#9 - Guy Hebert
Average Rank: 10
The modern NHL has seen ever increasing prominence of former NCAA hockey players. According to College Hockey Inc. 31% of NHL players in the 2013-14 season played at least one year of college hockey, and the trend has followed a steady growth since the 99-00 season. When you think of NHL goalies of the 90's who went the University route names like Ed Belfour (North Dakota), Mike Richter and Curtis Joseph (Wisconsin) immediately come to mind, while the current league features starters like Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts), Ryan Miller (Michigan State), and Jimmy Howard (Maine) amongst others.
However much as college hockey has made inroads, it's overwhelmingly players from Division-I that earn those spots. So when Division-III Hamilton College's Guy Hebert was drafted in the eighth round, 159th overall by the St. Louis Blues as a sophomore in 1987, it would be fair to to say the goalie born in Troy, New York's odds of making the big time were long. When Hebert graduated after the 88-89 year he held the institution's goals against and save percentage records, which would stand until 2005. He then joined the Blues' IHL farm team in Peoria, and over the next three seasons would go 51-32-8, earning Second All-Star Team nod and sharing the James Norris Memorial Trophy for fewest goals allowed along the way. Hebert made the jump to St. Louis full time to backup Joseph for the 92-93 season.
The Mighty Ducks made Hebert the first selection of the Expansion Draft in 1993, and thus began what would be an eight year career in Southern California. Hebert got the nod for the first ever game in Anaheim, a rude welcome by a Red Wings team that had finished second in the Norris (modern day Central) Division but lost in game seven overtime at home to Toronto first round the year prior, which incidentally had lead to Detroit firing then-coach Bryan Murray (who later became Mighty Ducks head coach in 01-02 and general manager from 02-04). Though Ron Tugnutt was the first Anaheim goalie to record a win (against Edmonton two games later) Hebert earned 20 of the first year squad's 33 wins on the season and had the franchise's first ever shutout, a 38-save performance that made Tim Sweeney's lone goal stand up at Maple Leaf Gardens on December 15, 1993.
Hebert settled into the starter role in the lockout-shortened 94-95 season, backed up by the dependable Mikhail Shtalenkov after Tugnutt was sent to Montreal for Stephan Lebeau. He finished with 12 of the Mighty Ducks' 16 wins in the 48-game season, and began earning reputation as a workhorse in facing 32.5 shots per game. His play and the teams fortunes took a jump the following season as Anaheim climbed to a fourth place finish in the Pacific Division and finished tied with eighth seed Winnipeg at 78 points, with the Jets claiming the tiebreaker having one additional win. Hebert faced the seventh most shots in the league, but turned in a .914 save percentage that ranked fourth overall. The Mighty Ducks were on the cusp of playoff competition and Hebert earned his first Vezina Trophy recognition, receiving as many ballots as Patrick Roy (Hebert earned one third place vote, Roy's was a lone first place nod).
Buoyed by the dynamic one-two offensive punch of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, and the solid goaltending of Hebert the Mighty Ducks earned their first playoff appearance in 96-97. He posted a then-career high of 29 wins, finished fifth in the league with a .919 SV% while facing the fourth most shots against. When Red Wing Chris Osgood was injured around mid-season Hebert was named as replacement and made the first appearance by an Anaheim netminder in the All-Star game, joining Kariya and Selanne on the West squad and playing the third period. [Personal Note: After once again seeing the 90's FOX presentation of the game, I will never take complaining about NBC's broadcasts seriously. I have four words for you- FoxTrax and cartoon robots. -EE] In the playoffs the Ducks had home ice against the Phoenix Coyotes, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead before losing the next three. Hebert made 19 saves enabling Paul Kariya's sudden death heroics at America West Arena in game six, then stopped all 31 shots in game seven to record both the Mighty Ducks first ever playoff shutout and series win. Anaheim would be swept in the next round by Detroit, as Hebert went down to an injury in the third period of game two in a series that featured a single, double, and triple overtime game. Hebert once again received Vezina attention, finishing fourth behind Roy, Martin Brodeur, and Dominik Hasek.
Anaheim fell out of the playoff picture the following year, as Hebert and the team struggled with having Kariya for only 22 games thanks to a holdout and the infamous Gary Suter crosscheck. The team rebounded in 98-99 and Hebert posted career highs in wins (31), save percentage (.922), and shutouts (6) while facing the most shots and making the most saves in the league. A first round return date with the Red Wings yielded the same result as the initial meeting, though the series was nowhere near as close as the first one. Anaheim narrowly missed the playoffs the following season, finishing with a winning record but four points back of the final slot. Into his mid-30's at this point, Hebert's play tailed off and he would ultimately be waived after going winless in his final 13 games with the franchise during the 00-01 season following the Mighty Ducks acquiring Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Calgary. His last win came on December 17, 2000 in 25-save, 3-1 home win over Tampa Bay. He finished his playing career with the New York Rangers, retiring at the conclusion of the season.
Hebert had the honor of representing the US on the international stage at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey as well as the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. Though Giguere broke many of Hebert's franchise records, he still holds the distinction of having face the most shots and made the most saves in regular season of any Duck goalie, and remains second in games played, wins, and shutouts. He finished his Anaheim career an even .500 against Los Angeles, going 13-13-6 with 2 shutouts but racked up a 9-game unbeaten string against the Kings running from November 11, 1998 to March 21, 2000. He blanked the Kings with 29 saves in a 4-0 win on December 3, 2000, his final appearance against LA. Hebert got the better of San Jose going 17-14-3 with two shutouts, and also beat the Sharks in his final appearance against them, stopping 36 shots in a 4-2 win on March 17, 2000.
His mask design is one of the Ducks' most iconic and amongst the NHL's most recognizable from the 90's, and was paid tribute to by Viktor Fasth on Throwback Night as well as an unused Stadium Series design. In retirement Hebert continued to make Orange County hockey history, helping fellow former Mighty Duck Dave Karpa coach the first OC high school hockey team at JSerra High during the team's second season in 2009. It's no wonder that on throwback night when he was introduced as part of pregame festivities Honda Center once more rang out with the familiar elongated cheers of his name.
To be the first is to set the bar to which all that follow will be held. The stabilizing impact he had on the Anaheim crease in the first years of the franchise were a critical part in the squad taking root and becoming a playoff team. In Guy Hebert, not only did the Mighty Ducks have a goalie that inspired through his unlikely journey to professional hockey from a Division-III college program, but one who gave fans many reasons to cheer over a near decade of entertaining play between the pipes.
Historical data courtesy of www.hockey-reference.com