Monday, June 9, 2008

Farewell to the Best Goalie Ever

Dominik Hasek has officially retired from the NHL, most probably for good this time.

As posted many times on this site, I consider Dominik Hasek to be the greatest goalie ever. He won 6 Vezinas and 2 Hart Trophies, and led the league in save percentage for 6 years in a row, even despite competing head-to-head against Patrick Roy. Hasek played with some decent backup goalies in his career (like Fuhr, Roloson, Biron, and Shields), and his numbers still blew them all away. No goalie has even come close to piling up the individual hardware Hasek has without playing on a dynasty or a very dominant team.

All his accomplishments came despite coming over late to the NHL (and not even getting a chance to play right away in Chicago). If Hasek had played another 5-6 full seasons in the NHL, there would probably be no doubt about his all-time ranking.

Here are a couple of my all-time favourite statistics that show how good the Dominator was at his peak, taken from this post comparing Hasek and Brodeur:

From 1993-94 to 2001-02, Dominik Hasek faced 1,060 more shots than Martin Brodeur, and gave up 135 fewer goals.

Looking at only age 29-34 seasons, Hasek faced 1,494 more shots than Martin Brodeur, and still gave up 41 fewer goals.

And here's one last one (St. Louis fans might want to turn away): Between 1995-96 and 2000-01, St. Louis had a strong defence led by Pronger and MacInnis. Buffalo's top pair was Zhitnik/Smehlik. In those six seasons, Buffalo allowed 2,781 more shots against than St. Louis. Yet 40 more goals were scored against the Blues than against the Sabres.

I repeatedly preach the mantra that goalies are usually only as good as the team in front of them. Dominik Hasek is certainly the biggest exception to that rule that I have ever seen. Goalies can't do everything on their own but an elite goalie can have a very large impact, something that is particularly obvious in the career of Dominik Hasek, the best there's ever been.


Bruce said...

Michael Landsberg: "Who would you say is the greatest goalie you ever saw?"

Dominik Hasek: "Uhhh ... I would say, Martin Brodeur." (Nods affirmatively)


Due respect to Marty who is one of the best ever, but the Dominator was either being modest or needs a mirror. What a unique jewel of a goaltender he was. As I recently said on another blog (Black Dog Hates Skunks) I consider Hasek the best, the most exciting and the most eccentric goaltender I've ever seen.

A true genius of the position, Hasek had amazing anticipation and reaction. He was rarely beaten by leaving a hole while dropping to the ice, as he seemed to be able to make his own move in the split second between his opponent's touches of the puck. He was unpredicatble as hell, would sometimes charge out against the shooter, or other times lie passively across the goalmouth and dare the opponent to somehow lift the puck over him cuz they sure in hell weren't going to squeeze it under him. He made any number of mind-boggling emergency saves, doing the backstroke or the tuck-and-roll or the mule kick. He had an incredible blocker hand, would use the hard pad to close the angle on the puck and take away huge swaths of net. He was the first I saw to drop the paddle to grab rebounds, or to turn his arms "outside in" and use his elbows to deflect pucks out of harm's way.

To paraphrase from today's interview, Hasek thought statistics aren't so important as winning. While he wouldn't have chosen to go out as a backup and spoke frankly about that, there's no denying he leaves the game as a winner: a President's Trophy and Stanley Cup champion his final season, and an equal contributor to yet another Jennings Trophy, the 13th major individual award of his wonderful career. (Not counting being a three-time Player of the Year in the Czech League, or MVP of the Nagano Olympics in a career-defining performance.)

As for statistics, maybe they're unimportant but he led the league in wins once; in individual GAA twice; in shutouts 4 times; in Sv% 6 straight years. His career Sv% of .922 makes him the all-time leader in that significant category. He was consistently among the leaders in all categories every year (e.g. in top 7 for individual GAA in 12 of 13 qualifying seasons).

He was a quirky personality with a penchant for diving, mysterious injuries and erratic, occasionally polarizing behaviour. Many fans will likely be happy to see the last of him. Not this one ... the Dominator will be missed. Not only did the two-time MVP redefine the black art of goaltending, he was one of the game's great characters of the past 20 years.

Anonymous said...

If Hasek had played in the NHL, beginning at age 20 or so, & played for strong teams throughout his prime he would be the career wins leader.

Instead, he didn't get to the NHL until 1/2 way through his prime & played for mediocre teams when in his prime.

(yeah, he's the career leader in sv pct, but sv pct needs to be adjusted by the league avg each yr, as it has varied widely since official 1983 stats.)

Anonymous said...

Okay look thats all good you know but he didnt play his entire career with mediocre teams and of course he got the least goal against, when was the last time he won that.... o ya this year with the red wings, it isnt too difficult to get scored on when your team is the best in the nhl for the year. The title for this page is BRODEUR IS A FRAUD anybody that likes hockey would respect an amazing goaltender like him. If you want to give your strong opinions about hasek thats fine but you cant state his records and say how hasek, one way or another somehow bettered it ex: Hasek only had one Cup win to Brodeur's two, but from 1994 to 2002 Hasek was the better playoff goalie.
try to be less byist next time.

Anonymous said...

Hasek was certainly the most exciting goalie ever, but Marty is GOD! Without a doubt the greatest ever. Not even worth debating.

Anonymous said...

Look hasek did in fact play most of his career with a mediocre team in buffalo. Brodeurs is not a god. He's been good throughout his career because nj has built itself upon an extremly defensive perspective. Haseks least gaa was better when he was with buffalo while twice having a 1.87 and 1.95 those seasons. And while with buffalo he took 1500 or so more shots than broduer and had 135 fewer ga. Oh also those seasons he won the hart trophy. Something no other goaltender has ever done. He did all this while being 30+yrs old. Marty started at 21 and still can't beat hasek in anything except wins and shutouts. And he only had 19 more shutouts with 200 more games played. Hasek is the best statistically and his best stats came while playing for mediocre teams. Once he went to detroit he won two cups. Not one. Now I do fully respect brodeur cause he's damn good but he isn't as good as hasek. When he played with ottawa he had a 2.23 or so gaa at 40 damn yrs old. When marty can do that with a team that has a ok blueline then well see if he is maybe as good as hasek