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Top 100 Goalies: No 47 — Mike Liut

Liut posted one of the best seasons ever. Did a single bad game stop him from becoming the next Dryden?

If you asked hockey fans in the early 1980s to predict the Hall of Fame class 20 years later, Mike Liut would’ve been one of the first goalies mentioned. He was that good when he first burst into the NHL.

Liut was a big, rangy stopper from Bowling Green, so he drew natural comparisons to towering Cornell alumnus Ken Dryden. And Liut looked like he could be the next Dryden for a while. Liut led the NHL with 32 wins as a St. Louis Blues rookie in 1979-80, and he had a season for the ages in 1980-81, going 33-14-13. Liut finished second in Hart Trophy voting behind Wayne Gretzky, and the players actually voted Liut over Gretzky for their MVP, then called the Lester B. Pearson Award.

Back then, the Vezina Trophy went to the goalie with the lowest goals-against average, but Liut would’ve won it in a walk under the current voting criteria. After the rules changed in 1981-82 and GMs began giving the Vezina to the best overall goalie, Liut cracked the top 10 four more times in his career, once with the Blues, twice with the Hartford Whalers and once with the Washington Capitals.

Still, Liut never lived up to the hype he created with that epic 1980-81 season. The popular theory, fair or not: one game damaged his career. Starting for Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup final, the Soviets blitzed him for eight goals. He was passed over for future tournaments and stated publicly he’d have to carry that one nightmare game around with him forever.

Liut had an excellent career regardless, elevating a mediocre Whalers team to an upset of the first-place Quebec Nordiques in the 1986 playoffs.

Born: Jan. 7, 1956, Weston, Ont.
NHL Career: 1979-92
Teams: StL, Hfd, Wsh
Stats: 294-271-74, 3.49 GAA, .883 SP, 25 SO
All-Star: 2 (First-1, Second-1)
Trophies: 1 (Pearson-1)

DID YOU KNOW?

Liut went back to school after his playing career, earned a law degree and is now the managing director of Octagon Hockey, one of the sport’s biggest and most influential player agencies.

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