As Hasek, Forsberg, Modano and Blake enter the Hall of Fame, we count down the best 10 seasons posted by any of them.
Quite the class we have joining the Hall of Fame this Monday. Dominik Hasek is the greatest goalie ever to play, in my humble opinion. Peter Forsberg was a true superstar, the most dominant player in the game, albeit for a fleeting period. Mike Modano and Rob Blake were consistently among the top players at their respective positions for the better part of two decades. Even the non-player inductees, late coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McReary, are fantastic additions.
The quartet of players had some fantastic seasons while sharing an era, playing their best hockey throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Which of their efforts were the most impressive? Here are my top 10 single-season performances, drawing from all four legends.
10. Peter Forsberg’s 1992-93 season
Read on before you correct me. I know ‘Foppa’ didn’t debut in the NHL until 1994-95. But, hey, it’s the Hockey Hall of Fame, not the NHL Hall of Fame. Before he won the Calder Trophy, even before Sweden’s 1994 Olympic gold medal and his postage stamp goal, Forsberg had a World Junior Championship for the ages. He exploded for a tournament-record 31 points in seven games. Sweden’s 20-1 win over Japan, in which he had 10 points, buoyed the tally, but subtract it and and you still get 21 points in six games. Sheesh. Forsberg also led Modo in scoring and finished second in the Swedish League with 48 points in 39 games as a 19-year-old.
9. Dominik Hasek’s 2001-02 season
Sure, it helped that Hasek played on one of the greatest teams ever assembled, with Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Chelios, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan and Luc Robitaille, just to name a few, in front of him. But Hasek won a league-best 41 games at age 37. He was ridiculous in the playoffs, posting a 1.86 goals-against average and six shutouts, which set a league record at the time. Hasek truly earned that elusive first Stanley Cup ring.
8. Rob Blake’s 1997-98 season
Blake was the Los Angeles Kings in 1997-98, carrying them to the playoffs on his broad shoulders. Matched against opponents’ top stars every night, he still managed to blast home a career-best 23 goals, a massive number during that era. Blake captured his one and only Norris Trophy, beating out Lidstrom of all people. Blake cracked the top 10 in Hart Trophy voting, too.
7. Mike Modano’s 1999-00 season
It was a thrill to watch the speedy, elegant Modano glide through teams during his prime. He helped Dallas to its first and only Stanley Cup in 1998-99 but was even better the next season. His 38 goals and 81 points were impressive as a strong two-way player toiling in the Dead Puck Era. Modano came up huge in the clutch, notching eight game-winning goals and four shorthanded goals. Stars coach Ken Hitchcock leaned hard on Modano, who played a career-high 22:55 per game. And he lit it up with 10 goals and 23 points over 23 playoff games as Dallas returned to the Cup final that season.
6. Peter Forsberg’s 1995-96 season
At 22, in his first full-length NHL season, all Forsberg did was assist on 86 goals. The only players with more helpers in a season at that age: Bryan Trottier (87), Mario Lemieux (98), Bobby Orr (102), Wayne Gretzky (118). We thus had a pretty strong idea of Forsberg’s trajectory in 1995-96, though it seemed even higher at the time since he was a much healthier man. Forsberg’s banner season as Joe Sakic’s fellow superstar culminated in Colorado’s first Stanley Cup.
5. Dominik Hasek’s 1998-99 season
Hasek had many dominant stretches, but nothing topped his three-year reign of terror from 1996-97 to 1998-99. The second leg was the most staggering and the third wasn’t far off. Hasek’s .937 save percentage set an NHL single-season record that lasted for more than a decade. It helped Hasek win his fifth Vezina Trophy in a six-year stretch. Hasek finished third in Hart voting in 1998-99, coming just short of an MVP three-peat. He posted an even better .939 SP in the post-season and took a largely mediocre Sabres team to the Stanley Cup final, where they gave Dallas a serious run.
4. Rob Blake’s 2000-01 season
No wonder Colorado worked so desperately to acquire Blake for the stretch run. He took his game to new heights in 2000-01, racking up 59 points in just 67 games. Blake was a huge factor in Ray Bourque’s final, successful championship push, especially once the playoffs began. Blake logged almost 30 minutes a night, had 19 points in 23 games and led all post-season players in shots. He was at the peak of his prime at 31 and simply dominated every aspect of the game. We picture Rob Blake as a career King, but this is the Rob Blake we remember when we think of him at his absolute best.
3. Dominik Hasek’s 1993-94 season
Jacques Lemaire, the New Jersey Devils and the neutral zone trap ushered in the Dead Puck Era, but Hasek was its harbinger the season prior. He posted the kind of absurd, record-breaking numbers we see year over year today, but that were unheard of at the time. Patrick Roy held the single-season save percentage record at .914 entering 1993-94. Hasek obliterated the mark, posting a .930. It was a monumental number in one of the final seasons when goals still flew past goalies at a relatively high rate (6.48 per game, a full goal more than last season’s average). Hasek also posted a .950 SP in Buffalo’s seven game first-round playoff war against the New Jersey Devils. It was one of the best, most underrated series of all-time, overshadowed by some other epic wars that same year.
2. Peter Forsberg’s 2002-03 season
Sticking with the Dead Puck motif – it masks just how amazing Forsberg’s 2002-03 effort was. We were mired in the true depths of clutch-and-grab hell at this point. Sandwiched on either side of Forsberg’s MVP season and scoring title were seasons in which no player hit triple digits in points. Forsberg led the league with 77 assists and 106 points in 75 games. He formed the NHL’s most dominant line with Milan Hejduk and Alex Tanguay. Hejduk scored 50 goals in what was Forsberg’s last full healthy year with the Avs. After that, Hejduk never topped 35 in a season again. ‘Foppa’ controlled the play all over the ice that season. If only advanced stats existed back then. Wouldn’t you love to see how good his possession numbers were?
1. Dominik Hasek’s 1997-98 season
This was the year. This was goaltending’s equivalent of Gretzky’s 92 goal season and Orr’s 139-point season. Hasek was simply unstoppable. He won a pedestrian 33 games with Buffalo that season – but 13 of those victories were shutouts. That’s 39 percent. How poetic. Yes, Hasek won every individual award there was after 1997-98, including his second straight Hart and Pearson (now Lindsay), which made him the first netminder to win either honor twice. But what really put the cherry on top of Hasek’s peak season: the Olympics. He demoralized the competition, including Canada in a heartwrenching shootout, and led the Czechs to improbable gold in Nagano. His numbers in that best-on-best tournament: 0.98 GAA, .963 SP. No big deal. At no point in his career was he more creative, more slithery, more impenetrable.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin