When Martin Brodeur retires on Thursday, he’ll take with him the two most important regular season goaltending records: wins and shutouts. With 691 victories and 125 blank slates, there’s reason to believe his records will be left standing for a long, long time.
It’s not that the figures Brodeur posted are so astronomical that they can’t be matched, it’s that the way the NHL works now will likely never allow for a player to reach them. Brodeur had suited up for 168 games before his fourth professional season, and played more than 70 games in 10 straight campaigns. Today, most goaltenders don’t break into the NHL until they’re 24 or 25, and once they do they’re brought in slowly.
That said, how do today’s best goaltenders stack up to Brodeur’s behemoth totals? And is there any present day netminder who can come close to his records?
The difficulty lies in the sheer number of games Brodeur played. Over his career, he suited up for a whopping 1,266, which is more than any goaltender before him had ever played. It’s likely he’ll be the only goaltender to ever appear in that many NHL contests, and it’s a testament to his longevity, even if the last couple of seasons of his career were rather unremarkable.
In order for the experiment to work – to see if there are any active goaltenders who could chase down the legend’s totals – we had to assume that each goaltender will have Brodeur’s longevity and that their play will remain at its current level. With that said, here are the results:
Roberto Luongo – 390 wins, 68 shutouts
With Brodeur retiring, Luongo will assume the role as the NHL’s active shutout leader. Not bad for a guy who was traded less than a year ago.
Luongo’s career totals are very impressive, but, unlike Brodeur, he began his career at the tail end of the dead puck era, and has played ten seasons in the NHL’s new, obstruction-free climate. With 68 shutouts and 390 wins over 840 career games, Luongo is already up against it when it comes to breaking Brodeur’s records. Age isn’t on his side, either.
Luongo is 35 and signed on for another seven seasons following this year. If he does play out the rest of his contract, he would have to average roughly 57 games per season in each of the remaining years of his deal to have a shot. That isn’t impossible, but it’s hard to picture Luongo playing 50-plus games at age 42. Even if he does, Luongo averages too few shutouts per games played (0.081) to match Brodeur’s 125, and his wins pace puts him around 590 for his career.
While still incredible numbers, they’re only going to be good for second best by the time Luongo’s days are through.
Henrik Lundqvist – 332 wins, 55 shutouts
‘King Henrik’ seems an obvious challenger for at least Brodeur’s shutout total, right? I certainly thought so. But, as it turns out, he posts just enough blank slates to catapult him over Terry Sawchuk and not much more. Even to do that, however, Lundqvist would have to play at least 500 more NHL games. It’s not hard to imagine him doing so, but with Cam Talbot waiting in the wings, the plan is likely for Lundqvist to move into a backup role in his late-30s.
Lundqvist even seemed, at least to me, that he could be a challenger to the Brodeur win total, but in order to match the 691 wins, Lundqvist would probably have to play until age 42 or 43. That’s unlikely. That said, however, Lundqvist only suffers because he didn’t break into the league as early as Brodeur.
Pekka Rinne – 192 wins, 35 shutouts
The oft-injured Predators goaltender was playing so incredibly well that he was making his case as the best active goaltender in the world. But, as has been the story of Rinne’s career, an injury sidelined him and now he’s waiting to heal.
At age 32, Rinne has played only 354 games. For comparison, Lundqvist, also 32, has played 610 games. That says about all you need to know about Rinne’s chances of breaking Brodeur’s records. If Rinne were to have stayed healthy his entire career, he would have stood a serious shot at the 125 shutout mark. Of all the goaltenders that appear on this list, only four have posted more shutouts per game than Rinne.
Jaroslav Halak – 170 wins, 34 shutouts
Halak is tied as the fifth youngest player on this list at 29. By the time Brodeur finished his 29-year-old season he had played 592 games. Halak, by comparison, is in the midst of his and has played 306. This is exactly where the new mentality for grooming young goaltenders or running a 1A and 1B system damages the chances anyone has at eclipsing the New Jersey Devils legend’s numbers.
What’s incredible to note is that had Halak could have stood a shot at breaking the shutout record. Only one goaltender on this list has more shutouts per game. The problem for Halak, however, is that he was part of goaltending duos for most of his career, and will never reach 1,266 games played. With the amount of starts he gets per season, he would likely have to play until his 50th birthday to be the new record holder.
Ryan Miller – 317 wins, 34 shutouts
If there is any goaltender who underwhelms on this list, it’s Miller. His 317 wins are impressive, but he only has 34 shutouts in 594 games played. That’s simply not enough to chase down Brodeur. Like a few other netminders on this list, the lost season took one of Miller’s prime years away from him.
However, by the same token, Brodeur was only 32 and had a decade of hockey left in him when the 2004-05 lockout struck. Who knows how high his wins and shutout totals could be? The lost season cancels out for each goaltender, and there isn’t much reason to even consider Miller a threat to the throne.
Jonathan Quick – 192 wins, 34 shutouts
Quick has a contract that runs through to 2023, so that benefits his chances of sticking around the league and making a serious push for second spot on the all-time shutouts list, but he won’t catch Brodeur.
There are a lot of similarities between the two goaltenders, however. Both have unique styles, both have won a pair of Stanley Cups before their 30th birthday, and both have been considered the best goaltender in the world at one point in their career.
What makes Brodeur’s shutout number unreachable for Quick is that his contract expires when he’s in his late-30s. It’s quite hard to imagine anyone handing out a fresh deal to Quick to be their backup when he reaches that age, so he could be packing it in five years younger than Brodeur did.
Marc-Andre Fleury – 310 wins, 34 shutouts
This may come as a shock to you – it did to me – but Fleury is the only goaltender on this list playing at a steady enough pace to become the NHL’s all-time win leader.
Will that actually happen? Probably not. Is he the only present goaltender on pace to do so? Absolutely, yes. Using the (admittedly) rough math to come up with these figures, Fleury, at nearly .5458 wins per game, would achieve 690.95 wins by the end of a 1,266 game career. And there’s the rub.
Does anyone believe Fleury will play more than 1,200 games in the NHL? His current contract only takes him up until his 34th birthday, but he has played 568 games already. If Fleury can keep getting starting jobs and keep winning until he’s 42, he’s got an outside chance.
Antti Niemi – 178 wins, 30 shutouts
When it comes to shutouts over their career, no player on this list has been more efficient than Niemi. Matter of fact, the only reason he’s included on this list is because he’s been the most prolific shutout goaltender, posting a clean sheet every .571 games.
That said, Niemi was a late bloomer. He may have played three games as a 24-year-old, but he made his real debut at age 25, just six seasons ago. At that age, Brodeur had already played more than 300 games. As of Tuesday, Niemi has played 312 total. Sorry, ‘Nemo’.
Carey Price – 204 wins, 27 shutouts
Young enough, talented enough, and plays enough – those three things combined could be what gets Price into the record books. The Canadiens are young, they have some great talent coming up, and there’s not much need for the team to go through a rebuild anytime soon. Price could start racking up the wins.
And the wins are where Price may be able to overtake Brodeur. However, Price’s current win pace, .505, over a 1,200-plus game pace would only put him at about 635 wins. That number is hurt significantly because he’s been on a few Montreal teams that weren’t so great to say the least. He also shared time in his first three seasons in the league, something Brodeur didn’t have to deal with.
Price has a lot of years left in him, so it makes him the perfect candidate to give chase to the great Brodeur.
Tuukka Rask – 122 wins, 25 shutouts
If Rinne’s not the best goaltender alive right now, the only other choice is Tuukka Rask. And if there’s any goaltender on this list that really, truly, poses a threat to any of Brodeur’s record, it’s the 27-year-old Bruin.
Without the benefit of playing in the New Jersey Devils trap game of the 2000s, Rask has already posted 25 shutouts in just 235 games. Nearly one-fifth of his wins have been by shutout. Sure, he has had a tremendous defense in front of him, but so does Corey Crawford and he doesn’t post these kind of numbers. That’s not a slight against Crawford, either. That’s just to show you that Rask’s incredible total isn’t simply because of the team in front of him.
At his current pace, if he plays into his 40s, Rask will finish his career with 130 shutouts, five better than Brodeur. That’s also assuming that Rask continues to play nearly 75 percent of Boston’s games, like he has over the past three seasons.
It seems crazy to think we could be watching the next great goaltender claw his way to an unthinkable record, but that’s exactly what Rask is doing.
Martin Jones – 16 wins, 7 shutouts
Looking at Jones’ numbers was an experiment, but they go to prove a point. Jones has seven shutouts in 30 games. Were he to keep up that pace, he would post an absurd 240 career shutouts. Will he do that? Absolutely, unequivocally no. He won’t come even close. But that kind of pace, a clip like Rask’s one-in-ten or Jones’ one-in-four shutouts per game, is what’s needed to break Brodeur’s record.
If you think that win total comes easy and some of these goaltenders’ numbers make you think it’s possible Brodeur will be caught at some point, consider that even if Jones were to post 240 shutouts, his pace when it comes to victories would still leave him almost 150 shy of Brodeur.
And that’s why there will never be another Martin Brodeur. Because in order for a goaltender to match what the surefire Hall of Famer accomplished, he would need to play so well, for so long, while maintaining such incredible health that there’s next to no chance we’ll see it.
The saying goes that records are made to be broken. But maybe some – like Brodeur’s remarkable win and shutout totals – are only there to be chased.