This is the sixth in a series of articles asking fans to vote on the best Sharks player at each position as the club enters its 20th year. Today it’s all about the goaltenders. (Note that players must have spent two years with the Sharks organization and two years in the designated position to be considered. No player was placed in multiple positions.)
Owen Nolan ran away with the voting for the right wing spot, Patrick Marleau
captured the left wing voting and Joe Thornton
was the fan choice at center. At the defensive positions, Dan Boyle
was voted best offensive defenseman and Douglas Murray
benefited from late fan voting to lead the defensive defenseman category.
The choice for best goaltender could be the easiest of them all.
EVGENI NABOKOV (563 GP, 293-178-29, 2.39 GAA, .912 SAVE %)
Nabokov owns the Sharks goaltending record book and holds the distinction of being the goaltender of record for half of the franchise’s history. He has the most wins, games played and most importantly, the two deepest playoff runs in franchise history. The two trips to the Western Conference Finals truly separate him from the pack.
ARTURS IRBE (183 GP, 57-91-26, 8 SO, 3.47 GAA, .889 SAVE %)
Irbe might still be the fan favorite for backstopping the Sharks to their first playoff series victory, the upset of top-seeded Detroit in the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals. It cannot be overlooked how that series still has Sharks fans thinking anything can happen, regardless of the postseason matchup. His “like wall” quote definitely makes him the most memorable quote of the group.
VESA TOSKALA (115 GP, 65-28-10, 8 SO, 2.34 GAA, .914 SAVE %)
Toskala quietly put up good numbers, although the best he could manage was to split time with Nabokov. Don’t forget that he backstopped the Sharks to a playoff series victory against a higher seeded Nashville club in 2006.
MIKE VERNON (126 GP, 52-49-19, 9 SO, 2.39 GAA, .904 SAVE %)
Vernon gets a lot of credit for helping turn the franchise around in net. After Ed Belfour departed for Dallas in 1997, there was a big question between the pipes. Vernon solidified the spot and then helped the Sharks in a couple of playoff years.
STEVE SHIELDS (125 GP, 48-49-21, 10 SO, 2.44 GAA, .914 SAVE %)
Shields definitely had his one shining moment. In 2000, he came up huge in a Game 7 against St. Louis to knock off the Presidents’ Trophy winners. The emergence of Nabokov, combined with an injury, limited Shields’ time in San Jose’s net.