50 Greatest Hockey Goaltenders

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I recently came by a copy of the excellent book "Without Fear" (Kevin Allen, Bob Duff, Johnny Bower) which lists the 50 Greatest Goalies of all-time. An excellent list for sure, and those picking have better credentials then myself. I'm not sure I can do it "better" but I decided to do it anyway. One thing that bothered me when they listed their goalies was the contention that they did not include longetivity as a consideration, only who would you want in your goal for game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Yet if you look at their list you have to believe that longetivity had something to do with it. Otherwise, you would have to include a guy like Jose Theodore who had a season far better then John Vanbiesbrouck ever did. My list definetly takes into account their longetivity.
The number before the name is my ranking; the number in parenthesis following the name is the ranking from "Without Fear". In the write-ups I use the term "carry the mail". I count a goalie as having carried the mail for his team in a season if he played at least 60% of their regular season games. There is a little take and give in those numbers however.

#1  Patrick Roy (#1)
Some misguided folks think that Patrick always played for good teams; he did not. Montreal and Colorado would not have won the cups they did without Patrick Roy. Most of the negatives about Patrick surround his attitude, sportsmanship, National pride, etc, not his on-ice work. He played the majority of his teams games in 14 seasons. Compare that to Sawchuk and Hall who did only 11 seasons, Plante 9, and Hasek and Durnan 7. In fact, no other goalie in "Without Fear"'s top 50 played that much. His GAA was 2.53 compared to Sawchuk & Hall's 2.52 & 2.51, but his playoff GAA went lower then his regular season average at 2.30; contrasted to Sawchuk & Hall's who increased to 2.54 & 2.79 respectively. I have read books about both Sawchuk & Hall that place forward strong cases for each man as the greatest goalie ever; and those arguments are valid. To pick only one is tough but I have to go for Sir. Patrick.

#2 Terry Sawchuk (#2)
Growing up in East Kildonan I played a lot of hockey in the old "Incinarena" now called the Terry Sawchuk Arena after the local boy. I really enjoyed the book Shutout: the legend of Terry Sawchuk. I will grant the Sawchuk fans that he put together the greatest 5 year span in netminding history. If our criteria was the goalie with the best 5 or 6 consecutive years he would be #1. Fact is he is neck and neck with Roy and Hall. His 115 shutouts is amazing, and he helped the Red Wings at least as much as they helped him. His style of the crouch was successful at the time but did not leave a very long lasting legacy. The "what if" questions though need to be tempered. It's easy to speculate how great Sawchuk could have been without the demons, but at the same time those demons were part of the psychological make-up that drove him to be so great - to fear losing.
I wish I could have seen this phenom perform in person.
971 GP, 106 playoff GP, 115 career combined shutouts. The shutout king.

#3 Glenn Hall (#3)
Those that would call Hall the best ever rest some of that premise on intangibles. For instance, Hall was a much better teammate then Sawchuk or Roy, and innovated the butterfly style. However, they also post an image of Hall as being much more dependable then Sawchuk, and longer lasting. They often paint a picture of Sawchuk as someone who burnt out fast and left a legend behind that is bigger then the results. This is untrue. Hall played 906 regular season games (Sawchuk 971, Roy 1029), and his career GAA mirrors Sawchuk's. Also, like Sawchuk he carried the load for his team 11 seasons, Roy 14.
Hall DID innovate the butterfly, was an absolutely spectacular goalie with amazing reflexes, and a true gentlemen. He also managed to succeed in going to an expansion team (St.Louis) where Sawchuk failed in his attempt to make it with Los Angeles. If someone wants to claim Hall is the greatest goalie ever, they have a very valid argument.
"Glenn Hall: the man they call Mr. Goalie" is an excellent read on the career of Mr. Hall.

#4 Jacques Plante (#4)
Most lists would have Plante #4 behind the big 3 but his placement may vary somewhat. While he did not play as much as the big 3, 837 regular season games carrying the mail for his teams during 9 seasons, his GAA was a spectacular 2.38 and an even better 2.17 in the playoffs. Of course he played on some spectacular Montreal teams as well. "The Snake" was known to be a bit of a malcontent and hypochondriac, but for an elite goalie attitude problems seem to be the normal, not the exception.

#5 Dominik Hasek (#5)
When I first glanced through "Without Fear" I thought Hasek was overated by a few spots. However, since he played his best years in the years immediately following the Jets leaving Winnipeg, it coincided with the years I watched very little hockey. So I researched his stats a bit more finitely, and comparing his GAA with his contemporaries, and looking at his Hart trophies (the MVP has been a difficult award for Goalies to win), I was blown away. Hasek played only 595 regular season games, carrying the mail for his teams for 7 seasons. He elevated some mediocre Buffalo teams, including one right into the Stanley Cup finals. On a game for game basis his performance has to rank right alongside the 4 men ahead of him on this list. His career GAA was 2.22 in the regular season, and dipped to 2.02 in the playoffs. His gymnastic like saves remind you of the talents of goalies from previous generations who did not have the same size of equipment to rely on, and who were not just positional goalies.

#6 George Hainsworth (#8)
"Without Fear" had Hainsworth #8, and Bill Durnan #6. I have basically swapped these two positions because of my belief that longetivity should count for something. I don't think that any of this second tier of goalies deserves to rank with the top 5 in terms of pure talent. However, Hainsworth carried the mail for his teams for 10 seasons, recording a GAA of 1.91 and a 1.93 in playoffs. He recorded 102 shutouts in just 517 games. It's hard to comapre generations, and he played on some excellent Canadians teams, but it's hard not to put Hainsworth somewhere between #5-#10. I put him here at #6.

#7 Ken Dryden (#7)
A very difficult goalie to place. He was a combination of size and agility that had not been seen before. However, he also played for some great teams, did not play a tremendous amount of seasons, had his fair share of bad games - including some high profile international games, used a standup style that did not stand the test of time, and when watching the tapes now you have to shake your head at how unstable he often looked in net. But his results were tremendous, and at the time he was without a doubt the best there was in goal. He only carried the bulk of work for 6 NHL seasons, logging only 397 regular season games (yet managed to play 112 playoff games). His regular season GAA was excellent at 2.24, yet was higher in the playoffs at 2.40. I would be hard pressed to find a justifiable argument that would put him any higher then #7, and I can see why some people might rank him a few notches lower.

#8 Bill Durnan (#6)
Quality wise I think Durnan, Hainsworth, Dryden and Vezina are fairly interchangeable for their own time. Durnan drops down to #8 in my list based on his playing only 383 regular season games and 45 playoff games.

#9 Turk Broda (#11)
I have a bit more upswing here for Broda then the authors of "Without Fear". Broda was one of the greatest goalies ever, whose talents were only a notch behind the Canadian greats who seem to get mentioned exclusively in this second tier. Broda though carried the mail for 11 seasons, more then any of those Canadians goalies, playing 629 regular season and 102 playoff games. He finished with a GAA of 2.53, but amazingly his playoff GAA dropped to 1.98. That is an incredible stat. He was a big money goalie who recorded 75 career shutouts.

#10 George Vezina (#9)
George carried the mail for 8 outstanding seasons, which were a lot better then the 3.28 GAA would seem to indicate. He played during some free wheeling years. There is a reason that the trophy was named for him and not just because of the tragedy.

#11 Tony Esposito (#15)
How Tony can remain one of the most underated puck stoppers amazes me. His name is almost a synonym for exciting goaltending. Sure his style as a go-down flopper was technically unsound and did not last the test of time, but his results were excellent. He was the #2 goalie of his era behind Dryden, and ahead of Parent and Cheevers and Smith in my books.
Espo carried the mail for 13 seasons, playing 868 regular season games and received a ballooned 2.89 GAA thanks to some mediocre Blackhawk teams. He was one of the most agile goalies ever.

#12 Clint Benedict (#16)
Pioneered the game for 12 seasons. His regular season GAA of 2.32 dipped down to 1.80 for the playoffs.

#13 Tiny Thompson (#20)
Like Benedict, I think that some of the best pioneer goalies are underated on the list while the second tier of that time are overated. Thompson carried the mail for 12 seasons and like Bendict recorded a playoff GAA (1.88) a good deal below his regular season GAA (2.08).

#14 Grant Fuhr (#12)
Another guy that is hard to rate. He was left alone so often, was so acrobatic, played during the hayday of the high scoring NHL, and of course there is the whole cocaine thing. I'm surprised that I rank him lower then the guys from "Without Fear" as I usually rate Fuhr higher then most people. The only way to truly appreciate Fuhr is to watch the Oilers beat the Jets in the playoffs and watch Fuhr just stone Winnipeg, time and time again. Moog was a great goalie, but the Oiler dynasty without Fuhr could have been in jeopardy. Fuhr played a lot of games 868 in the regular season, but due to injuries and sharing time with Moog, he only really carried the mail for 7 seasons. Those included one incredible last hurrah in St. Louis when he led the NHL in games played.

#15 Martin Brodeur (#21)
If it were not for Hasek, Brodeur would be the premiere goalie of the last 10 seasons. His selection for and performances with Team Canada have helped cement his status. If his career ended today I have a hard time believing he would be only #21, and frankly #15 might also be a bit lower. He has already carried the mail for 9 seasons, playing 740 regular season and 144 playoff games with a GAA of 2.16 and 1.86 respectively. He has also collected 95 shutouts and poses a serious threat to Sawchuk's record. If Brodeur can put together 3 more excellent seasons I would think his final resting spot in this list would be in the territory of #8-#10.

#16 Bernie Parent (#10)
Of all the rankings in "Without Fear" this one surprised me the most. Maybe I just don't like Parent much, but frankly 608 regular season games, carrying the mail for 7 years and not being the elite goalie of his era does little to justify a top 10 ranking. He was a big money goalie, on a big money Philly team. His playoff runs were fantastic.

#17 Johnny Bower (#18)
Like Parent he carried the mail for only 7 seasons, however in his case he played another whole career in the minors. Back in those days you could be the #3 goalie in the world but not be in the NHL (like Glenn Hall).

#18 Ed Belfour (#27)
Like Brodeur a contemporary goalie who is underated. At his best in the Stanley Cup finals he stood toe to toe with Hasek and often outshined him. He has already carried the mail for 12 seasons, recording 89 shutouts in 856 regular season and 161 playoff games. Only Patrick Roy has played more playoff games. I should come clean though and admit that Eddie the Eagle happens to be my favorite goalie amongst the top 50 list.

#19 Frank Brimsek (#13)
His nickname Mr. Zero is a bit misleading, as his shutout ratio to games played is not such that it would make him the "undisputed shutout king". He recorded 42 shutouts in 582 games. He carried the mail for 9 seasons for some very subpar teams and finished with a GAA of 2.70 regular season and 2.56 in the playoffs.

#20 Alex Connell (#23)
Pioneer age goalie, carried the mail for 9 seasons recording a career GAA of 1.91 in the regular season, and an astounding 1.19 GAA in 21 playoff games. That's a playoff record that is hard to beat.

#21 Gump Worsley (#19)
Often underrated because he played for some horrible Rangers teams, and because his physique makes him tougher to take serious when you didn't get a chance to see him in his prime. The Gumper carried the mail for 9 seasons with a fairly high GAA of 2.90 and 2.82 in the playoffs, thanks in no small part to the Rangers. Thankfully he had a Stanley Cup run with the Canadiens to increase his status.

#22 Billy Smith (#14)
Had only one season where he played more then 48 games (my definition of carrying the mail for his era). That is why he slips lower then in the "Without Fear" ratings where they claim not to care about longetivity. Smith played parts of 18 seasons but only racked up 680 regular season games and a GAA of 3.17, dipping to 2.73 in 132 playoff games where he was pure gold.

#23 Vladislav Tretiak (#24)
I'm glad that "Without Fear" included the Russian phenom in their list instead of ignoring him as many do. Who knows how he would have fared in the NHL?

#24 Roy Worters (#29)
Diminutive netminder carried the mail for 11 years, mostly for the New York Americans. This pioneer played 484 regular season games but only 11 playoff games, finishing with a GAA of 2.27 & 2.09 in the playoffs.

#25 Rogie Vachon (#33)
One of the great "names" of goaltenders, often underated because he played for the Kings. If he had stayed with the Canadiens he could very well be sitting in the spot currently occupied by Ken Dryden in this list. Carried the mail for 10 NHL seasons, sporting a GAA of 2.99 and 2.77 in the playoffs.

#26 Charlie Gardiner (#17)
Carried the mail for 7 consecutive seasons for the Blackhawks in the 20's - 30's. Very low GAA of 2.02 and even lower of 1.37 in the playoffs.
#27 Tom Barasso (#25)
Until I re-examined some stats I didn't think I would rank Barasso quite so high. He was a superb goalie who got off to a great start as a rookie with Buffalo and went on to win the Stanley Cup with the Penguins. Carried the mail for 8 seasons.
#28 Gerry Cheevers (#22)
A lot of fans would be up in arms about placing Cheevers this low, especially below Vachon. However, claims like Cheevers was the best big money goalie of his era just don't hold up from what I remember and what I have seen since. Like Billy Smith he only played one season with more then 48 games, but also played 3 in the WHA with the Crusaders. Played in only 418 regular season NHL contests.
#29 Mike Richter (#37)
When he was hot, there was no one better. Stole the World Cup for the United States in what I think was the best game of hockey ever played. Richter carried the mail in 6 seasons beating out John Vanbiesbrouck for the #1 spot with the Rangers.
#30 Eddie Giacomin (#39)
Another goalie often underated because he played for the Rangers. Only carried the mail on 5 seasons playing 610 regular season games overall. Collected an impressive 55 shutouts in only 675 combined regular season and playoff games.

#31 Al Rollins (#30)
Could there be a more non-descript goalie? Bounced from the Leafs to the Hawks with plenty of stints in the minors during the years of the original 6. Carried the mail for 5 seasons including his best season in 53-54 when he played well enough with the Hawks to win the Hart trophy - not very common for goalies.
#32 Curtis Joseph (#45)
Cujo carried the mail for 10 seasons, and was often one of the best in the league. A ranking of #45 seems a bit low for "Without Fear". His GAA of 2.74 drops to 2.43 in playoff action, and he recorded 59 career shutouts.
#33 Harry Lumley (#26)
Carried the mail for 11 years with Detroit, Toronto, and Chicago. Won his sole Vezina in 53-54 with Toronto, the same season that Rollins captured the Hart with Chicago.
#34 Bill Ranford (#49)
Was one of the game's best 3 goalies in several seasons, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy. Carried the mail for 7 seasons.
#35 Lorne Chabot (#34)
Carried the mail 9 seasons, mostly for Toronto. GAA of 2.04 dipped down to 1.50 come playoff time.

#36 Davie Kerr (#35)
#37 Hap Holmes (#28)
#38 Roger Crozier (#36)
#39 Mike Vernon (#31)
#40 Chuck Rayner (#38)
#41 Riley Hern (#32)
#42 Normie Smith (#44)
#43 Andy Moog (n/r)
#44 John Roach (n/r)
#45 Ron Hextall (#43)
#46 John Vanbiesbrouck (#50)
#47 Jim Henry (n/r)
#48 Glenn Resch (n/r)
#49 Hugh Lehman (#40)
#50 Percy Lesueur (#41)

Goalies Who May Make This List One Day
Nikolai Khabibulin, Olaf Kolzig, Jose Theodore, & Mikka Kiprusoff
Goalies Worth Mentioning Who Didn't Make the List
Mike Liut, Chris Osgood, Mike Karakas, Vladimir Dzurilla, and Segei Myshkin.