Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Impossibility of Choosing a "Best Goalie Ever"

I've seen many threads online asking who the best NHL goalie is, either current or all time, and have come to the conclusion that it's impossible to answer that question. I am a goalie (not very good, but you have to start somewhere) and I have certain goalies I enjoy watching (either active goalies or highlight reels) but I can't say those are the best, only my favorites.

A goalie like Georges Vézina, Charlie Gardiner or Jacques Plante is an all time great, there's no denying that, but put him in a modern game (even in modern gear) and he gets destroyed by all the skaters used to butterfly goalies noticing he left the low corners completely open.

Conversely, if you put Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito, Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek or any other goalie who tends to play a more butterfly style in the 1910s-50s people would look at him as if he were crazy. Martin Brodeur is probably the only current goalie who wouldn't be looked at like he had two heads in that era.

My personal favorites are Corey Crawford, Carey Price, Henrik Lundqvist, Tony Esposito (all time favorite), Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy (in part because he's the first goalie I really heard about, living in CO in the 90s). I also like what I've seen of Antti Raanta and Dustin Tokarski. Yes, this list is biased, because I'm human. You may also notice the complete lack of goalies from eras where I cannot find footage of them playing. I know Georges Vézina and Charlie Gardiner brought my two favorite teams their first championships, I know they kept playing hockey until they were literally on their deathbeds, but I don't feel I can include them in my list of favorite goalies due to having only seen photos and articles, no actual footage of them playing.

Looking at the rafters in the United Center, you'd think that Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito are the two greatest Hawks goalies to play the game because their numbers are in the rafters. However, the 1934 Cup banner is also in the rafters, and you can't say the last goalie-captain to win a Cup, doing so while on his deathbed, wasn't great too. So, even for one team, I see three standouts for greatest ever, and that's not even accounting for the 90s, which saw both Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek in the Indian Head, or what Corey Crawford might do in a young career that already includes a Stanley Cup and a Jennings Trophy.

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