Marc-Andre Fleury put forth a passable effort Tuesday night in Vegas’ 8-3 thumping over the Chicago Blackhawks. Given that the Vegas Golden Knights set a record for offensive production in this game, Flower did not need to do much to secure a win, the 417th of his career.
While this win did not jump him ahead of anyone on the all-time leaderboard — he still rests between Glenn Hall (407) and Tony Esposito (423) at 10th all-time — it did make me curious to see where he stood at wins through a player’s 34th birthday.
I suppose, given his young debut (18 years, 316 days) and his luck with playing for dominant teams, it should come as no surprise to find that Fleury sits second all-time in wins through a 34th birthday, narrowly ahead of Patrick Roy’s 413, and looking up at Martin Brodeur’s 446.
Just think about that; over 750 goalies have suited up in the NHL and just one had more wins by his 34th birthday than Sorel-Tracy, Quebec’s own Marc-Andre Fleury.
Now, look; wins are not a great stat to measure a netminder (or pitchers in baseball), because they rely so heavily on offensive support. That being said, wins are sexy, they matter come Vezina time (a goalie with a losing record has yet to win), and Ben Bishop thinks they’re the most important stat.
But hell, we’re here to have some fun, right? That’s what the game is all about. We can, at least for today, throw common sense to the wind in favor of the almighty win.
With that said, let’s explore just how may wins Fleury could end up with. While I don’t have a crystal ball or tea leaves in front of me, I do have a cursory understanding of regression and passable mathematics.
I’ll spare some of the gory details for now, but based on a few different analyses that take into account historic goaltender performance and aging (and DM me if you’d like to know more of the specifics), we may be able to expect Fleury to wind up with anywhere between 497 and 532 career wins. Regardless of where he falls along this spectrum, he would be guaranteed a top-five finish, behind Brodeur and Roy, and perhaps right around Roberto Luongo (currently 475) and Henrik Lundqvist (440), who will likely kick Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (454) out by the time their careers are over.
Of course, it’s hard to say exactly how he will fare. Perhaps he’ll be a Felix Potvin or Harry Lumley, who never wins a game after 34 (perish the thought!), or maybe he will follow in the paths of Brodeur, Belfour or Dominik Hasek, who each tallied north of 200 wins after turning the big three-four.
Either way, it feels like a safe enough bet — though we should ask our pal Willie G. Ramirez before throwing down any cash — that Fleury will reach 500 wins and that he will do it in a Vegas Golden Knights uniform.
Anyone else get chills?
He will retire as the all-time wins leader for two franchises, something just Luongo can say he’s done. No other active goalie stands much of a reasonable chance. Fleury also may become the eighth player (Ray Bourque, Wayne Gretzky, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, Mark Messier, Scott Niedermayer, Patrick Roy) to get his number retired by those two franchises.
He’ll almost undoubtedly eclipse 60 career shutouts, something that just six other players to have played in a game since the mid-80s have done. Heck, he’s the most recent player to hit double-digits in a season (10, 2014-15).
Now let’s have a brief reality check. Fleury has only ever finished top-five in Vezina Trophy voting once despite consistently winning games, and for good reason — he has had just two seasons in which he stopped pucks 10+% more often than the league average goaltender (2007-08, 2017-18).
But, what is so crucial to Fleury’s success and longevity, is that — barring his 21-game rookie season where the Pittsburgh Penguins were a mess and their leading scorers were * puts on glasses * Dick Tarnstrom, Aleksey Morozov, Ryan Malone, Milan Kraft and something called a Rico Fata — he has never been more than 7% below average. Flower has always given his teams a fighting chance. In his past 11 seasons entering 2018-19, he posted a save percentage between .912 and .921 on eight occasions. The exceptions were marks of .905 in 2009-10, .909 in 2016-17, .927 in 2017-18, which together average out to be .913, right in the Fleury wheelhouse.
Marc-Andre Fleury already has his name etched on the Stanley Cup three times, as well as in a variety of other places in hockey history. It would truly be something to see him hit the 500-win mark, especially in a Vegas Golden Knights uniform.
And it couldn’t happen to a better guy.