Marc-André Fleury has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL since he was picked first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003. One of only three goalies in league history to ever be selected that early in any NHL Entry Draft, Fleury is by far the most accomplished of that group. He continues to make good on that scouting report, too, as he’s achieved a consistency of success that few others have — of any position.
Fleury works his way into the conversation among the league’s best every year, even while others enjoy performances that may shine brighter within a standalone season.
The major difference ends up being that his counterparts can’t sustain such heights in the same way that Fleury has made his norm. As other names come and go from that list, Fleury’s remains embedded.
It’s less about what Fleury has done in any individual campaign and more so a reflection on all he’s achieved throughout his nearly two decades as a pro. His ability to maintain such an elite level of play is what sets him apart, as one of the best ever. The evidence to suggest that a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame already awaits him is overwhelming.
Fleury Already Among the Best of All-Time
Heading into 2021-22, Fleury owned a record of 492-276-82, goals-against average (GAA) of 2.55, and save percentage (SV%) of .913. Solid numbers, nearly twenty years into his career, which would be even more impressive had it not taken Fleury a couple of seasons to establish himself. As such, his early NHL numbers weigh down his overall averages.
Important to note, he broke into the league at 19 years old. At an age that most others are still working their way through the minors, Fleury had already reached his destination.
Then, once in his early 20s, Fleury’s play elevated and he hasn’t looked back since. As illustrated by the standard he’s set across his collective stat line, as opposed to debating his greatness based on an isolated section within it.
What’s more, Fleury has a better career SV% than Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, and Terry Sawchuk. It can be argued that this is, in part, due to the fact that fewer goals are being scored per contest throughout this era of the game. Yet, that doesn’t negate Fleury’s ability to consistently accomplish, regardless of having played within numerous lineups of varying proficiencies. Simply stated, he’s been beyond reliable.
Stats That Lead Today’s NHL
When it comes to active NHL netminders, Fleury already led the pack in a number of areas prior to the start of 2021-22. Including, but not limited to, games played (884), wins (492), and shutouts (67).
Of the goaltenders ahead of him with more shutouts, all are in the Hall of Fame aside from Roberto Luongo and Lorne Chabot. However, Luongo is not yet eligible and Chabot played during a time that shutouts were far more common.
While taking over the starting role for the Vegas Golden Knights last year may have come as a surprise to some, Fleury’s ability to set the tone early on in the campaign made it clear that it was his net to keep. Then, it was just a matter of maintaining that momentum, which he proved more than capable of.
Following a dominant 2020-21, his 17th season in the NHL, Fleury finally received a long overdue level of recognition. He won his first-ever Vezina Trophy, thanks to a stat line that included a 26-10-0 record, 1.98 GAA, .928 SV%, and six shutouts.
Like the pattern he’s set throughout his career, Fleury didn’t lead the league in any individual category en route to winning the 2021 Vezina. However, he was the only constant among those who sat atop each leaderboard. That, in and of itself, is the perfect illustration of what makes Fleury such a special athlete.
His greatness isn’t limited to one area of the game. Rather, it’s showcased across every facet of it.
Stanley Cup Final Familiarity
Although Fleury may not own the same amount of hardware as some other goaltending greats, he has influenced his teams towards reaching peaks in ways that only a select few can also claim.
Fleury brought the then-expansion 2017-18 Golden Knights to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. It’s not an easy feat to make a Final under any set of circumstances and Fleury helped make it a reality for a brand new franchise.
Coming into the series, there wasn’t any dispute about the respective teams’ defining players. On the movie posters, their names would be above the title. It was Alexander Ovechkin and his Capitals versus Marc-André Fleury and his Golden Knights.
That said, simply getting there isn’t quite the same as winning it all and even the best of any era are considered fortunate to capture a single Stanley Cup throughout their careers. To date, Fleury has achieved the feat three times.
While skeptics might be quick to point to the fact that Pittsburgh didn’t call upon Fleury in either the 2016 or 2017 Final, he was an integral part of the regular-season success that set those teams up for such strong postseason performances. Besides, there’s no denying the positive impact his presence had on Matt Murray during those back-to-back runs.
Fleury Only Knows How to Win
Other than the odd off night, which any professional has to expect every now and again, Fleury has been among the NHL’s most reliable athletes during his tenure in the league. As evidenced by the fact that he’s achieved a winning record through 15 of his 17 seasons.
In fact, he hasn’t posted a losing record since 2005-06. No other active goaltender in the league can say the same.
Fleury’s departure from the Penguins, when the Golden Knights selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, also provided him with the first true taste of what it meant to be the face of a franchise. Always considered among Pittsburgh’s stars, he was never going to get the same type of attention as Sidney Crosby.
Even with that new responsibility placed upon him in Vegas, at a point in one’s career where most would have preferred familiarity, he rose to the occasion and just kept on winning. So much so that he helped Vegas set an NHL record for the highest-ever win percentage by an expansion team.
His four-year stint with the Golden Knights culminated in a 117-60-14 record, along with a 2.41 GAA and .917 SV%. For good measure, he also earned 23 shutouts in that short span.
Already ranked third in all-time wins, behind only Roy (551) and Brodeur (691), Fleury is poised to turn the trio into the only three netminders to hit the 500 win milestone. An undisputable showcase of both success and longevity.
An Illustrious NHL Career Continues
Set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) following the 2021-22 season, Fleury will have all the power to decide what comes next. It would be beyond justifiable for him to call it a career, but don’t be surprised if he feels he still has more left in him to give this game.
In the meantime, he’s taken over the starter’s role for the Chicago Blackhawks. One of the Blackhawks’ many offseason transactions, they’re clearly trying to push their game plan beyond being a mere rebuild. That said, regardless of the moves made, how it all comes together by year’s end will prove whether or not they were the right ones.
While the Blackhawks hope Fleury helps elevate their efforts, if they can provide the same for him in return it may encourage an extension to his career. Possibly even in Chicago. Either way, he’s already accomplished so much that any additional achieving from this point forward should simply be considered a bonus.
Has Fleury Done Enough to Enter the Hall?
Fleury has done enough to not only be considered among the top goaltenders in the league while he’s still playing, but one who is also worthy of the highest honour in hockey whenever he decides to stop. He’s an established leader and a proven winner.
He owns three Stanley Cup rings, a Vezina, and a Jennings, as he continually rises through the ranks of every all-time list.
Whether or not Fleury ends up in the Hockey Hall of Fame isn’t the right question to ask at this point in his career. The discussion has shifted to how quickly he gets that phone call, following his decision to retire from the game that he’s dominated for the past two decades.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
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