Flashback: The 1994-95 shortened season

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The 2012-2013 season will not be the first 48 game shortened season in Gary Bettman’s tenure as commissioner. Back in 1994-95, the NHL had a lockout that was resolved mid season.

It resulted in the playing of a 48 game season starting for the Sabres on January 20th, 1995. This was the 25th year of the Buffalo Sabres franchise.

The Buffalo Sabres had very balanced scoring that year, despite losing two of their top forwards for half of the season. Pat Lafontaine (22 games) and Dale Hawerchuck (23 games) missed significant time.

Pat Lafontaine still managed to finish third in points on the team that season, with 27 points in those 22 games. The scoring leader for Buffalo, was Alexander Mogilny. “Alexander The Great” was responsible for 19 goals and 28 assists for 47 points in 44 games played.

The team leader goals was Donald Audette, with 24 in 46 games. Mogilny lead the team in assists with 28. Yuri Khmylev was the leader in plus/minus at +8, and Rob Ray lead the team in penalty minutes with 173 in 47 games played.

That is nearly four minutes per game. Ray was known to throw down a few here and there, which was quite evident by his large amount of penalties in such a short season. Coming in a close second was Matthew Barnaby with 116 minutes in only 23 games, or a 5.5 minutes per game. Basically, Barnaby averages a fight per night.

At the start of the season, was one of the larger trades in franchise history. On February 14th, 1995, with Dominik Hasek now the full time established goaltender in Buffalo, the Sabres made a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. Going to the Kings, was goaltender Grant Fuhr, defenseman Philippe Boucher, and defenseman Denis Tsygurov. In return, the Sabres received defensmen Alexi Zhitnik and Charlie Huddy, Goaltender Rob Stauber and a 1995 5th round pick.

Zhitnik would be a mainstay on the Buffalo Blue line for parts of nine seasons, Stauber played six games as Hasek’s backup walking away at the end of the season, and Huddy played parts of three seasons with Buffalo. Of the three, Zhitnik clearly made the biggest difference after the trade.

At the trade deadline, the Sabres attempted to round out their roster to make a push for the playoffs, picking up some offensive help on the blue line with the acquisition of Gary Galley from Philadelphia for Petr Svoboda. Galley had an immediate impact netting 10 points in 14 games. They also dealt defensive minded forward Ken Sutton for a similar type player in Scott Pearson from Edmonton.

Craig Simpson played his last NHL game that year, in a Buffalo Sabres uniform. He was forced into an early retirement after 2 injury plagued seasons with Buffalo at the age of 28.

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The Sabres would end up with 51 points that season. Buffalo racked up 22 wins, 19 losses and 7 ties. Back then, there were no OT loss points or shootout points. Buffalo was under .500 only once that season, maintaining an even or above .500 record most of the year.

They finished 4th in the Northeast Division, and faced the Philadelphia Flyers and the Legion of Doom line. That was the first year that the Flyers formed up the infamous Renberg – Lindros – LeClair line that would strike fear into the league for years. The Sabres were beat in five games, 4-1 by the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs.

The underlying story that season, could be the emergence of Dominik Hasek. By the time the season started, the Sabres knew what they had in Hasek. In the previous season, Hasek and Grant Fuhr combined to win the William Jennings trophy.

Hasek started 41 of 48 game that season, finishing 19-14-7. “The Dominator” led the league in Goal Against Average at 2.11, which was first by a good amount over second place, as well as his former mentor Ed Belfour at 2.28. He also led the league in save percentage at .930, with Andy Moog finishing second at .915. Hasek also finished 4th in wins (19), and tied for first in shutouts (5 / Belfour). Dominik Hasek had a stellar season. He finished it by being named a First team All-star, over Ed Belfour.

The Sabres also had players take home some hardware that season. Pat Lafontaine, despite playing in only 22 games, was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy. Dominik  Hasek took home his first of two consecutive Vezina trophies.

If I can take anything from the 1994-95 lockout shortened season, it is I can hope for some of the same from the 2012-13 Sabres. Making the playoffs would be a good start. The mission starts 1-20-13.


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