With Martin Brodeur finally retiring from NHL action for good and taking a front office job with the St. Louis Blues, now’s a good time to take a look back at some of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history. Of course, everybody does have and should have an opinion on who they feel have been the best ever between the pipes. Some fans make their choices based on longevity or Stanley Cup triumphs while others may prefer to go by the number of wins or perhaps a goaltender’s save percentage and/or goals-against average.
But to truly be a great NHL goalie the netminder must have better-than-average numbers in all of these categories. This list is created by using NHL statistics only. Therefore if a goalie played in another pro league, such as the World Hockey Association (WHA) those numbers aren’t included here. Since it’s hard to compare different eras of the NHL we’ve concentrated mainly on the hard numbers, such as games played, wins, goals-against average, and save percentage in both the regular season and the playoffs. Unfortunately though, save percentage statistics weren’t recorded in the league’s earlier days. In addition, while most of these goaltenders have earned personal accolades such as trophies and all-star nominations, the only silverware that really matters here is the Stanley Cup.
Also, trophies and all-star votes are often seen as popularity contests and the criteria for some trophies has changed over the years. For example, the Vezina Trophy was formerly be shared between a team’s goaltenders as it used to be awarded to the club with the best goals-against average, rather than an individual goalie. The Vezina is now awarded to the netminder who’s judged to be the best at the position.
With all that said, the thing that matters most is victories. Ultimately, these goalies will go down in history as 10 of the best ever. It's no coincidence that you'll see these goalies on many greatest goalie lists, because their numbers are the best where it matters most; W's.
10 Chris Osgood, 401 Wins, 3 Stanley Cups
If the song, "All I Do is Win" was written for anybody, it's probably for Chris Osgood. Osgood never made the flashy saves or put up the jaw dropping numbers most goalies on this list did, but he got the job done. Another plus was his low price tag. The fact that he didn't command that high of a salary allowed the Red Wings to build a powerhouse team around him.
9 Grant Fuhr, 403 Wins, 5 Stanley Cups
Grant Fuhr spent most of his career with the run-and-gun Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s and wasn’t really concerned about his career 3.38 GAA. Fuhr concentrated on wins and an 8-7 shootout was just as good as a 1-0 shutout to him. After he left the Oilers he had stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames. In total, he appeared in 868 regular-season games to rank ninth with the ninth-most wins at 403 to go along with 295 losses and 25 shutouts. He was also handy with his stick as he earned 46 assists.
8 Glenn Hall, 407 wins, 1 Stanley Cup
7 Tony Esposito, 423 Wins
6 Jacques Plante, 437 Wins, 6 Stanley Cups
5 Terry Sawchuk, 447 Wins, 4 Stanley Cups
4 Curtis Joseph, 454 Wins
He's one of the few on this list to never capture the ultimate prize, but Cujo won a lot of games in the NHL. His 454 wins are spread across St. Louis, Edmonton, Toronto, Phoenix, Calgary and Detroit.
Joseph started out great in St. Louis, enjoying a season as a Vezina finalist in 1992-93. He was traded to Edmonton in 1995. Oilers fans will forever remember him backstopping the Oilers to first-round upsets over the Stars in 1997 and the Avalanche in 1998. The Oilers let Joseph slip away to Toronto via free agency.
Curtis Joseph gave the Maple Leafs their best goaltending in decades, leading them to the conference finals in 1999 and 2002.
3 Ed Belfour, 484 Wins, 1 Stanley Cup
Eddie the Eagle was always a joy to watch. Fans of his teams must've enjoyed his 484 wins the most, to go with his 88 playoff victories and Stanley Cup championship with the Dallas Stars in 1999. He enjoyed his longest tenure with Chicago from 1989 to 1997. The Blackhawks enoyed some of the finest years of their 49-year Stanley Cup drought, making it to the 1992 Stanley Cup final, where they fell short to Pittsburgh.
The Blackhawks eventually traded the impending UFA Belfour to San Jose in 1997. After a disappointing run with the Sharks, he signed with Dallas in the summer of '97 and added the missing piece for a Stanley Cup team. He led the Stars to the President's Trophy in his first season, then added a Stanley Cup in 1999 and another finals appearance in 2000. Marty Turco eventually wrestled the starting job from Belfour in 2002, so the Eagle signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
2 Patrick Roy, 551 Wins, 4 Stanley Cups
Patrick Roy played the second-most games in the NHL at 1,029, which were split between the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche. His 551 wins are also second best in history while his .910 SV % is good enough for 36th on the all-time list. Roy’s GAA stood at 2.54, which ranks him as 47th and his 66 career shutouts place him 15th in the rankings.
1 Martin Brodeur, 690 wins, 3 Stanley Cups
The numbers don’t lie and that’s why we’re going with Martin Brodeur as the NHL’s best-ever goalie. He played the most games in league history at 1,266 and managed to win 691 of them. His SV% was .912 and he also has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup three times as a member of the New Jersey Devils. He added a league-record 125 shutouts and just ended his career as the all-time leader in games played, shutouts, and wins. His 397 regular-season losses are also the most by an NHL goalie, but that can be expected due to the number of games he played.
His 24 playoff shutouts are also a record. Brodeur’s GAA was 2.24 which currently ranks him tied for 10th with Ken Dryden. Let’s not forget he also scored a pair of goals and added 45 assists during his career. If there’s is a knock against Brodeur it could be that he hung on a bit too long and should have packed it in instead of suiting up for the Blues a few times this season.
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