To kick off the All-Time NHL Team selection, I decided to do as most successful teams do: build from the net out.
While coming up with my three choices for the goaltender slot, three names jumped out in my mind as fairly obvious choices. With all due respect to Jacques Plante, an innovator and a true great, Dominik Hasek, so truly dominating you had to be there to believe it, and the other greats who have strapped on a pair of pads, this was really down to three guys, all of whom can make a case as the greatest ever.
New Jersey Devils future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur is the team's #3 goalie. Brodeur, now 36 years old, has been back-stopping the Devils since the 1993-1994 season. Another in a long line of Quebec-grown goalies, Brodeur thrived right away in the NHL and hasn't stopped. He's led his Devils to three Stanley Cups (1994-95, 1999-00, 2002-2003) and has kept the team in the contenders role despite a reputation for lacking scoring power and, recently, a less than stellar defensive corps.
Amongst his career accolades, Brodeur has NHL records for minutes played by a goaltender in one season (4,969), most wins in a season (48), most consecutive 30, 35, 40 and 40+ win seasons (12, 11, 7, 3), most overtime wins (45) as well as the youngest to hit the 300, 400 and 500 win plateaus. All this in addition to the records he's creeping up on: most wins (538, needs 14 to pass Patrick Roy's 551), games played (968 to Roy's 1,029), career shutouts (96 to Terry Sawchuk's 103), most minutes played in a career (57,208 to Roy's 60,235) and playoff shutouts (22 to Roy's 23).
Why did he make it? Well, if the stats didn't do it for you, there's more. Throughout Brodeur's career, he has never played for a truly dominating team. From his rookie year through Scott Stevens' retirement, he always had a fundamentally sound defensive team and it could be argued that the trap made him the goaltender he was.
That is, of course, until you observe his body of work once Stevens and Ken Daneyko retired. Since then, he has posted three consecutive 40+ win seasons with a less than stellar overall team (2005-2008) and has made a pretty average Devils team Eastern Conference contenders. He also finally captured the Vezina Trophy for the first time in 2003, escaping the shadow cast by both Roy and the "trap" mentality. He would win the award again in 2004 and 2007 and seems to be a strong candidate to win the trophy for the fourth time this season.
Simply put: Brodeur is one of the three greatest goaltenders of all-time right now, but once he passes Roy in most of the statistical categories, he could be arguably the greatest ever.
Our back-up goaltender is Red Wings legend Terry Sawchuk. When he left the game, Terry is all-time leader in ties (which still stands) and shutouts (standing, but Brodeur is in striking range). Roy and Brodeur have since surpassed his 447 regular season victories, a record when Sawchuk left the game.
Terry was an old school goalie in every sense of the word, playing through pain and collecting over 600 stitches to his face in a time before masks. He also had suffered a broken arm earlier in his life and it healed poorly, resulting in one arm being shorter than the other, telling no one about the break.
Sawchuk struggled with depression and after an alcohol fueled shoving match with Rangers teammate Ron Stewart, Sawchuk was left with internal injuries that led to his death a few weeks later. He was 40 years old at the time of his death. He was buried in Pontiac, Michigan.
He lives on as a member of the All-Time NHL team (hey, it's prestigious) and brings a legendary legacy with him.
By now, you've probably figured out who the starter is. You guessed it: Darren Puppa.
Our starting goaltender is none other than the Quebec legend himself, Patrick Roy. Where do we start?
How about the beginning, when he led an underdog Canadiens team to the 1985-86 Stanley Cup, claiming the Conn Smythe Trophy as a 20 year old rookie. He took the league by storm and established himself as one of the all-time greats. He would capture a second Smythe in 1992-93, setting an NHL record with ten straight overtime wins. In 2001, he would add a third Smythe to his hardware case.
Speaking of records, he owns a slew of them. Most wins (551), games played (1,029), minutes played (60,235), 30+ win seasons (13), playoff games (247, also second most of any player), playoff wins (151), playoff shutouts (23) and combined minutes (75,444).
He's also famous for his actions. He once responded to a comment made by Blackhawks star Jeremy Roenick by saying "I can't hear Jeremy, my Stanley Cup rings are plugging my ears." There is also the famous spat that led to him being traded from Montreal. After an 8-0 trouncing at the hands of the Red Wings, Roy told Canadiens management, sitting right behind the bench, that he would never play for the team again. He was dealt to Colorado, leading them to a pair of Stanley Cups.
So, why does Roy make the team? Well, that shouldn't even be a question, but since I used that format for Brodeur and Sawchuk (again, no-brainers), I'll do so for Roy.
Roy makes it for longevity. No explanation needed there as evidence by his records and his 18 year career. He also makes it for his confidence and outlandish behavior as noted above.
But most importantly, he makes it because he is without a doubt the greatest playoff performer ever. His three Conn Smythe's do a lot of the talking. His records for playoff wins, games played and shutouts also ring rather loudly. His biggest playoff attribute? He's clutch. He helped carry the Habs as a 20 year old.
As for that 1992-93 run? Well that showed the competitive spirit in Roy. The Habs lost the first two games of their first round match up with the Quebec Nordiques, leading to most believing Roy should be traded. Nordiques goaltending coach Dan Bouchard had claimed that they had Roy figured out. Fueled by that, Roy ripped off eleven straight playoff victories, adding to the previously mentioned ten consecutive overtime wins.
It's things like that which make Roy the greatest goalie ever. It's things like that which make Roy a legend. And it's things like that which make Roy our #1 goalie.
Next up: Defensemen.