JNFFT: Essensa vs Reddick vs Berthiaume vs Khabibulin

If you thought the Three-Way Match between three Jets 2.0 grinders was something, check out our Friday Fatal Four-Way featuring four 1.0 era goaltenders.

The truth is Jets goaltending in the 80’s and 90’s was ok, but Winnipeg has never enjoyed a true superstar presence in net like they did at forward or defense. The history in goal for Jets is spotty and checkered with some pretty average goaltending and some the strangest/coolest names in teams history.


Long before the 2.0 Jets tried a two-headed young goalie duo, the 1.0 era saw both Eldon “Pokey” Reddick and Daniel Berthiaume debut with the Winnipeg Jets in the 1986-87 season. The Jets had just traded Brian Hayward to Montreal for Steve Penny and while Penny never did fully recover from the major injury he suffered in January 1986 (which paved the way for a young Patrick Roy in Montreal) the Jets didn’t make out to badly with the new duo billed as “Pokey and the Bandit”

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Reddick got the majority of starts, going 21-21-4 with a .881 save percentage and a 3.24 GAA. Berthiaume meanwhile went 18-7-3 with a .885 save percentage and a 3.18 GAA. Both goalies were considered Vezina candidates – Reddick actually placed fourth in Vezina voting that season while Berthiaume gained Rookie of the Month honors from the NHL in January 1987. Both goalies continued to mind the net for the Jets for the next two seasons. Pokey could never quite match the level of play he had in his first season with the Jets going 9-13-3 with an .857 save percentage and then 11-17-7 with an .873 percentage. Daniel meanwhile did have a solid sophomore season as he grabbed more of a starters role, going 22-19-7 and a .882 save percentage. In his third season, Berthiaume struggled big time going 0-8-0 in nine games as he also spent some time in the minors. The frustrations seemingly boiled over as Berthiaume allegedly swore at kids who were seeking his autograph and was promptly traded to the Minnesota North Stars in 1990.

He was actually traded back to Winnipeg in 1992 by the Bruins, but Berthiaume was released before he could even play another minute with the Jets.

While Pokey and The bandit was becoming a bit of a memory, the Jets had turned their attention to Bob Essensa who the team drafted in the fourth round of the 1983 Draft. Essensa made his debut with the Jets in the 88-89 season and was slowly given a larger load to carry. He played in 20 games in his first season and then started taking over number one goal duties the following season when he played in 36 games and collected a 18-9-5 record with an .892 save percentage and was named to the 1990 NHL All-Rookie team. Essensa during in his time with Winnipeg could have been considered a tier two type goalie in the NHL – not exactly a superstar but good enough to keep his team in games most nights and he was constantly in the NHL’s top ten for save percentage. The 91-92 season was by far his best as he posted a league leading five shutout, was a finalist for the 1993 Vezina Trophy and even gathers some MVP consideration.

The Jets traded him to Detroit in 1994 along with Sergei Bautin in exchange for Tim Cheveldae and Dallas Drake.

Part of the reason for that trade was because the Jets had yet another young prospect that looked like a sure fire lock to take over starting duties. Nikolai Khabibulin was drafted in the ninth round of the 1992 Draft by the Jets and made his debut with the team during the 1994-95 season. The following year he earned the team’s number one starters spot and put up some great numbers as he went 26-20-3 with a 3.13 GAA and a .908 save percentage.

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Fans quickly dubbed the Russian goalie “The Boulin Wall” a moniker that stuck with him as the team moved south to Arizona and as he moved on to win a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay in 2004

His time in Winnipeg was cut off entirely too soon, but Jets fans literally couldn’t stop singing his praises in the team’s final season in Manitoba…


Which Jets 1.0 goalie is your go-to?

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