If you look at the career shutout ranking, you notice right away that shutouts are heavily impacted by era effects. The best periods for shutouts were the pre-World War II era, the 1950s, and the so-called "Dead Puck Era" (1997-2004). Goalies who played during these periods dominate the career list. The most difficult times to record shutouts were during World War II and the entire 1980s decade.
To take this into account, I have calculated an era-adjusted shutouts statistic, done by adjusting each goalie's number of shutouts based on the league average frequency of shutouts on a season-by-season basis. If shutouts were common around the league that season then each one received less of a weighting, but if shutouts were scarce goalies received bonus points for each one they recorded.
Here are the top 25 goalies of all-time in adjusted shutouts, from 1917-18 through 2007-08. I have included total shutouts, adjusted shutouts, as well as adjusted shutouts per 1000 games played to compare goalies with different career lengths.
|Rank||Goalie||SO||Adj SO||AdjSO/1000 GP|
Martin Brodeur does well by this metric, hanging onto the same #2 spot he holds in actual career shutouts. Tony Esposito, Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy move up the adjusted rankings while Terry Sawchuk and George Hainsworth drop down. Clint Benedict is the new leader, but his adjusted shutouts per game rate makes it obvious that his numbers are somewhat inflated. For most of his career he had the advantage of playing on the best team in a 4 team league, which makes it much easier to beat the average. Benedict has a good shutout record, but I'm not sure it is quite that good.
Probably the most interesting result on the list is Mike Liut, who had only 25 career shutouts but ends up 12th all-time in adjusted total. Over the course of Liut's career, his adjusted shutout per games mark has been virtually equivalent to Martin Brodeur's. Other goalies who suffered from playing in the wide-open 1980s but still posted very strong shutout totals include Tom Barrasso, John Vanbiesbrouck, and Andy Moog.