Is Hasek the Best Goalie Ever?

With Martin Brodeur matching and soon passing Patrick Roy for the most wins by a goalie in the history of the NHL there has been a lot of discussion of who was the best goalie ever. Is it Patrick Roy or is it Martin Brodeur? Out of those two goalies, I think the edge probably still lies with Patrick Roy for a number of reasons that I won’t go into right now. What I want to discuss is Dominik Hasek and how he is probably a better goalie than either Roy or Brodeur.

Hasek is an interesting case and most people will immediately dismiss him because he didn’t win multiple Stanley Cups, and isn’t even close to the leaders in career wins (he is 10th with 389 trailing Roy and Brodeur’s 551). But here is where things we get into the question of how much do we reward players for longevity. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur were great goalies for a longer time span than Hasek, but there is probably little argument that Hasek was easily the best goalie in the NHL from 1993-94 to 2000-2002. During that 9 year span he won two Hart Trophy’s as the league MVP and six Vezina trophies as the NHL’s best goalie. He led the league in save percentage for 6 straight years from 1993-94 to 1998-99 and in many of those seasons the runner up wasn’t even close.

Dominik Hasek is the all time leader in career save percentage with a .9223 save. Second place is Roberto Luongo at .9188 and Brodeur and Roy are at .9136 and .9102 respectively. But what makes Hasek’s numbers really special is that he did it on some Buffalo teams that were hardly star laden. In 1996-97 he played 67 games and posted a 37-20-10 record witha n outstanding .930 save percentage on a team whose top 10 scorers were Derek Plante, Brian Holzinger, Donald Audette, Michael Peca, Jason Dawe, Dixon Ward, Matthew Barnaby, Garry Galley, Micheal Grosek and Alexei Zhitnik. That is hardly the kind of talent that Brodeur and certainly Roy have played behind.

So the question is, should we penalize Hasek because he started his career late, partly because he is from the Czech Republic and came to North America late (he was 26 when he came to North America) and late in his career he suffered from injuries? I guess the answer is yes, longevity should count for something, but in Hasek’s case he has played 735 games, which puts him 18th on the list of most games played by goalies. I think that is good enough for you to not penalize him very much for longevity.

The last remaining question is, how much should we value career wins and Stanley Cup wins and playoff success in general. Here is where Hasek really trails Roy and Brodeur but is it really fair to Hasek that he didn’t play on some of the all-star laden squads that Roy and Brodeur played on? I say no. He should not be. We should evaluate goalies solely on what they do, not what the teams they play on achieve. Hasek doesn’t have the same playoff team success as either Brodeur or Roy but he has a better playoff save percentage than either Brodeur or Roy. Hasek also has an Olympic gold which he played a major role posting a minuscule 0.98 goals against average and an outstanding .961 save percentage.

I can’t say that Hasek is the best goalie ever because I have a hard time evaluating goalies before I started following hockey in a serious way in the mid 1980’s. But, I will say that Hasek is by far the best goalie I have ever seen. Better than Roy. Better than Brodeur.

This article has 19 Comments

  1. Let’s not forget that Roy and Brodeur may share the record for most career wins, but also stand 10th and 14th for career losses, respectively. If you play a lot, you’re going to win (and lose) a lot, just by virtue of showing up.

    If a fleet of alien warships arrived in orbit and beamed down a hockey team to play one game against Earth’s best players (all magically restored to their prime) with the fate of the world at stake, who do you want in net — the goalie with the most career wins or the one with the highest career save percentage? I’ll take the latter, i.e., Hasek. (But I want Gilles Gratton as my backup, if only because he was so eccentric that it wouldn’t surprise me if he could speak to the aliens in their own language and talk them out of the whole thing.)

  2. With the fate of the world riding on the game? No way I’d take Hasek for fear of one of his equipment-throwing temper tantrums because somebody breathed on him from 15 feet away. I always cheered against Roy, but I think I’d have to pick him just because he’d have the mentality of “there’s no way some alien is going to score on me tonight.”

  3. In your alien scenario, sort off a sudden death playoff type game, I would lean towards Roy. He performed and produced better in the playoffs, than the other two candidates.

    Plus I think he is more alien.

  4. These are always hard judgements. I was lucky enough to be able to watch Hasek in his prime years, and would state without doubt he was the best goalie I have ever seen. However, his “prime” years were shorter than Roy and Brodeur’s. As you pointed out, these other goalies had much better teams in front of them. Particularly Brodeur…who’s absence this year proved that a the NJ team, a combination of the right system and the right players…can succeed without him. In the end, though, it is truly impossible to “rank” goaltenders #1 to 5. I would say that these 3 gentleman are certainly in the top 5 goaltenders of the last 25 years…probably top 3, since I can’t think of who else I would even place in the same level over the last 25 years….there’s a challange, who would round out the top 5 of the last 25 years? Perhaps Luongo should be in there?

  5. Luongo deserves some consideration but he doesn’t yet have the longevity to be a fair comparison. Belfour probably deserves a lot of consideration to be in the top 5. He is third in all time wins. Curtis Joseph is fourth in all time wins as well so he probably deserves some consideration too but I am not sure he is that good. Belfour lead the league in save percentage twice, CuJo once. Belfour won the Vezina twice, Joseph hasn’t won it.

    I think the top four goalies over the past 25 years are Hasek, Roy, Brodeur, Belfour and in 5 years you will probably be able to tack Luongo on as the 5th and then we can argue all we want about the order they should be in.

  6. I love how it’s said that Hasek had a dearth of talent all the years he toiled for the under skilled Sabres. Take a look at the point totals and the superstars Brodeur had in front of him padding the stats. Also remember this is a franchise that has never produced a 100 point player so every goal scored was earned and defended. The product of a system is nothing more than what necessity dictated; they had no one to put the puck in the net. Maybe they should be applauded for getting the most out of what they had. Also remember of Brodeur’s 552 wins well over 200 were by one goal, there is something to be said of the last line of defense and the confidence the team plays with defending a one goal lead, they rarely need more. Hasek, while a totally intimidating force for a short period of time was too injury prone and often a side show. Roy quit on his team ’nuff said, it was always about Roy first. I’ll take Brodeur. Consistency: winning at least 35 games each of the last eleven seasons as well as being the only goalie in NHL history with seven 40-win seasons. Reliability: good teams build from the pipes out. Oh yeah, he also owns the record for the most wins in a regular season with 48, toss in 100 SO’s three full years left on his contract, he’ll be writing the record book for years to come. What else do you want him to do. If Luongo is the heir apparent, good luck. Hall’s consective games and Brodeurs as yet to be completed records will stand a greater test of time than Luongo.

  7. I love how it’s said that Hasek had a dearth of talent all the years he toiled for the under skilled Sabres. Take a look at the point totals and the superstars Brodeur had in front of him padding the stats. Also remember this is a franchise that has never produced a 100 point player so every goal scored was earned and defended.

    The number of 100 point producers a franchise has developed is not a good indication of team offense. There were a number of years where New Jersey was right up there with the most offensive teams in the league. In 2000-2001 they were the top scoring team in the NHL and in 1998-99, 1999-2000 and 1993-94 they scored the second most goals. There were a few lean years before and just after the lockout but most of the time they were middle of the pack or better. This year they are 9th in NHL scoring so overall it is pretty misleading to suggest that the Devils have been offensively inept most of the time Brodeur was there and their defense was generally stellar so it is a good combination for Brodeur. In general Brodeur probably had more offensive support than Hasek throughout their careers.

  8. You could throw another factor into the mix: puck-handling ability. Here is where Roy and Hasek quickly fade away and Brodeur strides miles ahead.

  9. Turco can stick handle too, its just something I shrug off, great that you can do it, but no big deal to me.

  10. Personally, I evaluate players on their peak performance and their ability to keep up this performance for at least 5-8 years. So to me, I’d take Hasek at his peak over the other two any day of the week. This is based on watching him play, though if u look at his ridiculously high save percentages through out his best years, it also furthers the case for him as the best in the last 20 years…I won’t go back any further than that…

  11. Picking 100 points as the arbitrary point production plateau is a bit of a joke when it comes to discussing New Jersey’s offense also.

    In their 2000-01 season, Patrik Elias produced 96 points, Mogilny had 83 points, Sykora had 81 points, Gomez had 63 points, Arnott had 55 points in 54 games. Seriously, how can one argue that that team lacked offensive firepower?

    The funny thing is, Marty lost that year to
    Patrick Roy in the finals.

    Hasek was superior to both in his prime… but Patrick did an amazing thing as a rookie, and frankly I don’t know how you can compare the careers of all three of them given all the differences amongst the teams they played for.

  12. I have Hasek as the best in the era I watched, too. Wins, and even GAA are TEAM stats. As far as aliens – Patrick could throw a fit as good as anyone. Miro Satan lead the Sabres in scoring in 97 or 98 (check it on hockeydb), with 46 points! that is terrible support, and the Sabres missed the playoffs for 3 seasons after Dom left.

    I always look at arguments like this one in the light of Hart voting – which guy meant more to his team? Buffalo was an AHL team without Dom, they nearly won a cup, and were big contenders with him. Marty and Roy had enormous support in NJ and Colorado (let’s say Ozzie is 3rd best alltime if we wanna go with team success!) Roy did truly have a couple of amazing runs with the Habs, and he did it in a time when goalies weren’t “Dominaters” I have to turn some favor his way for those two runs. Roy’s numbers also suffer a bit from being an 80’s goalie. I still got Dom at number one.

  13. One thing I would add in support of Marty is his puckhandling. His save% never matched Dom’s lofty heights, but he also probably stopped a handful of plays per game from ever even happening… by the way, this has got me thinking about who i would pick for my World vs. Aliens team!! Bowman is my coach!

  14. As far as the Devs not having a 100 point guy. welllll…. they had Buffalo beat all to hell in forwards – but never mind even the forwards… put Stevens and Niedermayer in front of Hasek!! your whole team might only need to score 100 goals all year!!

  15. I am a Habs fan and if you just look at stats, then Ken Dryden was the best goalie of all time. Six cups in the eight years he played. The guy only twice never won the cup! 258 wins and only 57 losses, in eight years! He did an even more amazing thing in his rookie year by beating the big bad Bruins who had just broken every record possible in his rookie year. And still, after all of that, I still pick Hasek as the best goalie of all time, hands down.
    Many people forget that with Roy, he had many years of mediocre success with the Habs. Between 1943 to last year, the Habs had only ever lost five times to the Bruins in the playoffs and all five were with Patrick Roy in net. Don’t get me wrong, for several years the Bruins deserved to win but I remember several weak goals Roy let in when Montreal was trying to mount a comeback that killed the team. And Brodeur is Brodeur, great, steady and until last year almost indestructible, but not in the same league as Hasek.
    Hasek made goaltending into a science. He played the odds and was always positioned perfectly. A typical play with him is him crouched absolutely ready in net. His focus was unflappable and it didn’t matter what or who they put in front of him. If he was screened, he took away the bottom of the net, the high probability areas where a shot might come. If the play evolved and a guy would try to go around him he would twist around on the ice with his slinky spine and follow the play at impossible angles, trying to get his body, mask and pads in front of the shot when it came. What looked like flailing around on the ice was incredible well choreographed positioning that always reduced the chance of anyone scoring. Hasek was simple never out of the play.
    When Roy and Brodeur were in their primes, Hasek had far better statistics and beat them out on every major trophy. So because he started late and played for a poor team does not mean people should turn a blind eye and say Brodeur’s the best because he won more games. Brodeur doesn’t even crack my top five.

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