One of the keys to having success in the National Hockey League is having a netminder that can make the big stops. It’s an extreme rarity that you see a team advance deep into the postseason, or even make the postseason at all, without at least league average goaltending. Just take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins, for example. Each of the past two postseasons, the Penguins’ starting goalie got hurt right before the playoffs. However, each of the past two postseasons, the Penguins advanced deep into the playoffs thanks to stellar goaltending. This is thanks to having fantastic back-ups, as the organization prepared for the exact scenario, knowing that goalies can make or break a regular season or playoff run.
However, some organizations do not seem to understand this truth, and thus allowed subpar goalies to play the majority of the games for their teams. Since 2010, there have been some awful goalies to take the net for the majority of their respective teams’ games in the regular season. Playing at least 50 games despite being below league average, these goalies deserve to be criticized accordingly. Let’s take a look at the worst of the worst.
15. Kari Lehtonen, 2016-17 Dallas Stars
The 2015-16 Dallas Stars had one of the best seasons in franchise history, surprising people as they made it to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Those Stars managed to defeat the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the postseason before falling in a hard-fought battle to the St. Louis Blues in the next round. One of the primary reasons for their postseason exit was their inability to stop the puck from going in their own net. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi proved to be an awful goaltending combination. Yet the Stars continued on with the same goalies, and those goalies showed that the Stars made a terrible mistake. Kari Lehtonen played 59 games and tallied a .902 save percentage in 2016-17.
14. Martin Brodeur, 2010-11 New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur is highly-regarded as one of the greatest goaltenders in the history of the National Hockey League, and even managed to bring his team to the Stanley Cup Final after this horrible season. However, the 2010-11 season was the stuff of nightmares for the New Jersey Devils’ netminder. Brodeur couldn’t stop a beach ball from getting past him all season, better yet a much smaller hockey puck. As the Devils struggled throughout the year, Brodeur only played worse and worse. The future Hall of Famer could not even bring his save percentage up to .905, watching as the defense in front of him struggled and his save percentage made everyone scratch their heads. It was an awful season for an outstanding goalie.
13. Ilya Bryzgalov, 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers
Ilya Bryzgalov is one of our favorite goalies, as his shenanigans still make us laugh even though he has not played in the National Hockey League since the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers once chose Bryzgalov over the 2016-17 Vezina Trophy favorite Sergei Bobrovsky, as they believed Bryzgalov would give them a better chance to compete in the regular season and postseason. The decision turned out to be one of the worst in Flyers history, as Bryzgalov struggled to get his act together in the Flyers’ orange and black. One of his worst seasons was the 2011-12 campaign, when Bryzgalov struggled to the tune of a .909 save percentage behind a Flyers defense that did not give him much help either.
12. Pekka Rinne, 2015-16 Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne is currently leading the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup playoffs, having already back-stopped his way past the offensively mega-gifted Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, surrendering only three goals in four games to the club. Rinne now is tasked with stopping the St. Louis Blues from finding a way to get pucks past him, but it appears like Rinne is up to the task. This comes after a year in which many called for Juuse Saros to take over the starting job from him. Only a couple of seasons ago, Rinne had his worst season, putting together a .908 save percentage. The number looked even worse considering the Predators owned a fantastic defense in front of him. Rinne just couldn’t stop the puck.
11. Cam Ward, 2016-17 Carolina Hurricanes
Once upon a time, Cam Ward led the Carolina Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup Final victory over the Edmonton Oilers, leading the Hurricanes throughout a difficult postseason as a rookie between the pipes. It was the stuff goalies mostly only dream of, except Ward actually completed the tasks. However, the Hurricanes seemingly decided that once Ward did that, he was a good franchise goalie for life. That’s not how goaltending works, and the Hurricanes learned that the hard way yet again this past season. The Hurricanes were blasted for extending Ward’s contract despite there being various better goalies available in the off-season, and Ward did nothing to show why the Hurricanes rewarded him with his new contract. His .905 save percentage was brutal.
10. Ben Scrivens, 2014-15 Edmonton Oilers
Ben Scrivens may not be the most exciting name, although if the National Hockey League does not send its players to the Olympics, Scrivens may find a spot on Canada’s roster as one of their goaltenders. Scrivens is currently playing in the KHL, as he simply did not play well enough to hold a spot in the National Hockey League. However once upon a time, Scrivens was the starting goalie for an Edmonton Oilers team that was reeling. The Oilers did not have Connor McDavid on board yet, and Cam Talbot was the back-up for the New York Rangers. So Ben Scrivens got more than 50 starts for the Oilers despite posting a save percentage below .895. Do you see how the Oilers got McDavid?
9. Corey Crawford, 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks
One of the most interesting things we see here is goaltenders on this list performing horribly, then in the near future after that serving as the starting goaltender for a championship contending or even winning team. Thus is the case when it came to Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford was in one of the first years in his career as a starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks back in the 2011-12 season, when he posted a .903 save percentage in over 55 games for the Blackhawks. Crawford could not stop a puck all year, yet played just well enough for the Blackhawks to feel confident in letting him keep the starting job. We all know how that worked out for both sides.
8. Brian Elliott, 2010-2011 Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche
Brian Elliott had an awful postseason for the Calgary Flames in his first year with the club, and is now set to be a free agent in the National Hockey League coming off of that awful performance. This could lead to his getting a lower dollar amount on his contract than he would want, but when it comes to the playoffs the teams want to see their goaltenders put together the top performances. However, something else may work against Elliott even more. If a team looks at his performance in the 2010-11 season for both the Ottawa Senators and the Colorado Avalanche, there’s a good chance they will go running away. Elliott could not even manage a .900 save percentage on the season.
7. Mike Smith, 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes
Mike Smith is known throughout the National Hockey League as a goaltender who wears his emotions on his sleeves. This season, for example, Smith was so angry after giving up a hat trick goal to Matt Puempel that he repeatedly broke his stick on the post. The New York Rangers wanted to grab the puck out of the net to keep it as a keepsake for Puempel following his first career hat trick, but the team was too afraid to go anywhere near the angry Smith. If this happened during the 2014-15 season, the players would have been afraid to have been on the same ice as Smith altogether. That year Smith could not even put together a .905 save percentage, playing awful net.
6. Mike Condon, 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens
Remember in the introduction when we mentioned how the Pittsburgh Penguins have lost their starting goalies in back to back postseasons, yet continue to make deep runs in the playoffs anyway? Well, if you’re a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization, we hope you’re reading this for your own sake. The Habs saw Carey Price go down in the 2014 postseason, then immediately exited thanks in part to some poor goaltending. In the 2015-16 season, however, the loss of Price hit them harder than ever before. With Price out, the Canadiens turned to relative unknown Mike Condon. Condon started off strong for Montreal, but by the time the season ended he finished with a .903 save percentage and Montreal missed the playoffs.
5. Jonathan Bernier, 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs
Before we go into the details of why Jonathan Bernier is on this list, it’s important to recognize that his .912 save percentage was much higher than the majority of the members of this list. However, Bernier’s spot on this list was solidified by the types of goals he gave up, and how uncomfortable the Toronto Maple Leafs players must have felt trying to compete in front of him. Bernier was a mess all season in the 2014-15 campaign, giving up goals from all angles. Bernier surrendered multiple goals from center ice or further, failing to show any type of consistency between the pipes. His next season would be even worse, but Bernier’s 2014-15 season showed the beginning of what was to come.
4. Ondrej Pavelec, 2013-14 Winnipeg Jets
You cannot have a list featuring the worst goaltending performances in the National Hockey League without Ondrej Pavelec owning one of the spots. It’s simply impossible! Pavelec, one of the worst goalies in the entire league on an annual basis, put together the worst season of his career in the 2013-14 campaign. Pavelec surrendered goal after goal after goal to the tune of a .903 save percentage, as the Winnipeg Jets looked pitiful yet again. The next year would see the Jets finally make the postseason after a long drought, but not thanks to stellar play by Pavelec or anything. Goalie was a big problem for the Jets, who still happen to have the same problem in the current-day National Hockey League.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, 2016-17 Winnipeg Jets
The good news for the Winnipeg Jets is that Connor Hellebuyck is considered a good enough prospect that he made team North America in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. He did not play, but he made the roster as the third string goalie, showing the amount of potential people across the National Hockey League believes he has. The bad news for the Winnipeg Jets is that Hellebuyck was horrendous between the pipes for the Winnipeg Jets in the 2016-17 campaign, leading the Jets to do the unthinkable–call up Ondrej Pavelec. No one could serve as the answer in the net for the Jets last season, but Hellebuyck continuously getting starts despite failing to stop pucks was one of the worst stories of the season.
2. Cory Schneider, 2016-17 New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were awful last season, which was expected by the majority of National Hockey League pundits. Yet what was not expected was one of the main reasons the Devils had such a poor campaign. Cory Schneider, who was once acquired for a draft pick that would later become 2016-17 All-Star Bo Horvat, adding insult to injury. Schneider could not stop the puck all year, one of the stranger phenomenons of the 2016-17 campaign. Luckily for the Devils, however, Schneider’s struggles led the team to one of their worst seasons in recent history. Why luckily you may wonder? The Devils recently found out that they won the Draft Lottery, giving them the first overall pick in the up coming NHL Draft.
1. Petr Mrazek, 2016-17 Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings did not have the same luck in the Draft Lottery, and also saw themselves suffer their worst campaign in over two decades. For the first time in 25 years, the Red Wings failed to make it to the National Hockey League postseason. The Red Wings had many problems throughout the season, such as their power play failing to have any power, and their overall roster construction being one of the worst in the entire league. However the Red Wings also had subpar goaltending all year, as Petr Mrazek, who was expected to be one of the bright spots on an otherwise weak team, could not push his save percentage over the .905 mark all year. Thus, a missed playoffs.
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