Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Sabres Central

What road will Hasek travel?
By Rick Anderson
February 6, 2000

The past week has been one that Dominik Hasek will never forget. He had been preparing for this week since the start of November. His training program was complete, he was ready to play again. However, his well laid plans seem to have gone astray. His fabulous career as one of the best goalies to ever play may be over.

Hasek is one of the most unpredictable athletes in today's professional sports world. He has had his share of controversy throughout his lustrous career. Most of the controversies centered around his commitment to the Sabres and his willingness to play with pain. This week, the same controversies surrounded what some consider the greatest goalie to ever play the game.

A couple years ago, Buffalo News Sabres reporter Jim Kelley wrote a couple articles about Hasek not playing in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers. He said that Hasek was not willing to play with the pain and suck it up and play when the team needed him the most. What resulted from this was a confrontation between Kelley and Hasek After a playoff game, Hasek came after Kelley outside the Sabres dressing room and the two scuffled. Afterwards, Hasek apologized for his behavior, but the goalie's image was tarnished.

Last season, after he led the Sabres to the Eastern Conference Finals, Hasek suddenly announced that he was going to miss the first game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That sent the city of Buffalo in a frenzy. Once again, the media and talk shows were filled with the theme, "Is Hasek faking his injury?" After much ado about him missing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, Hasek came back and helped Buffalo eliminate Toronto in 5 games.

This season has been extremely frustrating for Dominik. Hasek, the five-time Vezina Trophy winner, is not sure what the future has in store for him. Is he going to retire at the end of the year like he announced last summer? Or is he going to come back next season as his nagging groin injury prevented him from completing his whirlwind "Farewell Tour around the league this season?"

While Hasek was slowly recovering from the operation he had after he tore his groin muscle against Florida on October 29, speculation was that he was going to change his mind about retiring after this season. Then there was the controversy about him rushing himself back to action so that he could play in the All-Star game in Toronto. He indicated that he wanted to play in that contest for his fifth straight time. The media in Buffalo and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff were up in arms about Hasek coming back from a 3-month layoff and playing his first game in the All-Star. Ruff expressed grave concern about Hasek playing in that exhibition game and getting hurt. Ruff said that he would not consent to Hasek playing in Toronto unless he was confident that he was ready after playing a couple games with the Sabres the week before. After going through only one full practice with the Sabres, Hasek declared himself fit to play against Anaheim last Tuesday.

The goalie known as "The Dominator" came out and played a tremendous game against he Mighty Ducks. The Ducks came out and tested Hasek early. Pavel Trnka ripped off a slap shot that the Sabres' veteran goalie had no trouble stopping. Hasek appeared to be back at the top of his game when he made an incredible sliding save on Teemu Selanne. Hasek went down, slid across the goalmouth and came up with the puck while his legs were angled up in the air. That save left the crowd gasping for air, wondering if his groin could sustain such wear and tear. No big deal for the Dominator, as he got right back up and was astonishing the rest of the night.

"It was tough," Hasek said after his first start in 40 games where he allowed 2 goals in a 2-2 tie. "I felt pretty good the whole game. The groin got a little bit tired, but it had nothing to do with the two goals."

The next day, however, it was a much different story for Hasek. The groin was back to where it was three weeks previous. He was stiff and the groin was inflamed.

"It's just soreness, nothing else,"said Hasek. "There's not any injury. It's much weaker. Things I could do one, two, three weeks ago, I cannot do with my legs today. If it's weak, you cannot do fast moves. Just to watch the other goalies play - I look at Rolie (Dwayne Roloson) or Martin (Biron) and I say, ‘Oh, I cannot do it.' I know I cannot do it because my groin is weak.'"

The announcement that Hasek would not start the next game against Ottawa and that he was canceling his appearance in the All-Star game sent shock waves across North America. Just how serious was his latest setback? Would he be able to play a full game again?

Hasek contemplating his future after the latest setback.

"I plan to stay here," Hasek said. "It's too early to make this decision. We'll see more after two or three weeks. I hope it gets better, at least a little bit, because right now I don't feel very good."

"All I can say it that it's very frustrating," Hasek continued. "There is nothing I can do about it. All I can do is hope it's going to get better. If you want to play, you have to practice. It's not like you play the game and take four or five days off and play the next game. You have to practice and get ready for the next game. Right now, I don't feel I can do it."

This weekend, the trade rumors started. A report out of Buffalo and Ottawa had both the Los Angeles Kings and the Philadelphia Flyers inquiring about trading for Hasek.

Apparently, the Los Angeles Kings initiated trade talks several weeks ago about the possibility of acquiring the five-time Vezina Trophy winner. The Sabres front office replied that they were committed to Hasek and would not trade him. The Kings told the Buffalo people to give them a call if they changed their minds.

The President of the Kings, Tim Leiweke, indicated that his team has yet to hear from the Sabres as of late Saturday afternoon.

"Is there a deal? There is not even a conversation right now," Leiweke said. "If they want to talk to us, sure, we would be interested."

Leiweke and General Manager Dave Taylor are going ahead with their planned scouting trip to Sweden today since they are positive that a trade isn't in the works, for now anyway..

A deal with any team will hinge on Hasek being able to play more than just once or twice a week.

"It sounds to me like they might be willing to trade him because he's not part of the future plans in Buffalo," said an NHL source. "But it's all going to depend on his health and the asking price, which could be high." A spokesman from the Flyers says, "They (the Sabres) really don't have much choice. It will be a hard deal to make, but they can't risk getting nothing." He says that if Hasek is made available and is healthy, the Flyers will be bidders for Hasek's services.

The Sabres do not know what direction they are going with their goaltending situation. Martin Biron has handled the bulk of the work since Hasek went down with his groin tear late last October. He leads the NHL with 5 shutouts and is becoming a solid fixture in goal for Buffalo. Dwayne Roloson, the Sabres third-string goalie, has asked to be traded because he has not been getting the playing time he would like. While Hasek has a dark cloud over his future, Biron is becoming a solid candidate for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

"You see the situation Dom is in, so we have keep three goalies around," Ruff said. "Dom, if he plays, may not be able to practice the next day. That's something we have to keep weighing on a day-to-day basis."

If Hasek decides to come back next season for Buffalo, it puts them in a precarious position as far as the expansion draft is concerned. Do the Sabres protect both Hasek and Biron? If so, they will have to expose a player that they would prefer keeping. It all depends on if Hasek can recover from his groin injury. The way he is experiencing such extreme pain after playing only one game makes one wonder if he will ever be the same.

In the game against Anaheim, Hasek was back to his old form. But now he knows what he may be experiencing after every game he plays from now on. Even he said that he may not be able to play more than one game per week.

It is the opinion here that Dominik may give it a couple more starts and see how he feels afterwards. If the pain continues like it did this past week, he may just solve the Sabres' goaltending dilemma by hanging up his skates. The big question is whether he can come back from this latest setback and play without abandon like he did Tuesday against the Mighty Ducks. It will be in the back of his mind that he is going to pay for his Gumby acrobatics dearly the next day. When that happens, the Dominator may decide that it is time to retire for good.


Copyright © 2000 Sabres Central, all rights reserved