It was no surprise when the Hall of Fame announced Dominik Hasek as one of its six new members Monday. Learning Hasek was chosen in his first year of eligibility was a mere formality, as he belonged in the shoo-in class of players. He was simply that dominant in his NHL career.
And, ironically, dominant doesn’t do ‘The Dominator’ justice. No goalie in the history of the league has accumulated a resume like his. No goalie has been as head-and-shoulders above his peers for a longer stretch of his career. And dare I say no goalie has ever played the position as well as Dominik Hasek did. Not Patrick Roy, not Martin Brodeur, not Terry Sawchuk.
To make such a claim is to go against some sacred THN rankings. Our Top 100 of all-time, released in 1998, ranked Sawchuk ninth overall and first among goaltenders. Hasek, then mid-career, squeaked onto the list at No. 95 overall. The panel of judges included luminaries from Milt Schmidt to Howie Meeker to Scotty Bowman. It was as authoritative as it gets. Our 2010 update, after Hasek’s NHL career ended, bumped him to fifth, but still placed him behind Sawchuk, Roy, Brodeur and Jacques Plante.
So why go against the experts? I believe that, with each passing year since Hasek’s retirement, his accomplishments look even more impressive. I humbly present a pitch for his status as the best of all-time.
1. His major hardware collection is the closest thing goalies have to Wayne Gretzky’s and Bobby Orr’s.
The only goaltender with more Vezina Trophies than Hasek’s six is Plante, who had seven and won six of those playing in a league with six teams and six starting goaltenders. The NHL had 26 teams when Hasek won his first Vezina and 30 when he earned his sixth. Plante also won all his Vezinas when the award went to the starting goalie of the team with the lowest goals-against average, so Hasek has the most Vezinas under the “real” system, in which GMs vote on the league’s best goalie.
Hasek won a hilarious, ridiculous five Vezinas in a six-year stretch at one point in his career. He’s the only goalie to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice, which he did over back-to-back seasons in 1996-97 and 1997-98. In both of those memorable campaigns, he won the Ted Lindsay Award, chosen by the players as MVP. Mike Liut is the only other goalie to win the Lindsay. Hasek is a six-time first-team All-Star. He won two Cups with Detroit (one as the starter) and, before that, got to the final by dragging along a Buffalo team that boasted Mike Peca, Miroslav Satan and Jason Woolley as its best players. His .922 career save percentage is No. 1 in NHL history. Did he play a big chunk of his career in the Dead Puck Era, or is it more accurate to say he was the Dead Puck Era?