After looking at goalies that played for a lot of teams, let’s flip that premise on its head, with a look at five teams who used way too many goalies.
Last week, we looked at five goalies who played for way too many teams. This week, let’s flip that premise on its head, with a look at five teams who used way too many goalies.
Typically, an NHL team heads into a season with two goalies and hopes that’s all they’ll need. Realistically, somebody’s going to get hurt, or traded, or demoted, so you’re probably going to end up using three, or maybe even four. But more than that? Not unless something’s gone really wrong.
This year’s Bruins could tell you a thing or two about that. In the season’s first two weeks, injuries forced them to use four different starters in four games, which is exceedingly rare. But the good news for Boston is that they’ve got a long way to go to make NHL history. That’s because the record for most goalies to see action in a season is seven, held by three teams. And 16 more teams have ended up using six.
We don’t have room to dive into every one of those. But today, let’s look back at five teams that needed way too many goaltenders just to get through a single season.
1989-90 Quebec Nordiques (Seven goalies)
In theory, the starter was: A young Ron Tugnutt was probably the best known name of the bunch. He appeared in 35 games, and led the team in wins with five. That’s right, five. The 1989-90 Nordiques were one of the worst teams of all-time, winning just 12 games all season.
You may also recognize: Greg Millen arrived in a trade midway through the year, played in 18 games, and then was dealt away near the deadline. Somehow, those two trades ended up costing the Nordiques Jeff Brown and Michel Goulet. Did we mention this team was bad?
You probably also remember Stephane Fiset, who was actually the opening night starter as a 19-year-old but lasted just six games. And then there was Scott Gordon, who played ten games in what was one of just two NHL seasons, then returned to the league two decades later as coach of the Islanders.
Plus these guys you’ve never heard of: In addition to the four guys already mentioned, the Nordiques also used Sergei Mylnikov (who played ten games in his only NHL season), as well as Mario Brunetta (for six games) and 19-year-old John Tanner (for one). Those three combined to win two games.
For what it’s worth, the Nordiques used five guys during the 1990-91 season, and never really had a solid starter until Ron Hextall briefly arrived in the Eric Lindros trade for the 1992-93 campaign.
2002-03 St. Louis Blues (Seven goalies)
In theory, the starter was: The Blues spent most of the season splitting time between two solid if unspectacular starters, Brent Johnson and Fred Brathwaite. Those two combined to appear in 68 games. But that somehow left enough room for five more guys to get some time in the crease.
You may also recognize: In addition to Curtis Sanford, who went on to find semi-regular NHL work for the next decade, this Blues team featured two classic “Wait, he played for them?” guys. Chris Osgood arrived in a late season trade form the Islanders, part of that weird few years where he was temporarily exiled from his natural habitat in Detroit. And Tom Barrasso showed up as a midseason free agent to play the last six games of his career.
Seriously, what is it with the Blues going out and getting well-known veteran goalies to play a few games for them? They had four of the five guys from last week’s list at some point. Between that, Ryan Miller, and Martin Brodeur, are we even supposed to act surprised when Marc-Andre Fleury inevitably ends up in St. Louis for 20 games this year?
Plus these guys you’ve never heard of: They also used Reinhard Divis, who went on to play 28 career games for the Blues over four seasons, and Cody Rudkowsky, who briefly served as Donald Trump’s campaign manager. (Note to self: double-check that last fact if there’s time.)
2007-08 Los Angeles Kings (Seven goalies)
In theory, the starter was: Jason LaBarbera, who started 42 games. Spoiler alert: He’ll show up again later in this list.
You may also recognize: The Kings also used a pair of serviceable veterans in Dan Cloutier and J.S. Aubin; the latter was traded to Anaheim on deadline day. But the two biggest names were a pair of prospects who made brief appearances in their NHL debuts. That would be Jonathan Bernier, who appeared in four games, and some kid named Jonathan Quick, who got into three.
Plus these guys you’ve never heard of: At 25, undrafted rookie Erik Ersberg actually wound up ranking second on the team in starts (13) and wins (6), and he recorded two of the three shutouts the Kings managed on the year. And then there was Daniel Taylor, who made his NHL debut by mopping up for one period in a 7-2 loss to the Stars. That was his only appearance for the Kings; he made two starts for the Flames five seasons later for his only other NHL action.
1998-2001 Tampa Bay Lightning (Six goalies per year)
In theory, the starter was: No, that’s not a typo. The Lightning managed to use six goaltenders in three straight seasons. Deep breath, this one’s about to get messy.
The nominal starters were Corey Schwab in 1998-99, Dan Cloutier in 1999-2000, and Kevin Weekes in 2000-01. But the team managed to mix in ten more goalies over the course of those three seasons.
You may also recognize: A few reasonably well-known veterans show up here, including Bill Ranford for part-time starting duties in 1998-99 and Darren Puppa for a handful of games that year and the next. You may also recognize names like Kevin Hodson and Wade Flaherty.
But the most important name on the list doesn’t arrive until the end, with a two-game cameo during the 2000-01 season. That would be Nikolai Khabibulin, who came over from Phoenix in a trade deadline deal and went on to finally stabilize the goaltending situation by becoming the full-time starter for the next three years.
Plus these guys you’ve never heard of: Zac Bierk shows up for two years before going on to brief stints with Minnesota and Phoenix. Dieter Kochan is there for two seasons as well, racking up 15 of his 21 career games. Evgeny Konstantinov accounted for half of his entire NHL career by playing one game in 2001-02. Derek Wilkerson played the last five games of his 22-game NHL career in 1998-99. And if you’ve ever thought it would be cool to have a rich parent, the Lightning would probably tell you it’s overrated, since theirs only won two games.
2013-14 Edmonton Oilers (Six goalies)
In theory, the starter was: Devan Dubnyk, at least at the beginning of the season. By mid-November, he’d won just three times in 14 starts. By January, he’d been traded to the Predators. By March, he’d been sent to the Canadiens. By April, he was in the AHL and wasn’t even called up when Carey Price got hurt in the playoffs. By midway through the next year, he was the Coyotes’ backup. By the end of that season, he was a second-team all-star and Vezina finalist who finished fourth in MVP voting. Life comes at you fast.
You may also recognize: You’ll probably know most of the names, since this was only three years ago. (By the way, the Oilers weren’t the only team to use six goalies in 2013-14 – the Sabres did too.)
Ben Scrivens arrived via trade on the same day Dubnyk was sent packing. Ilya Bryzgalov played 20 games before being shipped to Minnesota at the deadline, on the same day that Viktor Fasth was acquired. And then there’s our old friend Jason LaBarbera, who was probably begging to get back to the glory days of the 2008 Kings after playing seven games for this mess.
Plus these guys you’ve never heard of: Richard Bachman, who was a perfectly serviceable backup for a few teams over the years when he wasn’t writing Stephen King books.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.