Question about Hartford Whalers in the mid 80's
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12-18-2012, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Originally Posted by
I mean, they did win the division in 1987.
That was easily the best team Hartford ever had. 43-30-7.
It was the culmination of the Emile Francis (GM)/Jack Evans (coach) regime.
Francis took over a team that had just finished 19-54-7 on 1983. They had 3 different coaches that year, were 19th out of 21 offensively and 21st defensively. Players were a bit lacking in effort.
The next season they were 13th defensively playing a much more disiplined game under Evans. Francis had added Mike Zuke, a defensive center who was an excellent penalty killer.
The next season they traded for Luit, convinced Greg Millen was not the answer in goal. He immediately became the team leader. Two weeks after being acquired in February, the Whale gave up 2 goals in the last 2 minutes of a game against Vancouver, making the game 6-6. They immediately lost in OT. Luit trashed the locker room, apparently scaring the hell out of his new, complacent teammates.
The next season they traded for a 24 year-old Dave Babych. The trade seemed to shake him up and he started playing up to his potential. They also added Doug Jarvis to replace the aging Zuke. The Whale made the playoffs with a 40-36-4 record and then stunned the Nordiques in the playoffs, 3-0. They then took eventual Cup-winning Montreal to OT of game 7.
That team scored 332 goals, 5th in the league. Their top 4 scores were Turgeon (21), Ferraro (21), Francis (22) and Dineen (22).
The next year they won the division. 3rd in the league defensively. But with Turgeon hurting, they were not the offensive powerhouse of the previous season. Ferraro fell off also. Babych reverted to inconsistent play. But they put together a great 2nd line with 3 young speedsters in Dean Evason, Stew Gavin and Paul Lawless. No one seemed to be able to contain them. Lawless was the key, but the next season he got hurt and was never the same.
Alas, the Nordiques avenged their playoff collapse from the previous season, simply out-offensing the Whalers. Confidence shattered, the next season the offense went completely dry. Larry Pleau replaced Evans in the second half of the season and the Whale would never be as good again in Hartford.
Turgeon, Lawless and Ferraro fell off. Babych was a temporary answer, but never was the Dman he could have been. But poor coaching was really the biggest problem in Hartford. Mark Howe once said he never learned a thing about playing defense until he went to Philly.
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