There are several things that impact a team's success in the National Hockey League. Forwards obviously play a critical role in scoring, defenseman keep the opposition at bay, and the two need to chip in with each other's primary roles in order for a team to flourish. However, no one is under more pressure than the goaltender.
In the famous words of Don Cherry, "a good goalie can make a bad team good, but a bad goalie can make a good team bad". You see it all the time. A team outplays another in dominant fashion, but the dominant team has poor goaltending and the other netminder won't let anything by him. In so many cases, the team with the best goalie wins. Just look at these 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs. Yes, the Vegas Golden Knights have played incredibly well, but the superior goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury has carried them all the way to the finals against all expectations. On the other hand, teams with the worst goalie stats in the playoffs (Philly, Toronto, Colorado, Anaheim), were all ousted in the first round. And while it's tough to win while playing against a good goalie, it's almost impossible to do so when you've got a bad one in your crease.
That's the case with the teams outlined below. Some weren't all that bad, and some were even in the top third of the league that year in scoring. But their inferior goaltender dragged them down into the basement of the league. So with that we present the three worst starting goalies in the NHL each year since the 2009-10 campaign.
27 Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, 2016-17
Cam Ward has long been ‘the guy’ in Carolina. In his very first NHL season in 2005-06, he was called upon to replace starter Martin Gerber early in the playoffs after Gerber faltered, and the rest is history. The now 34-year-old led the Hurricanes to their first ever Stanley Cup, becoming the first rookie goalie to lead his team to the Cup since Patrick Roy in 1986. He also won the Conn Smith Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs, the first rookie goalie to do so since 1987.
Since then Ward has essentially been their starter every year, but not a lot of success had been found by the team. They only made the playoffs once in 2009 since that cup, and Ward has never quite returned to that 2006 form.
One of his worst years came in 2016-17, when the Saskatoon native started 61 games for the Hurricanes. He finished with a record of 26-22-12, and had a goals against average (GAA) of 2.69 and a .905 save percentage. While those numbers aren’t terrible, they were the worst in both categories for goalies who played 60+ games (13), and he was 4th in the league in goals against with 162.
26 Cristobal Huet, Chicago Blackhawks, 2009-10
Sporting the best goals against average of anyone on this list is Cristobal Huet, who played his last NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009-10. After beginning his career with the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Kings, the Frenchman was essentially Montreal’s 1A goaltender for three seasons (splitting time with the likes of Jose Theodore, David Aebischer and Carey Price), before heading to Chicago after a brief stint with Washington.
While many people remember Antti Niemi backstopping the Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in 2010, many forget that Huet was actually their starter heading into the season and played 48 games for them.
While his GAA was respectable at 2.50, his save percentage left something to be desired, sitting with the worst among goalies who played over 40 games at .895.
His record of 26-14-4 was good, but was definitely more indicative of the team in front of him than his actual play. As the season wore on, it became clear that Niemi was the better choice for the stretch run, as he ended up earning the same number of wins in eleven fewer starts (26-7-4). Huet would only play one period of playoff hockey that spring as his Finnish counterpart posted a 16-6 record and the Hawks won the cup.
25 Cam Talbot, Edmonton Oilers, 2017-18
Another member of the list who isn’t completely to blame, Cam Talbot had the second highest workload in a single season out of anyone on the list with 67 games played in 2017-18. That number tied for the league lead during the season with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, but the Jets netminder finished with a record of 44-11-9 while Talbot ended at 31-31-3.
Though he did play a ton that year, Talbot’s numbers simply weren’t good enough for a number one. After playing 73 games last season with a 2.39 goals against average, he had just a 3.02 average this past year. The Oilers did struggle to score, sitting 20th in goals for per game (2.79), and that along with the 5th worst goals allowed per game (3.20) led them to a stunningly poor year after reaching the Conference Semi-Finals in 2017.
Talbot allowed the most goals in the league among all goalies with 188.
After serving as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist for a few seasons in New York, Talbot came over to Edmonton for the 2015-16 season, instantly becoming their starter. His numbers took a drastic dip in 2017-18 compared to his first two years with the Oil, and a lighter workload will probably need to be on tap next year if he’s to return to form. Laurent Brossoit and Al Montoya combined for fifteen starts and just five wins as Talbot’s back-ups last year, so Edmonton will need to do a better job solidifying that position if Talbot is to return to top form.
24 Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers, 2012-13
After goalie problems persisted for the Philadelphia Flyers for what seemed like forever, GM Paul Holmgren made some bold moves in June of 2011 to try and rectify the issue. Holmgren signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract, and traded captain Mike Richards and star forward Jeff Carter away in order to accommodate the cap hit from the Russian netminder.
Despite the investment in shoring up the position, Bryzgalov never turned into the player Philly was looking for. He wasn’t terrible in his first season with team, winning 33 games and posting respectable numbers (2.48 GAA, .909 SP), but floundered in the playoffs with 37 goals against in 11 games.
Things got much worse in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, as the now retired Bryzgalov had the worst save percentage (.900) of any goalie who played 40+ games (the season was only 48 games), and Philadelphia failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007. On June 25th, 2013 the Flyers bought out the remaining seven years on Brygalov’s contract, essentially paying him $23 million to not play for them.
Since the buyout with Philadelphia, the soon-to-be 38-year-old had short stints in Edmonton, Minnesota and a return to his first NHL team, the Anaheim Ducks, before essentially retiring. Most recently, he can be found trolling Flyers fans after they had more goaltending struggles in this year's playoffs.
23 Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers, 2013-14
Tim Thomas was a journeyman goalie who played in numerous leagues throughout his career before finally sticking in the NHL with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 season. After earning the starters job in 06-07, Thomas never relinquished it and ultimately led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011, winning the Conn Smith Trophy as playoff MVP as well as the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. After being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in the 11-12 season, Thomas opted to sit out for the following year.
After taking the year off, he made a return to the league with Florida at 39 years of age for the 2013-14 season. The Flint, Michigan native had a sub-par year by his standards, posting a 2.88 GAA, .908 save percentage and just 18 wins in 48 games played. With the Panthers sufficiently out of the playoff race (and Roberto Luongo being acquired from Vancouver), Thomas was traded to Dallas at the trade deadline to serve as the backup to Kari Lehtonen.
In addition to his relatively poor play, Thomas didn’t have much help as Florida scored the 2nd fewest goals in the league, and backups Jacob Markstrom and Scott Clemmensen earned just seven combined wins in 23 starts as the team had the 2nd most goals allowed as well. Fittingly, they finished 2nd last in the league with 66 points.
22 Mike Condon, Montreal Canadiens, 2015-16
The amount that the Montreal Canadiens relied on Carey Price was on full display during the 2015-16 season. After going down on November 25th in what turned out to be a knee injury, the Vezina Trophy winner from the previous season was out for the rest of the year. The injury required them to turn to the undrafted Mike Condon, who had played his first NHL game just a month prior.
Given the circumstances, the now 28-year-old didn’t play terribly, but it wasn’t good enough for a team that was so used to relying heavily on one of the world’s best goaltenders.
Condon sported a .903 save percentage, the worst among goalies who played 40+ games, and appeared in a whopping 55 games (with 51 starts) in his first year in the league. He finished with a record of 21-25-6, as Montreal missed the playoffs with the NHL’s 21st best record.
At the beginning of the next season, the native of Holliston, Massachusetts was claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh (playing a whopping one period of hockey for the team) before being traded to Ottawa. He was solid for the Senators, posting 19 wins in 40 games while starter Craig Anderson dealt with personal issues.
21 Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders, 2017-18
Slovakia native Jaroslav Halak made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens during the 2006-07 season, and by 08-09 found himself playing 34 games for the team as the 1B to franchise goalie Carey Price. The next season he essentially stole the starter’s role from Price down the stretch, posting 26 wins in 45 games before leading the Canadiens to a magical playoff run. Halak stood on his head as the Habs eliminated the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, ultimately being eliminated by Philadelphia in the Conference Final.
After the run, Montreal made the long-term decision to name Price their starter and dealt Halak to St. Louis. After a few years with the Blues and a short stint with the Caps, he was traded to the New York Islanders in May of 2014. After solid showings in his first two years as an Islander, Halak’s play began to decline at the end of 2016, as he was placed on waivers and ultimately sent down to the AHL.
The 17-18 campaign proved to be his worst yet, as the 33-year-old produced just 20 wins in 54 starts.
His 3.19 goals against average was 2nd worst among goalies with 40+ games, and the Islanders season reflected it as they allowed the most goals in the league at 293 (averaging a disastrous 3.57 per game). In addition to Halak, it didn’t help that backup Thomas Greiss had an equally disappointing year, sporting a 3.82 goals against average which was the worst among any goalie with 20+ games.
20 Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets, 2011-12
There were a few different seasons where former Winnipeg Jet Ondrej Pavelec was a candidate to be one of the three worst starters, as the native of Kladno, Czech Republic was long their incumbent number one despite several shaky years. His first full season in the league was among the candidates, as he won just 14 games in 40 starts while splitting time with Johan Hedberg, but Pavelec finds his way onto the list for the 2011-12 season.
In the inaugural season of the new Winnipeg Jets, Pavelec was among the busiest goalies in the league, tied for 5th with 68 games played. Despite technically posting a record above .500 with 29 wins, 28 losses and 9 overtime losses, Pavelec was rather underwhelming for the Jets, recording the worst GAA among goalies with 50+ games at 2.91.
His save percentage was 2nd worst in the same category, and the Jets finished with the 5th worst goals against average in the league and missed the playoffs.
His career after that season was pretty up and down, with a poor 3.01 GAA in 13-14 followed by a career best 2.28 in 14-15 (helping Winnipeg to their first playoff appearance). After losing the starting job to Connor Hellebuyck in 16-17, Pavelec was signed by the New York Rangers as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist for this past season.
19 Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars, 2016-17
Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen was the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, and while he may have not reached the level of play expected of a #2 pick, he has turned into a solid NHL goalie. After spending the first few years of his career with the team that drafted him, the 34-year-old was dealt to the Dallas Stars in 2010 and has been there ever since.
Lehtonen has been decent in his time with the Stars, including cracking the 30-win mark four times, but did have a rather poor showing in 2016-17. Among goalies with 40+ games played, Lehtonen was 2nd worst in save percentage at .902, and his GAA wasn’t much better at 2.85. He won just 22 games in 52 starts, as the team allowed the 2nd most goals in the league and finished 25th in league standings. Adding insult to injury was Lehtonen’s goaltending partner Antti Niemi, who won just 12 of his 30 starts and had the worst GAA (3.30) and save percentage (.892) by a country mile among netminders with 30 or more games under their belt.
In an attempt to shore up the position, Dallas got rid of Niemi in favor of Ben Bishop, relegating Lehtonen to the back-up role. Despite the Stars going from the 2nd worst team in goals against to the 7th best, a late tumble down the standings saw them miss the playoffs once again in 2017-18.
18 Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2015-16
Like many teams on this list, goaltending has been on a longstanding issue for the Toronto Maple Leafs. After dealing with the likes of Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson in previous years, along with some up and down years from James Reimer, the acquisition of LA backup Jonathan Bernier in June of 2013 was supposed to be the answer.
Bernier never ended up being the reliable netminder Toronto sought, as his play consistently declined in three seasons with the Leafs. In his first season he posted respectable numbers with 26 wins, a .923 save percentage and a 2.69 GAA, but by his third year he barely held on to the starter’s job.
In the 2015-16 season Bernier struggled mightily, winning just a third of his starts with 12 in 36 games.
He had the league’s worst GAA among goalies with over 30 games (2.88), and his running mate James Reimer didn’t fare much better. The Leafs ended up allowing the 6th most goals in the league that year, and finished dead last in the standings. After Reimer was traded to San Jose at the deadline, Bernier headed to the Ducks in the summer and the Leafs brought in Frederik Andersen, who has been an upgrade.
17 Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo Sabres, 2014-15
The Buffalo Sabres were accused numerous times of ‘tanking’ during the 2014-15 season, with people believing the team was intentionally losing games in order to secure the 30th spot in the standings and thus the best odds of drafting Connor McDavid 1st overall. They did end up finishing last by a wide margin, with their 54 points being the 3rd worst total since the 2000-01 season (with their 2013-14 showing of 52 points tied for the worst). However, just like in 2014, despite finishing last, they lost the draft lottery and picked 2nd overall.
A big part of that tank job was due to their goaltending, with lifelong backup Jhonas Enroth acting as their starter. Given what was expected of him, and the fact that the Sabres allowed the most shots per game by a wide margin, Enroth actually posted respectable numbers, but certainly not those expected of a number one. He went 18-26-2 in 44 starts, with a 3.07 GAA and a .903 save percentage. In fact, Enroth’s half decent play is what many believe led the Sabres to trading him to Dallas in exchange for fellow goalie Anders Lindback, as they wanted to ensure the last spot in the league. Lindback had posted atrocious numbers with the Stars up to that point in the season at 3.71 and .875.
Both goalies actually played alright after the trade, and Buffalo got themselves that last spot in the standings while allowing the 2nd most goals in the league at 269. However, Edmonton, who ended up with that #1 pick, allowed the most at 276.
16 Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators, 2013-14
Like a few of the goaltenders included on this list, Craig Anderson had a few seasons that could’ve been included. He has had some great years in his career, but has also had some poor showings. For him we landed on the 2013-14 campaign, as he and the Ottawa Senators followed up a second round appearance in the playoffs by missing them altogether in 2014.
Anderson began his NHL career way back in 2002-03 with Chicago, and after seven seasons with the Blackhawks and Florida Panthers, had his first gig as a starter with Colorado in 2009-10 where he had a spectacular season. He then came to Ottawa in 2010-11, and for the most part has been a calming presence in the net for the Senators.
However, the 2013-14 was one of his poorer seasons, as Anderson joined Ondrej Pavelec as one of only two goalies to play more than 40 games and have a GAA above 3.00 that year.
His save percentage was mediocre at .911, but playing for an Ottawa team that was allowing the 2nd most shots per game in the league (34.7), it wasn’t quite good enough. The Senators allowed the 4th most goals in the league with 258 against, and placed 10th in the Eastern Conference.
15 Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, 2017-18
As everyone knows, Carey Price has long been heralded as one of, if not the, greatest goalie in the game. He has a Vezina Trophy win under his belt, and backstopped Canada to an Olympic gold medal at the 2014 Games in Sochi. However, the 2017-18 season was one to forget for the 30-year-old.
Coming off his Vezina winning season in 2014-15, Price played just 12 games the next year as he went down with an injury and the Canadiens struggled. He did manage to come back and play well the following season, posting a 2.23 GAA and 37-20-5 record as Montreal made it back to the playoffs. It was the next season that things became unhinged.
The Vancouver native posted the worst numbers of his career, sporting a 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage that ranked 3rd and 2nd worst respectively among goalies with 40 or more games played.
Price won just 16 games in 48 starts, as Montreal’s offense dried up at the same time that their goaltending was in a state of crisis.
After missing a chunk of games in February and March with a concussion, he controversially returned for 13 more games at the end of the year despite the Habs being firmly out of the playoff race. With their star goalie’s ability and health in question, the Canadiens ultimately finished 4th last in the league with 71 points.
14 Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings, 2016-17
Czech native Petr Mrazek essentially won the starter’s role in Detroit over longtime number one Jimmy Howard during the 2015-16 season, putting up impressive numbers and looking like the future of the Red Wings. He assumed the starter’s job the next season as Howard went down with injury early, but his performance dropped off significantly.
After a 2.33 GAA, .920 save percentage and 27 win season in 49 starts 15-16, the 26-year-old’s numbers dropped to 3.04 and .901, winning just 18 times in 44 starts. Both statistics proved to be the worst in the entire league among goalies with 40 or more games played. Howard ended up posting impressive numbers, including a 2.10 GAA, but only appeared in 26 games. In addition to their poor goaltending (5th most goals allowed), Detroit also was 5th worst in league scoring as they finished in the league’s basement.
It was a big surprise around the league when the Red Wings opted to expose Mrazek in the expansion draft the following summer, as many figured him to be their long-term netminder. It was an even bigger shock when Vegas passed on him to take forward Tomas Nosek, but the Red Wings clearly liked Howard more and he was their clear number one this past season. Mrazek was dealt to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, and ended up playing poorly in both the regular season and playoffs for the Flyers.
13 Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche, 2012-13
After beginning his career with the Washington Capitals in 2008, never firmly grabbing the starting role from the likes of Jose Theodore and Michal Neuvirth, Russian Semyon Varlamov was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in July of 2011 and instantly took over the number one job.
After a solid first year with the team, posting a respectable 26-24-3 record for an Avs lineup that had trouble scoring, the 30-year-old floundered in the shortened 2012-13 campaign. In the 48-game season Varlamov had the worst GAA among goalies with over 30 games played at 3.02, and won just 11 games in 33 starts which was also the lowest among netminders with over 30 starts.
The Avalanche finished at the bottom of the Western Conference, 2nd last in the league, with a record of 16-25-7.
That was the team’s 3rd consecutive year out of the playoffs, but Varlamov played incredibly the following season as the Avs won their division and finished 3rd in the entire league, but ultimately lost in the 1st round of the playoffs to the Minnesota Wild in seven games. Varlamov once again played a major role in 2017-18 as the team returned to the playoffs, despite going down with injury just before the end of the year.
12 Mike Smith, Arizona Coyotes, 2014-15
Since the Phoenix Coyotes underwent new ownership and were renamed the Arizona Coyotes, they have experienced a serious lack of success. After three consecutive years in the playoffs, including a run to the Conference Final in 2012, they missed the post-season in their last two years under the Phoenix name and didn’t fare much better under Arizona.
The team was an unmitigated disaster in 2014-15, and goaltender Mike Smith was at the forefront. Smith and his 62 games tied with Ben Scrivens (57 games) and James Reimer (35 games) for the worst GAA amongst goalies with 30+ appearances, coming in at a dismal 3.16. His record was the ugliest statistic of all, as he went 14-42-5, winning less than a quarter of his starts. In fact, since the turn of the century, only Milan Hnilicka (13 wins in 60 starts during the 01-02 season) has fewer wins amongst any goalie with over 60 games played. Arizona ultimately allowed the 3rd most goals during the year at 267, and finished 2nd last in the standings with 56 points.
After improved performances from Smith during the next two seasons, though Arizona still never made it into the playoffs, he was dealt to Calgary in the summer of 2017 and assumed the starting role. Despite posting solid numbers, the Flames struggled to produce offensively and missed the playoffs by a wide margin.
11 Jeff Deslauriers, Edmonton Oilers, 2009-10
The Edmonton Oilers have had some major struggles since losing game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes, but they didn’t really start their term in the league’s basement until the 2009-10 season. After back-to-back seasons of narrow playoff misses with 88 and 85 points, they plummeted to the bottom of the standings with just 62 points, 12 behind 29th place Toronto.
While both Devan Dubnyk (16) and Nikolai Khabibulin (18) started their fair share of games for the Oilers that year, Jeff Deslauriers was their number one man with 48 games played.
Prior to the year Deslauriers had only played 10 NHL games, and didn’t have an easy time adjusting to life as a full-time starter behind such a disastrous team.
The Oilers allowed the most goals in the league by a margin of fifteen at 278, allowed the third most shots per game at 33.1, and Deslauriers struggled. His 3.26 GAA was 3rd worst among goalies with 30+ games, and his .900 save percentage left something to be desired with the team giving up so many shots. The now 34-year-old native of Quebec managed to win just a third of his games with 16 in 48 starts. He would only play 4 more games in the league after that season before spending time in the AHL, ECHL, KHL and DEL before ultimately calling it quits after the 15-16 campaign.
10 Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers, 2013-14
The Oilers return to the list at #10 with their disastrous 2013-14 season. Devan Dubnyk was one of six goalies who played games for Edmonton that season, playing the most of anyone with 29 starts and 32 total appearances, getting the distinction as their starter (a distinction he’d probably rather avoid).
The Regina native had the worst numbers of any netminder with over 30 games played, sporting a .891 save percentage and 3.43 GAA to finish his last season with the Oilers with just 11 wins. Dubnyk wasn’t entirely to blame, as Edmonton was very weak defensively, but they did finish the year with the most goals allowed and the 3rd worst record.
After playing the majority of Edmonton’s games through the first few months of the season, Dubnyk was dealt to Nashville in January (and then to Montreal in March), ending his career as an Oiler having never met the expectations of a 14th overall pick. However, his career really took off right away the next year, becoming the undisputed starter for Minnesota and earning a nomination for the Vezina Trophy with some of the league’s best numbers at 2.07 and .929. He also won the Bill Masterton Trophy after that season (awarded to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey) for resurrecting his career after looking like he was on his way out of the league just the year prior.
9 Peter Budaj, Colorado Avalanche, 2010-11
The Colorado Avalanche continued their post-lockout seesaw battle with playoff relevance during the 2010-11 season, missing the post-season for the third time in six seasons. After the full season lockout of 04-05 (having never missed the playoffs in their history before it), the Avalanche alternated between making the post-season and missing for six consecutive seasons. Dead last in the Western Conference in 08-09, they managed to sneak into the playoffs the next year, only to fall right back into the basement.
During the 10-11 season they had three different netminders, as Craig Anderson left for Ottawa in exchange for Brian Elliott mid-season. With those two moving around, Peter Budaj was the de facto number one, though Anderson and Elliott (43) actually combined for more starts than Budaj’s 39.
While Budaj’s performance was far from stellar, not all of the blame lands on him, as the other two actually had worse numbers than him while wearing an Av jersey. Budaj ended up third worst in the league in both GAA and save percentage among goalies with 40 or more games played, with numbers of 3.20 and .895, and it didn’t help that Anderson and Elliott had essentially the same save percentage as him (excluding their time in Ottawa) and worse GAA. Elliott’s was actually 3.83 in 12 games, yikes.
Colorado finished the year in 29th overall, only ahead of the lowly Oilers, and allowed an incredible 287 goals against, 25 more than anyone else. They would flounder for two more seasons before making it back to the playoffs in 2014.
8 Brian Elliott, Ottawa Senators, 2010-11
Wouldn’t ya know it, Elliott makes his way onto the list for his starting role with the Senators that same year. While his short time in Colorado produced horrible results, he didn’t fare much better while starting 39 games for the Senators before being traded.
Ottawa actually had six goalies play games for them that year, but Elliott was the only one to appear in more than 20. Excluding his numbers from Colorado, he ended up with the 2nd worst save percentage among goalies with over 40 games played (.894), and the 3rd worst GAA (3.19). Throw in his 12 games for the Avalanche and he went 15-27-9 in 51 starts with a GAA of 3.34.
The Sens didn’t struggle to the extent of Colorado that year, but Elliott was clearly a major liability.
Anderson and Pascal Leclaire, who combined for 31 starts with the team, had much better numbers (combined 2.38 GAA) than Elliott. While the blame in Colorado was fairly evenly spread amongst three goalies, the majority of this one fell on Elliott.
Ottawa ended up 13th in the East, 19 points out of the playoffs, and their 74 points was the franchise’s worst total in the last 14 seasons. A 1-for-1, mid-season goalie trade is a very rare thing, and it’s a clear indication both players needed a fresh start. And while Anderson drastically improved once moving to the Nation’s Capital, Elliott continued to struggle in the Mile High City.
7 Ben Scrivens, Edmonton Oilers, 2014-15
The Edmonton Oilers are back again, as it’s no secret why they’ve had so many struggles recently with such poor goaltending. The 2014-15 campaign follows the trend, as the Oil thought they had two legitimate number one contenders in Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, both of whom they had picked up in trades during the previous year. Things would end up going horribly wrong.
Fasth spend a lot of the year on the IR, playing poorly when he did get action, and Scrivens assumed the starter’s role with 53 starts and 57 total appearances. Scrivens showed some promise the year prior, combining for 40 games between Edmonton and LA with respectable numbers of 2.55 and .922.
However, the next season the workload increased and his game fell off, a tough combination to deal with.
The Spruce Grove, Alberta native was the only goalie with over 40 appearances and a save percentage below .900 (.890), and tied with Mike Smith for the worst GAA at 3.16. Winning just 15 of his 53 starts (28.3%), the Oilers allowed a league-leading 276 goals and finished 28th in the standings. The now 31-year-old has never truly recovered from that debacle of a year, appearing in 15 games for Montreal the next year before moving to the KHL in 2016.
6 Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames, 2012-13
The lockout-shortened 2012-13 season was a continuation of a tough stretch for the Calgary Flames, as after five straight seasons in the playoffs they missed for the fourth straight year. Their offense that year was mediocre, but the true trouble was goaltending, something they hadn’t really had to worry about for the last eight years or so.
Finland’s Miikka Kiprusoff was acquired by the Flames in 2003 for nothing but a conditional draft pick from San Jose, which turned out to be a steal. Later that season Kiprusoff led the Flames to game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, posting incredible numbers of 1.85 and .928 during the 26-game post-season run. After that he shone brightly in Calgary, never getting fewer than 35 wins and breaking the 40-barrier three times through the 11-12 season.
Things fell off the following year, however, in what turned out to be his last season.
The now 41-year-old won just 8 of his 24 starts, and had the worst statistics of anyone goalie with over 20 games with a GAA of 3.44 and save percentage of .881. Comparatively, he hadn’t had a season over 3.00 or .900 since joining Calgary.
He would go down with an injury towards the end of the year, and while Jamie McLennan was better in relief, the Flames allowed the most goals in the West and finished 13th in the conference, out of the playoffs by 13 points in the 48-game season. Kiprusoff announced his retirement prior to the next campaign.
5 Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2011-12
In recent years the Columbus Blue Jackets have turned themselves into a legitimate playoff contender, making the post-season for two consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history. Despite the recent surge, we don’t have to look far to find when things were at rock bottom.
The Jackets actually finished near the bottom of the league in 2015-16, the year before they got back in the playoffs, but the 2011-12 season was when they were really in the league’s basement. After back-to-back last place finishes in the Western Conference in their early days in ’02 and ’03, they returned in 2012.
Steve Mason, who had won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie just a few seasons earlier, was going to be their guy again despite a few lackluster years. However, the rebound Columbus had hoped for Mason never came, as he went 16-26-3 with a 3.39 GAA and .894 save percentage. These struggles led to career back-up Curtis Sanford playing the most games of his career, and the fact that the veteran who had spent the majority of his career in the minors outplayed the man thought to be the franchise number one was very telling.
Columbus finished dead last, nine points behind Edmonton, putting together just 29 wins in 82 games.
The league’s 3rd worst defense and 5th worst offence was a catastrophic combination, and Mason’s time with the team was short-lived. Sergei Bobrovsky took over the starting job from him the next season, and he was dealt to Philadelphia in April.
4 Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers, 2010-11
The Oilers are back for an incredible 5th time in the list, with their 2010-11 season being yet another debacle.
After dealing with season-ending surgery during his first year in Edmonton, playing just 18 games, Russian netminder Nikolai Khabibulin was expected to bring a calming, veteran presence to the Oiler' net after their disastrous 09-10 campaign. Things didn’t turn out that way.
The 2004 Stanley Cup champion won just 10 of his 46 starts, and had the worst numbers of any goalie with 30 or more games at 3.40 and .890. After their dreadful 62 point season the year prior, Edmonton had a repeat performance and once again finished last with the same number of points. Khabibulin’s poor performance led to Devan Dubnyk getting the nod for 33 starts, and he was much more consistent with a 2.71 GAA and .916 save percentage. This kept Edmonton from allowing the most goals in the league, but the 3rd most goals against and 3rd least goals for was a recipe for disaster.
Khabibulin returned the following year with much improved results for Edmonton, but lost the starter’s job to Dubnyk the following season. He signed with Chicago in 2013, but was injured after just 4 games and ultimately announced his retirement.
3 Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames, 2015-16
The Calgary Flames were a tire fire in the 2015-16 season, and most of their problems stemmed from poor goaltending.
Looking to stabilize the position after the departure of longtime starter Miikka Kiprusoff, the Flames signed Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller in 2014. The Switzerland native played fantastic in his first year with the team, posting his best ever GAA in a season where he played over 20 games as Calgary made it to the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Unfortunately, the next year did not go as smoothly. Hiller came into the season as the team’s starter, but quickly lost the job to Karri Ramo with nightmarish results. Once Ramo went down with injury, Hiller was given the opportunity to reclaim the job, but couldn’t dig himself out of the hole he had dug at the beginning of the season. Among goalies with over 20 games, he finished with the worst numbers (by far) at a 3.51 GAA and .879 save percentage.
While the Flames had four different goalies play games for them that year, and Ramo actually played more than Hiller, this one falls on Hiller’s shoulders.
He came into the season as the number one, and just couldn’t stop anything. While Ramo and Joni Ortio, their 3rd goalie with 19 starts, had much better years numbers wise, it couldn’t prevent Calgary from allowing the most goals in the league at 257. Their offense that year was in the league’s top-10, but their horrible goaltending held them down and kept them near the bottom of the standings.
2 Vesa Toskala, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2009-10
In a similar situation to Hiller’s, Vesa Toskala didn’t play the most games for Toronto during the 2009-10 season. That distinction goes to Jonas Gustavsson, but given Toskala came into the year as the number one and led the team down the path to failure, he gets the nod as the starter.
Acquired by Toronto prior to the 07-08 season, Toskala got progressively worse during his time as a Leaf. After an opening season with 33 wins and a 2.74 GAA, his numbers dropped to 22 and 3.26, and then things got much worse in 09-10.
The Finn won just 7 of his 23 starts, and had the league’s worst numbers by far with an unfathomable 3.66 GAA and .874 save percentage.
This horrendous start led Leaf GM Brian Burke to make some major changes, as he dealt Toskala to Anaheim in January and got veteran J.S. Giguere in return. Giguere and Gustavsson would fare much better than Toskala for Toronto, but it didn’t prevent them from finishing 2nd last in both points and goals allowed (both to Edmonton, of course).
Toskala didn’t play a single game for Anaheim, and was dealt to Calgary about a month later. After six appearances, he relocated to Finland the following year.
1 Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2011-12
The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs for three straight years before taking the future Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to seven games in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final. At the forefront of that run was veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson, who was also instrumental in getting Edmonton to the finals in 2006. No one could have predicted what would happen to the Lightning the following year.
Through the entire timeline of this list, from the 09-10 season up until 17-18, no one who played 40 games or more had worse numbers than Roloson in any given year.
He sported a 3.66 GAA, a .886 save percentage, and won just 13 games. This poor play led to Mathieu Garon getting more playing time, and Roloson never really came back from it.
Tampa ended the year with 278 goals against, the most of any team by 19, and despite the league’s eighth best offense, couldn’t get a sniff of the playoffs. With his contract up at the end of the year, and being 42 years of age, the last active NHL player to have been born in the 1960s called it quits.
After a couple more years of growing pains, the Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2015 and have become one of the league’s best teams.