It has been debated throughout their career. Which of Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur was the best goaltender. Both French Canadian from a long bloodline of goaltenders coming out of the QMJHL, they have revolutionised the position of goaltending. Roy perfected the butterfly style, while Brodeur made the hybrid style more popular there after, and both have influenced young goaltenders to copy their style of play. But which one was the best at his craft?
It’s never easy trying to compare players when they play in the same era, as teammates, coaching staff, travel and other factors must be taken into play. It becomes particularly difficult when trying to compare players from different eras even if, like in this case, both players shared a few years of playing in the league at the same time. First, let’s look at both goaltenders’ statistics throughout their career and then, we will try to put things into perspective.
If you only look at the number of wins, goals against average (GAA) and shutouts, it appears as though Brodeur is well ahead and that there shouldn’t even be a debate over this. However, that’s not totally fair and here’s why: Roy played during the NHL’s best offensive years in history, while Brodeur benefited from the dead-puck era, when coaches introduces “the trap” into the game.
Patrick Roy broke into the NHL in 1985-86. He retired after the 2002-2003 season. Brodeur started his career with the New Jersey Devils in 1993-94, the season after Roy won his second Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens.
What difference does it make?
Because an image is worth a thousand words, let’s have a look at the years that Brodeur “missed” and that Roy had to go through. Those were the NHL’s top scorer from the 1985-86 season to the 1992-93 season:
The NHL practised at more open style of play. The goaltenders’ equipment was smaller and you had the Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux era at the top of their game.
Patrick Roy retired after the 2002-2003 season. By then, Brodeur was in his prime. But have a look at the NHL’s top scorer, then compare to the slideshow above:
Those are the years that Roy “missed” and that Brodeur benefited greatly from. Throughout the dead-puck era all the way to the 2004-05 lockout, scoring was way down and after a couple of seasons of slight improvement, it went back down around the league. Yes, goatenders are better than in the “old days”, but the equipment also got much, much bigger and better, to the point where the NHL is trying to address the issue today.
In addition, the NHL decided to add a skills competition, otherwise known as the shootout, to end games if still tied after 5 minutes of overtime. That was done in time for the 2005-06 season. This gimmick added 42 more wins to Brodeur’s numbers.
We may never see the end of this debate as both were excellent goaltenders but when taking into consideration the opposition, style of play in the league, equipment and the teams those guys played on, I would have to give Roy a slight edge over his counterpart Brodeur.
Roy back with the Canadiens
On a side note, Patrick Roy giving his resignation to the Colorado Avalanche has created a lot of waves around Montreal, particularly with a few reporters who have a beef against the current administration and some fans sharing the same opinion. They seem to be so desparate to see the Marc Bergevin / Michel Therrien era come to an end that they are willing to reach to any ray of hope, even if it means getting someone worse as replacement.
Patrick Roy was my favourite player when he wore #33 in Red, White and Blue. He also crushed my feelings when he quit on his team and on the fans in what was a knee-jerking decision in mid-game. Now that things aren’t going his way in Colorado, he does the same, in August when it’s difficult for Joe Sakic and the Avalanche to find a new coach. Patrick thinks that he’s bigger than the teams he is working for and that obviously hasn’t changed.
Replacing Bergevin and/or Therrien by Roy would be like a fireman trying to extinguish a fire with gasoline! It makes absolutely no sense. He is too emotional, too controlling to even be a serious candidate for any of those positions. Therrien’s 375 NHL regular seasons’ career wins place him in the top-40 all-time while Roy’s 130 wins are nothing to write a book about, especially when considering the way he has handled adversity.
Further, Geoff Molson passed on Roy for the GM job and Bergevin did the same with him for the head coaching job. Why would they change their mind after the latest development? Especially that the team now has Carey Price back and they hired Kirk Muller as co-coach? Don’t waste your breath, Roy isn’t coming to Montreal as coach or GM. He’s more likely to be considered in Quebec City if or when they get a franchise.