Fast starts, fresh legs and stability on the bench were cornerstones for success the last time the NHL played a lockout-shortened season in 1995.
How it will play out later this month with the start of an expected 48-game season is anyone’s guess.
In Part 2 of CBCSports.ca’s look at the ’95 season, the best 10-game starts are analyzed along with the point production of young players compared to veterans and what coaches might be on the hot seat after a host of bench bosses left the bench 18 years ago.
Part 1 covered the teams that benefited from a compressed schedule in 1995, who it might help this time around, who are the shootout teams to watch and the challenges that may lie ahead for players attempting to reach milestones.
Best 10-game starts
Early in the 1994-95 season, it was Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Luc Robitaille going toe-to-toe in the Eastern Conference with Quebec’s trio of star forwards Joe Sakic, rookie Peter Forsberg and Owen Nolan.
After 10 games, the Penguins held a 19-18 edge in points, with a 9-0-1 win-loss-tie record compared to the Nordiques’ 9-1-0 mark. Both teams maintained their strong player over the final 38 games but switched positions, with Quebec winning the Northeast Division with a 30-13-5 record for 65 points, followed by Pittsburgh (29-16-3).
In the Western Conference, a quick start undoubtedly played a part in Chicago and Detroit securing playoff berths.
The Darryl Sutter-coached Blackhawks won seven of their first 10 games in 1995 on the strength of an offence that scored 43 goals in that stretch. They struggled to keep up that pace throughout the season but finished 24-19-5 to make the playoffs.
The Red Wings matched Chicago’s 7-3-0 record and cruised to a league-best 70 points (33-11-4), eliminating the Blackhawks in Game 5 of the best-of-seven West final before New Jersey swept them in four straight to win the Stanley Cup.
Teams like Dallas (3-4-2) and the New York Rangers (4-5-1) were slow starters, yet still managed to squeeze into the season by one point each.
Does that indicate there’s hope this season for Calgary, which won four of its first 10 games last season, only to finish five points behind the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings for the final playoff spot in the West?
At 8-2-0, Washington had the best start in the 30-team loop last season, but only bested Buffalo by three points to get in the playoffs. In the West, Los Angeles started 6-2-2, entered the post-season as the eighth seed and won the Cup.
Interestingly, the New York Rangers were the only team among the NHL’s top four point-getters last season to have more wins than losses after 10 games. Vancouver (4-5-1), St. Louis (5-5-0) and Boston (3-7-0) were the other clubs.
Thinking of keeping the likes of Ray Whitney, Martin St. Louis and Jarome Iginla in your fantasy pool? You might want to reconsider.
It was the 20-somethings who ruled the ice and filled the net the last time the NHL played a 48-game season in 1995. A 23-year-old Jaromir Jagr and 22-year-old Eric Lindros shared the scoring title while Joe Sakic topped the Quebec Nordiques with 62 points in 47 games at age 25.
A season earlier, Wayne Gretzky (33), Adam Oates (31) and Doug Gilmour (30) sat among the top five in scoring.
There wasn’t a single player in his 40s during the 1995 campaign, with Pittsburgh’s Joey Mullen, 37, the oldest regular skater.
When the 2013 NHL season begins, 42-year-old Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks will be the oldest skater, followed by Jagr (40), who bolted Philadelphia for Dallas. Martin Brodeur, 40, will tend goal for New Jersey while Dwayne Roloson, 43, remains a free agent.
Whitney (40), St. Louis (37) and Iginla (35) will attempt to improve their standing amongst the NHL’s top 30 point-getters a year ago, but there’s no guarantee how their bodies will respond to a compressed schedule.
Don’t be fooled by a shortened season. Some of the NHL’s 30 head coaches might be on a shorter leash over the next three-plus months. Can you hear us, Todd McLellan in San Jose, Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Mike Yeo in Minnesota?
Eighteen years ago, two coaches were fired during the 48-game season: George Burnett in Edmonton and John Paddock in Winnipeg. In Paddock’s case, he turfed himself after a 9-18-6 start, staying on as general manager.
Burnett was let go with the Oilers in a 12-20-3 slide and replaced by Ron Low, who went on to guide the team for the next four seasons before stepping behind the New York Rangers bench.
Six other coaches were gone after the season — Boston’s Brian Sutter, Buffalo’s John Muckler, Calgary’s Dave King, Chicago’s Darryl Sutter, Florida’s Roger Neilson and Lorne Henning of the New York Islanders — while three others didn’t last the first 20 contests of the 1995-96 campaign.
Paul Holmgren was fired after a 5-6-1 start and returned to Philadelphia to become director of pro scouting. Rick Bowness survived a 9-34-5 season in Ottawa in 1995 but was fired after a 6-13-0 start the following campaign as Dave Allison took over for 25 games (2-22-1) and later Jacques Martin, who remained with the Senators for eight seasons leading into the 2004-05 lockout.
In Montreal, Jacques Demers’s Canadiens missed the playoffs in ’95 with an 18-23-7 mark and he was sent packing after four losses to open the next season. Jacques Laperriere went behind the bench for a game (loss) before Mario Tremblay stepped in and led the team to the post-season the next two seasons.
This season, Quenneville could be on thin ice in Chicago. The Blackhawks have suffered first-round playoff exits in each of the past two years after winning their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in 2010.
McLellan’s Sharks were manhandled in the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, each time losing in the conference quarter-finals. And last spring, the St. Louis Blues eliminated San Jose in five games in the West quarter-finals.
In Minnesota, there will be no excuses for bench boss Yeo, who will have a bolstered roster at his disposal after Wild GM Chuck Fletcher signed a pair of top free agents prior to the start of the lockout in September, forward Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter.