The Quebec Goaltender Myth: Debunked!

Over the past month, a lot of attention has been focused on the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the keys to winning it all.  Every year, most critics seem to agree that along with experience, heart, determination & a dash of luck, a hot goaltender is key in bringing home the Holy Grail of hockey.  I don't think I need to convince anyone this is truly the case, or need to remind you of past goaltending heroics that lead teams to the promised land.  There is however, one thing that has been nagging at me for a few weeks now.  A lot has been written and reported on the new school of goaltenders and on how Quebec seems to be the breeding ground for the hottest goalies in the NHL.  Some reports even went as far as saying that the "butterfly" style, developed by Francois Allaire and mastered by Patrick Roy in the mid 80's has lead the way for this new generation of Quebec-bred goaltenders to take a step forward in the puck-stopping department.  As I'm about to show you, nothing could be farther from the truth.


    The year was 1986, when Patrick Roy introduced himself & his butterfly style goaltending to the NHL.  A hero was born overnight, with it, a highlight-reel style of goaltending that would inspire young goaltenders even 15 years later.  Roy went on to backstop the Montreal Canadiens to the franchise's 23rd Stanley Cup & became the first rookie in Playoff history to win the Conn Smythe trophy ( awarded to the most valuable player for his team in the playoffs ).  Only one other player has ever repeated this feat, ironically a goaltender, Ron Hextall, on a Philadelphia Flyers team that didn't go on to win the Stanley Cup.  A lot of critics think that Giguere could become the second goaltender in history to win the award as a member of the losing team, should the Ducks fail to win the Cup.  The accomplishments of Roy do not end there, as he holds the record for most Conn Smythe trophies in a career with 3 ( 1986, 1993, 2001 ), four Stanley Cups ( 1986, 1993, 1996, 2001 ) and 5 Stanley Cup Final appearances.  If an aspiring goaltender was to model his style after someone, it definitely should be Roy.  Enter Martin Brodeur.


    Brodeur made his NHL debut in the 1993-94 season, and was awarded the Calder Trophy ( Awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL ), better known as "Rookie of the Year".  Unlike Roy, Brodeur would not win the Stanley Cup during his rookie campaign, as the Devils lost the chance to advance to the Finals in dramatic fashion, losing the  Conference Final Game 7 in Overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions of that year, the New York Rangers.  He would return the next year though, backstopping the Devils to their franchise's first Stanley Cup.  He repeated the feat in 2000, and in 2001, it was student vs. teacher when the Colorado Avalanche faced off against The New Jersey Devils.  Roy vs. Brodeur.  Experience prevailed, and Roy hoisted the Cup for the fourth time, and perhaps the last, as rumors keep surfacing about the announcement of his retirement sometime this summer.  Although I think Roy still has a few good years left, I can't think of anything left for him to accomplish.  On to the current Stanley Cup Finals...


    Entering this year's Conference Finals were 4 Quebec Goaltenders:  New Jersey's Brodeur, Minnesota's Manny Fernandez, Ottawa's Patrick Lalime, and the hottest topic of the post-season, J-S Giguere.  Articles surfaced everywhere of the Quebec goaltending dominance, the new school of goaltenders who modeled their careers & styles after their hero, Patrick Roy since his arrival in 1986.  But have Quebec-bred goaltenders dominated since then ?  Apparently not.  Since 1986, only 4 goaltenders from the QMJHL have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals including Roy.  Furthermore, one of those goaltenders is Rejean Lemelin ( Boston Bruins, 1988 Stanley Cup Finals ), who started his NHL career in 1979.  Needless to say, Lemelin wasn't inspired by Roy, nor did he emulate his style.  In other words, only Martin Brodeur and first-time Stanley Cup Finalist J-S Giguere have made it all the way to the show.  So why all the fuss about Quebec-bred goaltenders ? 


    Maybe it's the fact that the final four were Quebec-bred goaltenders, but let's not forget the others that didn't even make the post season.  For every Brodeur, there's a Thibeault, for every Giguere, there's a Theodore.  In all 16 teams making the post-season this year, only five ever played in the QMJHL, roughly 30 %.  The same amount of goaltenders coming from the NCAA, yet we hear nothing of American college hockey breeding great goaltenders; nor should we.  Fact of the matter is, great goaltending is not league dependant, it's talent dependant.  I strongly believe that if a goaltender has enough talent, he can cause enough stir to eventually make it onto a Stanley Cup contending team.  Look at Dominik Hasek, for example.  The Sabres would've never advanced past Round 1 in 1999 had it not been for his heroics.  It was also those heroics that made him a must on the Detroit Red Wings' roster last year.  The result:  Hasek retired with a Stanley Cup ring.  Talent.


    Below is a chart of all the goaltenders who have appeared in the Finals since Roy's inception in 1986.  The highlights represent QMJHL prospects.


YEAR Finals (Winning Team in Bold) Win. Goalie Drafted From Losing Goalie Drafted From
1986 Montreal vs. Calgary Patrick Roy Granby Bisons  (QMJHL) Mike Vernon Calgary Wranglers (WHL)
1987 Edmonton vs. Philadelphia Grant Fuhr Victoria Cougars  (WHL) Ron Hextall Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
1988 Edmonton vs. Boston Grant Fuhr Victoria Cougars  (WHL) Rejean Lemelin Sherbrooke
Beavers (QMJHL)
1989 Calgary vs. Montreal Mike Vernon Calgary Wranglers (WHL) Patrick Roy Granby Bisons  (QMJHL)
1990 Edmonton vs. Boston Bill Ranford New-Westminster
Bruins (WHL)
Andy Moog Billings Bighorns (WHL)
1991 Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota Tom Barrasso Acton-Boxboro H.
S. (Massachusetts)
Jon Casey U. of North Dakota
1992 Pittsburgh vs. Chicago Tom Barrasso Acton-Boxboro H.
S. (Massachusetts)
Ed Belfour North
Dakota U (NCAA)
1993 Montreal vs. Los Angeles Patrick Roy Granby Bisons  (QMJHL) Kelly Hrudey Medicine-Hat
Tigers (WHL)
1994 NY Rangers vs. Vancouver Mike Richter U of Wisconsin
Kirk McLean Oshawa Generals
1995 New Jersey vs. Detroit Martin Brodeur St-Hyacinthe
Lasers (QMJHL)
Mike Vernon Calgary Wranglers (WHL)
1996 Colorado vs. Florida Patrick Roy Granby Bisons  (QMJHL) John Vambiesbrouck Sault-Ste.
Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
1997 Detroit vs. Philadelphia Mike Vernon Calgary Wranglers (WHL) Garth Snow Mount St. Charles  H.S. (R.I.)
1998 Detroit vs. Washington Chris Osgood Medicine Hat
Tigers (WHL)
Olaf Kolzig Tri-City
Americans (WHL)
1999 Dallas vs. Buffalo Ed Belfour North
Dakota U (NCAA)
Dominik Hasek Indianapolis Ice
2000 New Jersey vs. Dallas Martin Brodeur St-Hyacinthe
Lasers (QMJHL)
Ed Belfour North
Dakota U (NCAA)
2001 Colorado vs. New Jersey Patrick Roy Granby Bisons  (QMJHL) Martin Brodeur St-Hyacinthe
Lasers (QMJHL)
2002 Detroit vs. Carolina Dominik Hasek Indianapolis Ice
Artus Irbe Dynamo Riga
2003 New Jersey vs. Anaheim Martin Brodeur St-Hyacinthe
Lasers (QMJHL)
Jean-Sebastien Giguere Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Needless to say, only the names of Brodeur & Roy seem to surface in highlights.  We do have a newcomer this year in Giguere, making it only the second time a QMJHL prospect will be guaranteed to drink from the Cup.  My prediction: New Jersey in 5.


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