The early 1980's were hardly the glory days of NHL goaltending. Aside from the fact that goals were being scored at a ridiculous rate, the league was in somewhat of a dry spell when it came to great goaltenders. The 1970's had all-time greats Tony Esposito, Bernie Parent and Ken Dryden, and the early 80's were led by the likes of Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith and Pete Peeters. From there however the drop off was drastic. The names Liut, Millen, Bouchard, Bannerman, Meloche, Stefan, Soetaert and Hanlon were fine enough goaltenders, but were hardly all-time greats.
In 1983/84 there emerged another name, Tom Barrasso. Jumping right in as an 18 year old high school grad he won the Calder and Vezina trophies that year. The voting for the Vezina was as follows: Total Voting Pts, (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
Tom Barrasso, Buffalo 42 (4-6-4)
Rejean Lemelin, Calgary 39 (5-4-2)
Pat Riggin, Washington 37 (5-3-3)
Al Jensen, Washington 37 (4-5-2)
Four guys within 5 voting points of each other with Lemelin and Riggin each actually receiving more first place votes than Barrasso. In the voting for the end of year All Stars Barrasso beat Riggin 141 to 131 with Lemelin collecting 104 voting points and Jensen 100.
The four guys numbers were obviously fairly close to each other: GP-W-L-T-SvPct-GAA
Barrasso 42-26-12-3 .893 2.84
Lemelin 51-21-12-9 .893 3.50
Riggin 41-21-14-2 .890 2.66
Jensen 43-25-13-3 .882 2.91
Absent from the top four in voting were the Oilers Grant Fuhr who went 30-10-4 .883 3.91, Bob Froese of the Flyers with 28-13-7 .887 3.14 and Quebec's Dan Bouchard who went 29-18-8 .887 3.20. The top four had between 21 and 26 wins, and a Save Pct between .882 and .893. The main explanation for Lemelin's higher GAA is the fact that Calgary played against the record seting Edmonton Oilers five more times than either Washington or Buffalo did. The fact that the Flames went 0-7-1 and were outscored 53 to 29 in those games didn't help Lemelin's numbers.
It's safe to say Barrasso's story of making the jump from High School to the NHL probably played a factor in the voting but he probably was the correct choice.