It's time for Martin Brodeur to step down from his throne. Because of his torn bicep, Brodeur missed most of the season. It would be an insult to the other 59+ goaltenders that have played this year if Brodeur did win his third-straight and fifth career Vezina.
I'm not saying Brodeur is not the best goaltender, but he wasn't the best this year. You can't be the best if you don't play, and Brodeur did not play.
With "King Marty" removed from the competition I submit my five finalists for this year's Vezina trophy.
1.) Niklas Backstrom, MIN - Stats: 2.36 GAA, 92.1 save percentage, 7 shutouts
Record: 33 - 22 - 7
Backstrom is the only netminder in the top five in all of the four major categories: GAA (5th), Save percentage (5th), Shutouts (2nd) and wins (5th). Backstrom is the reason that Minnesota is still in the playoff hunt as he continues to have a career year. He has set career highs in shutouts and games played, and has tied his career high in wins while playing with a Wild team that has underachieved all season long.
2.) Miikka Kiprusoff, CGY - Stats: 2.85 GAA, 90.4 save percentage, 4 shutouts
Record: 42 - 19 - 5
It may be blasphemous for a Sharks fan to give any credit to Kiprusoff for his success, but I'm still going to do it. Kiprusoff has all 42 of Calgary's wins this season, and is only 6 wins shy of Brodeur's record for single season wins (48). The problem with annointing the NHL leader in wins as the Vezina trophy winner is that his play has not been spectacular. Kiprusoff's GAA and save percentage are ranked 30th in the league out of 44. Most of his wins have been thanks to the guys in front of him scoring lots of goals.
3.) Tim Thomas, BOS - Stats: 2.11 GAA, 93.1 save percentage, 4 shutouts
Record: 31 - 11 - 7
Tim Thomas has exceeded expectations this season in Boston, setting career highs in wins and shutouts and currently holding on to career highs in save percentage and GAA - two stats in which he also is a league leader. Thomas was key to the Bruins early success, and has been quietly continuing his solid net presence all year. I say quietly because his performance has been buried behind the surprising success of the Bruins offense. As things have come together up front Thomas has been all but forgotten by the media, which has suited him just fine as he hasn't let up since earning a ticket to Montreal for the All-Star game.
4.) Evgeni Nabokov, SJS - Stats: 2.43 GAA, 91.1 Save percentage, 6 shutouts
Record: 37 - 8 - 8
Nabokov is second in the league behind his former backup (Kiprusoff) in wins and is tied for third in shutouts despite missing several games due to injury and a bout with the flu. His save percentage has suffered some (ranked 23rd), but he still put in what should have been an all-star worthy performance backstopping the Sharks to a division title.
5.) Steve Mason, CBJ - Stats: 2.22 GAA, 91.8 Save percentage, 9 shutouts
Record: 30 - 17 - 4
Mason has put up veteran numbers all season long for Columbus and has the Jackets in the playoff hunt. The rookie leads the league in shutouts and ranks in the top ten in the other three major categories (Save percentage - 7th, GAA - 2nd, wins - 9th). Mason will probably win the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't win the Vezina too.
Others to consider:
Roberto Luongo, VAN - 2.39 GAA, 91.8 Save percentage, 6 shutouts, 28 - 10 -6
Luongo was the front-runner for the vezina after Brodeur went down, until he got hurt himself. He's played well since his return and has the Canucks back in the hunt for a division title after it looked like they might not even make the playoffs.
Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT - 2.67 GAA, 91.3 Save percentage, 4 shutouts, 31 - 17 - 6
I admit this pick has a bit of fan bias, but to his credit Fleury is in the top ten in wins and shutouts. I don't think he'll win, but he deserves to be considered in this group. There isn't anybody better than Flower at making the stretch saves moving across the crease. Luongo and Nabokov both have tried and ended up with pulled groins.
Cam Ward, CAR - 2.48 GAA, 91.5 Save percentage, 5 shutouts, 35 - 22 - 5
Ward has quietly done his job in Carolina and it's time he got the credit for it. He ranks in the top ten in wins and shutouts and is 12th in GAA. His weakness: an average save percentage that ranks just 17th.
Henrik Lundqvist, NYR - 2.47 GAA, 91.4 save percentage, 2 shutouts, 34 - 22 - 7
Like Ward, "The King" has been among the leaders in wins all year. He hasn't had a great second half, though. His save percentage is also average, just like Ward.
Pekka Rinne, NSH - 2.23 GAA, 92.2 Save percentage, 7 shutouts, 24 - 11 - 4
Another rookie who has taken the league by storm. Rinne is third in GAA and save percentage and his seven shutouts are tied for second Backstrom.