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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

The plight of expansion team goaltenders

Being a goaltender on an expansion team is not the easiest job in hockey - in fact it's probably one of the worst. Two players featured in this post experienced the extremes of the job: Peter Sidorkiewicz, starting goalie for the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators, one of the worst teams in NHL history. Then you have John Vanbiesbrouck and the Florida Panthers, arguably the best expansion franchise from the 1990s in terms of immediate success.

Without further ado, I present to you a brief review of each 1990s expansion team and their starting goaltender(s):

1991-92: San Jose Sharks and Jeff Hackett (11-27-1, 3.84 goals against, .892 save percentage). Hackett had played two years as a backup with the New York Islanders and went on to play over 500 NHL games in the next decade.

1992-93: Ottawa Senators and Peter Sidorkiewicz (8-64-3, 4.43 goals against, .856 save percentage). Sidorkiewicz owns the worst individual numbers of any expansion goalie, but he did get to play in the 1993 all-star game.

1992-93: Tampa Bay Lightning and Pat Jablonski (8-24-4, 3.97 goals against, .874 save percentage) & Wendell Young (7-19-2, 3.66 goals against, .872 save percentage). Jablonski had played 22 games over three seasons with St. Louis before playing a career-high 43 games with the Lightning. Young was a seven year veteran of three different NHL teams, winning 12 games in 1989-90 with Pittsburgh.

1993-94: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Guy Hebert (20-27-3, 2.83 goals against, .907 save percentage). Hebert came to the Mighty Ducks with two years’ experience as backup to Curtis Joseph in St. Louis. He played the next seven seasons as Anaheim’s starter.

1993-94: Florida Panthers and John Vanbiesbrouck (21-25-11, 2.53 goals against, .924 save percentage). The best individual stats of any expansion team goalie, Beezer benefitted from Florida management having better options to select in the expansion draft than their cousins Ottawa, Tampa Bay or San Jose.

1998-99: Nashville Predators and Mike Dunham (16-23-3, 3.08 goals against, .908 save percentage) & Tomas Vokoun (12-18-4, 2.95 goals against, .908 save percentage). Dunham had played two seasons as Martin Brodeur’s backup, and was the Predators’ starting goalie for their first five seasons. Vokoun had one game of NHL experience, and became Dunham's successor, taking the starter role from 2002-2007 before playing for three other NHL teams.

1999-2000: Atlanta Thrashers and Damian Rhodes (5-19-3, 3.88 goals against, .874 save percentage) & Norm Maracle (4-19-2, 3.49 goals against, .890 save percentage). Rhodes had been part of a successful tandem with Ron Tugnutt in Ottawa before two seasons in Atlanta, the final two of his NHL career. Maracle had played 20 games with the Red Wings before coming to Atlanta, and played only 14 games with Atlanta over the next two seasons. The Thrashers also had Scott Fankhouser (16 games) and Scott Langkow (15 games) tend goal in their first season.

Card 321 - Sergei Makarov

A right winger, Makarov was drafted 231st overall by Calgary in 1983. At the time of his drafting Makarov was an established international star for the Soviet Union, having played pro hockey in his home country since the age of 17. He formed the famous KLM line with Igor Larionov and Vladimir Krutov, playing for CSKA Moscow, aka the Red Army.

At age 31 Makarov was allowed to come to North America to play in the NHL. As a 31-year old rookie with the Flames, he scored 24 goals and 86 points, was named to the all-rookie team and won the Calder Trophy. After Makarov’s win of the Calder, the eligibility rules were changed to require that a player be under the age of 26 at the start of the season.

In his sophomore season Makarov scored a career-high 30 goals and led the league with a 32.3% shooting percentage, the second highest single-season percentage of all-time. Over the next two seasons his goal totals would decline to 22 and 18. Makarov was involved in a series of trade in June 1993, first being sent to Hartford, and then six days later going to San Jose with a first, second and third round pick for a first round pick; the first round pick the Whalers received was used to select future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger.

Reunited with former KLM linemate Igor Larionov, Makarov equalled his career-high of 30 goals, adding 68 points. The Sharks made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 1994, upsetting Detroit in seven games in the Western Conference Quarter-Finals, and taking Toronto to seven games in the Semi-Finals. Makarov led the team in playoff goal scoring with eight goals in 14 games.

He played one more season in San Jose and did not play in 1995-96, coaching in Russia instead. Makarov returned to the NHL 1996-97 to play four games with Dallas, then finished his pro career in Switzerland, retiring at season’s end.

In 7 NHL seasons Makarov played in 424 games, scoring 134 goals and 384 points. Having played his prime in the Soviet Union, Makarov boasts an impressive resume of 12 international tournament gold medals (eight World Championships, 2 Olympics and 2 world juniors), was named a world championship all-star eight times, led the tournament in scoring three times and was named best forward at the 1985 tournament. Domestically, he led the Soviet league in scoring nine times in 10 seasons, was named play of the year three times.

Not surprisingly, Makarov was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. He has worked as a player agent in retirement.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 7 of 1994 playoffs versus Detroit, putting the Sharks up 2-0 in the first period, a game they ultimately won 3-2.

Card 322 - Darrin Shannon

A left winger, Shannon was drafted fourth overall by Pittsburgh in 1988 after his rookie season with Windsor in the OHL. He played two more seasons with the Spitfires, getting his first NHL action in the 1988-89 season with three games with Buffalo. In November 1988 he was traded to the Sabres with Doug Bodger in exchange for Tom Barrasso.

Shannon turned pro in the 1989-90 season, playing with Rochester of the AHL for two seasons while appearing in 51 games with the Sabres. Early in the 1991-92 season he was traded to Winnipeg in a five-player swap. 91-92 was Shannon’s first full NHL season, scoring 13 goals and 39 points. He would crack the 20-goal mark the next two seasons, scoring a career-high 21 in 1993-94, registering 60 points in the 1992-93 season.

Shannon appeared in only 19 games during the lockout shortened 1994-95 season, scoring 23 points in 63 games the following season. He transferred with the Jets franchise to Phoenix, playing two additional seasons in the desert with the Coyotes.

As a free agent heading into the 1998-99 season, Shannon was without a contract until February 1999, signing with Grand Rapids of the IHL and playing 10 games. For the 1999-2000 season he signed with Toronto, playing 17 games with St. John’s in the AHL and Chicago in the IHL, retiring at season’s end

In 10 NHL seasons Shannon played in 506 games, scoring 87 goals and 250 points. From 2015 to 2017 he coached his hometown Alliston Hornets in Junior C level hockey. He also works as a financial advisor.

YouTube clip: scoring on a breakaway against Andre Racicot in a February 1991 game.

Card 323 - Terry Yake

A centre, Yake was selected 81st overall by Hartford in 1987. The season following the draft, he scored 55 goals and 140 points with Brandon of the WHL. Yake turned pro for the 1988-89 season, recording 95 points in his rookie season with Binghamton. He played in four games combined with Hartford between 1988-90, getting into another 34 games between 1990-92.

After four seasons as a pro, Yake made the Whalers full-time for the 1992-93 season, scoring a career-high 22 goals and 53 points in 66 games. The 1993-94 season saw two new franchises join the NHL, and Yake was selected by one of them, Anaheim, in the expansion draft. In his only season as a Mighty Duck, Yake scored 21 goals (including the first hat trick in franchise history) and 52 points, leading the team in points.

Prior to the 1994-95 season Yake was traded to Toronto for David Sacco; he played in 19 games with the Leafs that season. The following two seasons he played in the AHL, scoring 101 points with Rochester during the 1996-97 season. Yake parlayed that season’s performance into a NHL contract with St. Louis, playing three seasons with the Blues. During that time he was claimed by Atlanta in the 1999 expansion draft, but never suited up for the Thrashers as he was claimed back by the Blues in the annual waiver draft.

In January 2000 Yake was again plucked off waivers, this time by Washington. He played 47 games with the Caps between 1999 and 2001, playing the majority of the 2000-01 season with Portland in the AHL. In 2001 he left for Europe, playing until 2004 in Germany and then from 2005 to 2009 in Switzerland.

In 11 NHL seasons Yake played in 403 games, scoring 77 goals and 197 points. His final two seasons in Switzerland were as a player-coach before moving to a full-time bench boss with Lausanne for the 2009-2010 season. He returned to Canada in 2010 to play men's senior hockey with the South East Prairie Thunder, winning two Allan Cups (2010 and 2015). This added to the Calder Cup he won in 1991 and a Turner Cup in 1995. Yake also ran a meat distribution business in Missouri which has since closed.

YouTube clip: a career highlight video hosted by the YouTube channel for now closed meat business.

Card 324 - John Vanbiesbrouck

Goaltender Vanbiesbrouck was drafted 72nd overall by the New York Rangers in the 1981 draft. He played with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL the next two seasons, appearing in and winning his first NHL game in 1981-82. Beezer turned pro with Tulsa in the CHL for the 1983-84 season, and won league MVP while making three more appearances with the Rangers.

The following season saw Vanbiesbrouck become a full-time NHLer, splitting the crease with Glen Hanlon, winning 12 of 42 games. After one season as an understudy, Beezer took over as starter, winning a league-high 31 games while being named a first-team all-star, winning the Vezina Trophy and finishing fifth in Hart Trophy voting. The Rangers finished fourth in the Patrick Division but upset second overall seed Philadelphia and third-seeded Washington to make the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, bowing out to Montreal in five games.

Over Vanbiesbrouck’s next three seasons he won 20+ games twice, finishing top six in Vezina voting each season. Future star Mike Richter joined the Rangers in 1989-90, beginning a timeshare with Vanbiesbrouck that saw the former undisputed starter play between 40-48 games the next four seasons, winning 20+ games twice.

Outside of the 1986 playoff run to the Conference Finals, Vanbiesbrouck and the Rangers only won two playoff rounds between 1984 and 1993. The off-season before the Rangers 1994 Cup victory, he was traded to Vancouver for a player to be named later (Doug Lidster) as the new expansion draft rules prevented the Rangers from protecting more than one goalie. Four days later Vanbiesbrouck was selected by the Florida Panthers first overall in the expansion draft.

In his first season with Florida, the Beezer won 21 games and was named a second-team all-star, finished second to Dominik Hasek in Vezina voting and third in Hart Trophy voting. Two seasons later the Panthers went on an unbelievable run to the Stanley Cup Finals, beating Boston, and division champions Pittsburgh and Philadelphia before getting swept by Colorado in the Finals. Beezer led the playoffs with 22 games played, winning 12, while facing the most shots and making the most saves of any tender in the playoffs.

In five seasons in Florida Vanbiesbrouck won 20+ games three times, leaving in the summer of 1998 to sign with Philadelphia. In two seasons as a starter with the Flyers he won 27 and 25 games respectively. In June 2000 he was traded to the Islanders for a draft pick, playing 44 games before a trade to New Jersey in March 2001 for Chris Terreri. Vanbiesbrouck played four games for the Devils, winning all of them, before retiring at season’s end. The retirement was short-lived as he came back in 2000-01 with New Jersey, playing in five more games before retiring for good.

In 20 NHL seasons, the Beezer played in 882 games (11th all-time), posting a 374-346-119 record, good for 11th all-time in wins and sixth all-time in losses. He played in three all-star games (1994, 96, and 97), and at the time of his retirement was the winningest American goalie in NHL history (he now sits third). Vanbiesbrouck was named to the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.

In 2002-03 he became a part-owner and head coach of his former OHL team Sault Ste. Marie. His time back with the team was limited as he resigned during the season after he was caught using a racial slur against team captain Trevor Daley. He returned to hockey in 2013 as general manager and director of hockey operations for Muskegon in the USHL, holding those roles until 2018 when he left to become general manager of the US under-18 team. Vanbiesbrouck was also the general manager for the 2022 US Olympic Team.

YouTube clip: stoning Ziggy Palffy on a penalty shot in 1994.

Card 325 - Peter Sidorkiewicz

A goaltender, Sidorkiewicz was drafted 91st overall by Washington in 1981. He played three seasons with Oshawa in the OHL, turning pro in 1984-85 with Fort Wayne of the IHL. During his first pro season he was traded to Hartford with Dean Evason for David Jensen.

As part of the Whalers’ organization, Sidorkiewicz spent three seasons with Binghamton in the AHL, making his NHL debut with a single game in the 1987-88 season. In his rookie season of 1988-89 he shared the crease with veteran Mike Liut, winning 22 games, being named to the all-rookie team and finishing fourth in Calder Trophy voting. Sidorkiewicz quickly surpassed Liut as starter, winning 19 and 21 games the following two seasons. 1991-92 saw him lose his starting role to Kay Whitmore, playing in 35 games and posting a 9-19-6 record.

Sidorkiewicz was given another opportunity to earn a starter's role in 1992 when he was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the expansion draft. Sidorkiewicz felt the full brunt of playing for a historically bad team, leading the league in loses (46) and goals against (250), winning only eight games. As a reward for hanging in tough, he was named one of the Senators’ representatives to that season's all-star game, alongside veteran Brad Marsh.

In June 1993 he was traded to New Jersey along with a player to be named later (Mike Peluso) for fellow 1993 all-star Craig Billington, Troy Mallette and a draft pick. Sidorkiewicz appeared in three games with the Devils that season, playing primarily in the minors. His next three seasons were spent with Albany in the AHL, appearing for one period in his final NHL game in the 1997-98 season.

In eight NHL seasons, Sidorkiewicz played in 246 games, posting a 79-128-27 record, 3.60 goals against and .871 save percentage. His 46 losses in 1992-93 is the third-most in a single season, only two behind Gary Smith’s record 48.

From 1999 to 2006 he was an assistant coach with Erie in the OHL, taking head coaching duties from 2006 to 2008 before returning to an assistant role until 2013. From 2014 to 2017 he was a goalie coach with Dornbirner EC in Austria, returning to North America as an assistant with Norfolk in the ECHL until 2019.

YouTube clip: an archived TSN interview from 1992, explaining that he was the only option in goal for Ottawa as he presumed back up Steve Weeks, was so terrible. A brutal but honest assessment, Weeks played only seven games that season, posting a 7.22 goals against and .792 save percentage.

Card 326 - Troy Mallette

A left winger, Mallette was drafted 22nd overall by the New York Rangers in 1988. He had played two seasons with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL, and would spend one more with the Greyhounds before turning pro with the Rangers for the 1989-90 season. In his rookie season Mallette scored 13 goals and 29 points while earning 305 penalty minutes (fourth in the league), all career-highs. The following season he totaled 12 goals and 22 points with 252 penalty minutes.

In September 1991 Mallette was sent to Edmonton as compensation for the Rangers’ signing of Adam Graves. He played 15 games with the Oilers before a trade to New Jersey for David Maley. Mallette appeared in 51 games with the Devils over the next two seasons before a trade to Ottawa in 1993 as part of a package that landed the Devils goaltender Peter Sidorkiewicz.

In his first season as a Senator Mallette played in all 82 games, scoring seven goals and 23 points. He played two more seasons in Canada’s capital, signing as a free agent with Boston for the 1996-97 season. Mallette played 68 games with the Bruins, signing with Tampa Bay as a free agent the following season. Unfortunately he would play only three games with the Lightning before being forced to retire due to injuries.

In nine NHL seasons Mallette played in 456 games, scoring 51 goals and 119 points while racking up 1226 penalty minutes. A former first overall pick in the OHL draft, Mallette lives in his hometown of Sudbury and currently works as a firefighter.

YouTube clip: knocking out the Habs’ Murray Baron with a single punch during the 1997-98 season.

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