4. Arturs Irbe
Arturs Irbe was the heart and soul in net for the San Jose Sharks in the early stages of the rising franchise in Silicon Valley. Irbe was the driving force to San Jose’s first-ever playoff run.
Irbe began his 13-year NHL career in 1991 with the San Jose Sharks that spanned to 1996 before signing as a free agent with the Dallas Stars. Irbe, born in the USSR, was a 10th round pick by the Minnesota North Stars in 1989.
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Luckily for Irbe, the Sharks gave him a shot and it proved out to be worth it. Two years later, the Latvian goaltender turned in his best season (1993-1994) as a Shark, and would finish top five in Vezina Trophy consideration.
Irbe posted a 2.84 goals against average and a .899 save percentage in 74 games started, all of which ranked among the top 10 at the time. His 1994 campaign also granted Irbe a spot on the All-Star team and led San Jose through the playoffs where he went 7-7 and established a 3.72 GAA and .875 save percentage.
Irbe played 183 games for San Jose, the fourth most among goaltenders in franchise history and composed a 57-91-26 record. He fought to sustain a respectable 3.47 GAA during a time when the Sharks came into the league as an expansion team that struggled early on.
Because he kept the young Sharks in so many games, Irbe quickly transformed into one of the most popular players. Irbe represented San Jose as the first goaltender to give them a legitimate shot to fight night in and night out.