September 16, 2014

1990-91: Mario Lifts Stanley Cup

The Three Stars:

Mario Leads Penguins To Stanley Cup - Despite missing the first 50 games with a back injury, Mario Lemieux leads the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first Stanley Cup championship. Aided by newcomers Ron Francis, Ulf Samuelsson and coach Bob Johnson, Lemieux and company dust off the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup final. Lemieux wins the Conn Smythe.

Minnesota Finds Way To San Jose - Amazingly, the North Stars split into two teams after the Gund brothers sell their interests in the team in exchange for a new franchise in San Jose. The Sharks would be primarily built from the North Stars roster. In other news, the NHL also granted expansion franchises to Tampa Bay and Ottawa.

Stevens Signing Causes Controversy - The St. Louis Blues sign restricted free agent defenseman Scott Stevens away from Washington, surrendering five 1st round draft picks as compensation. A year later St. Louis would do the same to New Jersey with Brendan Shanahan, but arbitrators award Stevens to the Devils as compensation.

Season Highlights -
  • Harvard grad and Winnipeg Jets prospect Tod Hartje becomes first North American player ever to play for a Soviet team, joining Sokol Kiev.
  • Two mega trades: Winnipeg and Buffalo agreed to a package that highlight Dale Hawerchuk going to the Sabres and Phil Housley going to the Jets. And Montreal traded Chris Chelios to Chicago for Denis Savard.
  • Jari Kurri leaves the Edmonton Oilers to play in Italy. 
  • Grant Fuhr admits to substance abuse issues in the past, and is suspended for a year by the NHL, though it is later reduced to 60 games.
  • Brett Hull scores 50 goals in 49 games, then adds 36 more to finish with 86 - the most ever by anyone not named Wayne Gretzky. Hull wins the Hart Trophy and Pearson Trophy.
  • Hull's set up man was Adam Oates, who finished with 90 assists and 115 points.
  • Paul Coffey joined Denis Potvin as the only defensemen to score 1000 points in a career.
  • Chicago's rookie goaltender Eddie "The Eagle" Befour took the league by storm, leading the entire league in GAA (2.47), save percentage (.910) and wins (43) while winning the Calder and Vezina trophies.
  • Little Theo Fleury had a big year with 51 goals and 104 points.
  • Wayne Gretzky wins his ninth NHL scoring title in eleven years with 163 points. He also hit milestones for 700 career goals and 2000 career regular season points and won the Lady Byng Trophy.
  • Chris Nilan was definitely no candidate for the Lady Byng. In one game vs Hartford he received a NHL record 10 penalties in one game!
  • Cam Neely had a monstrous year, reaching 51 goals and another 16 in the playoffs before being infamously kneed by Pittsburgh's Ulf Samuelsson. Neely would miss almost the entire following season and his career was never quite the same.

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