Less than a month ago, Martin Brodeur surpassed Patrick Roy's now-defunct record for most career wins by a goaltender.
Now Marty is poised to shatter Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 career shutouts.
Brodeur's success raises an intriguing question for hockey fans and history buffs alike:
Who is the greatest goalie of all time?
This is my short list of potential candidates. They are not really ranked in any particular order, but they all have one thing in common: They are all among history's greatest goalies.
Cast your vote for the greatest of greats and let the debating begin!!
P.S. Here is a list of honorable mentions that do not appear on my main list: George Vezina, George Hainsworth, Bernie Parent, Johnny Bower, Billy Smith, Gerry Cheevers, and Lorne "Gump" Worsley.
Best known for the distinction of being the first goalie to don a face mask, Habs legend Jacques Plante dominated the crease in the 1950's backstopping the storied dynasty to five consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1955 to 1960.
Plante virtually owned the Vezina trophy in the late '50s, and he capped off this impressive run during the 1961-62 season when he became the first player ever to capture the Hart and Vezina trophies in the same season.
Only two other individuals have ever accomplished this spectacular feat: Dominik Hasek and Jose Theodore, both of whom played an era far removed from the hay day of Plante's career.
Plante was an innovative netminder who employed a sophisticated, stand-up, positional style to cut down angles. He is often given credit for being one of the first goaltenders to come out of his crease to play the puck.
Jacques Plante was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, his jersey number was retired by the Montreal Canadiens in 1995. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest goaltenders of all time.
Vladislav Tretiak is often regarded as the greatest goalie who never played in the NHL. He is also one of the former Soviet Union's best known hockey icons.
During his career with the notorious Red Army, Tretiak was dominant, both at home in the Soviet League where he amassed First All-Star team accolades consecutively from 1971 to 1984, and at the International level where he won three Olympic gold medals and several world championships with the Soviet national team.
In 1989, Tretiak became the first Soviet player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He also has the distinction of being the first hockey player who never played a single game in the National Hockey League to make it into the prestigious Hall.
In 2000, Tretiak was voted the best Russian hockey player of the 20th century.
He is certainly a bona fide international goal tending legend who made an enormous impact on the game of hockey, his hybrid stand up and sprawling style has had a lasting influence on how the position of goal is played even today.
When Terry Sawchuk's hockey career came to an abrupt end in 1970 due to his sudden and untimely death, he had 447 regular season wins to his credit. That was a record that stood for 30 years.
His current record of 103 regular-season shutouts still stands today.
Sawchuk played a total of 19 seasons in the NHL. He began his rookie season with the Detroit Red Wings in 1950-'51, retired briefly during the 1956-'57 season due to a battle with mononucleosis while playing for the Bruins and returned the following season to play for the Red Wings.
His sudden passing occurred while he was playing for the New York Rangers in 1970.
Terry played for five different NHL teams during his career, winning two Stanley Cups, capturing the Vezina Trophy in 1964-65, and leading the NHL in wins during his first five seasons in the big league. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971, and his number has been retired by the Detroit Red Wings.
His numbers and his legacy speak for themselves. Terry Sawchuk is one of the all-time greats.
I hated Dominik Hasek with a burning passion. Especially when he played against my beloved Habs.
Let's be honest—Hasek had absolutely no style. He flip flopped awkwardly and acrobatically all over his crease with absolutely no grace.
He often looked lost and grossly out of position, and yet somehow he managed to stop the puck consistently with his awe inspiring flexibility and cat-like reflexes.
There will never be anyone else quite like him.
Hasek's most impressive accomplishments came during the 1990s, when he won the Vezina Trophy five times. In 1997, he became just the second goaltender to ever claim the Hart and Vezina trophies in the same season.
In 1998, he repeated the unthinkable and won the Hart and Vezina again for the second time in his career. He also helped the Czech Republic capture the gold medal at the Nagano Olympics that same year by shutting down Team Canada in a dramatic shoot-out during the semifinals.
He followed that with a 1-0 shutout over Russia in the championship game.
Hasek was a member of the 2002 and 2008 Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. He retired in June of 2008, and it is expected that he will get the nod from the Hockey Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
I hate to admit it, but he is one of the greatest. Ugghhh.
Here is something to wrap your head around:
Ken Dryden played only seven full seasons in the National Hockey League. He began his NHL career midway through the '70-71 campaign and never looked back.
In his rookie year with the Montreal Canadiens, he won the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, and the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year.
He followed that up with an appearance against the Soviets at the legendary '72 Summit Series in Russia, and took the 1972-'73 season off to complete his law degree at McGill University when contract negotiations with the Habs were not to his liking.
He returned the following season and played until the end of the 1978-'79 season.
Dryden would win five Vezina Trophies and backstop the Montreal Canadiens to five more Stanley Cups before calling it quits in 1979 at the ripe old age of 31.
There is no way of knowing what extraordinary accomplishments he might have achieved had he played another six or seven seasons.
Dryden boasts a 2.24 career goals against average and has lost just 57 games during his entire career. He posted 46 career shutouts and has a career winning percentage of .790.
Ken Dryden was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. His number 29 was retired by the Montreal Canadiens in January of 2007.
Like a shooting star streaking across the hockey sky, Dryden's career was brief but awe-inspiring and remarkable. Any list of goaltending greats would be incomplete without his mention.
Chicago Blackhawks legend Tony Esposito is certainly worthy of mention among history's best goalies.
Esposito emerged as a superstar after being picked up on waivers from the Montreal Canadiens prior to the 1969-'70 season. He set a record by posting 15 shutouts that season and went on to win both the Vezina and the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Esposito appeared in the famous '72 Summit series against the Soviets, and won a total of three Vezina Trophies throughout the 1970's. He consistently finished among the top goaltenders for goals-against average year after year throughout his career.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Blackhawks have retired his number 35.
In 1998, he was ranked number 79 on The Hockey News' List of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players of All Time.
Often accredited with being the first goalie to master the butterfly style, Glenn Hall is certainly one of the greats. He was the quintessential iron man, setting an unbreakable record by appearing in 502 consecutive games over an eight-season stretch.
And he did this without wearing a mask!
Hall won the Vezina Trophy in 1967 and then again in 1968 (he shared it with Jacques Plante that season). He won two Stanley Cups and led the expansion St. Louis Blues into the Stanley Cup finals during the '67-'68 season.
The Blues lost the series to the Canadiens, but Hall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP—an accomplishment rarely bestowed upon a player from the losing team.
Glenn Hall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. In 1998, he was ranked number 16 in The Hockey News' List of 100 Greatest Hockey Players of All-Time.
When it comes to jaw-dropping, acrobatic, highlight-reel saves, it's hard to top this guy. Wayne Gretzky believes he is the greatest goaltender in NHL history.
Gretzky's assertion is debatable, but one thing is certain—Grant Fuhr was definitely one of the most entertaining netminders to watch.
During the 1980s, explosive, end-to-end, fire-wagon offense took the NHL by storm, and goaltending statistics took a nose dive. For this reason, individual numbers tell a very misleading story.
On paper, a career goals against average of 3.38 appears mediocre at best, but on the ice, where it counts, Fuhr was a spectacular competitor who got the job done time and time again.
He backstopped the powerhouse '80s Oilers to four Stanley Cups and claimed the Vezina Trophy in 1988. Fuhr made six appearances at the NHL All-Game and won MVP honors in 1986.
He backstopped Team Canada to two Canada Cup championships (what is now the World Cup), and finished second in voting, behind Mario Lemieux, for the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1989.
During the early '90s Fuhr admitted to having a substance abuse problem. He was haunted by injuries and inconsistent play. His career went into a tail spin but he pushed on until his retirement just prior to the 2000-2001 season.
Throughout the '90s, he played for various teams including the Maple Leafs, Sabres, Blues and, the Los Angeles KIngs, where he was briefly reunited with Wayne Gretzky.
Grant Fuhr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November of 2003. He was ranked 70th in 1998's Hockey News list of the 100 Greatest Players of All-time.
Patrick Roy was his boyhood idol.
He has more career wins than any goaltender in history. He is the ultimate work horse. He epitomizes the notion of consistency. He has posted 40 or more regular-season wins seven times in his career.
He is one shutout shy of Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 and, at 36 years of age, it appears he is still in the prime of his career.
Martin Brodeur is the total package. It is difficult to pin point "the greatest" or "the best of the best" when it comes to net minders because different eras, styles and time specific factors all play a part in the total assessment.
That said, it is inconceivable to imagine any top-five list that does not include Martin Brodeur. Period.
Brodeur owns several NHL records. He is a four-time Vezina Trophy recipient and a three-time Stanley Cup Champion. He backstopped Canada to an Olympic gold medal victory at Salt Lake City in 2002.
He has appeared in 10 NHL All-Star games. He won the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in 1994. He was selected as a first team All-Star three times.
However, despite all these remarkable accolades, there are two significant prizes he has never claimed:
He has never won the Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs. Patrick Roy won the Conn Smythe three times.
He has never won the Hart Memorial Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the regular season. Dominik Hasek won the Hart Trophy twice.
They say you should save the best for last. Well, if I had to win one game, there is only one man I would call upon—the one they call Saint, Mr. Captain Clutch himself, No. 33 Patrick Roy.
Because when it comes to playing big when big really matters. nobody compares to Roy. His unprecedented three Conn Smythe Trophies as playoff MVP constitute the prime evidence of my case. No other player has won the Conn Smythe three times.
No. Not even Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux
During the spring of 1986, a little known goalie from Saint-Foy, Quebec appeared in goal for the Montreal Canadiens and led the team on a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals.
At just 20 years of age, Roy became the youngest player ever to win the Conn Smythe trophy.
Roy won the Vezina trophy three times while playing for the Canadiens, and he appeared in the NHL All-Star game 11 times. He won two Stanley Cup Championships with the Canadiens and two with the Colorado Avalanche.
He holds the record for career playoff wins with 151 and career playoff shutouts with 23. Like I said, Mr. Clutch.
In 1992-'93 he backstopped the Habs as they set a remarkable record that may never be broken—10 consecutive overtime wins en route to the Stanley Cup Championship.
After the debacle that occurred on Dec. 2, 1995 against the Detroit Red Wings, Roy was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. His will to win rejuvenated by the move, Roy bounced back quickly by backstopping the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup that same season.
The 2001 Stanley Cup final between the Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils featured a showdown between Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. In the end, Roy outshined Brodeur as the Avalanche beat the Devils in seven games.
Patrick Roy was named the winner of the Conn Smythe trophy for the third time in his career. He posted two shut outs in the seven game series and gave up just 10 goals. Brodeur sacrificed 19.
Roy's jersey has been retired by both the Colorado Avalanche and the Montreal Canadiens. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2004, Roy was voted greatest goaltender in NHL history by a panel of 41 sports writers, coupled with a simultaneous fan poll.
How does Roy compare to some of the other greats who were also his contemporaries? He has never won the Hart Trophy or as many Vezina Trophies as Dominik Hasek—but then again, Hasek has never won the Conn Smythe trophy.
Roy's record for most career regular season wins was broken by Martin Brodeur, but Marty never really owned the postseason the way Roy did time and time again.
St. Patrick gets my vote. He'll always be the best of the best in my eyes.