San Jose Sharks Goaltenders: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Eric He@@erichesportsContributor IIJune 10, 2012

San Jose Sharks Goaltenders: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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    Eight months ago, I wrote an article chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly coaches in San Jose Sharks history. 

    It seemed like a perfect fit: The Sharks had some good winning coaches (Ron Wilson, Todd McLellan) and some downright awful ones (George Kingston).

    The same can be said about goaltenders. In their 20-year history, the San Jose Sharks have seen terrific netminders (like the one pictured above), as well as some goalies better suited for a beer hockey league (see "bad" slide). 

    So without further ado, I give you the good, the bad and the ugly, San Jose Sharks goalie style.

The Good: Vernon, Shields, Toskala, Nabokov, Niemi

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    Mike Vernon

    I will always respect Mike Vernon when he was on the Red Wings for dropping the gloves with Patrick Roy. He was traded to the Sharks 1997, and in three seasons, Vernon went 52-49-19 with a terrific 2.39 GAA. 

    The Sharks made the playoffs all three years with Vernon minding the net, but failed to make it past the second round. 

    He has 375 career wins, which is the third-most wins for a goaltender not in the Hall of Fame.


    Steve Shields

    Shields took over the starting role from Vernon during the 1999-2000 season, his only season as the team's starting goaltender. He spent three seasons (1998-2001) with the Sharks and, like Vernon, failed to advance past the second round.

    Shields' stat line with the Sharks is respectable: 48-49-21, 2.44 GAA.


    Vesa Toskala

    Toskala is probably the first name on the list that modern Sharks fans actually recall. He spent five seasons with the Sharks (2002-2007), but was used sparingly during his first two seasons. 

    He burst onto the scene in 2003-2004, going 12-8-4 with a 2.06 GAA, and followed that up with an even better season in 2004-2005: 23-7-4, 2.56 GAA. 

    Toskala split playing time with Evgeni Nabokov throughout his Sharks career, with each of them starting every other game. 

    Eventually, the Sharks decided that they had to commit to one of them, and traded Toskala to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the end of the 2006-2007 season.

    The good news for the Sharks? Toskala struggled with the Leafs and is now playing in Europe.

    Even better news: This set the table for a Russian goaltender named Evgeni Nabokov to take over.


    Evgeni Nabokov

    Nabokov, or "Nabby," is probably considered to be the best goalie in Sharks history. He made arguably the greatest save in NHL playoff history, robbing Brad Richards of the Dallas Stars from point-blank.

    After Toskala's departure, Nabokov was the undisputed "No. 1" for three seasons (2007-2010).

    He set several Sharks records during his tenure, including most games played, most career wins and most career shutouts.

    However, Nabokov will always be remembered for his poor performance in the playoffs. The Sharks made the postseason every year that he played for them, yet they reached the Western Conference Finals just once, never winning the Stanley Cup.

    The Sharks decided not to re-sign him after the 2010 season, and he is now playing for the New York Islanders.


    Antti Niemi

    After defeating Nabokov and the Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Finals en route to winning a Stanley Cup, Antti Niemi took his talents to San Jose, replacing Nabokov as the starter.

    Niemi led the Sharks to another WCF appearance the following season, only to lose to the Vancouver Canucks. This past season (2011-2012), the Sharks fell to the St. Louis Blues in the first round.

    Niemi is 69-40 with a 2.40 GAA in his two seasons with the Sharks and will most likely be the starter next season.

The Bad: Every Single Goalie on the 1992-1993 Team

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    No, I am not kidding.

    If you read my article San Jose Sharks Coaches: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, you will know what I'm talking about. 

    The "ugly" sectioned belonged to coach George Kingston, who led the Sharks to a dismal 11-71-2 record in the 1992-1993 season—that stands as an NHL record for most losses in a single season. 

    The Sharks were simply awful that year, playing with a team full of NHL journeymen, minor-leaugers and rookies. 

    That held true for the goalies. The Sharks used three goalies throughout the 1992-1993 season, and each of them were equally horrible. 


    Arturs Irbe: 7-26-0, 4.11 GAA

    Irbe actually went on to have a respectable career, going 30-28-16 as the Sharks starter the next season. 


    Brian Hayward: 2-14-1, 5.55 GAA

    Hayward's better years were spent as the starting goalie for Montreal and Winnipeg, to say the least.

    The 1992-1993 season was Hayward's first season in the NHL, and it is safe to say that he did not win the Rookie of the Year. 


    Jeff Hackett: 2-30-1, 5.28 GAA

    Those stats say it all. I mean, two wins and 30 losses? A 5.28 goals-against-average? 

    Hackett spent 15 years as an NHL journeyman, but will be remembered for being the starting goalie for the worst team in NHL history.

The Ugly: Ed Belfour

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    Forget Chris Pronger, Brian Campbell, Teemu Selanne and whoever else Sharks fans boo these days.

    Ed Belfour will always be public enemy No.1 in San Jose.

    Andy Bensch ranked Belfour No. 1 on the Not So Top 10 San Jose Sharks of All-Time list:

    During the 1996-1997 season, the Sharks traded for "Eddie the Eagle," who was then the longtime Chicago Blackhawk starting netminder.

    While with the Sharks Belfour played in just 13 games and posted nearly a career-low .884 save percentage and a 3.41 GAA. These numbers were only better than his rookie season totals of .878 and 3.87.

    The following season Belfour would sign with San Jose's big rival at the time, the Dallas Stars. That season the Stars beat the Sharks in first round of the playoffs, and Belfour had a tremendous season with a 1.88 GAA, a .916 save percentage, and nine shutouts.

    From that point on, he was booed tremendously every time he played in San Jose, and chants of Bellll-four would rain down whenever he gave up a goal to the Sharks. 

    Owen Nolan gave the Sharks some redemption during the 1997-1998 playoffs, deliberately running at Belfour.