This is the final season of the twentieth century on NHL Saturday, as we look at the 1998-99 season and its controversial finish that the city of Buffalo still has not forgotten. But there was a fantastic regular season before that, and our focus lies there (mostly) for this column, of course.
Bring on the Zamboni, baby!
1999 Hart: Jaromír Jágr (original, confirmed)
Four forwards were in the NHL Top 10 for Point Shares, including two players from the same team. That should make this exercise easier. The Hart vote went to Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Jaromír Jágr (14.50 PS), and he was joined in the forward quartet by Mighty Ducks of Anaheim RW Teemu Selänne (14.29), Philadelphia Flyers left wing John LeClair (12.44), and Flyers center Eric Lindros (12.35).
Lindros won our nod here in 1995, but this award comes down to Jágr and Selänne. The Penguins claimed the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, and Jágr was the difference. The Flyers finished 3 points above Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division standings. So, that sort of clinches the hardware for Jágr.
His stat line: 44G, 83A, plus-17 rating, 66 PIMs, 33 even-strength goals, and 343 SOGs. Jágr led the NHL in assists, points, and ESGs while posting 25:51 ATOI from a front-line position on the ice.
1999 Norris: Al MacInnis (original, confirmed)
St. Louis Blues veteran Al MacInnis was the only defenseman to finish in the NHL Top 10 for Point Shares (13.65), and he also led the whole league in Defensive PS (7.68) by more than a full point. Without him, the Blues don’t post 87 points and possibly do not make the postseason in the Western Conference. That simple.
He won the Norris vote at the time, and we will confirm it: At age 35, he wins his second Norris from us, too. This vote was the only one he won in his storied career, however, as he posted 62 points (20A, 42G), a plus-33 rating, and 70 PIMs. There is no one else to look at here.
1999 Vezina: Dominik Hasek (original, confirmed)
Five goaltenders are under consideration here: Buffalo Sabres star Dominik Hasek (16.82), Ducks journeyman Guy Hebert (15.59), Boston Bruins veteran Byron Dafoe (14.08), Carolina Hurricanes workhorse Arturs Irbe (13.12), and Phoenix Coyotes youngster Nikolai Khabibulin (12.52). Hasek won the vote at the time and posted the highest PS mark in the entire league for the regular season.
The standings reveal the full story: Buffalo squeaked into the postseason, one point ahead of the Penguins, so Hasek was a difference maker. But the same can be said of Dafoe, Hebert, and Irbe. The Coyotes had the biggest postseason cushion, even though Khabibulin was also a difference maker. All these things being equal, we just go with the highest PS mark, and that’s Hasek … again.
He topped the NHL in save percentage for the sixth season in a row (.937), but at age 34, Hasek may have been slowing down a bit as he “only” played in 64 games this season. Strangely, his career-best 1.87 GAA and additional 9 shutouts did not lead the league. Hasek won six Vezinas in real life, and this is his fifth one from us, overall.
1999 Calder: Chris Drury (original), Sami Salo (revised)
Three first-year players posted at least 5.0 PS during the year: Nashville Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun (6.1), Ottawa Senators defenseman Sami Salo (5.5), and Colorado Avalanche center Chris Drury (5.0). With the Preds finishing last in the Central Division, it’s hard to see true value in Vokoun’s stats. Meanwhile, the Avs and the Sens were both division winners with lots of playoff cushion.
That being said, we do not confirm Drury’s vote win at the same; instead, we give this award to Salo, as his overall PS mark was higher. Sadly, Salo finished ninth in the vote at the time, which is a shame. His stats—19 points, plus-20 rating, and 24 PIM—do not blow us away, of course. But 4.0 DPS mark did make a difference for a team that allowed the second-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference, after the Sabres.
1999 Conn Smythe: Joe Nieuwendyk (original), Ed Belfour (revised)
The Dallas Stars won their first—and only—Stanley Cup in six games over Buffalo, and Dallas C Joe Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe vote for notching 6 game-winning goals in the Stars’ title run. However, we do know how overrated that stat is, and Nieuwendyk (21 points) didn’t even post a point a game over the 23 contests in the postseason for his team. Only Stars C Mike Modano did (23 points).
Dallas goalie Ed Belfour posted a 1.67 GAA and a .930 save percentage in the postseason, which definitely outshines any of the skaters on the Stars roster, in our eyes. As for the Sabres, it was all Hasek: 1.77 GAA and .939 save percentage. But he also missed two games for Buffalo in its postseason action, and Belfour played every minute of every game for the champs. That has to earn our nod.
Eddie the Eagle won both the Calder and the Vezina from the voters and us back in 1991, and this hardware adds a nice touch to his personal collection, for sure.