A jersey number is one way for players to express some individuality in a game that is typically uniform. Here are 10 goalies who've done that over the years.
Ilya Bryzgalov has a well-earned reputation for being unique, so it's not a shock to see him sporting No. 80 on the back of his Oilers jersey.
He isn’t, however, the first netminder to wear the unorthodox digits. That honor goes to Hockey Night in Canada analyst Kevin Weekes, who donned 80 for the Rangers, Islanders, Hurricanes and Lightning. Apparently, Weekes chose 80 because it's the number that most closely resembles “00”, which the league no longer allows players to wear.
As for Bryzgalov, he went with the high numeral because it’s the year he was born and he had success with it one season in the Russia when he posted eight shutouts.
For much of the NHL’s formative years and the Original Six era, when there were no regular backups, goalies almost exclusively wore No. 1. The NHL mandated in 1950-51 that teams have an emergency goaltender in attendance, then in 1965-66 made it compulsory for clubs to dress two stoppers each night. Terry Sawchuk, who began sharing the crease with Toronto’s Johnny Bower that year, went with 24, then soon after made the switch to 30. Others around the league followed the star’s trend.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that goalies started to wander beyond Nos. 1 and 30 with any frequency. In celebration of the free spirited crease monsters, here’s a top 10 list of high-profile NHL stoppers who made their own numerical fashion statements.
00 John Davidson. The stately-looking J.D. went rogue for one campaign in 1977-78 when he became the first goalie go “double goose-egg.” Martin Biron followed suit in Buffalo in 1996, but had to surrender it when the NHL outlawed zeroes, decimal points and fractions on sweaters.
20 Ed Belfour. ‘The Eagle’ paid homage to Soviet star Vladislav Tretiak and did so in a Hall-of-Fame way.
27 Ron Hextall. A number made famous by Frank Mahovlich, Darryl Sittler and Reg Leach, 27 was made for snipers. In a way, that’s what Hextall was. The first goalie to shoot and score was also known for his fiery demeanor in the crease.
29 Ken Dryden. Rogie Vachon already wore this prior to Dryden’s arrival in Montreal, so it wasn’t exactly trail-blazing, but like the big man himself with the iconic pose, it stood out.
35 Tony Esposito. ‘Tony 0’ said he chose to become the first goalie to wear No. 35 because he wanted to be different. He also accomplished that end by pioneering the butterfly style during his spectacular career with Chicago.
39 Dominik Hasek. ‘The Dominator’ wore 34 and 31 in his brief stint with Chicago before making an indelible mark as the best No. 39 in NHL history.
50 Corey Crawford. They questioned his glove hand and he won a Cup, so we won’t question his choice of numbers.
60 Jose Theodore. The Hart Trophy winner says he went off the board when he arrived in Montreal because all of the good numbers were retired (1), to-be retired (33) or taken.
72 Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. He can wear whichever number he wants.
93 Daren Puppa. We wanted a 90-something on the list and Puppa is the best of the group. A second-team NHL all-star with Buffalo (while wearing No. 31), he posted a .918 save percentage for Tampa in 1995-96 with No. 93. That was during a time when .918 was rarefied air.
There's little doubt Shane Doan has the character to be a great addition to a team looking to win, but we're not sure he has what it takes on the ice anymore.
It would certainly make for a great headline, and even a better story, to watch Shane Doan skate off in a sultry night in June with the Stanley Cup lifted over his head. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to see one of the great guys in the game get rewarded with the ultimate prize before calling it a career?
So when Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada, one of the best news breakers in the business, said on the weekend that Doan might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender, it undoubtedly conjured up a lot of sentiments among those looking for a feel-good story. No question it would be that.
But would it make sense? Well, it certainly would have last year at this time when Doan already had 15 of his 28 goals and looked like he still had a lot left in his tank. This season? Not so much. Doan has only four goals in 42 games and is playing less and certainly contributing less than he has in years. One big reason for his dip in production is his shooting percentage, which has plummeted to just 4.4 percent this season. Doan is shooting the puck almost as much as he used to despite getting about two fewer minutes of ice time per game, but is not finding the back of the net.
All of which makes you wonder whether a trade deadline deal for Doan would make any difference, either for the team getting Doan or the Coyotes. To be sure, the Coyotes would not be getting much in return for Doan. If he were traded on Feb. 28, which is deadline day, he’d still have about $883,000 of cap hit remaining, half of which could be obtained by the Coyotes. So the price to acquire Doan for the stretch run and the playoffs would not be a high one. (If you listened to our podcast, you heard me say there would be $1.8 million remaining after the deadline. Mea culpa on that one.)
But would it be a good move in a practical sense? Well, there are a couple of variables there. First, do you believe that Doan is simply having bad puck luck, something that could very well change with a new team? Or have the hands that have served him for 1,500 games and seen him score 400 goals abandoned him for good? If you’re a true contender, would Shane Doan really be the player to put you over the top?
Perhaps Doan could play on a strong team’s fourth line and add that certain intangible ingredient to a team that needs a veteran presence. But with the game going more in the direction of speed and skill on all four lines, do you really want a 40-year-old guy having to play every other night and keep up with the best players in the world? Let’s put it this way. Jaromir Jagr is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, but in the past couple of playoffs in which he’s participated, he’s looked older and slower and less capable of accomplishing things than he has in the regular season. If you get Doan, the danger is you might be paying as much as $800,000 in cap space for a very good cheerleader, the way Ed Olczyk was for the New York Rangers in 1994 and Denis Savard was for the Montreal Canadiens two years later. They both held up the Stanley Cup in street clothes.
It seems to these eyes that Doan might just have waited one year too long to play this particular card, if indeed he’s willing to move from the desert to be a rental. (A call to his agent, Terry Bross, was not returned.) There were so many years previously that Doan had this very opportunity and he turned it down, which might give you the impression that winning a Stanley Cup wouldn’t be all that important to him. So has anything really changed this season?
There were years, even most recent ones, when Doan would have and could have been a difference maker for a team looking for that extra piece to put it over the top. Now, though, that ship appears to have passed. As wonderful as it would be to see, it’s difficult to believe there would be a string of suitors at the Coyotes’ door leading up to the trade deadline.
Brian Elliott hasn't worked out in Calgary. Jake Allen hasn't worked out in St. Louis. Would it benefit everyone for Elliott to rejoin his old team?
That elusive grass on the other side could not look greener. The Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues can only stare longingly.
The Flames really thought they needed Brian Elliott last summer, and for good reason. They were fresh off finishing dead last in the NHL in save percentage, and all their NHL-level netminders were unrestricted free agents anyway. It made too much sense to make a trade. General manager Brad Treliving also knew the price for Elliott, never a bellcow starter but an elite platoon goaltender, would pale in comparison to what the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted for Ben Bishop or the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted for Marc-Andre Fleury.
Elliott for a 2016 second-round pick and a conditional 2018 third-round pick? Sure. Huge upgrade for the Flames in net. Advanced statistics such as 5-on-5 save percentage suggested Elliott was as effective as any goalie in hockey last season. Why not give him a chance to start at 31?
But if Treliving could get a do-over today, he’d probably take back those picks. Not all of what’s transpired in 2016-17 has been Elliott’s fault. Chad Johnson, signed supposedly to back up Elliott, has simply played too well not to be Calgary’s starter going forward. And it didn’t help that Elliott struggled so mightily out of the gate, with an .882 save percentage in his first 12 appearances. The Flames really thought they needed Elliott, but now it really seems they don’t.
About 1,700 miles away, the Blues just might be pining for their old stopper Elliott. And they, too, likely never felt they’d be in this position. Elliott served them faithfully for five seasons but, as great as he often was, he was never quite good enough or clutch enough to separate himself from his high-profile partners, from Jaroslav Halak to Ryan Miller to Jake Allen. Elliott had just one season left on his contract, and the Blues were ready to give Allen his shot. He was always their long-term project, and it was time for St. Louis to let him flourish as a real No. 1. Given coach Ken Hitchcock struggled with flip-flopping between goalies during countless early playoff exits since taking over the bench in 2011-12, the idea of relying on one true starter seemed ideal for a Stanley Cup contender like St. Louis. General manager Doug Armstrong inked a capable backup in Carter Hutton for a bit of insurance.
Who knew Hutton would end up important enough to recently appear in six straight games, twice in relief and four times as a starter? There’s no point trying to spin it: Allen has been a huge disappointment. His .900 SP is easily the worst of his four-year career, and he’s posted an .887 mark across 15 appearances since the start of December. He’s been bad enough that Hitchcock publicly challenged him last week to take responsibility and be better.
Is the problem Allen’s workload? His career high in starts is 44, making up 53.6 percent of St. Louis’ games. He’s started 33 of 45 this season, which is 73.3 percent. Maybe Allen’s body hasn’t yet adjusted to the extra minutes.
Hutton’s past week was a microcosm of his career. He entered Tuesday’s start having allowed just seven goals in his past five outings with a .939 SP – then promptly got lit up for five goals on 23 Ottawa Senator shots. Hutton is who we thought he was: a solid backup goaltender who can perform well in short spurts but lacks the talent to succeed as a starter or even a platoon goalie. Even if Allen isn't the answer, Hutton isn't either.
That’s where, believe it or not, Elliott might come in handy. What if Armstrong explored reacquiring Elliott? It might work for several reasons.
1. Elliott is a pending free agent. That benefits both teams. If Calgary knows Johnson is its starter now and plans to re-sign him, might it want to get something for pending UFA Elliott rather than lose him for nothing in free agency? If the Flames needed a backup in return and didn’t feel prospect Jon Gillies was ready for promotion from the AHL, perhaps the Blues could include Hutton along with a low- to mid-round draft pick. Seems fair enough.
2. Elliott has turned around his game just enough. Elliott isn’t outplaying Johnson, so it doesn’t appear Elliott will wrest the job back anytime soon, but he does have a .913 SP over his past nine appearances. It’s a start.
3. It would benefit Elliott twofold. Not that he would have an official say, as his contract has zero movement restrictions. But rejoining the Blues, not necessarily as a starter but at least as a platoon partner to spell Allen, would help Elliott’s wallet immensely. He’s done nothing but lose money since 2016-17 started. If the season ended today, Elliott would be viewed on the open market as a goaltender who had a shot to show he’s a No. 1 and flopped. He won’t earn anything close to starter’s money or term as a UFA. But a redemptive performance with the Blues might at least nudge his value back to what it was a year ago. Secondly, Elliott hasn’t lived in Calgary long. He called St. Louis his hockey-season home for five years. Transitioning back to Missouri less than a year after leaving wouldn’t be the most difficult of moves in theory.
The Blues have the worst save percentage in the NHL at .892, which is a shame given the team’s overall depth and talent. They were first in SP last year at .919. The Blues should be thinking about playing meaningful hockey into June but are instead barely clinging to a Western Conference playoff spot. They have plenty of promising young regulars, from Colton Parayko on defense to Robby Fabbri up front, but their contention window is now. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Alex Pietrangelo are in their primes. Veterans Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny and Jay Bouwmeester are exiting theirs. Hitchcock will step down as coach after this season. The Blues can’t afford squandering 2016-17, especially when the Western Conference looks like anyone’s to win. Allen’s ego may have to suffer for the sake of one good push for glory.
Elliott, then, would be a nice affordable stopgap, as opposed to Bishop or Fleury, who would command roster players and/or good prospects in a trade. Reversing last year’s swap with the Flames might be the best thing for all parties involved.
Winnipeg has allowed three or more goals against in eight of their past 10 games, and with Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson struggling, the Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran Ondrej Pavelec.
It took 47 games and more than three months, but with the season potentially slipping away as their goaltending fails them, the Winnipeg Jets have pulled the trigger and called up veteran netminder Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Pavelec’s recall from the minors comes the day following the Jets’ 5-2 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, which is the fourth straight defeat Winnipeg has been handed and the eighth time in 10 games that the team has allowed three or more goals against. Bringing Pavelec up is a move the Jets certainly hopes can stop the bleeding, because right now coach Paul Maurice is likely aching for someone, anyone, to come in and stop the puck with some consistency.
As he comes up from the Moose, Pavelec is sporting an 8-7-2 record, 2.78 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 18 outings in the AHL, and he’s only two days removed from putting in his best effort of the entire season. Sunday evening against the Chicago Wolves, Pavelec was tested 44 times, but he allowed only one puck to elude him, turning aside 43 shots in a 4-1 Manitoba victory.
Pavelec’s trip back to the big league doesn’t come simply as a response to him having one good outing and yet another Jets loss, though. Over the past several weeks, the idea of calling up Pavelec has been bandied about, especially as both Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson have struggled to piece together anything that resembles the type of run of play one would expect from a big league starter.
At times it was hard to fathom a scenario in which a young, growing team like Winnipeg wouldn’t stay all-in on their young netminders, hoping one or both would find a way through this tough stretch. With Pavelec available to possibly give the club a jolt, the Jets have decided that might be exactly what they need.
And if the move is one viewed to be out of desperation, that would be because it is. There’s a reason Pavelec has spent more than half of the campaign buried in the AHL along with his $3.9-million cap hit. But save pulling the trigger on a trade that would bring the Jets a starting netminder, what other options do the Jets really have? Eric Comrie is a promising prospect, but another young goaltender added to the mix is the last thing Winnipeg needed right now.
Don’t go thinking Pavelec will be the Winnipeg’s idea of a long-term fix, though. He is as stop-gap as stop-gap options come.
Over the course of his career, Pavelec has been a below-average netminder, boasting a career .907 SP and bloated 2.85 goals-against average. Though he had the best season of his career in 2014-15 — his .920 SP was substantially better than any year prior — he followed it up with a .904 SP mark in 2015-16. Comparatively, Hellebuyck’s difficult campaign has seen him post a .907 SP, and his career SP is .912. Hutchinson is a career .908 SP goaltender, with a tough .894 SP throughout this season.
All the Jets want right now is someone who can come in and stop some pucks. If that’s Pavelec, great. If that’s Hellebuyck or Hutchinson, better. But the fact of the matter is that with only a few months remaining, the Jets have the league’s third-worst points percentage during a season in which they were supposed to be taking a sizeable step forward. That needs to change, and maybe the increased competition in goal — or the veteran presence — is enough to turn things around.
The usual suspects -- Bergeron, Kopitar, and Toews -- appear to be out of the discussion for the Selke Trophy. Here are five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
When it comes to handing out hardware at the NHL Awards, the Selke hasn't been all that tough to figure out in recent seasons. For the last five years, the same three players have dominated the voting. Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews have accounted for all five wins, as well as eleven of the fifteen finalist spots.
But this year is shaping up like it could be different, with all three players slumping offensively. Maybe that shouldn't matter, since the Selke is supposed to be a defensive award. But over the years, it's morphed into a trophy that recognizes two-way play, which means you need to be scoring to get much consideration. If you pro-rate the lockout year, nobody has won the Selke with fewer than 55 points in the salary cap era. None of the Big Three are on pace to get there this year.
With half a season left to play, that could still change. And it's always possible that in the absence of a slam dunk candidate emerging somewhere else, voters could opt to play it safe and go back to one of the old familiars. But for the first time in years, the Selke really does seem up for grabs.
So who has a shot? Assuming that Bergeron, Toews or Kopitar don't take the trophy home this time, here are the five names that seem to have the best chance at stepping in.
Ryan Kesler, Ducks
The case for: The veteran is having his best season since 2011, and is on pace for about 65 points while playing tough minutes for a first-place Ducks team. His advanced stats won't blow anyone away, but they're good enough that the analytics guys shouldn't push back too hard, and everyone loves a good comeback narrative.
The case against: While it wouldn't be held against him by voters, Kesler doesn't really fit our "new blood" theme; he was the last player to win the award before the Bergeron/Toews/Kopitar trinity took over, and he finished third in the voting last year.
More importantly, there's at least an argument to be made that linemate Andrew Cogliano deserves the award, too. If that line of thinking catches on, the two could end up splitting votes and knocking each other out of the running.
Mikko Koivu, Wild
The case for: While it's meant as a single-season award, voters tend to like to treat the Selke as more of a career achievement; it's rare for somebody to win the award without having built up a resume over the years. That works in Koivu's favor, as he's been considered a strong defensive forward for a decade now, finishing as high as fourth in the Selke voting back in 2009. He hasn't come especially close since, but he's had votes every year.
New coach Bruce Boudreau has leaned heavily on Koivu in the defensive zone, and his ability to handle the duties has been a big part of Minnesota's unexpected success. With the Wild emerging as one of the one of the year's best surprises, voters will be paying attention.
The case against: Koivu's all-around numbers are good but not great, and he's benefitting from a sky-high on-ice save percentage and PDO that's unlikely to continue. With Devan Dubnyk looking like the Vezina favorite and Boudreau having a shot at the Jack Adams, voters might figure that their ballots are already getting crowded with Wild names.
The case for: Backlund seems to have emerged as a trendy dark horse pick in recent weeks. It's well-deserved: his numbers are excellent, and he's posting them in tough minutes for a young Flames team that asks a lot of him. His offensive numbers aren't jaw-dropping, but he's leading the team in scoring, and that should be enough to satisfy those "two-way" demands if he can keep it up.
The case against: While Backlund's been an underrated defensive player for a while now, he's never received a Selke vote. Again, you can argue that that shouldn't matter, but history has shown that it does. That could make it tough for him to get enough votes to win outright.
Aleksander Barkov, Panthers
The case for: At 21, Barkov would fit the new blood narrative perfectly. And he's already on voters' radars after finishing sixth in last year's balloting. He checks most of the boxes that voters tend to look for, posting solid offensive stats and strong possession numbers. And in a season where the biggest story has been the emergence of the next generation of star players, you could see the voters turning to one of the best young two-way forwards in the game.
The case against: Barkov is hurt right now and has already missed two weeks, so if he's not back soon he probably falls out of the running. He's also been playing a more offensive role this year under new coach Tom Rowe, which may be good for the Panthers, but probably not for his Selke chances. And given how things are turning out in Florida this year, voters may not be interested in having many Panther names on their ballot.
Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
The case for: If building up enough support to win the award is a long-term process, this could be your guy. Backstrom generated plenty of Selke buzz last year, but finished just outside the top ten for the second straight year. It helps that he's putting up the sort of big offensive number that voters like to see. And after years of largely playing in Alex Ovechkin's shadow, he seems to be settling in as one of those guys that everyone in the hockey world decides has been underrated for too long. What better way to make it up to him than with some awards ballot love?
The case against: In terms of pure numbers, you could make a good case that Backstrom's defensive game was better last year than it is now. That won't necessarily hurt him with voters who feel like he's finally due, but it could keep him from getting the kind of widespread groundswell of support that would help push him past a strong candidate like Kesler.
Honorable mentions (and why they won't win):
- Brad Marchand (Bruins): He's getting some buzz, and has earned votes in the past. But has he really become a better option than Bergeron right now? And if not, how can you win the Selke when you're not the best defensive forward on your own team?
- Nazem Kadri (Maple Leafs): He's a relatively new candidate who'll face the same uphill climb as Backlund, with the added disadvantage that plenty of people don't seem to like him.
- Sidney Crosby (Penguins): He's been underrated in his own end for years, and you could see him getting some consolation ballots if voters decided to break for Connor McDavid for the Hart. But right now, the Crosby focus is still on the MVP race.
- Joe Thornton (Sharks): He gets votes every year and finally had his first top five finish last season, so the timing seems right. But his offensive numbers are down this year.
- Ryan O'Reilly (Sabres): He's been in the mix before. But the Sabres' disappointing season may doom him; there's never been a first-time Selke winner from a team that didn't make the playoffs.
- Jordan Staal (Hurricanes): He'd face the same hurdle as O'Reilly if the Hurricanes miss the playoffs, although these days that seem less and less likely. He may have the best case of anyone in this section.
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.