Despite coming fresh off of a Vezina Trophy season for the Nashville Predators, Pekka Rinne remains overlooked and disrespected nationally.
It’s hard to imagine where the Nashville Predators would be without Pekka Rinne‘s brilliance and stability he’s brought to the franchise since his debut. He made his first NHL appearance in 2005, putting up 35 saves in a win over the Blackhawks. It wasn’t until the 2008-09 season that he became the regular starting goaltender.
Rinne perhaps waited until the ripe age of 35 to put up his best season yet, posting career highs in save percentage and shutouts. That’s apparently not enough to get him more respect on a national level. There is no doubting the magnitude of what RInne means to Predators fans. He’s the foundation to why the Predators are considered a top-tier team in the NHL.
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The NHL Network did a series of votes on the top ten goaltenders. Different writers and a fan vote factored into the final rankings. Here is a look at where Rinne landed after all of the votes were cast:
Who comes ahead of Rinne
Coming in at No.7 just seems like a blatant oversight for a guy who has consistently stacked up great numbers for one team for a decade now. He’s never lost more than 22 starts in a season, and his save percentage has hovered around 92 percent for all but two seasons since 2012.
For what it’s worth, there are some great goaltenders ranked ahead of him on the final list that I agree with. Marc-Andre Fleury comes just one spot ahead of Rinne. He is also drastically undervalued on this list as a three-time Stanley Cup winner. You can’t argue Fleury being ahead of Rinne. I have to point out that the fans have much more respect for Rinne than the other voters. The fan vote has Rinne at No.3 behind Fleury and Braden Holtby. I can get behind that.
Another goaltender I slightly agree with being ahead of Rinne is Jonathan Quick. Another goaltender with multiple Stanley Cups and also a Conn Smythe Trophy for the 2011-12 playoffs. When you stack up Quick’s career against Rinne’s, Quick gets the nod of having a more successful career in terms of personal awards and postseason success. However, Rinne does have slightly better career numbers in key categories like wins, save percentage and shutouts.
I can’t understand younger players Andrei Vasilevskiy and Connor Hellebuyck coming ahead of Rinne. These are two talented goaltenders that are on the rise, but they haven’t shown enough longevity to be ahead of Rinne’s illustrious career. It tells me these rankings are more about predicting where they might go, and not what has already happened. Sergei Bobrovsky of the Blue Jackets comes in at the top spot, which is a surprise to me. The 29-year-old’s numbers from last season are respectable, but not worthy of the top spot.
Where Rinne should be
I’m convinced that Rinne’s postseason struggles are haunting him when it comes to national respect. Yes, he got the prestigious Vezina Trophy, which is all that really matters in terms of personal accolades. These lists that get fans debating aren’t that big of a deal. With that said, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves due to his well-documented struggles in the postseason. To cement his legacy, he needs one more strong postseason run. He doesn’t even necessarily have to win a Stanley Cup.
Rinne might have one more chance to rise to the occasion with the Predators in the playoffs. Juuse Saros is fast approaching and has all the tools to move past Rinne on the depth chart. With Rinne being such a class act, he won’t fight the change. He might even embrace it and take the backup role with pride.
I currently put Rinne behind Fleury and Quick as top goaltenders. I weigh in heavily the factors of longevity and career numbers. You can coin flip between Rinne and Hellebuyck for third, but Rinne shouldn’t be out of the top five. That’s absurd and makes zero sense.
Goalie changes happen regularly in the playoffs. I can see a scenario in the upcoming season where Saros enters the playoffs as the main guy but has a hard time on the big stage of the playoffs. Can you imagine Rinne coming off the bench and propelling the Predators back to the Stanley Cup Final? It’s not that far-fetched. Rinne needs something like that to lift his legacy into superstar territory, and silence all of his critics. Regardless of whether that happens or not, here in Nashville, we’ll always fully understand the greatness that he has brought to the Nashville Predators for over a decade.