With Martin Brodeur setting the all-time record for wins, the question of whether he is one of the greats or the greatest goaltender of all time has come to the fore of late. I’m not going to answer that question because frankly I don’t think we have a decent statistical measure to compare goaltenders of different generations, and I haven’t spent the last eighty years watching all of the contenders.
Tom Awad of Puck Prospectus is using a complex statistical measure called GVT to rank goaltenders down through history, but leaving aside whether or not his measure is especially effective, I wanted to note one paragraph that he wrote in his article:
When analyzing a goaltender using GVT, the primary contribution of the goaltender is to block shots; wins, shutouts and similar statistics receive no weighting, nor should they. To those who insist on ranking goaltenders by Wins, Shutouts or Stanley Cups, I answer this: Hasek, 389 wins, 1 Stanley Cup (as a #1 goalie); Osgood, 386 wins, 2 Stanley Cups. Nothing against Osgood, but are these really equivalent goaltenders?
There’s a tendency in sports to judge players by championships; Dominik Hasek, for all of his achievements, was often criticized prior to 2002 because people said, “sure, he’s a great goaltender – but he’s never proven he can win it all.”
It’s a garbage argument.
On a 23-man roster, how much impact does one player, even the starting goaltender, have on the results of his team? Olli Jokinen, for example, has yet to appear in a playoff game – is that because he’s a loser or because he’s spent his career playing for the Islanders and Panthers? Roberto Luongo has been a full-time NHL goaltender for eight seasons and during that span he’s never had a save percentage lower than .914. Despite that, he has appeared in the playoffs only once – is it because he lacks the fundamental character to win, or because he has played for lousy teams? I think the answer is obvious.
So congratulations to Martin Brodeur for his 552 wins; it’s an incredible mark and in part a result of being an exceptional goaltender. At the same time, it’s more a result of playing for a consistently good New Jersey team for the bulk of his career; there’s no way he would have reached that mark if he’d spent his career with the Islanders or Panthers.