I don’t know when people started saying Martin Brodeur was the greatest goalie ever.
I know why they would.
Marty Brodeur is a great, great goalie. He’s been a regular for 16 years. Total minutes played, b
est post-season goals against average (1.96), 602 regular season wins, 110 regular season shutouts. Each record seems more unattainable to contemporary goalies than the one before.
Nor do I seek to punish Martin Brodeur for wisely choosing to immerse himself in a program that would sustain him just as he sustained it. You can’t blame Brodeur for Scott Stevens or Scott Niedermayer and say without those two great defencemen, he would have been beaten more often. Without Martin Brodeur, Stevens and Niedermayer would have been beaten more often.
The distance between Brodeur and modern day netminders is startling. The goalie closest to his win total is Chris Osgood who, at 37, stands 206 victories away. Roberto Luongo hasn’t even garnered half as many shutouts as Brodeur and he is the closest active goalie. By playing 70 or more games a year, Brodeur made himself the modern day gold standard for durability. Two Olympic gold medals didn't hurt either.
But the best ever?
IF you are considered the best ever, you need to have reinvented the position or brought a level of dominance so profound, it overshadowed everything else.
Three goalies have met that standard. Jacques Plante took everything known about goaltending, refined it, wrote the best book ever on the position and invented the single most revolutionary piece of equipment in hockey. He won six Stanley Cups, three more than Brodeur.
He’s number one.
I will take arguments for Dominik Hasek. Hasek is the only two-time Hart Trophy winning goalie in NHL history. His style was so unique that little could be copied but his signature innovations - playing against the posts and going on all fours to stop a breakaway comes to mind- as well as Hasek mastery of pattern and space have never been equaled. Hasek understood early that technological developments in equipment meant practice no longer had to hurt. He worked relentlessly to take advantage of those innovations.
Roy had it all. His style, conceived with current Leafs goaltending coach Francois Allaire, produced a generation of butterfly imitators. In his prime Roy was viewed as something greater than his team. It was as if Roy was the only adversary; his Montreal and Colorado teammates only footmen.
Brodeur, while terrific, never commanded that level of respect.