The Hockey Hall of Fame is an ambiguous debate for goalies. Only 22 goalies who played more recently than World War II have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and only 30 total. This is a shockingly low number for the most important position on the ice.
There’s a slew of goalies coming up, however, that will definitely receive Hall of Fame consideration, and there really isn’t a precedent to judge them by. Marty Brodeur, despite being one of the most overrated players in hockey history, was a shoe in for the Hall of Fame. Why? Because he won. It didn’t matter that he played his entire career during the dead puck era, behind the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Slava Fetisov, and played on the Devils team that essentially didn’t forecheck and just played a trap. Didn’t matter, he won three Cups and four Vezinas. Now I’m not saying Brodeur isn’t a Hall of Famer, but I’m also not saying he should be in the discussion for the best goaltender of all time.
But Brodeur is as modern of an example as we have for a Hall of Fame goaltender. The next most recent is Dominik Hasek, the actual greatest goalie of all time, and Ed Belfour. So when we look at the names coming up in the next decade or so, how should they be judged, and who should get in? I’ll give you a clue: it’s not by team awards and team performances.
The names I’m highlighting are Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, and Jonathan Quick.
It’s one of the most difficult aspects of hockey analysis to this day: how does one objectively judge a goalie? Goals against average is a team stat. Save percentage has a lot to do with the quality of shots against. There are more advanced stats, which I will use here, like GSAA (goals saved above average), GSAx (goals saved above expected), and dFsv% (unblocked shots save percentage minus expected unblocked shots save percentage) that do a much better job at analyzing goalies, but they’re still not perfect.
The anti-Brodeur. Lundqvist, and this isn’t a diss, hasn’t won anything in his career outside of the Vezina in 2012, but that’s on the 18 other players on his team and not him. Lundqvist was far and away the best goalie of the 2010s decade and one of the few truly consistent elite goalies. He was between .5 and 1.6 percentage points better than league average every year from 2010 to 2016, and it’s a true shame the Rangers were never able to do anything with it. He played behind a shocking lack of elite defensemen. Ryan McDonagh is probably the best d-man he ever had, with a lot of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi in there. It’s a true crime that the Rangers weren’t able to build a contending defense around their all-time goaltender. One Finals appearance in 2014 and 2 conference finals in 2012 and 2015 was the most playoff success The King ever sniffed in his career. Is that his fault? No, far from it. Will it hurt his Hall of Fame case? Maybe a little bit, but his career was elite enough to overlook it, not that it should matter.
Hall of Famer? No doubt.
A roller coaster of a career that ended with no NHL hardware but a really good career. Hockey-reference’s similarity score compares him to Broduer, Lundqvist, Hasek, and Patrick Roy among others. Not bad company. Though he never won a cup, or even a Vezina for that matter (he did win two gold medals at the Olympics), and was surrounded by drama during his time in Vancouver, his raw regular season numbers are among the best of all time. He finished his career third all time in wins, and second in saves and games played. Wins, games, and saves aren’t how a goalie should be judged, but extreme numbers like Luongo’s are somewhat meaningful and are likely enough to get him in on their own. His advanced numbers are a little more up and down, and it shows that he was the beneficiary of being on some really good Canucks teams. His save percentage was below his expected in 4 seasons between 2010 and 2018. For context, Lundqvist’s dFsv% was above .72 every year between ‘07 and ‘16. Luongo’s done that just twice. His peak was high in 2011, but that year will likely be best remembered for how it came crashing down at his house of horrors, TD Garden. His playoff resume is rough. Is that his fault? He made it past the second round just once. In the Cup Final he was pulled twice, and allowed 18 goals in the Canucks’ 4 losses. It was a choke, but I also think it’s unfair to say he was a goalie incapable of winning a Cup. In my mind, he’s a borderline Hall of Famer, and he’ll likely get more credit than he deserves because of his raw numbers. Longevity means something though, and a 19 year career will definitely help his case.
Hall of Famer? Ehhhhh it’s tough. I’d love to say the Bruins ruined his chances in 2011, but he was really good for a long time. I’ll say yes, but it’s close.
Oh how quickly bringing an expansion team within 3 wins of a cup in their first season makes us forget. I said Marty Brodeur is one of the most overrated players in hockey history, Fleury is right there with him. I mean, if you play your entire career behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you’re bound to have some sort of winning pedigree. The excellent JFreshHockey covers it really well here. Fleury, without a doubt, is the biggest playoff choker of the 2010s. In 2008, the Penguins made their run to the finals because of his great play. In 2009, they won in spite of him, but he’ll be remembered for his save on Nick Lidstrom in the dying seconds. In 2010, they lost to a far inferior 8 seed Habs who had the Halak magic with Fleury posting an .891 sv%. 2011 saw Fleury and the Penguins blow a 3-1 series lead to the Lightning on the back of Fleury’s .899 sv%. In 2012, Fleury absolutely imploded in a series against the rival Flyers, posting a .834 sv%, allowing a whopping 26 goals in less than 6 games. In 2013, his poor play continued, this time losing his job to a 36 year old Tomas Voukon as he watched all but 43 minutes from the bench as his team was swept by the Bruins. The Penguins blew another 3-1 series lead against the Penguins in 2014, though Fleury wasn’t terrible. He also played decently in their 5 game loss to the Rangers in 2015. Fleury lost his starting job to Matt Murray and watched from the bench for all but 79 minutes as the Penguins went on to win him his second Cup, and then watched again from the bench the next year as Matt Murray won him his third Cup. All of this said, there is no taking away what he did for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018. He was great in the regular season, and great pretty much all playoffs, and it saved his legacy. His dFsv% is unspectacular; His best season would be Lundqvist’s 9th best. Sure, he was a number one overall pick who has 3 cups, a gold medal, and two other trips to the final, but the truth is, Fleury’s on ice results in the regular season have been fairly average. In the playoffs they’ve been horrific. He may ride legacy and longevity to the Hall of Fame, but he shouldn’t.
Hall of Famer? No chance.
Rinne has longevity on his side, his highs have been high, and his lows have been low. No cups, one Vezina. His best season was his Vezina winning season in 2018, finishing the season with a .927 sv%, compared to a league average of .912, and a dFsv% of 0.74. Very good, but that season will likely be best remembered for his epic choke in the second round against Winnipeg. He was pulled in Game 1, allowed 5 goals in Game 3, was pulled in Game 5, and pulled in embarrassing fashion just 10 minutes into Game 7 after allowing two goals on seven shots. He was good in 2019 before starting to show his age in 2020. The Preds were one quick whistle away from forcing a Game 7 of the final thanks to Rinne in 2017, so he has a cup run to his name. The Preds have also churned out some elite defensemen in front of Rinne, from Shea Weber to Roman Josi to Ryan Sutter, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm, so he’s been fortunate to play on some of the best defensive teams in the league. If there was a Hall of Very Good, Rinne would be in it, but I don’t think he’s been spectacular enough to justify a Hall of Fame induction.
Hall of Famer? He’ll be in the debate, but ultimately, no.
Tuukka Rask has everything except for one thing: A Stanley Cup A Stanley Cup as a starter. He has a high peak, regular season success, playoff success, a Vezina, and a Cup as Tim Thomas’s backup in 2011. I’ll start with what Rask has going for him: He stepped in for an injured Tim Thomas and immediately became one of the league’s best in 2010, then fell victim to Thomas having the greatest season of all time and was a really good backup for two years, then went back to being one of the league’s best in 2013 after Thomas went to live in a bunker in Colorado to prepare for the end of the world. He put up a *.940* raw sv% in the 2013 playoffs on the Bruins run to the finals, one of the best marks for a single playoff run in history. The success continues to 2014 where he won the Vezina and led the Bruins to a president’s trophy. He then replicated his 2013 performance in 2019, putting up a .934 sv% leading the Bruins to Game 7 of the final, and continued that success into 2020 that could win him a second Vezina. Now, what’s against him. Rask went through sort of a mid career lull, from 2015 through 2017, then was average in 2018 and 2019 before his spectacular 2020. The Bruins were going through a time of transition and didn’t have the stacked defense they’ve had in other years, so it’s possible that affected his play and confidence. Which brings me to my next point: The Bruins have consistently been one of the league’s best defensive teams in the league going back to when Claude Julien was hired. Since Rask became a full time NHLer in 09/10, the Bruins have allowed just 2.04 expected goals per 60, 6th best in the NHL. He’s been able to play behind Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron his whole career, as well as Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and other guys who have made the Bruins a powerhouse for the last decade. If Rask doesn’t make the Hall of Fame, this should be the justification. Finally, if there’s one guy who might fall victim to not having a Cup (as a starter), it’s Rask. However, this isn’t a conversation we’re having if his team manages to score more than one goal in Games 5 and 7 of the final in 2019, or if Kaspars Daugivans or Chris Kelly manage to not miss entirely empty nets in the 2013 final, among other fractional bounces out of Rask’s control. Rask has done more than enough for his team to win a Stanley Cup, twice, but his team in front has failed to put that final piece together. You can’t blame Rask for the Bruins’ Cup losses, so it shouldn’t besmirch his Hall of Fame case.
Hall of Fame? Right now, he’s borderline. Another elite season and playoff run, and he’s in. He’s probably the one on this list with the most to prove with what he has left in the tank.
Price is the youngest of the group and still has something to prove considering he has precisely one million years left on his contract at $10 million per year, but he’ll be in the conversation when he retires, even if it’s not for a million and three years from now. If you value peaks, few had a higher peak than Price. His 2015 is up there on the list of greatest seasons by a goaltender, winning the Hart, Vezina, Lindsey, and Jennings trophies to the tune of a .933 raw sv% and 1.43 dFsv%. 2011, 2014, and 2017 were good seasons for him too, but his peak was a one season Mount Everest. Since 2018 he’s been pretty unspectacular. If he can’t regain his old form, it would be tough to see him having a real Hall of Fame case. His best seasons are up there with Lundqvist, who’s a lock, but he doesn’t have the longevity. If you allow Price in, it opens the door for other guys who had a really good couple of seasons, but failed to turn it into a full career, like Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, or Miikka Kiprusoff. If you judge a Hall of Famer by their peak performance, then maybe Price is a candidate, but there needs to be sustained success.
Hall of Famer? No, unless he can return to old form for multiple seasons.
Quick is the King (haha, get it?) of playoff success, but his regular season numbers have been scattered. His play in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 playoffs is what he will ultimately be remembered for, as he was lights out, leading the Kings to two cups and a conference finals appearance. It’s his regular season numbers that are in the good-not-great territory. He was dominant in 2012 despite the Kings barely making the playoffs as an 8 seed with a 1.11 dFsv%. His next best full season was a resurgence in 2018 where he carried a declining Kings team to the playoffs, and he was solid in ’14, ’15, and ’16. However, he’s been in decline since his stellar 2018 season and it would be a surprise to see Quick return to his old form at the age of 34. That gives him a 4-6 years stretch where he can be considered one of the league’s best. I wouldn’t consider that longevity. He has a lack of top tier regular seasons, but had 3 dominant playoff runs from 2012-2014, and has two cups to his name. I’d have him somewhere between Rask and Rinne on this list, meaning he could be destined for the Hall of Very Good, but his playoff resume deservingly pushes him into borderline territory.
Hall of Famer? Probably the toughest one. He lead his team to two cups and had a three year span of playoff dominance, surrounded by solid play. Is that enough? I think so. Clutchness matters.
There isn’t much of a precedent for goalies to make the Hall, but one will certainly be set in the next decade, and the door should open for many more goalies to be inducted. Goalies are historically inconsistent, all of them, so that’s part of the reason there’s been a lack of inductees, given that sustained dominance is a key factor for many of the voters. Some of these guys still have something to prove to solidify their legacy, but all of them will be in the Hall of Fame conversation when their career ends, some more deserving than others.
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