Skip to Main Content
NHL Insider

Top Vezina Trophy winners debated by NHL.com

Writers weigh in on performances by League's best goalies in expansion era

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The Vezina Trophy has been awarded to the best goalie in the NHL since 1927.

Through the 1980-81 season, the Vezina was awarded to the goalie(s) who played a minimum of 25 games for the team(s) with the fewest goals scored against it (the current criteria for awarding the William M. Jennings Trophy). Since 1982, the award goes "to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at this position" as voted by the general managers of all NHL teams.

Billy Smith of the New York Islanders was voted the first winner of the Vezina under the current system. Jacques Plante holds the record for most times winning the Vezina Trophy with seven, one more than Bill Durnan and Dominik Hasek. Hasek has won the most times under the current system of honoring the best individual goalie.

In a continuing series of roundtables on the post-expansion era, we asked eight NHL.com writers for their opinion on which Vezina Trophy performance since 1967-68 is the best:

 

[RELATED: All Vezina Trophy winners | Norris winners debated | Calder winners debated]

 

Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante, St. Louis Blues, 1968-69

I'm in the mood for nostalgia here. Mix a little underdog flavor with a good story, and voila, Hall and Plante share the nod for best Vezina Trophy performance. Plante came out of a three-year retirement to rejoin the NHL and the expansion Blues in their second season and earned the Vezina for a record seventh time, this one after he turned 40. Plante had a 1.96 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in 37 games (18-12-6 (ties)). Hall, at the age of 37, was 19-12-8 (ties) in 41 games with a 2.17 GAA and .928 save percentage in winning the Vezina for the third time. The Blues allowed 157 regular-season goals and reached the 1969 Stanley Cup Final, where they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens for a second straight time. There are better numbers in the history of the Vezina Trophy, but few better mixes of Hall of Fame legends and success. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

 

Tony Esposito and Gary Smith, Chicago Black Hawks, 1971-72

The fact the Black Hawks (as they were then known) didn't win a Stanley Cup in the Esposito era sometimes overshadows some of the outstanding seasons he had, topped by 1971-72, one of the best statistical seasons by an NHL goalie. Esposito's GAA of 1.77 is the second-best of any goalie who played more than half his team's games in a single season since the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 for the 1967-68 season (Marty Turco of the Dallas Stars had a 1.72 GAA in 55 games in 2002-03). Esposito's save percentage of .934 is tied for seventh. He went 31-10-6 (ties); backup Smith was 14-5-6 (ties) with a 2.42 GAA average and .911 save percentage. Chicago, which allowed 166 regular-season goals, was swept in four games by the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, but that shouldn't take away from the Vezina Trophy performance here. -- Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

 

Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers, 1973-74

Parent had one of the best individual seasons a goalie has had in 1973-74 but shared the award with Esposito under the criteria at the time (Philadelphia and Chicago each allowed 164 goals). Parent started 73 of the Flyers' 78 games and finished all but two of them. His 47 wins were an NHL record that lasted 33 years, until Martin Brodeur (with help of 10 shootout victories) won 48 in 2006-07. Parent led the League with a 1.89 GAA, .932 save percentage and 12 shutouts in a season teams averaged 3.20 goals per game; he finished ahead of Esposito in each category. Parent's play helped the Flyers, in their seventh NHL season, win 50 games and finish with 112 points, second in the League to the Boston Bruins. Parent capped his season by helping the Flyers win the Stanley Cup and taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. -- Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

Video: Bernie Parent backstopped Flyers to back-to-back Cups

The only time goalies on different teams have shared the trophy, and it's easy to see why. Each had a contrasting style that yielded the same winning result. With a classic stand-up style refined by his idol Plante, Parent put up stunning numbers, finishing 47-13-12 (ties) and helping the Flyers become the first 1967-68 expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Esposito and Parent each claimed the Vezina Trophy under the criteria of the time, but the Philadelphia goalie collected more hardware that season: the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy. -- William Douglas, staff writer

 

Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens, 1976-77

The sterling work of Dryden and backup Michel Larocque in the historic 1976-77 season, allowing 171 goals, was a perfect complement to the Canadiens' massive firepower. Montreal went 60-8-12 (ties) for an NHL record 132 points and was the runaway offensive leader among the 18 teams with 387 goals, 64 clear of the second-ranked Flyers, who scored 323. But it was Dryden and Larocque who gave the forwards the confidence and freedom to be creative. The tandem allowed 20 fewer goals than their closest pursuers, New York Islanders goalies Smith and Glenn Resch. Dryden was 41-6-8 (ties) with a 2.14 GAA, .920 save percentage and 10 shutouts, on average one shutout every 5.6 games. Larocque, who earned the Vezina by making 26 appearances, was 19-2-4 (ties), a 2.09 GAA and .910 save percentage, his four shutouts averaging one every 6.5 games. -- Dave Stubbs, columnist

 

Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres, 1998-99

Hasek won the Vezina Trophy six times in an eight-season span (1993-2001) during his 16-season NHL career. His best might have been in 1998-99, when the 34-year-old won his fifth Vezina after finishing 30-18-14 (ties) with a 1.87 goals-against average, nine shutouts and a League-leading .937 save percentage. The Sabres ranked 17th in the League that season with a 2.52 goals-for average and were tied for fifth in average shots allowed (30.0), but were second in the League with a 2.13 GAA, thanks to "The Dominator." His .947 even-strength save percentage that season ranks third since the expansion era (he had an all-time best .956 even-strength save percentage in 1997-98). Buffalo qualified for the 1999 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, and Hasek (1.77 GAA, .939 save percentage, two shutouts in 19 playoff games) played a huge part before Buffalo lost the Stanley Cup Final to the Dallas Stars in six games. -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Video: Dominik Hasek won Vezina Trophy six times, Hart twice 

 

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils, 2006-07

Brodeur won the Vezina four times in five seasons from 2002-08, but his performance in 2006-07 was one we might never see again. At age 34, Brodeur started 78 of the Devils' 82 games, tying Grant Fuhr's NHL record for most starts in a season and falling one short of Fuhr's record of 79 games played with the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96. Brodeur's 48 wins (since tied by Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals in 2015-16) broke Parent's single-season NHL record of 47 with the Flyers in 1973-74. Brodeur led the NHL with 12 shutouts and was third with a 2.18 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. With teams trending toward using two goalies, (Cam Talbot, who started 73 games for the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17, is the only goalie since 2015-16 to start as many as 70 games) it seems unlikely Brodeur's 2006-07 season will be duplicated. -- Tom Gulitti, staff writer

 

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens, 2014-15

Price is one of three goalies since the 1967-68 season to win the Hart Trophy voted as the NHL most valuable player, joining two-time winner Hasek (1996-97, 1997-98) and Jose Theodore of the Canadiens (2001-02). It's easy to argue that Price's age-27 season was the best of those four historic seasons. Price won more games (44) than either of those goalies; Hasek (1996-97) was closest with 37. Price's 16 regulation losses were the fewest in any of those four-Hart winning seasons, again Hasek was closest with 20. Price (1.96) is the only goalie of the four to have a sub-2.00 goals-against average and his .933 save percentage is the best among the group. Perhaps even more telling, Montreal finished second in the NHL standings that season with 110 points, three behind the New York Rangers, despite being No. 20 in goals per game (2.61). -- Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.