Decorated Hasek could/should have been the best goalie ever

Brian Costello
Atlanta Thrashers v Buffalo Sabres

Dominik Hasek is moving up to the penthouse where he’ll hang out with a half dozen hockey greats.

The Buffalo Sabres announced today they’ll be retiring Hasek’s No. 39 Sabres jersey in a ceremony next season. He is being inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame Saturday.

Hasek, 49, is one of the most decorated goalies in NHL history and is the only stopper to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in back-to-back seasons (1997 and 1998).

In the rafters at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center, Hasek’s No. 39 will join Tim Horton’s No. 2, Rick Martin’s No. 7, Gilbert Perreault’s No. 11, Rene Robert’s No. 14, Pat LaFontaine’s No. 16 and Danny Gare’s No. 18.

When The Hockey News freshened its list of the top 100 players of all-time, this time by position in 2010, Hasek came in as the No. 5 goalie behind Terry Sawchuk, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Jacques Plante. But no goalie in the history of the game dominated the position for an extended run the way Hasek did. He won six Vezina trophies in an eight-year span from 1994 to 2001 and punctuated it with the two Hart trophies during that stretch.

It was mildly surprising Hasek didn’t rank higher on the list of all-time goalies during our top 100 voting process. The Pardubice, Czech Republic native didn’t entrench himself as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL until the age of 28, when the Chicago Blackhawks gave up on him and traded him to Buffalo. He turned a mediocre Sabres team into something special taking them to the Stanley Cup final in 1999 which was capped with a controversial loss to the Dallas Stars.

Hasek was a star in the Czech Republic before coming to North America at 25. Imagine what he could have done in the NHL had he been recognized as a premier stopper right away? (The Sabres gave up just backup goalie Stephane Beauregard and a fourth-round draft pick to get him.) As it is, Hasek ranks 11th in all-time wins with 389 and eighth in all-time shutouts with 81. An extra three NHL seasons easily gets him into the top three in both those categories.

Hasek is a sure bet to gain induction in the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. He played in the KHL in 2010-11 at age 45 and thus isn’t Hall eligible until this year.

 

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN