How much of a disappointment do you consider his career to have been? At first glance he doesn't seem to be a player worth too much debate, just a serviceable journeyman starter with an all-star appearance, but there are some interesting storylines involved with him that make you think he should have been more that what he ended up as.
For starters, he was drafted 10th overall in 1993 by the Quebec Nordiques, the highest drafted goalie since Jimmy Waite in 1987. The franchise that picked him already had a ton of talent, similar to the way the Pittsburgh Penguins were stacked post-lockout. Obviously, he was projected to be the missing piece in net. To make things even more interesting, Thibault's pick was the one the Philadelphia Flyers sent as part of the Eric Lindros trade.
Secondly, Thibault made the NHL at a time when young goalies were landing starting jobs around the league. Teaming with Stephane Fiset, Thibault was part of a wave of goalies including Brodeur, Potvin, Osgood, Kidd, Roussel, Soderstrom in 1994 who were making inroads as NHL goalies playing significant roles. The popularity for young goalies really spiked during the 1994 and 1995 drafts when 8 goalies were drafted in the first round, including Storr, Fichaud, Cloutier, Ryabchikov, Giguere, Biron, Boucher and Denis. During the lockout shortened season, Thibault put up some fantastic numbers before being knocked out of commission with an injury.
The other major event in Thibault's career was being traded home to Montreal in exchange for Patrick Roy. This is significant because he was unable to be a part of being a part of Colorado's contender years, where he conceivably could have developed into a cup winning goalie in his own time, and also because it probably cemented his reputation as a bit of a flop as an elite goalie in the NHL. Unable to live up the expectations, pressure and failing to replace Roy, he was traded to Chicago at the still very young goalie age of 24, where he was a good workhorse goalie on a rebuilding club before finishing as a backup after the lockout.
All things considered, how much was Thibault's career a disappointment? It seems like he had two distinct opportunities to establish himself as a great, first as a Marc-Andre Fleury type goalie on an uber talented Avalanche team, and secondly as a Carey Price type new franchise goalie in Montreal. Could he have been more in Colorado? Would he have succeeded if Montreal handled him differently or gave him more time?
With a heavy workload he would wear down as the season progressed. Eventually this caught up to him.
Martin Brodeur and Carey Price are huge by comparison app. 6'3", 220LBS plus both played a year in the minors and not in the NHL as underagers. M.A Fleury is a solid 6'2" and played in the minors before the NHL.
my memory of thibault is pretty sketchy, but i recall he always began the season looking like a vezina candidate, but he didn't have the endurance to maintain that level all season. by the all-star break, he would have regressed to the pack and by the end of the season he would be awful. if he had played on playoff teams in his prime, one imagines that he would have been one of the worst playoff performers of all time.
although, looking at the box scores for the one playoff series he did play in chicago, it looks like he started the series with a shutout, played well in game two, didn't finish game three (4-0 loss), then passmore played the rest of the way. was he pulled and then subsequently benched, or did he get hurt? seems weird if sutter had benched him the last two games, as the stats say he played well in games one and two.
Honestly, for me the only disappointment is that he had what was essentially a career-ending injury at age 28.
He was very good in Montreal but treated horribly by that market who expected a 20 y/o to come in and replace a prime Patrick Roy. The pressure he faced there was something you wouldn't wish on anyone.
After going to Chicago, he had a great 5-year run that nobody noticed because that team was so bloody horrible. To get a picture of how bad those teams were, compare Thibault's record to his backups. In 2002-03 in particular he was absolutely heroic with what would have been a bottom-3 team in the league without him.
Then he suffered a serious hip injury in 03-04 that forced him to miss almost the entire season, and after the lockout turned it into a two-year layoff he was nowhere near the same player.
I think about this from time to time when I'm sorting through some cards and find one of his. He was pretty hyped when he came up and he never had the sort of career people thought he would have.
If he had a few seasons in the minors and had stayed with the Avs I really think he would have had a much better career. He was rushed to the NHL after only playing one full season of junior. I don't think he was given much time to let his skill fully develop.
The perception of his career is definitely deflated by expectations that were very nearly impossible to attain. He was expected to be a superstar and only panned out to be a good goalie. Tough circumstances for sure. He was rushed, overused, forced to replace a legend in the league's toughest goalie market and played on absolutely terrible teams from the time he left the Avs.
My only gripe with him was his propensity to search for the puck (shaking his head urgently from side to side) after it was very obviously in the net. No doubt that some of the time he was genuinely looking for the puck, but it seemed to me that every goal that got by would result in him on his knees (ok - two gripes, he was also down in butterfly way to early and often) looking back and forth, then finding it in the net and reacting like "Oh, that's where it is..." The Habs were so bad at the time that it felt like he was rubbing it in. Of course it's in the net... it's ALWAYS in our freakin' net!
I remember going to a canuck/hawks game and thinking Jocelyn Thibault could find himself in the net when the play was coming down towards him. He skated out about 8 feet and when he backed up he left most of the net exposed. I think his problem was positioning
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Dominik Hasek was solid unlike Jocelyn Thibault who was frail. Hasek never played 60 NHL games in a season until he was 32 years old.while Jocelyn Thibault played 6 seasons of 60+ NHL games by the time he was 28.
I think it's more than just the expectations, as he really didn't seem to improve all that much over time from where he started. Kind of like Rick Dipietro... it's not just that he's not living up to an obscene contract, it's that he's not living up to a normal contract either.
In retrospect this is very likely because he was rushed. I didn't have a keen sense of that at the time but it makes sense.
i was fairly young when Thibault was with the Canadiens. Our teams were playoff pretenders in front of him with the likes of Damphousse, Koivu, Recchi and Malakhov leading the way. I feel like he played a lot of hockey before he could hit his real prime and he broke down. He was fantastic on the blackhawks and there might have been another level to his play, but i guess we'll never know.
At least he made himself into a very important player on his team, which is better than a lot of 1st round draft picks could say.
Thibault was horrible in the high pressure games. He could never win the big game in Montreal. His career was better in Chicago because the pressure was less. Not that the Habs were any better or much better than the Hawks at the time, but there wasn't 21,000 people screaming at him when he let in the winning goal, and then have to put up with all the journalists, and then all the fans on the street.
I find that's part of the reason the Habs don't draft local talent as much anymore. Some of the fans and media will keep crying for a 4th liner to get first line minutes. And then when we don't win the cup, a Carey Price can at least go back home to BC for the summer whereas a Jocelyn Thibault was already home and couldn't get away. Just go look at how busy the Habs board is in the off-season. You can't get away from it at all if you are a player.
He's the answer to one of the coolest trivia questions though. Who was the winning goaltender for the last game at both the Montreal Forum and Maple Leaf Gardens?
Beat me to it. A neat little spot in history for him. I always had a soft spot for him in Montreal; he was screwed from the get-go by the way he came to town, but was never truly as bad as the critics wanted you to believe.
I just glanced over his Blackhawks years at the suggestion of a poster above and was floored at the number of shutouts he posted with that squad. 28 SO in that span, including 8 in 2003 (Brodeur had 9 that year by comparison).
He always used to go down in that paddle-down stance and looked so small when he did. Huge amounts of space above his shoulders.