In all of the four major professional sports it seems that there are always second, or third, string athletes who at one point in time served as a member of a championship team, even if the athlete made minimal appearances throughout their respective sport’s season with a club. Still, there are some backup players that are more deserving of a championship ring than others, right?
The NHL and its backup skaters winning championships, a Stanley Cup, is a unique conversation especially in terms of goaltending. NHL fans alike have witnessed teams celebrate Stanley Cup championships with the notable help of both goaltenders to achieve an organization’s ultimate goal, while other fan bases would probably have to reflect for a good ten minutes on just who was that other guy, the backup netminder, when their city hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup high above their heads.
Yes, the NHL has adapted into more of a goaltending-tandem (giving both goalies almost equal playing time) type of league, rather than teams solely relying on one netminder to carry a heavy load during both the regular season and postseason. With that being said, TheSportster looks back on NHL backup goaltenders that deserve their rings, and those who arguably don’t.
Here are the Top 10 Backup Goalies Who Deserve Their Stanley Cup Ring And 10 Who Don't.
21 Deserve: Martin Jones - 2014 Los Angeles Kings
Yes, the now stud goaltender for the San Jose Sharks once strapped on the pads for the Teal's biggest rivals in the Los Angeles Kings. And, netminder Martin Jones, not only played for the Sharks' biggest rival, but the 6-foot-4 masked man also won a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles in 2013-2014.
Jones came through in the clutch that season, especially when the team's starting netminder, Jonathan Quick, went down with an injury in the early stages of the regular season. The undrafted backup goalie posted a 12-6 record during the 2014 campaign, plus an impressive .934 save-percentage. Jones even made a couple of relief appearances for Quick during the Kings' Cup run that spring, as Los Angeles won its second Stanley Cup in franchise history. It came to no surprise that Jones was eventually traded to become a starting netminder after the 2014-15 season.
20 Don't: David Aebischer – 2001 Colorado Avalanche
It would be tough to justify that former Colorado Avalanche goaltender, David Aebischer, deserved his Stanley Cup ring in 2001, after the Avs defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games that spring. Aebischer, 22 at the time, had high hopes to potentially take over the reins in Colorado’s crease once the great Patrick Roy would soon retire. And, the Avs had one of the most memorable and talented NHL teams in recent memory, so any of Aebischer’s contributions were always overshadowed and rightfully so.
The former sixth-round draft-pick posted an average 12-7-3 record and a mediocre save-percentage (.903). Most fans probably wouldn’t be able to even recall who the club’s backup goaltender was that season, especially with a majority of the spotlight on defenseman Ray Bourque, and then Roy winning his fourth Stanley Cup title.
19 Deserve: Chris Terreri - 1995 New Jersey Devils
After a string of losing seasons in the blue crease for the New Jersey Devils, goaltender Chris Terreri finally found himself on a championship caliber team in the mid-1990s with Jersey's Team. The former fifth round draft- pick (1983) split playing duties with the (then) young Martin Brodeur during the shortened 1994-95 lockout season, and served as an invaluable mentor in Brodeur's process to eventual legendary status.
And, the veteran took a backseat to Brodeur's early success, as Terreri only made one appearance in the Devils' Cup run that spring. Still, after playing in the "dark years" for Jersey's Team and opening up a path for Marty Brodeur -- Terreri was a backup goalie who deserves a Stanley Cup ring. Keep in mind, it was also the Devils' first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
18 Don't: Jeff Zatkoff – Pittsburgh Penguins 2016
Yes, there were three goaltenders who received a ring last spring with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the Pens defeated the San Jose Sharks in six games. As mentioned above, Marc-Andre Fleury had suffered a late season injury leaving the Pittsburgh crease in the hands of Zatkoff and Matt Murray.
Zatkoff was given the nod to take a stab at taking the Pens’ number one spot between the pipes first, but the Michigan native was unable to meet expectations in the Steel City. Zatkoff even started the Penguins' first two playoff games vs. the New York Rangers and was then benched in favor of the rookie, Murray. Zatkoff received a ring, but the chances are he probably didn’t deserve one as Fleury eventually returned during the playoff run, knocking Zatkoff down to third string.
17 Deserve: Andre Racicot - 1993 Montreal Canadiens
When fans think back to the Montreal Canadiens and during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the NHL's dedicated supporters typically envision Hockey Hall Of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy. And, Roy played sensational during the Habs' 1993 Stanley Cup championship run, plus took home the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP for Stanley Cup Playoffs). But, what about the masked man who backed up the former great goaltender?
Canadiens backup netminder Andre Racicot served as Roy's backup in 1992-93, and displayed impressive numbers for a second string during that era of professional hockey. Racicot posted a 17-5-1 record behind Roy, and deserved a Stanley Cup ring playing behind the eventual Hall Of Famer. Usually a backup netminder for Roy would arguably have an easy job due to the fact that one could just sit back and watch Roy carry the team; yet Racicot made his impact known that season.
16 Don't: Manny Legace -- 2002 Detroit Red Wings
Ontario native Manny Legace somehow gets lost in the mix of notable goaltenders who not only played for the Detroit Red Wings, but also had success in Hockeytown. In 2002, the Detroit Red Wings hoisted Lord Stanley for the third time in six seasons and were led by a deep roster, which also included future Hockey Hall Of Famer goaltender Dominik Hasek.
And, the backup was not Chris Osgood or Curtis Joseph back then, but in fact it was a former eighth round draft pick, Manny Legace. While Legace had a respectable NHL career as an insurance goaltender, the chances are that Manny is forgotten by most fans considering how star-studded the Red Wings were during their Dynasty Era. Legace played for another eight years, and only served as a starting netminder for one of those seasons.
15 Deserve: Tuukka Rask - 2011 Boston Bruins
It had appeared that Tuukka Rask may have stolen (then) Boston Bruins netminder Tim Thomas' starting position with the club after the 2010 season, but Thomas prevailed as the club's number one goaltender; which left Rask as a backup in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup.
Rask served as one of the league's best backups that season, while posting an 2.67 goals-against-average (GAA) and .918 save-percentage. Boston had tremendous depth in all areas on the ice that season, but especially between the pipes with both Rask and Thomas. The Finnish native didn't make one appearance during the 2011 Cup run, but was and is more than deserving for owning a Stanley Cup ring. Additionally, it was the first time the Bruins had won the Stanley Cup since 1970.
14 Don't: Kevin Hodson – 1998 Detroit Red Wings
When fans think of the Detroit Red Wings goaltending tandems, most would tend to immediately think of Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon, Dominik Hasek etc... All of whom have served as a backup during their tenured NHL careers, too. Yet, most cannot recall that Canadian netminder Kevin Hodson served as Osgood’s backup during the 1997-98 season…
The Red Wings were a powerhouse of a club that year, to say at the least. And, one could argue that goaltending didn’t need to be a top priority for the Wings that season. However, Hodson’s NHL career was a short one and chances are he was fortunate enough to tag along for the ride when the Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup champions in the spring of 1998. Hodson appeared in 21 games that season and played in just one minute during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
13 Deserve: Martin Gerber - 2006 Carolina Hurricanes
Former NHL goaltender Martin Gerber won a career high 38 games during the 2005-06 regular season. However, the Switzerland native lost his starting role with the Canes early on in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Rookie Cam Ward proceeded to stand victorious between the pipes in Raleigh, North Carolina when the Hurricanes won its first ever Stanley Cup in franchise history.
So, while Gerber was the starting goaltender for a majority of that season, he was still considered a backup during the Canes' Cup run and absolutely deserves his one and only Stanley Cup ring. That would be Gerber's only season with the Hurricanes, and the former Mighty Ducks of Anaheim draft pick went on to then dress for the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers. Gerber retired after the 2010-11 season.
12 Don't: Bill Ranford – 1988 Edmonton Oilers
Bill Ranford is most known for being a backup goaltender for the Edmonton Oilers during the 1980s, when the club won four Stanley Cups during the decade. However, with a stacked Oilers team that entailed Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and netminder Grant Fuhr – Ranford goes down as a backup goaltender who probably doesn’t deserve a Cup ring, but during the 1988 campaign.
Ranford made five appearances that season, as Fuhr started in an impressive number of 73 games. So, was Ranford just along for the ride? With a roster like what the 1980s Oilers had…yes, he was.
Ranford eventually become a starting netminder in the mid 1990s, but only reached the 30 win benchmark once in his career. While Ranford probably didn't deserve his '88 ring, he sure earned his second one. Somehow he caught fire in the 1990 season, and led the Oilers to their '90 Stanley Cup win, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. He finished his career with Edmonton after the 2000 season.
11 Deserve: Roman Turek - 1999 Dallas Stars
Most fans more than likely recall former NHL goaltender Roman Turek playing for the St. Louis Blues during the early 2000s, but the Czech Republic native did serve as a backup prior and with the Dallas Stars from 1997-1999. Turek backed-up Hockey Hall Of Famer Ed Belfour in Dallas, and the two won the Jennings Trophy together in 1999 (team who allows the fewest amount of goals in the regular season).
Turek posted an impressive 16-3-3 record, plus an 2.08 goals-against-average with a .915 save-percentage. While Turek never saw any action during the Stars' 1999 Stanley Cup championship run, the former Dallas backup deserves his Stanley Cup ring. One season later he became the starting netminder for the St. Louis Blues, took home the Jennings Trophy again and was also a top candidate for the NHL's Most Valuable Player award (Hart Trophy).
10 Don't: Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings 2008
The 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup for the 11th time in franchise history, led by netminders Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood. But, did you know that Jimmy Howard also received a Stanley Cup ring? Howard, one of the Wings’ current goaltenders, and former United States Olympian, appeared in just two regular season games but he was officially on the roster for a majority of the season for Hockeytown’s Stanley Cup Playoff run.
Howard has shown signs of greatness at times throughout his brief NHL career, but the Syracuse native more than likely does not deserve a ring with the Red Wings as a backup netminder in 2008. The Wings kept Howard active on the roster, due to the fact that Hasek was battling injuries regularly that season.
9 Deserve: Scott Darling - 2015 Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawks backup goaltender Scott Darling's path towards becoming an NHL skater is remarkable in itself, but the former University of Maine netminder was a key asset to the club's most recent Stanley Cup Championship in 2015. While the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford has been the starter for Chicago's last two Stanley Cups, Darling had to relive Crawford during the Hawks' Cup run in 2015. And, if it weren't for Darling, perhaps the Blackhawks wouldn't have advanced to the Finals that season.
Darling made five appearances while relieving Crawford of his playing duties, and posted a 3-1 record that spring. The undrafted goalie recorded a .936 save-percentage and 2.28 goals-against-average (GAA). In fact, Darling played in each of the club's four victories in the first round of the playoffs against the Nashville Predators. Darling, is more than deserving of his Stanley Cup ring.
8 Don't: Cristobal Huet – 2010 Chicago Blackhawks
Yes, the present starting netminder and two-time Stanley Cup champion of the Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford, made a few appearances during the 2009-10 season for the Hawks; but most NHL fans forget that Crawford wasn’t the backup goaltender for Chicago, at the time.
Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi split the goaltending duties during the regular season for the Hawks, yet it was Niemi who stood tall in the Hawks’ crease for Chicago’s first Stanley Cup run in decades. While Huet’s numbers weren’t terrible that season, it’s unlikely the former Montreal Canadien deserved his ring. The French native never panned out to be the starting netminder clubs expected of Huet, and his career ended after the 2010 season. Most fans will always remember Niemi – Nemo, Crawford and Darling for recent Hawks' goalies with rings.
7 Deserve: Ilya Bryzgalov - 2007 Anaheim Ducks
In 2006-07, the Anaheim Ducks made their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history and the Ducks were a powerhouse team only losing a total of five games along the way to glory. The Ducks hoisted their first Stanley Cup that spring with the help of two notable NHL goaltenders,.
Starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere had to take a leave of absence during Anaheim's Cup run that spring, as the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2003) left to be with his wife who was giving birth. So, in steps Russian netminder Ilya Bryzgalov. "Bryz," stepped in for Giguere and made five appearances, while posting a 3-1 record with a .922 save-percentage and 2.25 goals-against-average (GAA). Sure, the Russian native made headlines for his strange quotes when addressing the media, but the Ducks faithful fan base will always appreciate Bryzgalov for saving the day in the spring of 2007.
6 Don't: Corey Schwab – 2003 New Jersey Devils
One could guess that it was probably “never easy” to backup hockey and New Jersey Devils great, Martin Brodeur. Corey Schwab experienced what it meant to be Brodeur’s backup during the Canadian Olympic Gold Medal winner’s prime of his career during the 2002-03 season. Schwab appeared in just 11 games that year, while posting a 5-3-1 record.
The Devils and Brodeur had one of the best seasons in franchise history, and eventually won the Stanley Cup for the third time in less than 10 years – against the (then) Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in seven games. Sure, it’s never ideal for an athlete to see minimal playing time and sit behind a future Hall Of Famer, but Schwab makes this list for goaltenders that probably didn’t deserve a Stanley Cup ring.
5 Deserve: Stephane Fiset - 1996 Colorado Avalanche
It's never easy for a professional athlete to lose a starting position at their respective sport, especially after an organization acquires another player to fill in one's skates. During the 1995-96 NHL season, Stephane Fiset manned the Colorado Avalanche's net and it appeared Fiset would be the guy for the long haul with the inaugural Avs club. However, (eventual) Hockey Hall Of Famer, Patrick Roy, had demanded a trade from the Montreal Canadiens in that season and he was dealt to Colorado.
The rest was history for the Avs, as they went on to hoist Lord Stanley later that spring with Roy between the pipes. After making 37 appearances for Colorado during the regular season, Fiset had to take a step back and ride the bench for the great Roy. Fiset, the longtime Quebec Nordique (relocated to Colorado in 1995), did in fact receive his lone Stanley Cup ring that season, though.
4 Don't: Glenn Healy - 1994 New York Rangers
In 1994, the New York Rangers ended a 54 year draught after the Broadway Blueshirts hoisted the Stanley Cup that spring against the Vancouver Canucks and in a dramatic seven game series. That Rangers team entailed depth in just about every position on the ice, but perhaps New York’s backup netminder was one weak point.
Glenn Healy served as the Rangers’ backup that season to all-star goaltender, Mike Richter. Healy had what could be considered a below average season as a second string goalie, especially since the Rangers were a powerhouse club that year. Healy’s record during the regular season was 10-12-2 and he posted a save-percentage below the .900 benchmark. New York had only lost 24 regulation games that season, so I’m sure you can do the math in relation to Healey’s record...
3 Marc-Andre Fleury - 2016 Pittsburgh Penguins
As mentioned above it's never easy for an NHL starting netminder to lose his role with not only one's respective club, but a championship caliber team too. And, imagine if that player is already a Stanley Cup winner and a potential future Hockey Hall Of Famer...
That was the case last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. The former first-overall draft-pick (2003) of Pittsburgh was having an MVP-like season, but Fleury suffered a late season injury and was placed on the Injured-Reserved list. The Penguins eventually turned to (at the time) third string netminder Matt Murray once the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs arrived. Most can recall, that Murray made history in the playoffs last year and helped lead the Penguins to the club's fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, while the club's former longtime starter watched from the bench.
1 Don't: Jonathan Bernier – 2012 Los Angeles Kings
The 2011-12 NHL regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs could be labeled as the Year of Jonathan Quick, as the Los Angeles Kings starting netminder was unbeatable during the Kings 2012 Cup run. Not only did Quick lose just four games out of 20 starts, but he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy that spring, too. It seemed that backup goalie Jonathan Bernier was just along for the ride…
Bernier only played in 16 contests that season for Los Angeles, and managed a mere five victories. There was hope that Bernier could transform into a legitimate starting netminder in the NHL soon after he received his Stanley Cup ring in 2012, but since that time – it hasn’t panned out that way. Bernier now serves as backup with the Anaheim Ducks.