The last time the NHL had a lockout-shortened season, teams cranked out 48 games in about 15 weeks. The 1994-95 season was frenetic, with nearly every team in playoff contention until the final week. The biggest winners and losers of the clipped campaign:
The key, as usual, in New Jersey was on the back end. At 22, Martin Brodeur (2.45 GAA) had the young legs to play more than 80 percent of the minutes in net all the way through the Stanley Cup title run, and he had the support of a veteran defense (led by Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Bruce Driver) that quickly jelled once the puck dropped.
In the team’s last year in Quebec, the soon-to-be Avalanche set up for the following season’s championship run by winning 12 of their first 13 games en route to an Eastern Conference-high 30 victories. A short season gave opponents less time to prepare for the league’s No. 1 offense that featured the NHL’s top rookie, Peter Forsberg (15-35—50).
Before Detroit built its dynasty, it needed a foundation. The Red Wings won a league-best 33 games and made their first trip to the Cup Final in nearly 30 years. One key change for Scotty Bowman in his second season was the acquisition of veteran goalie Mike Vernon (19 wins, 2.52 GAA) to help out young Chris Osgood (14 wins, 2.26 GAA).
The halo of the franchise’s first Cup title in more than a half-century was dimmed immediately with a 2-5 start. The Rangers went from 52 wins to 22 wins with Colin Campbell replacing departed coach Mike Keenan. And though an older team got younger through trades, it missed the veteran touch provided by Mike Gartner and Esa Tikkanen.
The franchise missed the playoffs seven straight years after Al Arbour retired for a second time following the ’93-94 season. Offensive talent remained for new coach Lorne Henning but it was still quite young, and there was a poorly thought-out trade of goaltenders, flipping the trusty Ron Hextall to Philadelphia for the unproven Tommy Soderstrom.
The team’s second season in Dallas ended like its first, with a trip to the playoffs. But it wasn’t pretty. The 17-win Stars played their final 14 regular-season games without star Mike Modano, who aggravated a troublesome ankle, and Dallas predictably fell apart, losing its last four games before getting smoked by Detroit in the opening round.