To beat the dead horse that you hear during every hockey broadcast, if you have a good goalie, you have a chance to win every night.
Goaltender is one of the most important positions in all of sports. And though the NHL goalie may not get as much attention as a starting pitcher or a quarterback, it can be debated that they have just as much impact on the outcome of any game.
A goalie can make a good team great or a great team legendary, but what about the other goalies. Not the great, or even good, goalies to strap on the pads and get pucks fired at them for money.
In this list, we will look at the entire history of each NHL franchise and see which goaltenders were the worst to ever earn the starting distinction for that squad. Understandably there will be debate because it is difficult to compare goaltenders from different eras, especially during the 80s with the prolific offensive burst in teams.
In order to determine the worst starting goalie for each franchise we looked at not only stats, but also expectations and fans reactions to these masked men when they were in nets.
We also determined a goalie was officially the starter if he started the majority of games for the team during a specific season, even though it may be considered a platoon situation. There just needed to be a clear and decisive way to determine the role of starter through the many decades of players.
So without further ado, here is each team’s worst starting goalie in franchise history.
Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller
Since the inception of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1993, there has only been four goalies suit up for the team for more than 100 games. The team has had very few starting goalies in the grand scheme of things, which makes this selection tough.
Jonas Hiller basically gets this selection because placing either Guy Hebert or J.S. Giguere would border on blasphemy.
During his seven seasons with the Ducks, Hiller was 162-110-32 with a 2.51 goals against average and a .916 save percentage, but could’ve lead the Ducks deep into the playoffs though they had stacked lineups, as his record in Spring was 12-12.
Arizona Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets: Doug Soetaert
After starting his career with the New York Ranger, Doug Soetaert was traded to the Winnipeg Jets before the 1981 season. Though he split time for the Jets during the 81/82 season, it was not until the 82/83 season that Soetaert became the main starter.
During his three years in Winnipeg, the Edmonton native sported a 4.24 goals against average with a .869 save percentage. In the final two seasons, that Soetaert was the official starter, but did not once register a single shutout.
Soetaert was also inconsistent in playoff action, allowing 13 goals in four postseason games with the Jets.
Boston Bruins: Bert Gardiner
Bert Gardiner was looking like he could develop into a quality goaltender when he spent time with the Montreal Canadiens and the Bruins were more than happy to trade for a 30-year-old goaltender with some promise.
Gardiner would only spend one season in the NHL after being traded to the Bruins., deciding to retire at the age of 30. In that one season, Gardiner had a 17-19-5 record with a massive 5.17 goals against average.
Though Gardiner had a solid career as a whole, a 3.79 GAA over five seasons, he was terrible when he ended up starting for the Bruins.
Buffalo Sabres: Roger Crozier
The Buffalo Sabres came into being and immediately hitched their wagon to Roger Crozier in the hopes he could regain the All-Star form he had shown earlier in his career.
At this point of his career, Crozier was in bad physical shape and was continuously dealing with injuries. During the 1970/71 season, Crozier ended up becoming too physically spent to even play in the second half of the season.
From that point on, the former great goalie spent his years with the Sabres platooning with several other goalies while trying to heal.
Crozier spent six seasons in Buffalo, almost as much as his time with the Red Wings, while posting a 3.23 goals against average and losing more games than he won.
Calgary Flames/Atlanta Flames: Pat Riggin
Though in the later stages of his career Pat Riggin would become a very good goaltender, when he suited up for the Flames, he was too young to be leaned on.
Riggin was the starter for the Flames during the 1980/81 and 81/82 seasons, which saw the team relocate to Calgary.
The Canadian goaltender was not especially happy with the three-headed attack the Flames used, with several reports that Riggin had a pretty large ego despite the fact he was starting the most games.
When leaned on the most heavily, during the 81/82 season, Riggin posted a career worst 4.23 goals against average.
Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes: Greg Millen
It is hard to judge the worst goalie in the franchise history of the Whalers/Hurricanes. The teams spent quite a lot of years toiling at the bottom of the league, but Greg Millen ended up posting some of the worst numbers in net.
The Whalers leaned on Millen heavily during his tenure with the team, with the goaltender playing 219 games over four seasons.
Through those games Millen posted a 4.25 goals against average, with only one season seeing him have a GAA below the 4.00 mark. He also lost nearly double the games he won, winning 62 and losing 120.
Chicago Blackhawks: Emile Francis
Emile Francis only spent two seasons with the Blackhawks and was only the starter during the 1947/48 season. That starting season saw ‘The Cat’ lead the league in losses and goals against as the Blackhawks sported one of the worst teams in the NHL in front of him.
Though not much a goaltender, Francis can be looked at as a massively influential figure in goalie history. The netminder would play shortstop to help develop his range in nets and started using a glove more akin to a baseball mitt, which was the birth of the modern goalie glove.
Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques: Ron Tugnutt
Ron Tugnutt is remembered as a solid starter in the NHL, but his early days were simply not that great. Though the Nordiques were less than adequate, Tugnutt proved to be a solid starting option and would famously put up a 70 save performance against the Boston Bruins.
However, Tugnutt was inconsistent and you were never positive what you were going to get from the Scarborough-native each night. Tugnutt never did enough to really inspire confidence within the organization, which was obvious when he was quickly traded with the emergence of Stephane Fiset.
During his five combined seasons with the Nords, Tugnutt has a 4.08 goals against average with a .867 save percentage and lead the league in losses in 1990/91.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Marc Denis
The Columbus Blue Jackets had little option but to put all their weight on Marc Denis despite the fact that he was still in his early twenties. Denis was a second-round pick for the Colorado Avalanche, but he never got much of an opportunity to play with the crowded net in Denver.
During his full five seasons with the Jackets, Denis had an 84-146-25 record with a 3.01 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
Though he got better during his tenure in Columbus, the first two seasons with the team saw the Montreal native post save percentages under .900.
Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars: Pete LoPresti
Pete LoPresti came into the NHL and was immediately the youngest goalie in the league. The North Stars had no problem throwing in the youngster into the fray either, with the American-native playing 173 games in his first four years.
In five seasons with the North Stars, LoPresti only once posted a goals against average under 4.00, while leading the league in losses with 35 in 1977/78. LoPresti ended up retiring from the NHL after his time with the Stars, though he unretired shortly for some time in the early 80s with the Oilers.
Detroit Red Wings: Corrado Micalef
After a stellar junior career, the Detroit Red Wings drafted Corrado Micalef 44th overall in 1981. Micalef then went on to log a lot of games with the Red Wings, though largely within a triad of goaltenders.
Though in the 1982/83 season saw Micalef start more games than any other goaltender for the only time in his career with the Wings despite only being 21-years-old.
Micalef would retire at the age of 25 after five season with the Red Wings, with the goalie posting a 4.54 goals against average and a .858 save percentage, while losing more than double the games he won.
Edmonton Oilers: Nikolai Khabibulin
The Edmonton Oilers have been struggling to find a truly consistent goalie for quite a number of years and Nikolai Khabibulin was one of the many experiments the team tried out.
Khabibulin was the starter during the 2010/11 and 11/12 seasons, but ended up being replaced by an inconsistent Devan Dubnyk the season after.
Those years saw the ‘Bulin Wall’ trying to backstop some pretty horrendous teams, but the first full season as starter saw the Russian tender finish the season with a .890 save percentage.
Florida Panthers: Tim Thomas
Though the Florida Panthers have been a general afterthought to most hockey fans, they have had some surprisingly consistent goaltending. The Panthers have been very dedicated to their goalies, which only left this selection down to two players who spent one season with the team; Ed Belfour and Tim Thomas.
After taking a year off, Thomas came back to tryout for the Panthers and ended up starting 40 games in 2013/14.
Thomas ended that season with a 2.87 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and more losses than wins.
Los Angeles Kings: Roland Melanson
‘Rollie the goalie’ was a solid yet unspectacular backstop through his six seasons before making his way to Los Angeles. Melanson was flipped to the Kings from the North Stars and would become the team’s regular starter from day one.
During a three-and-a-half season stint with the Kings, Melanson had a 4.12 goals against average with a .869 save percentage. ‘Rollie the goalies’ best season with the Kings saw the New Brunswick goaltender post a 18-21-6 record with a .882 save percentage.
Minnesota Wild: Manny Fernandez
The Minnesota Wild have had very few starting goalies throughout their relatively short existence, with most of them performing pretty much on par with the league average. However, when forced to say who their worst goaltender was, we need to look at Manny Fernandez.
Through the early days of his career, including his start with the Wild, Fernandez had some confidence issues and could get rattled in the net fairly easily. However, once Dwayne Roloson came along and they split time in the crease, Fernandez developed into a solid, though unspectacular starter.
Fernandez’ had a 2.47 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
Montreal Canadiens: Paul Bibeault
Paul Bibeault caught the eye of the Canadiens scouts while playing junior hockey in Quebec and was brought on to the team, as depth was a major concern for NHL teams during World War II.
Bibeault ended up being the starter for two seasons for the Habs, neither of which were particularly impressive. During the 1942/43 season, Bibeault allowed more goals than any other netminder in the NHL while registering the most losses as well.
After two seasons with the Habs, Bibeault would go on to have a few stellar years for the Maple Leafs before dropping out of the NHL.
Nashville Predators: Mike Dunham
The Nashville Predators were quick to grab Mike Dunham in their expansion draft, after the youngster was only two years removed from winning the Jennings trophy with Martin Broduer.
From the 1998/99 season until the 02/03 season when he was traded, Dunham would split starting duties with a young Tomas Vokoun.
During those four plus years with the Preds, the New York native was little more than consistently average. Dunham averaged a .910 save percentage and a 2.72 goals against average, to place him slightly behind Vokoun statistically.
Though there was never anything particularly wrong with Dunham as a goalie, he did lose more games than he won in Nashville, which make him the choice here.
New Jersey Devils: Alain Chevrier
Alain Chevrier had an unlikely road to the NHL; going undrafted then spending two season at the University of Miami (OH) and playing in the IHL before the Devils finally gave him a shot at the big time.
Chevrier was little more than porous during his tenure in the NHL, and especially in his time with the Devils. In the 1986/87 season, Chevrier allowed the most goals in the NHL, but keep in mind that this was during one of the most prolific offensive decades in hockey history.
Regardless of the era, a .866 save percentage and a 4.22 goals against average aren’t great, which saw Chevrier leave the Devils and bounce around the league for a few more seasons.
New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro
Rick DiPietro is not the worst goalie in the Islanders history in a bubble, but his on-ice numbers carry some massive asterisks. DiPietro was supposed to be a savior for the team, but he was the albatross. DiPietro was signed to a 15-year, $67.5 million dollar contract in 2006, which was completely unheard of at the time.
The goaltender would turn out to be a complete bust due to his injuries. In 11 seasons with the Islanders, DiPietro played an average of 28 games per season. Which sounds even more impressive than it is, as DiPietro played in 10 or less games in five of those seasons.
New York Rangers: Ken McAuley
World War I took a toll on the NHL and the New York Rangers were left with almost no goalies. So they had to bring in Ken McAuley after he had served in the military for a year.
The entire Rangers roster was depleted, but McAuley was atrocious in nets. McAuley allowed a ridiculous 310 goals in the 1943/44 season (in 50 games), which is the most ever allowed by one goalie in a season, while posting the worst goals against average ever (6.24)
Despite the terrible play, the Rangers were forced to bring back the goalie the following season before moving on.
In two seasons as the Rangers starter, McAuley was 17-64-15 with a 5.61 GAA.
Ottawa Senators: Peter Sidorkiewicz
The Polish netminder has the distinction of being the first starting goalie in Ottawa Senators history, but that is about all he will be remembered for. Sidorkiewicz spent just the one season with the Sens after they decided they were better of with nearly anyone else in nets.
The 1992/93 season saw Sidorkiewicz lead the league in losses and goals against, but somehow he made it to the All-Star game that season (Ottawa needed an entrant in the game).
Sidorkiewicz ended his one year in Ottawa with an 8-46-3 record while posting a goals against average of 4.43 and a save percentage of .856.
Philadelphia Flyers: Antero Niittymaki
The Flyers were ecstatic when theu watched Antero Niittymaki in the AHL, as the Finnish goalie was tearing it up and posting ridiculous numbers. Philly tried to play it slow with Niittymaki and get him reps as a backup, but circumstances kept thrusting him onto the ice.
Niittymaki saw his first NHL action due to injuries and the sudden retirement of Jeff Hackett. Then Niittymaki was given the starting job because Robert Esche had a falling out with the management. Injuries to his hip would soon follow and dog Niittymaki during his time with the Flyers.
During five seasons with the Flyers, Niittymaki had a .901 save percentage and a 3.01 goals against average while the Philly fans were always wishing for more.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Michel Dion
Michel Dion will go down as one of the best goalies in the history of the WHA, but that success did not translate to the NHL. After being acquired by the Nordiques in the WHA dispersal draft and spending a short time with the Winnipeg Jets, he found his way to Pittsburgh.
Though the Penguins were a strong team in front of Dion, the goaltender left a lot to be desired. The goalie from Granby, Quebec did end up making the All-Star team in his first season with the Pens however.
Like many others on this list, Dion lost more games than he won (42-79) and posted a horrible .856 save percentage with the Pens,
San Jose Sharks: Kelly Hrudey
For many of the younger generation, Kelly Hrudey is just another broadcaster talking about the game, but the diminutive goalie was pretty good in nets during his heyday.
However, by the time Hrudey made it to the San Jose Sharks, he was 36 and arguably seven seasons removed from his last great year.
Hrudey showed his age during his two-year stint with the Sharks with a .892 save percentage and a 3.04 goals against average. Hrudey would retire after his time in San Jose, with his two seasons with the Sharks comprising some of his worst days.
St. Louis Blues: Phil Myre
Phil Myre has a unique place in history, being the other goalie when the Montreal Canadiens rode a rookie named Ken Dryden to the Stanley Cup. Myre would eventually bounce around the league with one of his stops being in St. Louis.
Myre was 29 and had already spent eight seasons in the NHL before the Blues acquired him. Though he was around for so long, he was never the undisputed starter until he went to St. Louis.
During his tenure with the Blues. Myre posted a 3.96 goals against average which still stands as the worst mark posted by a Blues starting goaltender.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Kevin Weekes
As odd as this may sound now, there was a point in time when people thought Kevin Weekes was the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay. After bouncing around the league, Weekes ended up with his first starting gig with the Lightning.
The Toronto-native would end up playing in 61 games during the 2000/01 season with the Lightning, but his 3.14 goals against average and .898 save percentage made the team decide to trade for Nikolai Khabibulin.
Weekes would spend another season as the backup in Tampa before spending his career traveling from team to team.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Vesa Toskala
When the most memorable highlight of your career comes from allowing a 197-foot goal, you know you are not very good. Enter Vesa Toskala.
Toskala was so highly touted coming out of Sweden that the Leafs gave up their first round pick and several second round picks to acquire him and Mike Bell from the San Jose Sharks. However, all Toronto got was disappointment.
The Finish goalie spent two and a half seasons in Toronto before being chewed up by the fanbase and traded. Toskala had a .894 save percentage to go along with a highlight reel of terrible plays with the Leafs.
Vancouver Canucks: Dunc Wilson
When the expansion Vancouver Canucks needed to snatch a goalie to fill out their crease they decided on Dunc Wilson. The Toronto-native had made only one NHL appearance but at the age of 22, the Canucks saw him as the goalie of the future.
Wilson may very well have developed into a serviceable goalie had he been with another team, but the talentless Canucks left him out to dry often which hindered his development and career.
Wilson would spend three seasons with the Canucks before being shipped off to Toronto, though he would come back and retire with the team years later.
During his first tenure with the Canucks, Wilson allowed nearly four goals per game.
Washington Capitals: Ron Low
Ron Low was merely 24 years old with only one season of NHL experience under his belt when the Caps took him in their expansion draft. Low would reward the struggling club with some of the worst starting number in league history and some sweet facial hair.
His first two seasons in Washington, which saw him start more games than any other goalie, saw Low tally an awful 5.45 goals against average while leading the league in losses and goals against.
Though it may be harsh to judge Low, considering how bad the team was in front of him, the Manitoba-native showed no signs of ever developing into a starter in the NHL.
Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers: Milan Hnilicka
After a cup of tea with the New York Rangers, Czech-born Milan Hnilicka signed with the then Atlanta Thrashers. Though he barely had any NHL experience, the goalie managed to make the weak Thrashers lineup and worked his way up to starting duties.
Though Hnilicka put up a valiant effort for Atlanta, the team in front of him was weak and did not help a goaltender that realistically should not have been starting in the NHL.
Through three seasons with the Thrashers, only one with more than 36 games played, Hnilicka had a 3.30 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.
Think there were worst? Think we should not have put a certain masked man on the list? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to follow Justin on twitter at @justinhartling
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