- Rick Haley
5 Best Jet Goaltenders Ever (part 1)
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Top 5 Winnipeg Jet Goalies of All Time
Forty two different netminders have suited up for the Jets over 32 seasons. Who is the best and can we really compare them? We are talking two completely different leagues involved and 3 very different styles of play. You had the 1970s WHA years with a lot of banging and crashing and bench clearing brawls. You then had the run and gun 80s where being defensively responsible was only a suggestion (surprisingly, that 80s style of play was largely influenced by the design of the WHA Jets). And now today’s game where men are ripped beasts that can snipe from anywhere and every square inch of ice is fought for tooth and nail. Oh. And about the equipment.
Most of today’s skaters have better, larger and safer equipment than Ernie Wakely wore when he strapped on his deerhair stuffed Coopers in 1972. Equipment was leather and it got heavier as it absorbed sweat and water. Goalies stood up all the time. It was something to be proud of. “He’s a good stand-up goaltender,” the oldtimers would say. If a goalie was on the ice it was because he fell there. Though Ken Dryden was unconventional in his sprawling and flopping, it didn’t really catch on or was terribly effective for others. Just watch an old clip of Mike Palmateer. Though Tony Esposito began butterflying in the 1960s it wasn’t until Patrick Roy perfected the style in the late 80s and the position saw a huge shift in mechanics and structure. Nowadays, less is more. No more flippity flop. A big goalie in the butterfly position covers 85% of the net (not a scientific study, I just thought it sounded good). The more stable and square to the puck they are, the better chance of the puck just hitting them.
So is it fair to compare? Probably not but this is my Jets Blog and I will do what I want. Remember that this site is dedicated to all Winnipeg Jets stats from 1972 to current. No Thrashers or Coyotes poop. All Jets, all the time! I did some research. Thanks to Hockey Reference, Quant Hockey and Hockey Goalies for the data (see links below). I have identified who I believe are the top 5 Jet goalies of all-time.
First Up: The Weird & Quirky
Two netminders played in the WHA and the NHL for the Jets. In the last season of the WHA Markus Mattsson and Gary Smith suited up for the Jets and helped them win their last Avco Cup. Smith stuck around for one NHL season and then retired. Mattsson played on into the ill-fated 1980-81 season and then finished his career with Minnesota and LA. Two goalies played for the Jets and then the Atlanta Thrashers: Rick Tabaracci and Scott Langkow (6 minutes in the last 1.0 season). Andrej Pavelec and Peter Mannino (more on him later) played for the Thrashers and then the Jets. Want weirder? Dan Bouchard played for the Atlanta Flames and the NHL Jets 1.0.
Two sets of keepers had the same last name but as far as I know, were not related: Bill and Mark Holden & Steve and Chris Mason.
Worst Goals Against Average? Ron Loustel 10.00. In that infamous 1980-81 season (only 9 wins!), the 18 year old from Gilbert Plains, Manitoba got lit up ten times in his only NHL start. The Jets used 5 different goalies that year. The best among them had only 3 wins! Martin Brodeur would have quit hockey if he played for that team. And lastly on the weird and wonderful, who could forget Peter Mannino? Most of us apparently. His entire Jet career lasted only 20 minutes in the 2011-12 season.
Ten netminders have played over 100 games for the Jets and you likely know them all.
Connor Hellebuyck 315
Joe Daley 308
Bob Essensa 281
Ondrej Pavelec 260
Brian Hayward 165
Doug Soetart 130
Daniel Berthiaume 120
Pokey Reddick 117
Markus Mattsson 114 (NHL & WHA)
Michael Hutchinson 102
Eleven have played less than 10 games.
Tom Draper 9
Mike Veisor 8
Dominic Roussel 7
Eric Comrie 5
Mark Holden 4
Jim Hrivnak 3
Gord Tumilson 3
Bill Holden 1
Ron Loustel 1
Scott Langkow 1
Peter Mannino 1
Martin Brodeur leads the NHL in career shouts at 125. East Kildonan’s own Terry Sawchuk is second at 103. Right behind him are the 42 Jet goaltenders who in 34 seasons have a total of 102 shutouts!
Two items before we get to our top 5. Michael Hutchinson didn’t make any of the lists but has really good numbers for a backup. His save percentage, winning percentage and goals against average are all better than Pavelec’s who played two and a half times the games that Hutchinson played. Probably why he continues to stick with teams, if only on the periphery. And goalie masks. I know there are lot of people out there that are into this aspect much more than me but for my money, the all-time best mask worn by a Jet goalie is Pierre Hamel’s. Very Michael Meyers-like. Close second to Joe Daley and the sheer simplicity of those early 70s masks.
When researching Jets 1.0, I had in my head that Khabibulin was a pretty good goalie. He actually only had a .904 save percentage and I though hmmm; kind of meh. But remember, this is the 80s and 90s. No other Jet goaltender in 1.0 had anything better than .894! Khabby took an okay Jet team in their last season and gave them a chance to win. The 9th round pick in 1992 would only play 79 games for the Jets but had impressive numbers with a .908 save percentage and a low (for 1996) 3.13 GAA. And you may think to yourself, wow, good on GM Mike Smith and crew for picking up a great goaltender in the 9th round. Right. As my good friend Johnny likes to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a few nuts every now and then.” Out of 12 picks that summer, the Jets took 9 Russians. That isn’t a joke. Mike Smith was celebrating Glasnost with Yeltsin and Gorbachev (they weren’t available in the draft that year…). Boris Mironov was not a bad pick in the 2nd round and Khabibulin was definitely a gem. Sergei Bautin was not. Watch for a post down the road titled the Worst Jet Draft Picks of ALL-TIME!
Khabibulin went on to play 799 games in the NHL which is good for 17th all time. Not too shabby for Khabby considering he also won the Cup with Tampa in 2004. The Jets didn’t make the playoffs in Nikolai’s first season, the 48 game shortened 94/95 campaign. The “Bulin Wall” started the year in the AHL but once the NHL got up and running, he and Tim Cheveldae split the starts and also split the wins, earning 8 each. It was not a good year despite having a decent team on paper. The next year, he emerged as the starter and led the Jets to the third most wins in the division. Unfortunately, we had to meet a juggernaut Detroit team in the first round and though we gave them a bit of a scare, it wasn’t enough. Because of his strong career start in Winnipeg, his longevity and his name on the Cup, Khabibulin is the Winnipeg Jets’ 5th best goaltender of all time.
Though Hazy was not our very first NHL goaltender, he was our first steady NHL goaltender. Playing over 4 seasons starting in 1982, he was part of the building blocks of a pretty good mid-80s Jet team. Fifth in games played for the Jets and fifth in wins, he had a stellar 1984-85 season backstopping the Jets to a 48 win season where they finished fourth overall. Undrafted, Hayward was signed by the Jets in 1982 out of Cornell University. Traded to the Habs from the Jets in 1986, he just missed winning a cup with them but shared netminding duties with a very capable Patrick Roy for the next 4 seasons. Roy and Hayward share the Jennings trophy in 3 of those years while Hayward put up 72 wins with a 2.99 GAA. Due to his 4 seasons with the Jets and that great 1984-85 campaign, Brian Hayward is the Winnipeg Jets’ 4th best goaltender of all time.
Click for part two to find out who goalies 3 - 1 are and see the stats for every Jet netminder ever!