‘The Dominator,’ as he was so popularly referred to during his time with the Sabres, is eyeing a return to the NHL. But could Buffalo be the right place for him?The 47-year-old Czech goalie has a long NHL history behind him.
Hasek was drafted in 1983 by the Chicago Blackhawks, but he didn’t begin playing in the NHL until 1990, choosing instead to spend those seven years playing in his homeland.
Just to show a little perspective on how long he’s been in (and out, and in, and out) of the NHL: 1990 is the year I was born. Hasek made his NHL debut on November 6, eleven days before I was born.
His first victory in the NHL came against none other than his future team, the Buffalo Sabres. After being in Chicago for two seasons, Hasek was traded to Buffalo, where he began his career as a backup but elevated to starter with an injury to Grant Fuhr.
Over the next few years, Hasek would prove his worth as an outstanding goaltender. He won the Vezina trophy in both 1994 and 1995 and placed as a finalist for the Hart trophy both of those years. Despite conflict with then-Sabres coach Ted Nolan and an MCL injury, he managed to come back and won the Vezina for three consecutive seasons, 1997-1999, and again in 2001. He also nabbed both the Hart and Lester B. Pearson awards in 1997 and 1998.
During his prime time, Hasek was arguably one of the best goaltenders the Sabres – and the league – had ever seen.
After the 2000-2001 season, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, where he would play 65 games the next year before announcing his retirement for the first time.
This lasted only just about a year before he returned to the NHL, once again with Detroit. He’d play just fourteen games in the ’03-’04 season before a groin injury sidelined him. The next year was the lockout, and then Hasek became a member of the Ottawa Senators.
Once again, injury would sideline him for a portion of the season, and after his one-year deal was up, the Sens elected not to re-sign him… so back to Detroit he went. He’d play there from 2006 until 2008, retiring – again – in June 2008, just after winning the second Stanley Cup of his aged career.
He’d come out of retirement in 2009 to join HC Moeller Pardubice, playing one season and winning the Czech league title. The next season would be spent playing in Russia with HC Spartak Moscow.
The future is unknown right now, but there have been discussions about Hasek’s possible return to the NHL. Could he fit in Buffalo?
Without considering his age, style of play, or any other factors, consider this: is there space?
The Sabres already have their starting goaltender in Ryan Miller, and Jhonas Enroth is the clear contender for back-up. David Leggio is a free agent in Rochester, but if he’s re-signed (which seems likely), he could act as a third goaltender in case of injury or poor play.
Another item of note: Buffalo is, generally, a young team. They’re built on youth, on prospects working their way up through the ranks, and on giving younger players a chance.
Look at Tyler Ennis, who is quickly making his mark after working his way through Portland of the AHL, or Tyler Myers, who the Sabres took a chance on a few years ago. Other good examples include Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville, who were all drafted by Buffalo and grew through the farm system before making their way as frontrunners in the NHL.
Rumors have him looking at Detroit and Tampa Bay as possible teams to make his return with. Simply put, it seems unlikely that the Sabres would be able to fit Hasek into their game plan. There’s little doubt that he still has potential to be a great goaltender, but if the peg doesn’t fit – you can’t force it.