Is Tony Esposito one of the Greatest Goalies of All Time?

Chicago Blackhawks / NHL, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We recorded this just after he died, so RIP.

Tony Esposito has one of the best regular season careers of any NHL goalie ever, not just in germs of his peak but in terms of how long he was among the best goalies in the league (at least by Goals Saved Above Average). Also, he helped change goalie masks for the better.

Yet his playoff numbers are significantly worse. He underperformed in one of his two good playoff runs and he was only ever on one truly great international team, as a backup.

So, it’s obvious Tony Esposito belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame but where does he rank all time?

Hall of Fame Class of 1988: Tony Esposito, Buddy O’Connor, Brad Park, Guy Lafleur

Tony Esposito’s Career:

  • 1968-84; 16 seasons, 13 as a starter, 1 as a 1A, 2 as a backup
  • Totals:
    • 423W (10th All Time, 3rd at his retirement)
    • 306L (15th All Time, 5th at his retirement)
    • 152T (4th All Time, 3 at his retirement)
    • 76 SO (10th All Time, 7th at his retirement) in
    • 52,476 Minutes (8th All Time, 3rd at his retirement) in
    • 886 Games (9th All Time, 3rd at his retirement);
    • 178.7 PS (12th All Time, 5th Goalie, 2nd Goalie at his retirement);
    • 1st All Time in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA);
    • 4th All Time in Goals Against (1st at his retirement)
    • 4th All Time in Shots Against (1st at his retirement)
    • 4th All Time in Saves (1st at his retirement)
  • Per Game:
    • 2.93 GAA
    • .906 SV%
  • Not drafted
  • Era: Of the 14 Goalies to play in at least 410 Games between 1968 and 1984, Esposito is
    • 1st in Wins (by over 100)
    • 1st in Losses
    • 1st in Ties (by over 30)
    • 1st in Shutouts (by over 25)
    • 1st in Minutes (by over 9,600)
    • 1st in Games (by nearly 150)
    • 1st in Goals Against (by over 250)
    • 1st in Shots Against (by over 6,700)
    • 1st in Saves (by over 6,300)
    • 2nd in Save Percentage
    • 3rd in GAA
    • 1st in GSAA (by over 190)
  • Season average: 26-19-10, 5 SO
  • 3-year peak (1973-76): 33-22-12; 7 SO; 2.55 GAA; 0.913 SV%; 42.5 GSAA (ish)
  • Playoffs:
    • 45W (8th All Time at his retirement)
    • 53L (11th All Time, 2nd at his retirement),
    • 6 SO (12th All Time at his retirement) in
    • 5990 Minutes (22nd All Time, 7th at his retirement) in
    • 99 Games (20th All Time, 7th at his retirement);
    • 46.8 GSAA (11th All Time, 5th at his retirement);
    • 12th All Time in Goals Against (3rd at his retirement)
    • 17th All Time in Shots Against (4th at his retirement)
    • 17th All Time in Saves (4th at his retirement)
    • Per Game:
      • 3.09 GAA
      • .903 SV% (13th All Time at his retirement)
    • Era: Of the 8 Goalies to play 41 playoff games between 1968 and 1984, Esposito is
      • 4th in playoff Wins
      • 1st in playoff Losses
      • 3rd in playoff Shutouts
      • 3rd in playoff Minutes
      • 3rd in playoff Games
      • 3rd in playoff GSAA
      • 2nd in Goals Against
      • 3rd in Shots Against
      • 3rd in Saves
      • 4th in SV%
      • 6th (3rd last) in GAA
  • Adjusted: 
    • 2.58 GAA (11th All Time)
    • .922 SV% (3rd All Time – behind Dryden and Hasek)
    • 1st All Time in Goals Vs Average
    • 2nd All Time in Goals Vs Threshold
  • Never traded

Tony Esposito’s Accomplishments:

  • Top 5 in Hart voting three times
  • Vezina three times (‘70, ‘72, ‘74) [when it was the Jennings]
  • Calder (‘70)
  • All Star:
    • 1st Team All Star three times
    • 2nd Team All Star twice
    • 6 All Star Game appearances
  • Top Player:
    • Best Player (by PS) once (‘80)
    • Top 5 Player seven times (‘70, ‘71, ‘73, ‘74, ‘75, ‘78) – 10th most ever
    • Top 10 Player eleven times (‘72, ‘76, ‘79, ‘81) – tied 5th most ever
    • Best Goalie (by GPS) twice (‘71, ‘80)
    • Top 5 Goalie eleven times (‘70, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, ‘75, ‘76, ‘78, ‘79, ‘81) – tied 3rd most ever (Hall, Sawchuk are ahead)
    • Top 10 Goalie twelve times (‘77) – 10th most ever
  • Wins:
    • Leader-boards:
      • Lead the league in Wins twice
      • Top 5 nine times
      • Top 10 thirteen times – tied 9th most ever
    • Totals:
      • 35 wins twice
  • Shutouts
    • Leader-boards:
      • Led the league in Shutouts three times
      • Top 5 nine times
      • Top 10 twelve times – tied 8th most ever
    • Totals:
      • 15 shutouts once
      • 10 shutouts twice
      • 5 shutouts seven times (1 of only 14 players)
  • Shots Against:
    • Led the league in Shots Against five times – most ever
    • Top 5 twelve times – most ever
  • Saves:
    • Total Saves:
      • Led the league in Saves five times – most ever
      • Top 5 in Saves eleven times – tied most ever
      • Top 10 in Saves thirteen times – tied most ever
    • Save Percentage:
      • Leader-boards:
        • Led the league in Save Percentage twice – tied 6th most ever
        • Top 5 eight times – tied 7th most ever
        • Top 10 eleven times – tied 6th most ever
      • Over .930 twice
      • Over .925 three times
  • Goals Against:
    • GAA:
      • Leader-boards:
        • Led the league in GAA once
        • Top 5 six times
        • Top 10 nine times
      • Averages:
        • Under 1.8 once
        • Under 2.1 twice
        • Under 2.25 three times
        • Under 2.5 four times
    • GSAA:
      • Leader-boards:
        • Led the league in GSAA four times – tied 5th most ever
        • Top 5 twelve times – most ever
        • Top 10 thirteen times – tied 2nd most ever
      • Single-season totals:
        • +60 once (1 of only 4 players ever – Dryden, Parent, Vachon)
        • +50 twice (1 of only 3 players ever – Hasek, Dryden)
        • +40 four times (1 of only players ever – Dryden, Hasek)
        • +35 six times (tied most ever – Dryden)
        • +30 ten times (most ever)
        • +20 twelve times (most ever)
  • Minutes:
    • Leader-boards:
      • Led the league in Minutes six times – tied 3rd most ever (Hall and Brodeur are head)
      • Top 5 eleven times – tied 5th most ever (Hall, Sawchuk, Lumley, Brodeur are ahead)
      • Top 10 thirteen times – tied 7th most ever
    • Totals:
      • 4,000 four times (1 of only 10 players ever)
  • Adjusted Peak:
    • .929 Adjusted SV% (3rd All Time)
    • 2nd All Time in Goals Versus Average Peak
    • 2nd All Time in Goals Versus Threshold Peak

Tony Esposito’s Great Teams:

  • NHL:
    • Best Player (led playoffs in shutouts) on one Final Four (‘74)
    • Best Player? (led playoffs in SV%, GAA and shutouts) on one Runner Up (‘71 Black Hawks)
    • Starter on one Runner Up (‘73 Black Hawks) and a Final Four (‘70 Black Hawks)
    • 1A on one Final Four (‘82 Black Hawks)
  • Canada (World) Cup:
    • Starter on one Bronze??? (’81 USA) [Hard to determine 3rd place in this tournament]
  • Summit Series:
    • Backup on one Champion (’72 Canada)

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