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.