500 career games
3x 20 game winner
2nd best Save % 1995-98
Once again we stretch the definition of a star. Perhaps I should be calling this "One player I remember, One Sheet". Hackett had some good years, but also had some historically abysmal years.
Hackett played his junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. In 1986-87, he led the OHL in GAA, 3.05 and helped the team win the OHL championship. Hackett and the Generals would lose in the Memorial Cup final.
His performance made him the 4th goalie taken in the 1987 Draft by the New York Islanders and 34th player overall. The first goalie taken was Jimmy Waite at 8th overall. Hackett led all goalies from his draft class with 500 career games played. The Islanders had lost their dynasty and were in the process of rebuilding. Hackett would lose his first five decisions before winning his first in 1989. A sign of things to come for Hackett.
Hackett spent the 1989-90 season in the AHL with the Springflied Indians. He won the play-off MVP as the Indians won the AHL Calder trophy as play-off champs. He returned to the Islanders for the 1990-91 season and get the back-up job, largely due to the previous year's starter, and former Memorial Cup nemesis, Mark Fitzpatrick, missing almost the entire season due to illness. Hackett went 5-18-1 during his rookie season.
With Fitzpatrick ready to play and starter Glenn Healy under contract, Hackett was left unprotected in the 1991 expansion draft. He was the first player selected overall by the San Jose Sharks. Hackett was the main starter for the expansion team and he severely outplayed the other Sharks goalies that season. Hackett appeared in 42 games, go 11-27-1, .892 save percentage, with a 3.84 GAA. The other four Shark, goalies would combine for a 6-31-4 record, with a .868 save percentage and a 4.82 GAA. Hackett was arguably the Sharks MVP during their expansion season.
The following season would be a different story. The entire Sharks team would take a step backwards. All the way back to being considered one of the worst teams ever in the history of the NHL. The Sharks finished the season in last place overall with an 11-71-2 record for 24 points. Hackett lost 30 games while only winning two. He holds the record for least wins while losing 30+ games in a season. He also has the second worst winning percentage in a single season, .076, of any goalie would played 20+ games in a season. Worst is Michel Belhumeur, .056.
One of the lowlights during the 1992-93 season was a 13-1 pounding of the San Jose Sharks by the Calgary Flames. Six Flames scored 3 or more points that night, including Jeff Reese. Reese's 3 assists are notable since it's the single game scoring record for a goalie.
With the emergence of Arthurs Irbe in San Jose, Hackett was deemed expendable was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for a third round pick. Even though Hackett was on a much better team, his performance continued to be abysmal. Hackett went 2-12-3 in 1993-94. His career record so far, 24-94-6, with a 4.09 GAA. Amazing he was still in the NHL.
He rode the bench for the majority of the 1994-95 lockout shortened season, only appearing in 7 NHL games. His GAA, 2.13, and save percentage, 2.38, took remarkable jumps, which were a sign of things to come. During the 1995-96 season, Hackett had his first winning season, going 18-11-4, and also recorded his first career shutout. He played even better the following season, finishing second in save percentage, .927, and vastly outplayed the Hawks #1 goalie, and future HHOFer, Ed Belfour. Belfour did not appreciate Hackett's success and reportedly was a bit of a bully towards Hackett. With Hackett's excellent play, Belfour's attitude and contract demands, The Hawks shopped Belfour around until they found a suitor in Hackett's old team, the San Jose Sharks.
Hackett finally found himself as a #1 goalie on a playoff contending team. While Hackett continued to play well between the pipes, the Hawks could not score. In 1996-97, the Hawks were the second lowest scoring team in the NHL and found themselves out of the play-offs. From 95-96 to 97-98, only Domink Hasek, .927, posted a better save percentage than Hackett, .920, and only Martin Brodeur and Chris Osgood, besting Hackett in GAA.
After a horrendous start to the 1998-99 season for Hackett and the Hawks, the team was on a 10 game winless streak, a six player trade was made with the Montreal Canadiens. The main player heading to the Hawks was Hackett's replacement, Jocelyn Thibault. Hackett's play bounced back and he was the #1 goalie in Montreal until the emergence of Jose Thoedore. By the 2001-02 season, Thoedore had taken over the #1 gig. Hackett watched from the bench as Thoedore won the 2002 Hart and Vezina Trophies. Hackett numbers had sagged over the past two season but he was having a bounce back season as a back-up in 2002-03, even outplaying Theodore. Good enough for the impending unrestricted free agent to be trade bait. Hackett landed in Boston, via San Jose, as part of a three team trade. Joining a stable of Bruins goalies that included 28 year old rookie, Tim Thomas.
Hackett started the play-offs on the bench but started the last three game during a five game series loss to the New Jersey Devils. Hackett only started 10 career play-off games, seven versus Patrick Roy, and three against Martin Brodeur. How's that for drawing the short straw.
Hackett signed with the original goalie graveyard, the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2003-04 season. Hackett began the season with back-to-back shutouts and then posted a third in his ninth game of the season. I am not sure when he first suffered from vertigo, but in his first 17 games, Hackett was 9-2-5 with a .931 Sv% and 1.71 GAA. In his last 11 games, he went 1-8-1 with a .865 Sv% and a 3.44 GAA. He officially retired on February 9th, 2004 due to vertigo.
For Hackett's career is seemed to have a real roller coaster ride. Some abysmal years to begin his career on some abysmal teams. Then he seemed to get it together and actually be one of the best goalies in the NHL in the mid 1990s. By the early 2000s, it seemed he was to fade away, only to have a incredible rebirth in Philadelphia, only to be taken away from him due to his health. His career best single season GAA was 2.16, and his worst was 5.28. That's a whole 3.12 difference. I believe that is modern era record.
So who is Jeff Hackett? A mediocre goalie who lucked into a few good seasons. Or a star goalie who was had a very unlucky start to his career? Is he a star, or a just a player I remember?