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December 2, 2011
Pucks From The Past
Saskatoon Westerns, 1994-95

by Iain Fyffe

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The 1994 Entry Draft serves as a good illustration of why the imaginary Saskatoon Westerns (and their fictional GM Ardal Ekrub) have often had trouble keeping an appropriate number of defensemen on their Reserve List. Looking at the 26 highest-rated prospects in the draft, we find six blueliners and two goaltenders, about the number you would expect of each. However, all of these six defensemen are selected within the first 30 picks of the draft. Conversely, one of the goaltenders and 12 of the 18 top forwards are still available. Ekrub takes this as evidence that his system is not failing him in projecting defensemen, merely that the other teams do a better job of identifying the top blueline prospects (in the sense of agreeing with Ekrub's evaluations). He therefore feels justified in continuing to add a 15% premium to the ratings of defensemen, in an attempt to counteract his relative lack of advantage in projecting this position.

Top 30 Players Available at 1994 Entry Draft

Rank	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+	Drafted
1	Friesen, Jeff		F	WHL	13.4	11
2	Bonk, Radek		F	IHL	12.3	3
3	Theodore, Jose		G	QMJHL	10.3	44
4	St. Louis, Martin	F	ECAC	10.1	-
5	Botterill, Jason	F	CCHA	9.9	20
6	Perrin, Eric		F	ECAC	9.9	-
7	Ohlund, Mattias		D	Swe	9.4	13
8	O'Neill, Jeff		F	OHL	9.2	5
9	Tverdovsky, Oleg	D	Rus	9.2	2
10	Wiemer, Jason		F	WHL	8.4	8
11	Hejduk, Milan		F	Cze	7.8	87
12	Marha, Josef		F	Cze	7.7	35
13	Norris, Warren		F	HE	7.6	-
14	Sharifiyanov, Vadim	F	Rus	7.5	25
15	Varada, Vaclav		F	Cze	7.3	89
16	Epanchintsev, Vadim	F	Rus	7.0	55
17	Shalamai, Sergei	F	Rus	7.0	241
18	Baumgartner, Nolan	D	WHL	6.9	10
19	Neckar, Stanislav	D	Cze	6.8	29
20	Fichaud, Eric		G	QMJHL	6.5	16
21	Goneau, Daniel		F	QMJHL	6.4	47
22	Manning, Blair		F	HE	6.1	-
23	Jinman, Lee		F	OHL	5.8	46
24	Swanson, Brian		F	UHSL	5.7	115
25	Quint, Deron		D	QMJHL	5.5	30
26	Warrener, Rhett		D	WHL	5.5	27
27	Cloutier, Dan		G	OHL	5.5	26
28	Ekman, Nils		F	Swe	5.5	107
29	Moreau, Ethan		F	OHL	5.4	14
30	Domenichelli, Hnat	F	WHL	5.4	83

As it turns out again, this adjustment makes no difference, as Ekrub is not in a position where a defenseman is the best player available (even considering the adjustment) until the tenth round, when Burt Henderson (who does not project to be a terribly good NHLer) becomes the only blueliner drafted by Saskatoon in 1994. But Ekrub has little reason to complain; sometimes things just fall into place. The Westerns are able to draft three of the top six players available, according to the Project-a-Tron: Jose Theodore (#3), Martin St. Louis (#4), and Eric Perrin (#6). You can't complain about your draft results, regardless of what happens, if you can grab three players that highly-rated in the same year.

Ekrub is understandably chuffed at these results. He knows that although there's no such thing as a can't-miss prospect (TNSTAACMP), having so many highly-rated young players will most likely produce at least one or two good players. You and I know he's just drafted two future Hart Trophy winners in Theodore and St. Louis, of course, but just because a player ranks near the top of the draft list doesn't mean he'll turn out to be among the very best in the NHL. They just have the best chance to do so.

Saskatoon Westerns 1994 Entry Draft Picks

Pick	Player			Pos	League	PGVT+
26	Theodore, Jose		G	QMJHL	10.3
52	St. Louis, Martin	RW	ECAC	10.1
78	Perrin, Eric		C	ECAC	9.9
104	Norris, Warren		C	HE	7.6
130	Shalamai, Sergei	LW	Rus	7.0
156	Manning, Blair		C	HE	6.1
182	Miettinen, Tommi	LW	Fin	5.0
208	Westlund, Tommy		RW	Swe	4.7
234	Hassinen, Jani		RW	Fin	3.6
260	Henderson, Burt		D	WHL	2.8
286	Carroll, Ken		G	OHL	3.0

In 1993-94, the Westerns still had three players on the roster who had played with the team in their inaugural 1983-84 season; Doug Gilmour, Joe Mullen, Brad McCrimmon, and Dirk Graham. McCrimmon and Graham, both Saskatchewan natives, decide to retire before the season, and like long-serving Saskatchewanians Bernie Federko and Brian Propp before them, both have their numbers retired and are offered positions within the team's management structure. McCrimmon's alternate captaincy is given to Jeff Brown, now one of the veterans of the team.

Joe Mullen, on the other hand, still feels he has much to contribute to an NHL team, but to Ekrub, he is past his prime and is too expensive to justify keeping around, preventing a young prospect from cracking the lineup. So with warmest wishes, Mullen is allowed to test the free agent market to find a new home; Pittsburgh, as it turns out.

The annual roster purge results in the releases of Josh Wiegand, Jeff Salajko, Al Conroy, Thomas Sjogren, Brian Sakic, Steve Suk, Mika Alatalo, Jonas Hoglund, Mikko Luovi, Lubos Rob, Petr Ton, Antti Tormanen, and Mikael Pettersson.

Saskatoon Westerns 1994-95 Reserve List

Pos	Name			Age	Acquired
G	Carroll, Ken		18	Draft, 1994 (286)
G	Fiset, Stephane (k)	24	Draft, 1988 (24)
G	Potvin, Felix (k)	23	Draft, 1989 (61)
G	Sharples, Scott (k)	26	Trade, 1992
G	Theodore, Jose		18	Draft, 1994 (26)
G	Wilkinson, Derek (k)	20	Draft, 1992 (119)
D	Bodger, Doug (k)	28	Draft, 1984 (9)
D	Brown, Jeff (k)		28	Draft, 1984 (30)
D	Dahl, Kevin (k)		25	Trade, 1991
D	Johansson, Daniel	20	Draft, 1993 (259)
D	Julien, Stephane (k)	20	Draft, 1992 (239)
D	Kaberle, Frantisek	20	Draft, 1992 (191)
D	Keller, Aaron (k)	19	Draft, 1993 (155)
D	Mironov, Boris (k)	22	Draft, 1991 (197)
D	Numminen, Teppo (k)	26	Draft, 1986 (15)
D	Salo, Sami		20	Draft, 1993 (51)
D	Smith, Ryan (k)		20	Draft, 1992 (143)
D	Snell, Chris (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (249)
D	Van Impe, Darren (k)	21	Draft, 1991 (104)
D	Yushkevich, Dmitri (k)	22	Draft, 1990 (45)
D	Zhitnik, Alexei (k)	21	Draft, 1991 (65)
D	Zubov, Sergei (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (81)
C	Bowler, Bill (k)	19	Draft, 1993 (285)
C	Brylin, Sergei (k)	20	Draft, 1992 (30)
C	Ducharme, Dom		21	Draft, 1992 (263)
C	Firth, Jason (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (186)
C	Gilmour, Doug (k)	31	Transfer, 1983
C	Lapointe, Claude (k)	25	Draft, 1988 (229)
C	Larouche, Steve (k)	23	Draft, 1989 (40)
C	Lebeau, Stephan (k)	26	Draft, 1990 (141)
C	Manning, Blair		19	Draft, 1994 (156)
C	Marchant, Todd (k)	21	Draft, 1992 (215)
C	Miller, Colin (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (228)
C	Nieuwendyk, Joe (k)	28	Draft, 1985 (9)
C	Norris, Warren		19	Draft, 1994 (104)
C	Nylander, Michael (k)	21	Draft, 1991 (43)
C	Perreault, Yanic (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (102)
C	Perrin, Eric		19	Draft, 1994 (78)
C	Straka, Martin (k)	22	Draft, 1991 (219)
C	Zhamnov, Alexei (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (60)
LW	Andersson, Niklas (k)	23	Draft, 1989 (43)
LW	Demitra, Pavol (k)	20	Draft, 1993 (77)
LW	Horak, Roman (k)	24	Draft, 1988 (19)
LW	Kozlov, Vyacheslav (k)	22	Draft, 1990 (18)
LW	Miettinen, Tommi	18	Draft, 1994 (182)
LW	Recchi, Mark (k)	26	Draft, 1987 (142)
LW	Shalamai, Sergei	18	Draft, 1994 (130)
LW	Reichel, Robert (k)	23	Draft, 1989 (19)
LW	Whitney, Ray (k)	22	Draft, 1991 (21)
RW	Audette, Donald (k)	24	Draft, 1988 (250)
RW	Blazek, Tomas		19	Draft, 1993 (129)
RW	Brousseau, Paul (k)	21	Draft, 1992 (23)
RW	Caloun, Jan (k)		21	Draft, 1991 (87)
RW	Cherbaev, Alexander	21	Draft, 1991 (109)
RW	Dackell, Andreas	21	Draft, 1992 (167)
RW	Drulia, Stan (k)	26	Draft, 1986 (162)
RW	Fleury, Theoren (k)	26	Draft, 1986 (204)
RW	Gendron, Martin (k)	20	Draft, 1992 (71)
RW	Hassinen, Jani		19	Draft, 1994 (234)
RW	Kapanen, Sami (k)	21	Draft, 1992 (46)
RW	Lebeau, Patrick (k)	24	Draft, 1989 (82)
RW	Lefebvre, Patrice (k)	26	Draft, 1987 (184)
RW	Lehtinen, Jere (k)	21	Draft, 1991 (131)
RW	Petrov, Oleg (k)	23	Draft, 1990 (57)
RW	Prochazka, Martin	22	Draft, 1990 (144)
RW	St. Louis, Martin	19	Draft, 1994 (52)
RW	Tuomainen, Marko	22	Draft, 1991 (175)
RW	Varvio, Jarkko (k)	22	Draft, 1991 (153)
RW	Vujtek, Vladimir	22	Draft, 1990 (207)
RW	Vyborny, David		19	Draft, 1993 (25)
RW	Westlund, Tommy		19	Draft, 1994 (208)

Players on Reserve List (Maximum 80): 72
Players Under Contract (Maximum 50): 50

The lockout may shorten the season, but it has no apparent effect on the Westerns' dominance, as they once again finish first overall, winning at a rate that would have earned them 124 points had they been playing 84 games. Alexei Zhamnov steps up to provide the team with its second consecutive surprise offensive leader, following Robert Reichel from 1993-94. Reichel, on the other hand, struggles throughout the season.

A number of young forwards push for playing time; Todd Marchant, Martin Straka, Pavol Demitra, Yanic Perreault, and Michael Nylander all play a handful of games each, which will force some decisions to be made soon enough. Ekrub can't keep all of these young bucks around while maintaining a constant NHL lineup; it would be a waste of resources. Something will have to give.

Saskatoon Westerns 1994-95 NHL Season Results

GP	W	L	T	GF	GA	Pts	Finish
48	34	9	5	185	124	71	1st place, Central; 1st overall

Player			Num	Age	Pos	GP	OGVT	DGVT	GVT
Zhamnov, Alexei		23	23	C	48	13.7	3.3	17.0
Fleury, Theoren		14	26	RW	47	10.2	5.2	15.4
Zubov, Sergei		46	23	D	45	8.6	4.1	12.7
Nieuwendyk, Joe (A)	25	28	C	46	8.5	2.8	11.3
Potvin, Felix		31	23	G	32	0.0	9.4	9.4
Recchi, Mark		8	26	LW	48	5.3	3.5	8.8
Brown, Jeff (A)		28	28	D	33	6.7	1.9	8.6
Numminen, Teppo		27	26	D	42	2.7	5.9	8.6
Gilmour, Doug (C)	9	31	C	44	2.2	4.6	6.8
Reichel, Robert		29	23	LW	48	5.3	1.5	6.8
Audette, Donald		18	24	RW	46	4.7	1.7	6.4
Fiset, Stephane		35	24	G	16	0.0	6.1	6.1
Kozlov, Vyacheslav	16	22	LW	46	3.6	2.3	5.9
Lebeau, Stephan		47	26	C	38	2.7	2.4	5.1
Bodger, Doug		3	28	D	44	1.9	3.0	4.9
Yushkevich, Dmitri	2	22	D	40	1.1	3.1	4.2
Larouche, Steve		22	23	RW	28	3.2	0.9	4.1
Lapointe, Claude	17	25	C	34	1.3	2.2	3.5
Lebeau, Patrick		32	24	RW	39	3.3	0.1	3.4
Whitney, Ray		13	22	LW	24	1.3	0.9	2.2
Zhitnik, Alexei		44	21	D	32	1.0	1.1	2.1
Marchant, Todd		39	21	LW	11	0.9	1.1	2.0
Snell, Chris		6	23	D	20	1.0	0.2	1.2
Mironov, Boris		4	22	D	29	0.4	0.6	1.0
Straka, Martin		56	22	LW	11	0.3	0.3	0.6
Demitra, Pavel		38	20	LW	8	0.3	0.2	0.5
Dahl, Kevin		5	25	D	3	0.1	0.1	0.2
Perreault, Yanic	49	23	C	3	0.0	0.1	0.1
Lefebvre, Patrice	57	26	RW	2	0.0	0.0	0.0
Nylander, Michael	36	21	C	5	-0.4	0.2	-0.2
Total						48	89.9	68.8	158.7

Playoffs, First Round

The Dallas Stars provide little resistance in the first round, managing only a one-goal victory in Game 2 as Saskatoon takes the series in five games (5-4, 1-2, 6-0, 1-0, 5-3).

Playoffs, Second Round

It's rare that the Westerns, despite being an excellent team, have an easy time in the playoffs. But in this case, they finish off a sweep of the Sharks, though all four games are close (1-0, 3-2, 4-2, 2-1).

Playoffs, Third Round

Through the first two rounds, Felix Potvin has been his usual effective self in the playoffs, recording three shutouts and sporting an 8-1 record. The Red Wings seem to have him figured out in round three, however, winning the first three games by scores of 6-1, 4-2, and 3-2. The Westerns avoid a sweep with a 4-2 win in Game 4, but Detroit finishes them off 4-3 in the final game. Saskatoon will have to wait once more to win consecutive Cups; the team won in 1990, 1992, and 1994, but none of the years in between.

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