Ranking the 5 Best Goaltenders in San Jose Sharks History
Goalies are the most important player on the ice for any NHL team, and the San Jose Sharks are no exception. Simply put, if you don't have good goaltending, you probably won't win too many hockey games.
Here is a look at the top five goaltenders in Sharks history. Goalies were judged only on their tenures in San Jose. How they played on other teams was not a factor in compiling this list.
Other factors are won/loss record, goals-against average and save percentage, although these numbers are adjusted for era. Goalie statistics are obviously better during the Dead Puck Era than they were during the present day, for example.
Feel free to comment on any of the players on this list or on a player you feel belongs here but was omitted. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
5. Steve Shields
Steve Shields spent three seasons in San Jose, playing for the Sharks from 1998-99 through 2000-01.
In 125 games, the former University of Michigan standout finished with a 48-49-21 record and a 2.44 GAA. He also recorded 10 shutouts, including four in each of his first two campaigns with Team Teal.
Shields played in 12 playoff games in 2000. He won a big Game 7 on the road in the opening round as the Sharks beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
After leaving the Sharks, Shields played for four more NHL teams including the now-defunct Atlanta Thrashers.
4. Vesa Toskala
Vesa Toskala established himself as an NHL goaltender while with the Sharks and ended up with some very favorable numbers during his tenure in San Jose.
Unfortunately, the Sharks had a glut of goalies on their roster at that time with Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Toskala played for the Sharks from 2001-02 through 2006-07. During his career in San Jose, his record was 65-28-10 with a solid 2.34 GAA and eight shutouts.
He also started 17 playoff games for the Sharks, going 9-8 in those contests.
Toskala is the only goalie in franchise history to record two points in a single game. He assisted on two goals during a 4-2 Sharks win over the Chicago Blackhawks February 3, 2007.
3. Arturs Irbe
Arturs Irbe led the Sharks to their first-ever playoff berth and was a fixture on the team during their early years.
The Latvian goalie joined Team Teal during the 1991-92 season and remained with the team through the end of the 1995-96 campaign.
Irbe's best season with San Jose came in 1993-94. He played in 74 games that season and led the Sharks to the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Irbe also helped his team upset the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings for the first playoff win in franchise history.
Because he kept the young Sharks in so many games, Irbe quickly became one of the most popular members of those early Sharks teams.
Irbe played 186 games for San Jose and compiled a record of 57-91-26. His 3.47 GAA was respectable considering he was playing on an expansion team that was struggling to adapt to life in the NHL. He also recorded eight shutouts.
Irbe was the first goalie to lead the Sharks to the playoffs and the first one who consistently gave the team a chance to win every night.
2. Antti Niemi
Antti Niemi has been the starting goalie for the San Jose Sharks for the past four seasons. During his tenure, the Sharks have enjoyed consistent regular-season success while failing to live up to expectations in the playoffs.
Niemi helped the Chicago Blackhawks capture the Stanley Cup in 2010, winning all 16 postseason games for Chicago that year.
With San Jose, Niemi has been impressive during the regular season, going 132-69-28 with 20 shutouts. His worst single-season GAA has been 2.42.
But in the playoffs, Niemi has a record of just 19-20. He was even benched late in the Sharks' historic series loss to the Los Angeles Kings this past spring.
At 30, Niemi still has a few seasons of prime hockey left. But until he improves his postseason play, his legacy in San Jose will be a little bit tarnished.
1. Evgeni Nabokov
Evgeni Nabokov holds nearly every meaningful goaltending record in San Jose Sharks history.
Nabby has appeared in 563 games for Team Teal and has more wins (253) and more shutouts (50) than any other Sharks goalie. His career GAA with San Jose is 2.39.
The Russian-born netminder spent more than a decade with the Sharks. He joined the club during the 1999-00 season and remained with San Jose through 2009-10. He was the starter for nine of those years.
His best season came in 2007-08 when he started a career-high 77 games and won 46 while recording a 2.14 GAA.
Nabokov has won 40 playoff games for the Sharks while losing 38.
In 2000-01, Nabokov won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie. Twice, he has represented the Sharks in the NHL All-Star Game.
Nabokov is by far the greatest goalie in the history of the San Jose Sharks.