We have reached the end of a historic dynasty in professional hockey on NHL Saturday, as this season marks the last Stanley Cup title for the Montréal Canadiens in their four-straight championship run. In fact, in the 40-plus seasons since 1979, Les Habs have won just two more Cups (1986, 1993). With that in mind, enjoy this entry for what it represents.
On with the (ice) show!
1979 Hart: Bryan Trottier (original), Marcel Dionne (revised)
Four forwards dominated the league: New York Islanders right wing Mike Bossy (14.11 Point Shares), Isles center Bryan Trottier (13.55), Canadiens RW Guy Lafleur (13.41), and Los Angeles Kings C Marcel Dionne (13.26). New York topped the NHL standings with 116 points, while Montréal was right behind with 115 points. Meanwhile, the Kings claimed the final postseason slot in the Princes of Wales Conference with 80 points.
Not much separates these four players, and the Isles’ line mates had each other to rely on every shift. Trottier won the Hart vote, but it just as easily could have gone to Bossy. Lafleur has won our last four nods for this award, but unlike in the past, he was not the best player in the league this time out, and that lessens a lot of his value. That leaves us with Dionne.
He led the league in games played (80) and shots on goal (362), while registering 130 points on 59 goals and 71 assists. His plus-22 rating on a team that only outscored its opponents by 6 goals on the season is impressive, as is his mere 30 penalty minutes on a middling team where he probably was targeted a lot as the key cog on the top line. We see more value in Dionne’s season than in any of the other forwards explored above.
1979 Vezina: Ken Dryden & Michel Larocque (original), Mike Palmateer (revised)
The Canadiens goaltender duo of Ken Dryden and Michel Larocque won the Vezina again, but Dryden (12.10) alone topped the NHL in goalie PS, topping Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Mike Palmateer (11.55) and longtime Chicago Black Hawks star Tony Esposito (11.24). But Dryden only registered 47 decisions, while Palmateer notched 57 decisions—and Esposito came in with 63 decisions.
Yet Esposito actually had a losing record (24-28-11) for a team that won the Smythe Division with a losing record (29-36-15), so it’s hard to see true value there. The Maple Leafs finished with 81 points and clinched the fifth playoff berth in the Wales, so Palmateer (26-21-10) had significant value. Obviously, Montréal could have won with anyone in the net, as Larocque’s numbers prove (22-7-4, 2.84 GAA).
Dryden was definitely the best goalie (30-10-7, 2.30 GAA) in the NHL in his final season before retiring, but it didn’t matter who the Canadiens put in the net. Meanwhile, Palmateer wasn’t too far behind in PS, and he was the difference between Toronto making and missing the playoffs.
1979 Norris: Denis Potvin (original, confirmed)
He probably should have won the Hart vote at the time, too, as Islanders defenseman Denis Potvin topped the NHL in PS from the blue line (15.87). That makes it easy to confirm this award, his third in the last four seasons. With 31G, 70A, a plus-71 rating, and 58 PIM, he was doing it all for the New York organization. His 7.31 defensive PS also led the league. Oh, and he did all this in only 73 games, too, by the way.
1979 Calder: Bobby Smith (original, confirmed)
The best three first-year players were Minnesota North Stars center Bobby Smith (6.1 PS), St. Louis Blues right wing Wayne Babych (5.0), and Washington Capitals forward Ryan Walter (4.6). Smith won the vote, although the North Stars missed the Wales Conference playoffs with just 68 points.
The Blues were worse with just 48 points in the Clarence Campbell Conference, and the Caps posted just 63 points in the Wales themselves. We can confirm Smith’s award then, with these uninspiring traditional numbers: 74P and 39 PIM.
1979 Conn Smythe: Bob Gainey (original), Guy Lafleur (revised)
Montréal topped the New York Rangers in five games to win the Cup again, with left wing Bob Gainey winning the Conn Smythe vote based on 16 points in 16 games. Both Lafleur and center Jacques Lemaire notched 23 points to easily outperform Gainey in the postseason.
Dryden was mediocre in net, posting just an .899 save percentage over 16 starts in the playoffs. Rangers goalie John Davidson (11-7, .921 save percentage, 2.28 GAA) was better than Dryden was, for sure, and two New York skaters registered 20 points in 18 games.
This looks like it should be either Lafleur or Lemaire winning this award, in fact, without question. Yes, Gainey had a big goal in Game 4 of the Finals, but … We will give the nod to Lafleur, who had more assists than Lemaire and a higher plus-minus rating as well. This is our first Conn Smythe awarded to him, by the way.