Best Ever? Hasek Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame
As Hasek’s first goaltending coach with the Buffalo Sabres, Mitch Korn, said there was nothing lucky about it.
“Everything he did had a purpose. It didn’t look like it had a purpose, but it had a purpose,” Korn told InGoal Magazine. “We were coming out of the skate save era but he was very good at the same thing we are doing today: Sealing the ice, taking away vertical space. He was very flexible and he had a pretty wide butterfly but the way he took away vertical space on diagonals with (pad) stacks, nobody but (Martin) Brodeur has ever done it like him.”
Korn explained why Hasek wasn’t the unorthodox flopper many assumed when The Dominator retired for good in 2012, and articles over the past week finally picked up on that theme. While many at the time assumed there was little for a goalie coach to do with a style so unique, there was a reason Hasek invited all three of his NHL coaches – in addition to Korn, there was Jim Corsi, who was in Buffalo for the final two Vezina trophies, and long-time Detroit Red Wings coach Jim Bedard – to be in his front section for his acceptance speech Monday:
*Editor’s note: the above video may not play in Canada because of broadcast restrictions, so try the TSN original by clicking here, or enjoy this alternative highlight video produced by the Sabres:
Hasek’s induction was a no-brainer. As for his place among the all-time greats, the arguments are compelling between Hasek, fellow Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, who will join them in the Hall of Fame as soon as he retires and the clock starts ticking on the five-year wait period.
Roy and Brodeur won more games and Stanley Cups than Hasek, who finished with 389 victories in 735 games, and two Cups with the Red Wings – one as the starter in 2002 and another as the backup to Chris Osgood in 2008. But what Hasek may lack in NHL longevity, in part because he didn’t even come to the NHL until he was 25 and didn’t get a chance to start until he was 27, he more than made up for with his dominance during his prime.
At his best, Hasek was unrivalled by either Roy or Brodeur, who were both playing at the same time.
Hasek led the NHL in save percentage for six straight seasons, often by a wide margin. Hasek, who won the Vezina Trophy six times, posted a save percentage of .930 or better five times during an era when the league average ranged between .895 to .908, and including a personal best of .937. Roy’s best single season was .925. Brodeur’s was .927. Hasek’s career average is .922, tops among all goalies with more than 300 games played.
Hasek won consecutive Hart Trophies as the NHL MVP in 1997 and 1998, becoming the first goalie to do so since Jacques Plante in 1962, and still the only goaltender to win it twice. He was the single biggest reason the Czech Republic won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the first with NHL players taking part.
If that’s not enough, Korn will tell you Hasek did it all on inferior teams compared to Roy and Brodeur.
As for the argument Hasek’s unique style left less of an impression because it was impossible to duplicate, Bedard and Corsi recall seeing him use a version of the modern VH a decade before it became popular. While pointing out the technical brilliance of his barrel roll in this NHL.com article, they also identified the paddle down among his innovations.
Despite all that, it was Hasek’s mind that truly set him apart. With an intelligence Korn labeled as “Mensa level” and the ability to read shots off sticks and anticipate plays, Hasek was able to approach the game the same way he did a chess board (and he played an electronic version on team trips), always working one move ahead.
Osgood, who was also among those Hasek invited to the Hall of Fame induction despite having lost the starting job to him early in that 2008 run to a second Cup, saw that brilliance, as well as the method in Hasek’s madness:
Add it all up and Hasek was undoubtedly one of the best on the ice. Where he ranks all time is up for debate, but it says here it should be at the top of a very impressive list.
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