/Making the Early Hall Of Fame Case for Marc-Andre Fleury

Making the Early Hall Of Fame Case for Marc-Andre Fleury

You may be scratching your head right now, wondering what the hell I’m talking about. Hall Of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury? That just doesn’t sound right. Well, Fleury is building himself a strong case to become a Hall Of Famer after he retires. Let’s take a look at his merit.

Career So Far

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Marc-Andre Fleury was drafted first overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003 after two strong QMJHL campaigns with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He followed this with a phenomenal showing at the World Junior Championships, where he took home the top goalie and MVP awards as well as his first World Juniors Silver medal.

The Penguins wasted no time in getting Fleury to the NHL; his NHL debut came only months after being drafted, something that is almost unheard of when it comes to goaltenders. Although his numbers were respectable, Fleury was sent down to the QMJHL, where he impressed once again, when the Penguins realized that their season was a wash.

In only his second season, Fleury was given the starting position, and he ran with it, posting solid numbers and consistently starting 60+ games behind a struggling Penguins team. But, in 2008, Fleury’s labour paid off. Playing behind the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Sergei Gonchar, Fleury and the Penguins made it to the Stanley Cup Final before eventually losing to the Detroit Red Wings. A rematch in 2009 saw the Penguins build on their success, and they won their first Stanley Cup since 1993.

Since then, Fleury has only continued to grow, posting an above average save percentage (SV%) and continuously winning upwards of 35 games each season. And again, Fleury was rewarded for his efforts with a Stanley Cup Win in 2016.

While there’s no denying that Fleury is and has been a very good goalie, that doesn’t mean that he’s good enough to get into the Hall Of Fame. To say that, we would need to see how he stacks up to other top goaltenders.

Hall Of Fame Goaltenders

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Before we try to make a case for Fleury, we should take a look at the goalies that are already in the Hall Of Fame. There are currently 36 goaltenders in the Hall Of Fame. That seems like a solid amount, considering there are only around 30 starting calibre goalies in the NHL at a time. That number was considerably smaller before the NHL’s multiple expansions. That number becomes even more reasonable considering that there are only 298 players in the Hall Of Fame, meaning that goaltenders make up around 15% of all Hall Of Fame players.

Unfortunately, when you look at the last few years, the number of goaltenders being inducted is a bit less respectable. Since 1993, only five goalies have been inducted: Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek, and Rogie Vachon. That is some pretty elite company. To put things into perspective, in this 23 year period, only 8% of Hall Of Fame inductees have been goaltenders. In the previous 23 years (1970-1993) fifteen goalies were inducted, good for 19% of all inductees over that period. That’s three times as many goaltenders inducted and a percentage of inductees that is over double the amount from 1993-2016. With such a small number of goaltenders getting into the Hall Of Fame, it’s fair to say that for a goaltender to get in, he’ll need to either be elite or have something that sets him apart from the rest of his competitors. Let’s see if Fleury falls into either of those categories.

Awards and Achievements

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Fleury has a very full trophy cabinet. He’s won at just about every level; he’s won gold medals at both the World Juniors and Olympics, has multiple Stanley Cups,  and is a two time all-star. But there is something missing. Fleury has never won a goaltending award in the NHL. Both the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against and the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender are absent from his trophy cabinet. Also missing is the Hart Trophy for league MVP, and the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoffs MVP. Is that enough to keep Fleury from the Hall Of Fame? Let’s compare him to a few groups of goaltenders and see how he holds up.

First off, let’s compare him to goaltenders currently in the Hall Of Fame. We’ll stick to goaltenders that have played in the NHL’s modern era, so 1992 and onwards.

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When it comes to team awards, such as the Stanley Cup and an international medal, Fleury is able to keep up with the Hall Of Famers quite well. Where we start to see differences is in solo awards and achievements. Fleury has only made two All-Star appearances, whereas every other goaltender on this list has made at least six. Not only that, but Fleury is the only goalie here without a Jennings or Vezina trophy.

Now let’s compare Fleury to some modern era goalies that have been passed over multiple times by the Hall Of Fame.

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Fleury seems to fit right in with this crowd. With similar numbers across the board, it seems like there are some with a stronger case than him. To get in, Fleury will either need to be far better than his current competition or have something else that sets him apart.

Let’s take a look at how other current NHL goalies’ trophy cases compare to Fleury’s. For this, we’ll only compare him to goaltenders that are close in age to Fleury.

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Fleury seems to fit in a bit better with this crowd, but his lack of solo goaltending awards makes him fall behind the likes of players like Crawford, Lundqvist, and Price. So if Fleury is going to make it into the Hall Of Fame, it isn’t going to be because of his awards and achievements.

What Sets Marc-Andre Fleury Apart From Other Goalies?

After reading the previous section you’re probably even more perplexed as to why I’m making a Hall Of Fame case for Fleury, but despite a lacklustre trophy cabinet, there’s still a case to be made. What sets Fleury apart from the rest lies within his career statistics.

First let’s compare Fleury’s career statistics to our Hall Of Famers and Hall Of Fame misses from the modern era to see how he stacks up.

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Looking at this table there’s one thing that immediately sticks out and it’s Fleury’s SV%. Unfortunately in the context of this chart that is meaningless. While Fleury’s SV% is better than the majority of the other players on this list, his numbers are in part benefited by the drop in the NHL’s scoring rates. While Fleury has played in a lower scoring era of the NHL, the other goaltenders on this list played the majority of their careers in a higher scoring era.

So still you must be wondering, “Why on earth is this guy even bothering to make a Hall Of Fame Case for Fleury?” My answer is because there’s a case to be made. What sets Fleury apart isn’t so obvious in the context of the above chart, but it becomes more obvious when he’s compared to his current competitors.

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Marc-Andre Fleury has more wins than every single goalie on this list aside from Henrik Lundqvist, who is nearly three years his senior. This is a result of Fleury’s immediate entry into the NHL after being drafted. Fleury made his NHL debut at the age of 19. Most goalies make their debut at 23. This means that Fleury had a four year head start on his competition, a head start that would have been larger if Fleury’s career wasn’t interrupted by the 2005-06 NHL lockout.

While Fleury’s win totals are impressive, they have the potential to become far more impressive. Fleury is winning games at an astounding rate. Just last March he became the fourth fastest goalie to reach 350 wins. A feat bettered only by Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lundqvist, and Chris Osgood. He is currently winning an average of 32 games per season. With 370 wins currently under his belt, Fleury is the 17th most winningest goaltender of all time, placing him above 31 Hall Of Fame goaltenders. If he can keep this pace up for only four more seasons, he will finish his career with 511 wins, good for third best of all time. He would be behind only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy, who are the only goalies to have won 500 games in the NHL. It’s almost a guarantee that Fleury will become the 13th goalie to reach 400 wins, of which seven of that top 13 are Hall Of Famers, and two of which are near shoo-ins (Lundqvist and Joseph). If he can keep up his pace and reach 500 wins, he’ll be a near lock for the Hall Of Fame.

This poses the question: can Fleury keep up this pace? The answer is maybe. The Penguins are a very strong team, and it doesn’t look like they’ll fall off for a while now, so if Fleury continues to start for them, he should continue to win games. The problem is that his starting position isn’t guaranteed for much longer. Fleury has young gun Matt Murray chomping at his heels. Murray has been seriously impressive in both the AHL and NHL, and just last season, he played in the majority of the Penguins playoff games in their Stanley Cup campaign. To make matters worse, Fleury has suffered multiple injuries over the last few seasons, making it harder to keep his pace. Luckily for Fleury, he’s young enough that even if his pace drops off, he can still reach the 500 win mark. Even if he wins only 22 games per season until he’s 38, he will still reach 500 wins.

There is a Hall Of Fame case for Marc-Andre Fleury, but it relies on his longevity and durability. Will he make it in? Only time will tell.


 

Chris Carnovale is a “The Wraparound” columnist for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @Chris_Carnovale.

Chris is a University student studying Sport Media at Ryerson University in Toronto. He loves to read and write, but above all he loves hockey. He follows the sport like it’s his religion and tries his best to know everything he possibly can about the great game of hockey. The primary way of contacting Chris is at this email: ccarnovale@gnghockey.com.