The 1993-94 season was one of expansion in the NHL, as the Florida Panthers and the Disney owned Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were entering the league. The draft order between the Panthers and Mighty Ducks was decided by a coin flip. As fate would have it, the Panthers would win the toss, and select John Vanbiesbrouck, who had just been acquired by Vancouver solely for the purpose of protecting their players from the draft. Anaheim would select Troy, NY native Guy Hebert, formerly of the St. Louis Blues, a pick that would set the standard for Ducks goaltending for years to come.
There were many skeptics around the league who wondered if the state of Florida could support 2 teams, and maybe of more concern was if this new team in SoCal would be taken seriously, considering the team was named after a Disney feature film, and whose arena and jerseys were featured in the sequel and a cartoon. The expansion draft quelled the rumblings of this being a soft team with a cartoon character as their crest, by selecting quite possibly the roughest, most intimidating group of players available, Todd “The Animal” Ewen, Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson, two of the toughest heavyweights in the league. Terry Yake and Bob Corkum lead the team in scoring, with 53 and 52 pts respectively. Like most expansion teams however, this team wasn’t loaded with high-end talent, leaving much of the workload to the guy between the pipes.
Goaltenders for expansion teams have generally been a stop-gap until a draft pick develops and is ready for primetime, or until big name free agent comes available. Hebert was in a great position, as he was starting for a team that, like all expansion teams, aren’t expected to do much of anything in their first season.
The Mighty Ducks were an offensively anemic team, 4th worst in the NHL with 229 goals for. Considering the lack of production, Hebert performed more than admirably, giving the Ducks at least a chance to take 2 points each night, going 20-27-3 with a 2.83 GAA and .907 Save %. By today’s standards these numbers do not sound that impressive, but consider in this season there were 9 50+ goal scorers, a feat only accomplished 11 times by 7 different players since 2007-08, these numbers are exceptional for an expansion club goalie. The Mighty Ducks would finish 9th in the West, 11 pts out of a playoff spot, tying only the Florida Panthers for the most wins by a first year club (33).
Hebert would continue to be a model of consistency between the pipes for the underdog Mighty Ducks, helping solidify the crease behind a porous defensive corps. Every goalie needs goal support to win games, and the franchise started its upward climb in the 95-96 season, when the Ducks dealt Oleg Tverdovsky, Chad Kilger and a 3rd round pick to Winnipeg for Marc Chouinard, a 4th round pick, and some kid named Teemu Selanne. Selanne would combine with Paul Kariya to be one of the NHL’s most feared duos of the 90’s, taking the league by storm. This deal made the team a contender, and not wholly reliant on Hebert to only give up a goal or 2 to have a chance to win.
Hebert’s game was on an upward trend, as he notched 28 wins in 1995-96 and 29 in 96-97, earning an All-Star Game nomination, getting the Ducks the 4th seed in the Western Conference and into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. This wouldn’t be a flash in the pan either, as Anaheim would take the Phoenix Coyotes to a 7th game, and lead by Hebert’s 31 saves, win the series with a 3-0 victory. Unfortunately, Hebert injured his groin in the first game against the highly touted Detroit Red Wings, and would have to sit out the rest of the series where the Ducks were swept in 4 games.
After a shoulder injury sidelined him in the 97-98 season, he came back with a vengeance the following yeah, his best season as a Duck. Notching 31 wins and finishing with a 2.42 GAA and .922 Save Percentage on 1949 shots, the Mighty Ducks entered the postseason for the 2nd time, but it would be short-lived as Detroit would again sweep Anaheim.
While this would be the last time the Mighty Ducks would appear in the playoffs with Hebert between the pipes, he began an era of solid, stable goaltending for this young franchise. Many teams around the league have had a carousel of goalies from year to year until they finally find the guy to play 60 plus games a season, and the same cannot be said for this franchise. To stay with a team since its inception for 8 years is unheard of. Compare Hebert to the following goalies drafted onto expansion teams as the number #1 goalie since the 90’s expansion era:
- San Jose (1991) – Arturs Irbe (5 seasons* / Jeff Hackett (2 Seasons)
- Tampa Bay (1992) – Pat Jablonski (2 seasons*)
- Ottawa (1992) – Peter Sidorkiewicz (1 season)
- Florida (1993) – John Vanbiesbrouck (5 seasons)
- Atlanta (1999) – Norm Maracle (3 seasons*)
- Minnesota (2000) – Manny Fernandez (6 seasons)
- Columbus (2000) – Ron Tugnutt (2 seasons) Marc Denis (5 Seasons)
- Nashville (1999) – Mike Dunham (5 Seasons) Tomas Vokoun (6 Seasons*)
* = Includes time in the minors
Guy played his last season for the Ducks in 2000-01, appearing in 41 games before he was placed on waivers, to be later picked up by New York Rangers. There has always been a passing of the torch from starter to starter in Anaheim, as we saw this season as Hiller’s exit brought both Andersen and Gibson. In Hebert’s last season, he would share the pipes and mentor a young goaltender brought over in a trade from Calgary by the name of Jean-Sebastien Giguere,