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NHL Lockout lessons from 1994-95

Former Jets GM, coach Paddock recalls tumult of 48-game season

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Two relocations and one arena ago in Winnipeg history may still contain a lesson or two for those about to embark on a lockout-shortened NHL season.

John Paddock, the GM and coach of the Winnipeg Jets of 1994-95, this week recalled a few items about that 48-game season that began Jan. 20, 1995 and followed a half-season lost to a labour dispute.

The most significant: "It was both the coach's and manager's decision, and I made the wrong one for what seemed like the right reasons, to go with the veteran," Paddock said, describing the goaltending issue of the time. "We were probably not that good anyway, but I went with the older, veteran goaltender way too long."

That would have been Tim Cheveldae, who had four seasons under his belt, instead of Nikolai Khabibulin, a ninth round 1992 entry draft pick who at the time didn't have a single NHL game played.

"Khabby had been playing in Springfield the whole time," Paddock said of that season. "The plan was for Chevy to be our goalie. We wanted Nik to keep playing (in Springfield).

"We had a mini camp and had three goalies here and Khabby was obviously so much better than Mike (O'Neill), we just couldn't send him back, even though we'd wanted him to keep playing.

"We thought then we'd try to play him once every four or five games. But Chevy didn't play well enough to give us a chance to win."

At least not early, when the Jets went 1-5-1 out of the gate, and Paddock admitted he didn't switch soon enough.

"I remember starting Nik in (Calgary) after a few games and he won," he said. "I should have switched sooner. We still had it stuck in our minds we had to go with experience, that kind of thing.

"We didn't get him playing, give him the (No. 1) job until it was too late. It was just the gut reaction, to go with what's considered the best rather than be criticized for playing the rookie in a pressure, short-sprint situation. But it's what should have happened that time."

The Jets never recovered from their lousy start. They never got close to returning to .500, finished nine games under that mark and sixth in the Central Division, far out of the playoffs in their second-to-last year in the city.

The schedule in 1995 was slightly less crammed -- there was one more week than 2013's NHLers are going to have for their 48-game season -- but busy to the point where there were effects.

"I remember the little nagging injuries," Paddock said. "When the intensity picks up, unless you're playing regularly -- you can be skating all you want -- but when that different level comes and comes again in regular games for real, it's just natural that those muscle pains and aches are going to happen.

"Not everyone will get them but you can't stop it."

Paddock, now the assistant GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, said practice time is always going to be an issue, especially for coaches.

In 2013, there doesn't figure to be very much, which, he said, could lead many teams to potentially do much shorter practices, or even "mini-practices" on days of games.

"I think today, there's a difference because everyone's chartering (their own planes), and that's helpful for the rest and recuperation," Paddock said.

"But this season, I think it will be (an issue). It's going to have to be work, recuperation, rest, and play with not much practice time."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

SHORT, NOT VERY SWEET

1995 Jets: 48 games, 16-25-7 for 39 points

Standings: 6th and last in Central, 21st out of 26 teams.

Minor highlights: Alexi Zhamnov 3rd in league scoring, 65 points, behind only Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros, both at 70; Zhamnov and Keith Tkachuk, 51, points, chosen to NHL second all-star team.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 C4

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