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  • Rick Haley

5 Best Jet Goaltenders Ever (part 2)

...continued. Part 1 here.

We continue our look at the top 5 Jet goalies of all time. Here are numbers 3 through 1.

Number 3

Bob Essensa

Bob Essensa

When I think of the great Jet announcer, Kurt Kielback, 2 phrases stand out. And they still rattle around my head like it was yesterday: “Wrap around Hawerchuk,” and, “Great save Essensa!” Kielback had more than enough opportunities to use the latter. Bob Essensa was drafted by the Jets in 1983. He played 4 years at Michigan State and another 2 with Jet affiliates in Moncton and Fort Wayne. He finally joined the big club in 1988 but the goalie room was quite full. We still had Pokey and the Bandit and Alain Chevrier started 22 games as well. Tom Draper played in 2 and Hayward got to start 20. It wasn’t a good team and they didn’t make the playoffs. The next year saw improvement and we came within one game of going to the conference final (and on to the Cup in my estimation) after being up 3-1 against the Oilers. Essensa was now the number 1 keeper and would hold that spot for the next 3 seasons. The 1992-93 was a big campaign and saw Essensa score 33 wins and the team pick up 40. Selanne, Housley, Tkachuk and Zhamnov were now the stars. Things deteriorated the next year and Essensa was shipped off to Detroit. He would move around the league for another 9 seasons before retiring.

All in all, a pretty decent career. Almost 450 games played and 173 wins. For his longevity with the Jets and those 116 wins, Bob Essensa is the 3rd greatest Jet goalie of all time.

Number 2

Joe Daley

This one was too close to tell. For me, Joe is the guy. Goalie Joe. Three Avco cups. Three hundred and eight games played and the best winning percentage of any Jets goalie. Growing up a goalie, Joe Daley was my hero! Of course we had Bobby, Anders and Ulf. They could score but Joe kept it all calm and safe at his end. And he’s from Winnipeg! East Kildonan. Played hockey at Bronx Park. Though he played in just over 100 NHL games, he will forever be known as the very first Penguin taken in the 1967 NHL Expansion draft by Pittsburgh. Frustrated on a bad Red Wings team in 1972, Joe came back to Winnipeg and not sure what to do. Ben Hatskin, the Jets owner had just signed Ernie Wakely and also convinced Joe to join the fledgling club. Wakely stuck around for 2 years but Joe was here to stay. Only 2 Jet goalies have played over 300 games for the club. And just this last year, Daley’s most games played was finally surpassed by Connor Hellebuyck. It only took 42 years! He also has 167 wins and 13 ties (which would have translated into a few more Ws today). Daley’s 3.38 GAA is quite amazing. It is half a goal higher than Ondrej Pavelec’s 2.80 but trust me, games in the 1970s WHA were a lot higher scoring then they have been in the last 10 years.

Joe Daley

Joe has stayed in Winnipeg and though he first suited up for the Jets almost 50 years ago, you can still drop in and say hi to him at his sports collectibles shop on St. Marys Road ( With Joe between the pipes, the Jets made the playoffs 6 out of seven years and went to the final 5 times, winning three. Joe is in the WHA Hall of Fame and is the 2nd greatest Jet goalie of all time.

Number 1

Connor Hellebuyck

Connor Hellebuyck

This guy is good. Though I struggled with Connor or Joe in the number one spot (1 and 1A?) there is no denying Hellebuyck’s skillset. Just look at the last few years. After losing 4 of the Jet’s top 5 defencemen before the 2019-20 season, Hellebuyck has not only stood on his head and saved game after game, but he continues to still be one of the leagues best by the numbers. He has led the league in games played and shots against, the last 2 years.

Is he quirky? Sure. What goalies aren’t? You just need to see him doing those weird eyeball exercises before each game to confirm. But man is he cool and calm. You can tell within the first 5 or so shots into a game if he is going to be on that night (and usually he is). Where Pavelec was often flopping around like a fresh caught Halibut on the dock, Helley is a minimalist. On his knees and covering most of the net, he moves as little as possible. Rebounds don’t happen very often unless it is an exaggerated deflection with his blocker, which is really a pass to one of our defensemen. And when there is a quick shot that he wasn’t ready for, he calmly flashes leather. He is cocky without being cocky if that makes sense. There have been times when he has looked atrocious but then tells reporters he likes where his game is at. He usually backs it up too.

The 2 best Jet goaltenders of all time!

Drafted in 2012 in the 5th round, Hellebuyck spent 2 years at UMass Lowell (we were almost classmates – long story) and a year and a half with the Manitoba Moose. Some goalies play 50 or so games in a season. In 2018, the Michigan native had 55 wins! (regular season and playoffs). He won the Vezina in 2020 and is only the 3rd NHL Jet to win a major award. At 28 years old, Hellebuyck still has several years of greatness ahead. He leads the Jets all-time goaltender list at games played, wins and GAA. Because of that, Connor Hellebuyck is the Greatest Jet Goaltender of All-Time!

All time Winnipeg Jet goaltender stats pack. All 42 of them!

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