Friday, January 3, 2014

The Detroit Red Wings' Top Ten Goaltenders (1932-2013)

The Detroit Red Wings are one of the oldest franchises in the National Hockey League. Inevitably, when you're talking about the all-time best players per position, there are going to be a few Red Wings that pop up on the list. Now seems like a good time to reflect on over eighty years of players and do one of these Top Ten lists.

Self-deprecation aside, here's my top ten list of Detroit's ten best goaltenders all-time. Please feel free to chime in on the comments section and tell me how wrong I am. Enjoy and destroy!

 10. Tim Cheveldae

Tim Cheveldae served in Detroit from 1988-89 to 1993-94, appearing in 264 games, going 128-93-30 with a 3.40 GAA and an .883 save percentage. Those numbers don't seem very impressive but Cheveldae played during a time where goal scoring came much easier. A true workhorse, he holds the team record for appearances in a single season (72 in 1991-92) as well as career points (15, tied with Chris Osgood and Greg Stefan). During the 91-92 season Cheveldae led the NHL in games played, wins, and appeared in the NHL All-Star Game. That season, the Red Wings squeezed out a game seven victory over the Minnesota North Stars before being knocked out by the Chicago Blackhawks in four games in the Division Finals. During the 1993-94 season Cheveldae was traded to the Winnipeg Jets when Chris Osgood emerged as the starting goaltender, and his career declined quickly in Winnipeg. While his legacy may be a little tarnished by not capitalizing on a very good Red Wings team with Steve Yzerman in his prime, Cheveldae deserves a place on this list for his string of excellent regular seasons.

He looks like how we felt during his playoff games. Photo courtesy of "Maureen Landers" via Wikipedia.

 9. Manny Legace

Manny Legace is a surprise on this list as I believe he doesn't receive much credit for his regular season performances. Legace's time with Detroit saw him rack up a 112-34-19 record in the regular season with a 2.18 GAA and a .918 save percentage. His playoff record is 4-6 with a 2.54 GAA and an .888 save percentage...which is why Legace is often forgotten in any conversations about good Red Wing goaltenders. He's still a Stanley Cup champion thanks to the 2002 team, but the massive caveat is that he stayed far away from the action on the ice. Personally, I thought Legace's performance in the 2005-06 regular season was Vezina calibre, but that just makes his performance in the playoffs against Edmonton even harder to digest. Still, the regular season numbers are enough for me to put Legace on this list.

Jimmy looking very busy. Photo courtesy of "Anna Enriquez" via Flickr and Wikipedia.

 8. Jimmy Howard

Jimmy Howard is Detroit's current starting goaltender and has already impressed with a 131-67-26 regular season record, boasting a career GAA of 2.29 and a save percentage of .920. His playoff numbers (20-22, 2.57 GAA and .918 sv%) leave a little to be desired but there is still a lot of time for Howard to prove himself as an elite NHL goaltender. It's bizarre to see Howard on this list even though he has played less games than others, but Howard represents a new era for the Red Wings and a new method to signing and developing goaltenders. It took several years in the minors before Howard was given the nod as the starter, and the approach to his development is paying off in dividends thus far.

Photo via

7. Glenn Hall

The sum of Glenn Hall's career might make him the best goaltender on the list, but since we're looking at his time as a Red Wing, Hall squeezes onto the list with a 74-45-29 record with a sparkling 2.12 GAA. Hall won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 1956 during a season where he tied team records in ties in a season (16 tied with Terry Sawchuk) and shutouts in a season (12 , also tied with Sawchuk). Hall's time in Detroit was cut short as he was shipped with Ted Lindsay to Chicago in 1957 for a bunch of players who never made the same impact. Hall went on to be an NHL iron man, playing in 502 consecutive games without wearing a helmet. His multiple Stanley Cup championships, Vezina Trophies, and All-Star Games made him one of the game's best goaltenders, but one cannot forget he started off his streak and his impressive play in Detroit.

Lumley accidentally wearing another team's jersey with some random trophy. Photo from Wikipedia.

6. Harry Lumley

Harry Lumley is another goaltender that gets lost in the shuffle when talking about Detroit's best goalies. Lumley sports a regular season record of 163-105-56 with a 2.75 GAA, and a playoff record of 24-30 with a 2.30 GAA. Lumley's best moment might have been winning the Stanley Cup championship in 1950, although he took Detroit as far as they could, losing the Stanley Cup in 1945 by just one goal in the seventh game. Lumley may have been the best goaltender in the NHL from 1947-1950 and certainly pulled through for Detroit during playoff runs. Time is really the only enemy to his case for being one of the best Detroit Red Wings goaltender of all time.

Photo from

5. Norm Smith

Norm Smith is the player on this list who began his career the earliest and thus is furthest removed from the public's historical consciousness. As someone born more than 40 years after his playing career ended, it's impossible for me to comment on anything but his statistics, but it's interesting to see the
accolades he achieved during the Red Wings' earlier year. He helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1936 and 1937, winning the Vezina Trophy once in 1937. Smith's most notable career victory was a 1-0 shutout in the longest game in NHL history, where the Red Wings won on a Mud Bruneteau goal in the sixth overtime. Smith retired in 1938 after refusing to report to Boston after a trade, but was recalled during World War II on an emergency basis only. Smith is a great addition to this list from the early years, and his 76-71-31 record and 2.26 GAA in the early years of the Red Wings deserve recognition nearly eighty years after his start with Hockeytown.

4. Dominik Hasek

Hasek is yet another example of a goaltender whose total career includes many more accolades than he received during his tenure in Detroit, but unlike Glenn Hall, Hasek's later years were spent with the Red Wings. Hasek's record with the Red Wings (114-39-19 regular season, 28-17 playoffs) is very strong, along with his 2.13 GAA and .911 save percentage demonstrate a lack of a decline in his career even on a Detroit team that didn't need superb goal-tending Hasek won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2002 and 2008, along with a William Jennings Trophy in 2008 that was shared with Chris Osgood. Hasek's time with Detroit is stunted by the mediocre performance in his 4 starts during the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs. He was replaced by Chris Osgood, who put up a Conn Smythe calibre performance en route to the Stanley Cup. Hasek is low on this list, but in terms of all time greatest goaltenders, he's undeniably near the top.

Crozier making a save. Without a helmet on, too. Photo from

3. Roger Crozier

Roger Crozier played for the Red Wings from 1963-64 to 1969-70, where he amassed an impressive 131-121-41 record in 313 games played, boasting a 2.93 GAA. Crozier took the Red Wings to the finals during the 1966 Stanley Cup playoffs, becoming the first player in the history of the NHL to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP despite losing, as well as the first goaltender. Crozier battled pancreatic and ulcer problems throughout his career, but still took home the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in 1965 and had an NHL trophy named after him, dubbed the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for the NHL's best save percentage. One could argue that Crozier wasn't able to take advantage of a still strong Detroit lineup and win multiple Stanley Cups, but his individual trophies and legacy in the form of a (retired) trophy is impressive enough.

The man, the myth, the legend. Photo from "Dan4th" via Wikipedia.

2. Chris Osgood

While it is true that this blog is named after Chris Osgood, I did try to remain as objective as possible when it came to this list. That being said, Chris Osgood on this list is inevitable as is the discussion about his career. Winner of three Stanley Cups (1997, 1998, 2008), two William Jennings Memorial
Trophies (1996, 2008), four time NHL All-Star (1996, 1997, 1998, 2008), and holder of most team records for goal-tending in the playoffs, Osgood embodies the mentality of the Detroit Red Wings during their current 23 season playoff streak: just win the game. While Osgood may have a litany of detractors and naysayers who argue he has no place in the Hockey Hall of Fame, few goaltenders have accomplished what he has in his career. Only Terry Sawchuk and Chris Osgood have won Stanley Cups as the starting goaltender a decade apart, and he has top ten all time numbers in wins (10th), goals against average (10th), and winning percentage (4th). As a Red Wing, he boasts 317 career victories in the regular season, and 67 wins in the postseason. Admittedly, there was never a great deal of pressure on Osgood to steal games simply because the Detroit teams he played on were stacked with Hall-of-Fame forwards and defenders. But then the 2008 and 2009 playoffs completely validated his ticket to the Hall-of-Fame, and his status as one of the NHL's best goaltenders of all-time.

No doubt the best Wing ever to tend goal. Photo from via "Cold War by Mike Leonetti"

1. Terry Sawchuk

Terry Sawchuk might be the best goaltender in NHL history. All due respect to Martin Brodeur, who is still increasing his all-time lead in most goal-tending categories, Terry Sawchuk might be his stiffest competition. While his career was cut short with his death in 1970, Sawchuk played in 14 season for Detroit, registering an incredible 351-243-132 record with a 2.44 GAA. The list of accolades is endless for Sawchuk as a Red Wing: three Vezina Trophies (1952, 1953, 1955), three Stanley Cup Championships (1952, 1954, 1955), a Calder Memorial Trophy (1951), Six All-Star games in a row (1950-55), the NHL record for ties (172) and a 39 year streak where his career total in shutouts was unmatched until Brodeur broke it in 2009. Sawchuk, along with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, were central to Detroit's success in the 1950s, and a number of his records remained unmatched until Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur shattered his records decades later. Sawchuk battled personal demons his entire career, but his posthumous election to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970 as well as his awarding of the Lester Patrick Trophy in 1971 were indicative of his impact on the game as well as the shock of losing a tremendous talent.

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