One of the most incredible stories of the 2018-19 NHL season has been the emergence of goalie Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers. Not because a rookie is helping a team resurrect its season -- I mean, Jordan Binnington is basically doing the same thing in St. Louis -- but because Hart is doing this in Philadelphia, a black hole that swallows up goaltenders like the Hellmouth in Sunnydale.
It's not just that Hart has propelled the Flyers to within sight of the wild card in the Eastern Conference, as long as they're using some sort of gravitational wave telescope to glimpse it; it's that it appears he might finally be the Franchise Goaltender for whom the Flyers have been searching for roughly three decades. In fact, one could argue he's already better than the vast number of goaltenders Philadelphia has skated out to the crease through the years ... before they skate back to the bench after they're lit up.
So, we decided to test that theory.
Here's a ranking of every Philadelphia Flyers goaltender ... ever. Please keep in mind that we're only judging these goalies' time with the Flyers, and not their overall careers. We decided to make the cut-off 16 games, which is the extent of the Carter Hart Era as of this writing. So first, please pour some Wawa raspberry iced tea out for the many, the proud, the honorable mentions who fell short of that minimum:
Alex Lyon, Calvin Pickard, Rob Zepp, Bruce Hoffort, Gary Inness, Wendell Young, Robbie Moore, Frederic Chabot, Don McLeod, Michel Larocque, Neil Little, Maxime Ouellet, Johan Backlund, Marc D'Amour, Jeremy Duchesne, Cal Heeter, Martin Houle, Mike McKenna, Jerome Mrazek, Jean-Marc Pelletier and the impossibly named Dunc Wilson.
And now, here is the definitive ranking of Flyers goalies before Hart's inevitable rise to No. 1. Stats are via the incredible Hockey Reference. Enjoy!
38. Stephane Beauregard (1992-93): Best remembered for being a hockey card I'd regret getting with the Winnipeg Jets, Beauregard was 3-9-0 with a .854 save percentage and a 4.41 GAA in 16 games for the Flyers. That's a minus-12.39 goals saved above average, folks!
37. Petr Mrazek (2017-18): It's never a good thing when the goalie a team acquires to stabilize its injury-riddled netminding corps manages to make it even less stable with a putrid .297 quality starts percentage in 17 games.
36. Bobby Taylor (1971-76): An AHL player who made a series of cameo appearances over the course of five years. His longest run was 23 games in 1972-73 when he had a .888 save percentage.
35. Mark LaForest (1987-89): Couldn't see LaForest through the threes ... like that .873 save percentage and that 3.91 goals-against average.
34. Anthony Stolarz (2016-present): The anti-Carter Hart: a player who jumped up from the AHL and made the team worse.
33. Tommy Soderstrom (1992-94): An 11th-round draft pick (!) who managed to make the NHL for five inconsistent seasons. He followed an OK rookie campaign with a 34-game 1993-94 that saw him post a minus-26.71 goals above average.
32. Michel Belhumeur (1972-73): He played 23 games and finished 9-7-3 (.903 save percentage) with an 85-point team, which was promising ... but not promising enough to keep him out of the 1974 expansion draft, as he was claimed by the Washington Capitals. There, he went [checks notes] [checks them again] [allows slacked jaw to hit the table] 0-24-3 in their 8-67-5 debut season.
31. Rick St. Croix (1977-82): He had a .886 save percentage in 82 games over six years for the Flyers. Arguably their best goalie whose name also sounds like a flavored seltzer. (Second place: Rob Zepp.)
30. Garth Snow (1995-97): The 30th-best goalie in Flyers history, but at least the second-best goalie who would become an NHL general manager.
29. Sean Burke (1997-98, 2003-04): During one of the weirder careers of the past 30 years -- from phenom to Whaler to journeyman -- Burke had two tours of duty with the Flyers, neither of them good: he had a total record of 13-8-2 with a .911 save percentage in 26 games.
28. Phil Myre (1979-81): A longtime goalie for the Atlanta Flames (RIP) and a pretty subpar one for the Flyers (.872 save percentage). No need to wallow in this Myre.
27. Glenn Resch (1985-87): Chico! He spent the last two years of his eclectic NHL career with the Flyers, posting a .900 save percentage in 22 games before retiring for a life of awkward asides about arena sausages during the action as a Devils announcer.
26. Ray Emery (2009-10, 2013-15): The late NHL netminder was a beloved figure in Philly sports, and the feeling was mutual, but he didn't have his most effective seasons with the Flyers (35-34-10, .901 save percentage). His last NHL season, at age 32, was spent in orange and black.
25. Darren Jensen (1984-86): The Flyers were the only NHL stop for Jensen, who posted a 15-10-1 record with a .879 save percentage in 30 games. Despite that, he earned a share of the Jennings Trophy in 1985-86 before finishing the decade in the minors.
24. Ilya Bryzgalov (2011-13): [Bryz Voice] "THERE ARE ONLY THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD FEAR IN ALL OF LIFE. BEARS. THE VASTNESS OF THE UNIVERSE. AND SIGNING 31-YEAR-OLD GOALIES TO NINE-YEAR CONTRACTS BECAUSE THEY'LL GO 52-33-10 WITH A .905 SAVE PERCENTAGE AND YOU BUY THEM OUT TWO YEARS LATER." [/Bryz Voice]
23. Jeff Hackett (2003-04): The Flyers were the last stop in the journeyman's NHL career, as he spent 27 games with Philly and posted a .905 save percentage. There have been worse.
22. Brian Elliott (2017-19): An entirely competent and average goalie whose 57-game Flyers career has been undercut by injuries. He's 29-18-7 with a .909 save percentage.
21. Michal Neuvirth (2015-19): The Flyers have had a lot of Michal Neuvirths through the years: Goalies who are a 1-A at best, a semi-competent backup at worst. He had a couple of decent seasons sandwiched around a horrendous one in 2016-17 (minus-13.29 goals saved above average), but mostly injuries have defined his legacy.
20. Michael Leighton (2006-07, 2009-13): Infamous for playing nearly half as many playoff games for the Flyers (16) as he played regular-season games (33), and for being the guy who gave up that overtime Stanley Cup-winning goal to Patrick Kane in 2010. Wasn't terrible, outside of that.
19. Bruce Gamble (1970-72): In the infinite oddness of Flyers goaltending, Gamble's story ranks up there: After playing 35 (mainly lackluster) games with Philadelphia, it was discovered that he had a heart attack during a Feb. 8, 1972, game and his NHL career was over. He passed away in 1982 after another heart attack following a practice with his beer league team.
18. Carter Hart (2019): Here are the facts: Hart is 10-5-1 with a .925 save percentage, a 2.48 goals-against average and a plus-8.78 goals saved above average. He's answered the hype and sparked the team's comeback in the Eastern Conference wild-card race. As you can see from the names behind him, it's not completely outlandish that the 20-year-old novice is one of the top 18 goalies in franchise history already. If only because he hasn't played enough in Philadelphia to prove otherwise.
17. Dominic Roussel (1991-95): The epitome of "just ... there." Had one season as a starter and the next season Ron Hextall was back.
16. Antero Niittymaki (2003-04, 2005-09): He spent 161 games in Philadelphia as that backup goalie who has two good weeks and then everyone wonders if he should be the starter, and then, nope, wait, he's very much not good enough to be one. This happened at least a half-dozen times as a Flyer. His only year as a full-fledged starter (2006-07) saw him post a minus-17.51 goals saved above replacement in 52 games on a Ken Hitchcock team, no less.
15. Robert Esche (2002-07): I just remember Esche looking enormous in goal for some reason. Two good seasons, including a share of the Jennings Trophy, and two bad seasons, and then off to Russia.
14. Sergei Bobrovsky (2010-12): Hey, remember how we were going to only judge these goalies by their time with the Flyers? Well, technically we're doing that here, because 42-23-10 in 83 games with a .909 save percentage -- and that .848 playoff save percentage, yuck -- are no great shakes. But it's impossible here not to acknowledge the juxtaposition between what he'd become with Columbus and whatever this was in Philly.
13. John Vanbiesbrouck (1998-2000): It's said that timing is everything in goaltending. Getting Beezer well past his prime is a good example: a .904 save percentage in 112 games, although he did have one good playoff series in defeat in 1999.
12. Brian Boucher (1999-02, 2009-11, 2012-13): Yes, that's three different tours of duty with the Flyers. We'll give Tour 1, including a dynamic rookie season, a 'B-plus.' We'll give Tour 2, which lasted 67 games and included their run to the Stanley Cup Final, a 'B.' We'll give Tour 3, just four games with the Flyers after a desperation trade and the rest in the AHL, a 'D.'
11. Ken Wregget (1988-92): Prior to winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins, Wregget was the Flyers' starter in 1989-90 (a great season with a plus-16.43 goals saved above average) and a capable backup the rest of his 107 games in Philly. Great mustache, too.
10. Wayne Stephenson (1975-79): Best known for taking the reins from Bernie Parent in 1975-76 after Parent's preseason neck injury. Otherwise, he was Parent's backup, and an OK one at that.
9. Steve Mason (2012-17): Mason resurrected his career in Philly, full-stop. He played 231 games and posted a 104-78-36 record with a .918 save percentage. In four full seasons, he was outstanding in two of them, OK in one of them and terrible in his last year. But that adds up to one of the best, and most underappreciated, runs for a Flyers goalie, even with the occasional "indescribably bad goal."
8. Martin Biron (2007-09): The dreamiest eyes in NHL goaltending history and one of the best three-season goalie runs in Flyers history; he went 65-47-16 with a .915 save percentage. That included a plus-16.42 goals saved above average in 62 games during 2007-08. The playoffs were another story, as he gave up a postseason-high 52 goals in 17 games during the 2008 run.
7. Pete Peeters (1978-82, 1989-91): Peeters had an 85-57-20 record with the Flyers. His .888 save percentage wasn't great, but he put together two tremendous seasons out of his first three, finishing third in the 1980 Calder voting. He wasn't atrocious, either, in his return to Philly in his final two NHL seasons. Great chant-able name, too: "PEEEEEE-TERRRRS."
6. Roman Cechmanek (2001-03): The Evgeni Nabokov of the Flyers. His regular-season numbers were stellar: 92-43-22, .923 save percentage (well above average) and a 1.96 GAA in his 163 games as a Flyer. He even earned a share of the Jennings Trophy in 2002-03. But in the playoffs, he was 9-15 with a .909 save percentage, and every time he attempted to play the puck, they could have piped in circus music through the arena speakers.
5. Bob Froese (1982-86): Having a goalie whose name sounds like "froze" was always amazing to me as a child. "He Froese the puck," and all of that. Anyhoo, he was simply one of the most effective goalies in Flyers history when given the chance, with a .899 save percentage (in the 1980s, remember) and a 92-29-12 record. He led the league with 31 wins and a .909 save percentage in 1985-86 and finished second for the Vezina. He was traded for Kjell Samuelsson of the Rangers and faded into his 30s. Basically Cechmanek before there was a Chechmanek.
4. Doug Favell (1967-73): He's fourth in games played for Philly goalies (215) and had a pretty outstanding run on some not-very-outstanding teams, especially in his last two seasons when he had around a .916 save percentage in both. Would be best remembered for missing most of the 1969-70 season with a dressing-room injury were it not for the fact that he was the guy they traded for Bernie Parent.
3. Pelle Lindbergh (1981-86): One of the most tragic "what-ifs" in hockey history. Lindbergh was 26 when he died in a car accident on Nov. 10, 1985. He was also coming off a career-redefining season: a Vezina Trophy, third for the Hart and a goals saved above average of plus-47.41 in 65 games. With two outstanding years out of three, that's enough to validate his standing on this ranking.
2. Ron Hextall (1986-92, 1994-99): A Philadelphia legend, if not a Hockey Hall of Fame immortal. 240 wins, a Vezina and a Conn Smythe as a rookie in 1987 (losing the Calder to Luc Robitaille) and several seasons where he exceeded the play of the team around him. Also, he would hit guys in the face with his goalie stick. Would have probably won a mayoral election were it not for the presumed citizenship requirements.
1. Bernie Parent (1967-71, 1973-79): What are the greatest moments in Flyers history? Back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. Who won the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe in both of those seasons en route to 231 wins with Philly in a Hall of Fame career? This guy. Clearly the best goalie in Flyers history, or as he's known around here, "keeping the seat warm for Carter Hart."
Best Player In The World Of The Week
We're moving this feature from Tuesday into the Friday column beginning this week. For the uninformed, it's the spot where we celebrate one pro, college, youth or beer league player for having the best week out of every hockey player in the world.
And the best player in the world of the week is ...
Adrian Kempe of the Los Angeles Kings. As reader Billy T. notes: "Yeah, his season has been bad, Kings have been bad, and before the back to back wins Monday and Tuesday against the Rangers and Devils, he had just 5 goals and 13 points in 50 games." In his past three games, Kempe has four goals and an assist, after failing to score a goal since Dec. 11.
Oh, and he's got that flow:
Congrats to Adrian Kempe for being the best player in the world of the week!
Listen to ESPN on Ice
The Auston Matthews signing was the biggest news of the week, and we had Sportsnet insider Chris Johnson on to break it all down. Plus, CWHL commissioner and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford joins us to talk about a great many things (in an interview you can read here). Stream the podcast here and catch it on iTunes here.
I feel for Mitch Marner.
First, Auston Matthews decides to take a five-year deal at an average annual value of 14.6 percent of the current salary cap rather than swinging for the fences on an eight-year deal like most of his peers have. Great for Auston, who will be able to sign that blockbuster, UFA-years-gobbling contract after six seasons. Bad for Mitch, who certainly can't get that max deal, who saw the ceiling for his average annual value lowered by Matthews' contract and who watched his agent go off on the inequity of that contract and then have to walk back his comments with the backward dexterity of Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk at Motown 25.
But John Tavares got paid and Matthews got paid and even William Nylander got paid after staring down the Leafs for months, and now it feels like Marner's the guy who'll need to be a team player and take a short-term contract with a smaller cap hit for the betterment of the Leafs. Yet all he's doing this season is leading them in scoring.
Frankly, it's the curse of the nice guy, which Marner unfailingly is. He's a charming goofball who looks like he should be on the cover of Canadian Tiger Beat magazine. His agent thinks he should get Matthews money and his father probably thinks he should get more, but Mitch is just happy to play hockey, happy to be a Leaf, happy to do commercials, happy to get hugs from the mascot. Even if he got an offer sheet, he probably wouldn't sign it, because that would be mean.
He'll eventually break the bank after a few more years of riding shotgun for Tavares. But for now, he's taking a discount, no matter what his agent says. He's too nice not to.
The Week in Gritty
The NHL dispatched some of its mascots to Washington, D.C., this week for the Congressional Hockey Challenge, including our sentient orange mop from Philadelphia. He was the belle of this ball, taking pictures with assorted Congress people, accepting a marriage proposal from a local television reporter and remaining vigilant against Penguins fans:
Really, really thought that was a noose and very, very glad it wasn't.
Meanwhile, Gritty made an appearance at Stephen Colbert's Super Bowl party, where he ran into his old friend Sir Patrick Stewart:
Starting the campaign: Gritty for "Beast" in the next "X-Men" reboot.
From the NHL comes this Patriots Foul:
We agree with reader Chris: What is up with the colors and lettering on the sweaters the NHL handed out to the Patriots? Like, they already ruined the Super Bowl, now it's on to hockey jerseys?
Peter Forsberg warns Elias Pettersson not to rest on his accomplishments after his first season.
The harrowing story of a beer league player who nearly died on the ice and the doctor who saved him.
Ex-Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho took a tumble in the KHL.
The U.S. Park Police used a helicopter to chase hockey players off the reflecting pool in Washington, D.C.
A good look at Brian Boyle's legacy in New Jersey.
Tom Brady wants his daughter to play hockey. Gisele is ... less than enthused.
Five destinations for Artemi Panarin ($). If we're Nashville, we're making this happen, but not at the cost of Eeli Tolvanen. The Predators need a second dangerous line to win the West. Panarin gives them one.
Finally, the real wild-card standings. The West is a joke this season.
Updated Western Conference wild card race standings pic.twitter.com/G0z4l1L9f1— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 8, 2019
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn't read)
Bigger, Stronger, Faster: Women's hockey outgrowing its dependence on the men's game
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN
One big trade deadline question for all 31 teams.