Contextualizing Hank’s place in historyMarch 21, 2014, by
With his win over Ottawa on Tuesday night, Henrik Lundqvist passed Mike Richter for the Rangers’ all-time wins record. His 302nd career victory came on the heels of back-to-back disappointing losses, so this achievement was somewhat marginalized. It’s very difficult to take stock of history while you are in the middle of a somewhat frustrating playoff race.
Aside from the Rangers’ franchise record, Henrik moved into a tie with Turk Broda for 26th on the NHL all-time wins list. Just for some context, he is only one win behind Olaf Kolzig, and two behind Billy Smith before some separation sets in. In only eight-plus seasons, Hank has put himself in the discussion with current or projected hall of famers. This got me thinking about his overall career trajectory.
The top 5 winningest goalies in NHL history are Martin Brodeur (686 and counting), Patrick Roy (551), Ed Belfour (484), Curtis Joseph (454) and Terry Sawchuk (447). Of those five, only Brodeur (still active) and Joseph are not members of the Hall of Fame. Now, obviously wins aren’t a great objective measure of performance, but over a 15+ year sample size, they are a testament to longevity and overall success.
Now, for some fun with arbitrary projections. Assuming Hank doesn’t win any more games this year (he better not), plays out the remainder of his contract and retires (possible, but unlikely) and only puts up 20 wins per season (again, not going to go over well in NYC), he is on pace for 140 additional wins. This would give him 442 career wins, just five behind Sawchuk for fifth place all-time.
If he averages 25 wins, he would add 175 to the total and top out at 477, which slots him comfortably into 4th all-time. I think this puts the obscene amount of individual success Hank has had in his career thus far into context. But, the thing that really blew me away was the trajectory. Hank has more wins than any of those guys through nine full seasons, and it’s not particularly close. Marty Brodeur leads the way with 286 wins through nine years, followed by Sawchuk (268), Roy (225) Belfour (215) and Joseph (213). That’s looney tunes.
Now none of this is to say that Hank will definitely occupy this upper echelon of all-time greats when all is said and done. A lot of things can happen in the next 7-10 years. We all saw Mike Richter’s career cut tragically short by concussions. I guess the point of all of this is that we have been extremely fortunate to watch a career as impressive as Hank’s blossom right before our eyes. He may not have that elusive Cup yet, but his place in New York Rangers history is now secure. Long live The King.