All that said ... Ken Dryden is my man. Would Roy and Brodeur even approach his win totals had he actually played out a full career?

My take: There wasn't a lot of love for Ken Dryden on our message board, but I think that reflects the younger audience we have at ESPN.com. Dryden didn't play long, but he settled for nothing but excellence while he was in the Montreal net. Despite his brilliance, I don't personally put him in the same category as Roy or Brodeur or Jacques Plante or Terry Sawchuk. I just think playing behind the Big Three (Guy Lapointe, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard) and a high-octane offense (Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer) made his job a little easier. He remains one of the best ever in net, but in my books, just not the best. Maybe I'm just blaming him for blowing the 1975 New Year's Eve game?

Lostnearhell: I think it is too hard to judge before a goaltender's career is over. Marty is clearly the best of the active era, people who are still playing, that is not in question. Maybe Marty brings home another Cup or two I would imagine with the records and four or five cups with this many teams in the league, how could there be any argument. However, if he has a bad playoff year this year and basically falls away to nothing, well then it will surely be debated for a long time. In my opinion it's Roy vs. Marty.

mterach245: • The NHL was forced to create the Brodeur Trapezoid rule.
• Whoever said that Brodeur plays a butterfly style has not watched Brodeur because he took Roy's butterfly and made it better.
• Roy was interviewed recently and said from when Brodeur was in his 3rd season he knew that his wins record would fall to Brodeur, and that they only way that he would be able to keep the record is if he played an additional 6 seasons which he said his own body would not allow him to do because his hips were breaking down (from the Butterfly style which Brodeur does not play)
• Brodeur became the goalie in the modern NHL to play 90%-95% of the games all year for his team.
• Even with the new shootout, goalies will only get an extra 4-5 wins a year and over a 12 year career (which is average for a goalie) that is only 60 more career wins. By the time Brodeur is done he will have shattered the wins record by at least 100 wins, and if he decides that he can play an additional 2 years at the end of his current contract he can break it by 200 wins.
• No other goalie has had 12 consecutive 30+ win seasons, 7 40+ win seasons, and the bottom line is longevity. No goalie has given their team a chance to be successful every year (17 above .500 seasons, 15 of which with Brodeur in net).

I do agree that it is hard to compare today's goaltenders to those of previous generations, however, I do believe that Roy and Brodeur are the best ever (in the NHL), followed closely by Hasek.

sbrhwkp3: This is a very tough question to answer Pierre, and it seems to be asked quite a bit with not much resolve. I think you'd first have to define the criteria that would make you the best goaltender of all time. Was it the goaltender who was the most talented in his prime (Dominic Hasek), the goaltender that changed the game (Patrick Roy), or the goaltender that has been spectacular year after year (Marty Brodeur)? I don't think anyone will ever come to a consensus here, but if you want to know who has been the best over the course of his entire career, look no further than New Jersey, because Martin Brodeur is the man.

My take: No one got more love on the message board than Brodeur, again not only reflective of his stellar career, but also because of the age of our respondents. He's clearly the best goalie of the past dozen years, and that's all many of our readers know. Which is not their fault! As an NHL observer, what amazes me the most about Brodeur is his consistency. He may not have been as flashy as a Grant Fuhr glove save or as mind-blowing as Dominik Hasek's acrobatics or as mentally intimidating as a Patrick Roy wink, but Brodeur has just gone out, year in and year out, and produced wins and championships. There's no dent in this guy's armor.

SteelPenCity: As great a goalie as Martin Brodeur is, he's overrated. Yes, that's right, I said it. Overrated. He's been on incredible defensive teams his whole career in New Jersey. He faces less shots a night than most goaltenders. Sure, you could attribute mental toughness to him for staying in the game even though he receives what feels like 20-23 shots a game (averages 25), but shouldn't every goalie at that level have mental toughness? In my humble opinion, he should have to show more "greatness" than just once every few games (usually feels like less often than that), because doesn't every goalie do that? He didn't even play that well in the Olympics, where he had one of the most incredible lineups of all time in front of him. Canada should be thankful he had that lineup.

I lived in Jersey for 22 years of my life, and although I've seen some special things, he's also been apart of some games where he SHOULD have been better. Last year is a perfect example against the Rangers in the playoffs. Like I said, great goalie, and the numbers don't lie, but there is more to the numbers than just what they read. Not to mention the Vezina trophy doesn't mean much anymore as well. Take the biggest name and give him the trophy. Of course, that just adds to his name even more. I'm sorry, but the Devils as a team deserve more credit than just Marty. Of course, that's all opinion.

My take: I understand these arguments against Brodeur, but I just don't agree with them. It's not his fault he played on great trap teams earlier in his career. To be honest, some of the game's elite netminders find it just as hard when you're not facing as many shots because of the mental fortitude it takes to not lose your focus when you're not too busy. The bottom line is, he made the saves when it mattered, and made them consistently for a long, long time. And let's not forget his performance at the 2002 Olympics, when he felt all of Canada's weight on his shoulders in finally ending a 50-year gold-medal drought. The man is unflappable.

IWouldPreferNotTo: The all-time leader in career save percentage is Dominik Hasek (there are certain minimum longevity requirements). Not only is Hasek at the top of the list, but no one else is even close, and only Luongo is in the same ballpark. By the way, Roy is currently tied for 13th on that list with Ryan Miller. If you want to talk about GAA, Hasek is second on the career all-time list of those who played after World War 2, and is .001 behind first-place Brodeur. By the way, I believe Roy is 21st on that list (again taking out those goalies who didn't play after World War 2).

Considering the somewhat weak defenses in Buffalo that Hasek had to play behind for most of his career, my vote for best goalie, at least for the last 30 years or so, goes to Hasek. At some point before that, things were a little tougher on goalies, and a goalie playing back then, had he been playing now, might be even better than Hasek. But I doubt it.

My take: I don't put that much emphasis on stats in this debate. Different eras, different styles of play and different equipment greatly vary goalie stats over the years.

Marlowe7789: Dominik Hasek has to be the one ... back to back Harts, 6 Vezinas, and an Olympic Gold for the Czech Republic. He didn't even become a full-time starter until he was what 28? 29? Highest Save % of ALL TIME. Brodeur may be an excellent stick handler, but Hasek didn't even need a stick to be spectacular. Roy may have won a ton of cups and was certainly clutch but Hasek played most of his career with a poor Sabres team that would have had no business in the playoffs without him.

hockeygod316: You gotta take a hard look at Hasek. All those Vezinas with not much better than a college team in front of him. Not to mention his style, if nothing else one of the most entertaining goalies to watch! Roy and Brodeur are no brainer picks, but being a great goalie with excellent teams in front of you should be taken into consideration.

My take: For a five-to-six-year period, one could easily argue no one in NHL history had more of an impact at the position than Hasek. He was the best, better than Roy and Brodeur for a few seasons, and lifted an offensively challenged Buffalo team on his shoulders. The moment that defines his career in my books is stoning Team Canada in the 1998 Olympic semifinals in Nagano, Japan, and leading the Czechs to an improbable gold medal. But what hurts Hasek in this argument is he didn't dominate over a 15-year period like Roy and Brodeur.

petechs: Sawchuk played only against the best. He only had to face 5 teams a year and each team was loaded with talent. Today, with 30 teams, you have a watered down league, with the bottom teams being easy (usually) wins for a goalie. Sawchuk! NO mask, no weak teams. Case closed!

decorideas: As an old f@rt, I saw Plante, Dryden, Sawchuk and Tretiak, as well as Roy, Hasek and Brodeur. It's hard to vote Tretiak, even though he was, without question, awesome to say the least. I would pick Sawchuk because of his tenacity in net. The guy could not be intimidated. I saw a composite that some reporter created of all the stitches he took in his face over the years (might have been well over 150 in total) and he looked much worse than any baseball.

My take: You can't have this conversation without mentioning Terry Sawchuk! I'm too young to have seen him play, but the older reporters who remember him marveled at his greatness. And he was indeed tough as nails. Sawchuk played on those great Detroit teams of the 1950s and was a key component of those Stanley Cup triumphs.

wmryan96: How about ... the new question is: Who is the worst "reporter" of all time with regard to posing the most tired question to his audience? Answer: Pierre Lebrun. Seriously, go back to making sh** up about things Kenny Holland didn't say.

My take: First of all, it's LeBrun, not Lebrun :)

I get a kick out of this dude. He's been on me all week because he thinks I wrongly reported that Ottawa and Detroit had trade talks last week before the deadline. Well, wmryan96, just to show that I do not ignore the critics even when they're not making a lot of sense, I actually phoned Wings GM Ken Holland today, knowing he's a good sport, explaining to him your bizarre rants and asking him to state once and for all that he did indeed chat with Sens GM Bryan Murray.

"Yes, I talked to Bryan Murray twice the day of the deadline. We did indeed discuss Chris Neil, but, at the end of the day, we liked our team and didn't want to pay the price for a rental," Holland told ESPN.com from Naples, Fla., where the GMs were wrapping up meetings. Thank you, Ken!

GBettmanisaTool: I have to go with Patrick Roy. I'm only 30, so I missed the guys from the '60s and '70s, I can't compare them, but Roy and Brodeur, not even close! I'll take St. Patrick any day. I've seen Brodeur give up WAY too many softies throughout his career to consider him one of the best. I would like to think that if Brodeur played on a different team, he would be missing at least 35% to 40% of his total career wins. Also, Roy basically popularized the modern goaltender, he is one of the pioneers of the butterfly which took goalkeeping out of its ridiculous dark ages (stand up goalies?!? almost as dumb an idea as tending net without a mask!).

nhldude11: This is tough. If we're talking regular season, it's Marty Brodeur hands down. In the playoffs, though, I give Patrick Roy the edge. It's kind of hard to argue against three conn smythe trophies as a goalie, especially since in the 80's and early 90's, you rarely ever saw a goalie win the playoff MVP. Plus, Roy revolutionized the position forever with his butterfly style which virtually every goalie today, including Brodeur, implement. This is like picking between apples and oranges (and I love them both). Patrick Roy slightly over Marty.

bne42puckman: While Brodeur is soon to take control of the major goaltending records, does that make him the best? Sure, it puts him up there, but just as Montana is considered the best quarterback of all time, as compared to someone like Favre, who holds all the major records. The main thing is championships. Now, statistics certainly matter, but you need to consider it all. Patrick Roy is the best.

He has more playoff victories (151) then any other netminder, by far. Brodeur, if he wins the cup this year, would still have to reach at least the conference finals for the following four years to even have a shot at breaking that win record. And while this era plays 4 rounds of hockey, instead of just 2 or 3, giving him more chances for winning...only Jacques Plante has a higher PTS% in playoff games then Roy. Roy has 4 cups (one more then Brodeur) and 3 Conn Smythes, not to mention Roy got one of those cups beating Brodeur in 2001...Oh, and let's not forget that Roy still is up there in most every major goaltending record, along with his post-season accolades. Finally, Roy's swagger...he might be the only goalie that shooters feared playing.

ariamus: I am an unabashed fan of the Devils and Marty Brodeur so my comments may come as a surprise. I don't believe Brodeur is the best goalie I've watched in my near three decades as a NHL fan let alone ever. I give that regard to Patrick Roy. Yes, Marty will shatter every record known to man with the exception of the playoff victories one. And no, I don't think his success is wholly due to the good fortune that he plays for the team he plays for.

I think he's a freak of nature and will play into his forties so 700 wins and 130 shutouts or more aren't out the question. But it in the playoffs that Roy remains the king. One more cup and an unbelievable three Conn Smythe awards are the foundations of his throne. I'm of the opinion that the Conn Smythe is the most prestigious award a NHL player can win in a given season and Marty is still without one. Now, if Marty can carry the Devils to another cup and finally get a Conn Smythe in addition to blowing away the other records, then the discussion changes. Until he does, though, Roy's the guy.

My take: I think if you polled most NHL media on this one, Roy would still edge Brodeur, but the gap is narrowing with each passing season. Personally, I believe Brodeur was more consistent right from the get-go in his career. Remember, when Roy won the Cup in 1986 as a rookie, he actually was challenged for his job the following year in 1986-87 by Brian Hayward with the veteran backup actually playing a few playoff games over Roy that spring. Eventually, Roy got back on his feet and the rest, as they say, was history.

I mention this because the amazing thing about Brodeur is that once he was given a real shot at the No. 1 job in New Jersey, he never looked back. Having said all that, I can't say Brodeur has ever produced two demonic-like playoffs such as 1986 and 1993. Will any of us ever forget the overtime saves by Roy at MSG in the Prince of Wales finals? Or how about his overtime heroics throughout the '93 playoffs and, of course, that cocky wink to Thomas Sandstrom in the Cup finals that underlined his Superman-like confidence at that point? Let's put it this way, I still can't believe Montreal won the Cup in 1986 and 1993. There's only one reason why.

straeliterun: This is kind of a tough call. It's like asking if Tiger is the best Golf Player ever....yes he's amazing, but look at the technology that was put into his equipment compared to the original golf club (lol). Some of the old time goalies were amazing considering what they were using...the old leg pads with real stuffing in them that probably weighed about 30lbs a piece after they got wet. No doubt the competition was different back then, but it's pretty tough to compare player skill improvement and equipment changes over the years. I think you have to give Marty the nod for best modern era goalie. As for all time...i'm not sure there's ever going to be a definite answer.

DevonO1985: Let's leave it at this it is impossible to compare goalies across eras, the game changes dramatically from era to era. We go from no face masks to increased crease size, to bigger pads, to the trapezoid, and now the NHL is doing anything it can to promote more goals. the game is constantly changing, so how can you compare sawchuk to brodeur, or dryden to hasek, it just doesn't work. Do I think Brodeur is the best goalie of his era, yes i do, he has been consistent throughout his career and has carried a normally minimal offensive team on his back. But to compare him to the likes of Hall, Hainsworth, and Sawchuk is ridiculous.

The best we can do is compare him to Roy and Hasek, and yes, I do think he is a better goalie then both of them. He has matched up to them on significantly less dominant teams, though I will give credit to Hasek as he dominated on a Sabres team that was so-so for most of his career. Let's just leave it at the fact that all the goalies that come up in this discussion are undoubtedly great and will all, if they have not already, find themselves in the hall of fame, which is the greatest honor they can hope to obtain. I personally am in awe of all the accomplishments and entertainment they have brought to all of us and look forward to see who the next great goalie will be.

My take: The last two postings pretty much say it all. There is no definite answer to this question. Obviously, because I'm 36 years old, Roy, Brodeur and Hasek dominate my thoughts. But I also know that Dryden, Tony Esposito and Bernie Parent were the studs in the 1970s. Grant Fuhr was the game's best money goalie in the 1980s. We mentioned the great Terry Sawchuk above, but let us not forget Glenn Hall or Jacques Plante, the latter whom many an old-time NHL writer believes was actually the best goalie ever. Ah ... the debate will never end. And I see that Steve Mason is off to a pretty good start in his career ...

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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