After last week's Brodeur article, I've officially been challenged as to who I believe is the best goalie of all-time. And, in all honesty, I think it's tough to choose.
If I had to pick one, I would probably take Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens. After all, anyone who plays eight seasons and win six Stanley Cups, while never having a goals against average over 2.69 has to be incredible.
And Dryden was incredible.
Every player that played against his was simply stunned at both his athleticism and ability to anticipate what was happening in the game; a 23 year old rookie, with six games of NHL experience, coming into the playoffs and defeating the powerful Bruins, among other teams, en route to the Stanley Cup? Not many goaltenders can do that.
In 397 regular season games, Dryden posted 258 wins and 46 shutouts. If you pro-rate that through 800 games, if he played until he was 38 or so (like Brodeur), Dryden would have over 500 wins and almost 100 shutouts.
That would easily put him among the top goalies. Oh, and don't forget those five Vezina Trophies in seven full seasons.
However, there are a few other candidates that need to be mentioned. One of the game's greats, still, is Terry Sawchuk.
He didn't have a bad season until he was 29, but even the 3.09 goals against average was fairly low for those high-scoring days in the NHL. He played an incredible 21 seasons, including time with the weak Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers in the late 1960s.
His numbers totaled 447 wins and 103 shutouts. In addition, his career goals against average was 2.51.
And the playoffs were just as good: His career goals against average in the postseason was 2.54, while he posted 54 wins and 12 shutouts in 106 games—numbers that also included four Stanley Cups.
Many also fail to remember that Sawchuk was a heavy drinker and was often depressed throughout his problems that troubled him until his death in 1970. Yet, he still managed to put up those impressive numbers.
Those that played against him still claim he was the best goaltender that ever laced up skates. And if you watch some old video of him, you can see exactly why.
A somewhat unknown goalie, who I wound up doing a lot of research on for my book on 1967 NHL expansion is Bill Durnan of the Montreal Canadiens. Because of the Canadiens' strength in goal, Durnan didn't get his shot in the NHL until he was 28 years old. However, the Toronto native had a unique style that was based off his ambidexterity; he wore two gloves that enabled him to both hold his stick and catch the puck in both hands.
Imagine skating down the wing, ready to unleash a shot to the blocker side, when suddenly it becomes the glove side. How on Earth do you account for that as a player?
Well, not many players could do that. In fact, in just seven season with the Canadiens, Durnan posted 208 wins in 383 games, plus 34 shutouts. His worst season of a 2.77 goals against average still put him among the league leaders. Although he only won two Stanley Cups during his career, he is the only goaltender in NHL history to win the Vezina Trophy every season in which he played, in addition to being named to the first All-Star team after the season ended.
Although I would also put legendary Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak on this list, it's tough to argue his case due to his never playing in the NHL. But as you can see, I didn't throw out the Brodeur opinion willy-nilly.
These three goaltenders I mentioned here are the men I truly believe are the best ever. Nonetheless, it's difficult to even compare these goaltenders, since they played in such different eras.
And let me also point out, in case it was missed the first time around, that I have nothing against Brodeur and I believe that he is an incredible goaltender. He is one of the best that ever played the game, but I simply do not believe that having the most wins and shutouts in NHL history automatically makes you the best.
It's not to take away from his accomplishments and no matter how many angry emails I received from Devils fans after publishing, my opinion doesn't change. Brodeur is incredibly athletic, talented and accomplished.
But an opinion is an opinion, and no matter who tells you you're wrong, no matter who flips out at you, and no matter who threatens to get Scott Stevens to beat the crap out of you (seriously, that happened), an opinion of Dryden as the best can't be wrong—it can simply be argued.
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers' Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.