All-Star Team results from the past provide historians with useful information about how some players were perceived in their own time. Statistical records are of course very informative, but have their limitations. Things like All-Star Team voting records can help shed some light on things that might not be reflected in the stats. They tell us who was seen to be the best at their position at their time, which is particularly useful when it comes to defensive players.
The downside of NHL All-Star Teams is that the league only began these awards in 1931. We know Charlie Gardiner was considered the best netminder in the NHL for the 1930/31 season, but who was seen as the best in 1929/30?
Well, we may not have All-Star voting records from before 1931, but we do at least have the Hart Trophy records, which go back to 1924. (This is all thanks to work done at hfboards.com, see link here.) If we know who the top-rated goaltender in each season from 1924 to 1930 in the Hart voting, maybe we can consider them to be effectively First Team All-Stars. If they had such a vote at the time, we could figure that the goalies seen as the most valuable would also have been seen as the best.
I've certainly seen this sort of argument made, specifically that since Roy Worters received the most Hart Trophy consideration among goaltenders in every season from 1926 to 1929, he should be considered the best goalkeeper of his time. Interpreting this as the equivalent of four consecutive First All-Star Team selections, it's hard to see it otherwise.
As it happens, we do know which goaltender received the most Hart votes each season from 1924 to 1930. In chronological order, they are John Roach, Clint Benedict, Roy Worters, Roy Worters, Roy Worters, Roy Worters and Charlie Gardiner. The fact that Gardiner received the most Hart votes in 1930, and then was the First Team All-Star in 1931, suggests that we may be on to something here.
So maybe Worters was seen as the best goaltender of his time. Considering the competition, his being seen as the best each season is quite something. He was up against a variety of Clint Benedict, Alec Connell, George Hainsworth, Hap Holmes and Hugh Lehman in these seasons, Hall-of-Famers all. Of course, Benedict, Holmes and Lehman were nearing the end of the road at the time, but still, four straight seasons being the best of the best...
But hold on a minute. We also know which goaltenders received the second-most Hart votes in 1924, 1925 and 1926, namely Jake Forbes, Jake Forbes and Doc Stewart. Forbes and Stewart were both good goaltenders, but were not all-time talents by any stretch. And yet, in both 1924 and 1925 Forbes was apparently considered a better netminder than Georges Vezina, and in 1926 Stewart was seen as better tan both Benedict and Connell, if we see Hart votes as the same as All-Star votes. Now, if that is in fact what was going on, we really no longer need to concern ourselves with these voting results, because if that's how the voters saw things, then they shouldn't be taken seriously. Jakes Forbes was not a better goaltender than Georges Vezina.
So there must be something else going on. There is; and next time we'll look at exactly what it is.