Jeff Hackett is a great example of an underrated goalie who played well but was never really noticed because he almost always played behind weak teams.
Hackett's first four years in the league were all with very bad teams. He broke in with the New York Islanders, and then moved on to the expansion San Jose Sharks, who took only 39 points in their first season, and followed it up in 1992-93 with just 24 points. That year, Hackett faced over 36 shots per game, and the best goalie on the team, Arturs Irbe, had just an .874 save percentage, showing how difficult it was to play goal on that terrible Sharks team.
In 1994, Hackett was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, where he was slated to be the backup goalie to established star Eddie Belfour. He didn't have a great first year in Chicago, but from 1994-95 to 1996-97, Hackett outplayed Belfour every season, including an excellent 1996-97 year where he posted a .927 save percentage in 41 games. Chicago traded Belfour to make room for Hackett, who was given the starting job for the rest of the year and the playoffs, where Chicago lost in the first round to the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. Hackett had another strong year in 1997-98, starting 58 games and posting a 2.20 GAA and a .917 save percentage on a 73 point team that missed the playoffs.
After a rough start to the 1998-99 season, Hackett was involved in a blockbuster trade to Montreal. The Habs were just as bad as the Hawks, finishing short of a postseason berth more often than not. In 1998-99, the Canadiens missed the playoffs, despite Hackett's excellent play (2.27 GAA, .914 save percentage). He kept it up the next season (.914 save percentage again) as the Canadiens finished above .500, but were still not good enough for the playoffs.
However, there was a young goalie in Montreal who was pushing Hackett for playing time - the future star Jose Theodore. In 2000-01, Theodore took over, relegating Hackett to a backup role. By then the 33 year old Hackett was past his prime, and could not keep up with Theodore, who quickly became one of the league's top goaltenders, for a few seasons at least. Hackett provided Montreal with two and a half more seasons of solid backup play, before moving on through Boston and Philadelphia, and finally retiring after the 2004 season.
In his entire career, Hackett made just 10 playoff starts. Every one of them was against a 100 point team with either Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur in the other net. Needless to say, his record was not very good - just 3-7. The average team Jeff Hackett played on had just 72 points. This was despite him delivering above average goaltending most years, and being excellent in several years in the prime of his career.
Hackett's career save percentage was .902, which is exactly what the average league save percentage was during his career. Given that this was done on losing teams, however, means that his performance was actually pretty good. The average save percentage of his playing partners was .898, and he played with some good goalies, including Arturs Irbe, Ed Belfour, and Jose Theodore. In 12 of his 15 seasons, his team finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring. He also faced an average of 30 shots per game in his career, when throughout most of the 1990s the league average was around 27-28 shots per team. These factors led to a career record of 166-244-56, despite his good performance numbers.
Jeff Hackett was an above-average goalie, and in his prime he was very good. In the four seasons between 1994 and 1998, he posted a .919 save percentage, a 2.24 goals against average, and 14 shutouts in 141 games played on a losing team, and won the starting job away from a potential Hall of Famer. Hackett never received much recognition, however. In his entire career, he only ever received one Vezina vote, a third place vote in 2000. There were better goalies than Jeff Hackett, but he was an underrated, above-average goalie who is an excellent example of a goalie that was overlooked because of the weakness of his teams.