A look back at the shortened 1995 NHL season
New teams emerged, scoring took dive in unpredictable 48-game campaign
Philadelphia and Quebec win the NHL’s Atlantic and Northeast Divisions, respectively, after missed playoffs the previous season. Coach Mike Keenan wins his 400th career regular-season game. And goalie Don Beaupre records the first shutout in Ottawa Senators history.
The year was 1995, the last time the league played a 48-game season, following a 103-day lockout.
The season began Jan. 20, one day later than the expected start date of this year’s proposed 48-game campaign after a tentative deal was reached between the league and NHL Players’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement in the early hours of Jan. 6, ending a 113-day lockout.
Highlights of 1994-95 season
- Sept. 22, 1994: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the opening of the 1994-95 regular season, scheduled to begin Oct. 1, would be postponed until a new collective bargaining agreement could be reached with NHL Players' Association.
- Jan. 20, 1995: Regular season began with eight games including Buffalo at the New York Rangers that featured the raising of the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup banner. The Sabres won 2-1.
- Jan. 26, 1995: St. Louis Blues made their debut at the Kiel Center and defeated Los Angeles 3-1 before an overflow crowd of 20,282.
- Jan. 27, 1995: Washington Capitals centre Dale Hunter collects his 600th NHL assist in a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders.
- Feb. 2, 1995: St. Louis' Mike Keenan picks up his 400th coaching win in the Blues' 5-4 victory at the Winnipeg Arena.
- Feb. 6, 1995: Goaltender Don Beaupre earns the first shutout in Ottawa Senators history, kicking aside 34 shots in a 3-0 home win over Philadelphia.
Which teams benefited from a compressed schedule 18 years ago? Who might it help this time around? Who are the shootout teams to watch (yes, there were ties back in ’95). And will some players be in tough to reach milestones in a shortened season?
These questions and more are covered below in Part 1 of CBCSports.ca’s look back at the NHL’s last 48-game season in 1995.
The best 10-game starts in 1995 will be examined in Part 2, along with a look at what head coaches lost their jobs after a disappointing performance in that shortened season.
The Quebec Nordiques, led by forwards Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, entered the 1994-95 season looking to help the team improve upon a 34-42-8 record that kept it seven points shy of a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference the previous spring.
With Marc Crawford taking over from Pierre Page behind the bench, the Nordiques responded with five wins to start the season and were victorious in 12 of their first 13 games.
Quebec never looked back, winning 30 of 48 contests and topping the NHL with 185 goals, 30 of which came from Owen Nolan, who also led the league with eight game-winning goals. Sakic led the Nordiques with 62 points in 47 games while Forsberg was named the NHL’s top rookie after posting 35 assists and 50 points.
Philadelphia, with 28 wins, 16 losses and four ties, won the Atlantic before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion New Jersey in the East finals after narrowly missing the playoffs the previous year. The Flyers were led by the Legion of Doom line of Mikael Renberg, John LeClair and Eric Lindros. The Big E had 70 points in 46 games, sharing the scoring title with Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr, and was later named league MVP.
The New York Islanders didn’t respond well to a shortened season in 1995, mustering just 35 points in 48 games (15-28-5) after making the playoffs in ’94 with a 36-36-12 mark and virtually the same roster.
Who could excel this season? Maybe Philadelphia, who had 11 players competing overseas during the lockout.
What about Vancouver, which had just three players overseas during the work stoppage but an NHL-best 67 points over the final 48 games of last season? And Nashville (64), New Jersey (63), Detroit (59) and reigning Cup champion Los Angeles (59) could easily carry the momentum of last season’s strong finishes.
A shortened season can certainly temper expectations for players approaching personal milestones.
That said, a few NHLers managed to get their names in the record book during the 48-season in 1994-95, including:
- Centre Dale Hunter of the Washington Capitals, who collected his 600th assist in a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders
- Mike Keenan reached 400 coaching wins in his 731st contest, a 5-4 victory over the Jets in Winnipeg. It was fourth-fewest game total to reach the milestone, trailing Scott Bowman (690), Glen Sather (694) and Toe Blake (724);
- Calgary Flames defenceman Phil Housley notched his 600th assist in a 5-4 home loss to Winnipeg;
- Ottawa’s Don Beaupre turned aside 34 shots in a 3-0 win over the visiting Philadelphia Flyers for the first shutout in Senators history;
- Joe Mullen had two goals and two assists in a 7-3 drubbing of Florida, enabling the right-winger to become the first U.S.-born player to register 1,000 points.
Several players could reach milestones in the next month.
Phoenix winger Shane Doan is just two games shy of 1,200 while Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier needs two starts for 1,000.
Barring injury, Calgary left-winger Alex Tanguay will pick up the three assists he needs for 500. Colorado Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere needs four wins for 250, but Boston’s Tim Thomas (196) will probably have to wait another season after he announced last June he wouldn’t play in 2012-13.
Others could be hard-pressed, like Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger. He is two points shy of 700, but hasn't played since Nov. 19, 2011 because of post-concussion syndrome. Oft-injured Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin continues to recover from hip surgery. He needs five shutouts for 50, a steep challenge in a 48-game season, especially if he loses the starting job to Devan Dubnyk.
The Pittsburgh Penguins averaged 3.44 goals per game over an 82-game schedule last season. Can they do it again? It would be quite an accomplishment considering most, if not all, teams will endure stretches of three games in four nights and fatigue is sure to become a factor.
In the 1993-94 season, the Detroit Red Wings terrorized NHL goalies with 356 goals in 84 games for an average of 4.24 goals per game. That average dipped to 3.75 in the 48-game season of 1994-95 before rising to 3.96 in the 1995-96 campaign.
An average of 6.48 goals was scored in NHL games in 1993-94, more than a half-goal higher (5.97) than the shortened season a year later. Teams combined for a 6.29 goal average in 1995-96.
Unlike the shortened NHL season of 1994-95, teams no longer can rely on a tie to help them in a push for a playoff berth. Eighteen years ago, 12 of the Vancouver Canucks’ 48 points came from ties and allowed them to finish second in the six-team Pacific Division.
There were 75 ties in 1994-95. "That’s a lot of points up for grabs over a very short season," says Hockey Night in Canada’s Jim Hughson. "No team will be able to afford taking the shootout lightly [in 2013]."
New Jersey topped all teams last season with 12 wins in 16 shootouts on the strength of Zach Parise’s eight shootout goals, which tied him for second in the NHL with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin.
But Parise left the Devils as a free agent in the off-season and is now a member of the Minnesota Wild, who went 11-9 in shootouts last season.
Colorado won nine of 11 shootouts in 2011-12 while Boston, Detroit and the Penguins went 9-3. Montreal and Calgary had five and three shootout wins, respectively, while Carolina won just once in seven shootouts.
The Hurricanes will be counting on newcomer Alexander Semin, who had three shootout goals for Washington a year ago.