This weekend on our NHL Saturday series we see a brief interruption in the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, as they did not win a third Stanley Cup championship—even though they’d come back to win it all in 1987 and 1988 (not to mention 1990, as well). What does that mean for our awards? Well, this is about the regular season, so there’s that.
Let’s see who took home the hardware in 1986 …
1986 Hart: Wayne Gretzky (original, confirmed)
Edmonton center Wayne Gretzky won another Hart vote, as he finished more than 5 Point Shares higher (16.99) than the next-best forward in the league, his Oilers linemate/right wing Jari Kurri (11.80). There’s little debate here, since no other forward really was playing at the Great One’s level, at all, as Edmonton posted the best record in the league with 119 points. Yes, it was a loaded team, but Gretzky was just that good.
We confirm his award, making this is seventh Hart from us—breaking a tie with all-time great Phil Esposito, who won this award from us in six of the first seven years we analyzed (starting in 1968). For the record, Gretzky set two all-time records this season, which still stand today: most assists (163) and most points (215) in a season.
He also topped the NHL in shots on goal (350), although the rest of his numbers were just pedestrian compared to prior seasons. The assists and points totals indicate the quality of the rest of his team, of course, as reflected by Kurri’s PS total and the Norris winner (below).
1986 Norris: Paul Coffey (original)
Oilers defenseman Paul Coffey finished second overall in the NHL for Point Shares (16.09), outdistancing the second-best blueliner (Philadelphia Flyers star Mark Howe) in the league by more than 1.5 points. As the Flyers finished with 110 points, it’s clear Coffey’s play was significant in helping Edmonton to the best record in the league.
Howe topped the NHL in plus/minus rating (+87), while Coffey led the league in short-handed goals (9) while notching 120 PIMs at the same time. Howe was more of a traditional defenseman, and Coffey posted 11.0 offensive PS. Is the 1.5 gap in PS enough to overcome the fact Howe notched 8.8 defensive PS?
Coffey was still a Top 10 dPS blueliner, so we can’t hold it against him that he was so dominant on offense, too. With 90 assists and 138 points—plus a career-best 15.6 shot percentage—we will confirm Coffey’s vote win for the Norris Trophy, but it was closer than we thought it would be. This is Coffey’s second consecutive nod here, too.
1986 Vezina: John Vanbiesbrouck (original, confirmed)
Four goaltenders reached double digits in Point Shares: Minnesota North Stars veteran Don Beaupre (11.13), New York Islanders youngster Kelly Hrudey (10.98), New York Rangers phenom John Vanbiesbrouck (10.04), and Buffalo Sabres star Tom Barrasso (10.03). The first two finished in the NHL’s Top 10 overall for Point Shares, while Vanbiesbrouck won the Vezina vote.
The North Stars posted 87 points to make the Campbell Conference playoffs, while Islanders posted 90 points and the Rangers posted 78 points to make the Wales Conference playoffs from the Patrick Division. The Sabres earned 80 points in the Adams Division of the Wales, but they missed the postseason due to the format at the time (top four teams in each division). What do we make of this?
The format is what it is, so we have to factor it into the mindset of the time: The Rangers made the postseason by just 2 points, while the Isles and the North Stars had plenty of cushion. That makes Vanbiesbrouck’s efforts all the more valuable, in truth: He played in 61 games and won a league-high 31 times. His backup won just 5 times in 23 games, so clearly Beezer deserved this trophy. The Rangers miss the postseason without him, period.
1986 Calder: Gary Suter (original), Kjell Dahlin (revised)
The top three rookies were Calgary Flames defenseman Gary Suter (8.0 PS), Montréal Canadiens right wing Kjell Dahlin (5.5 PS), and Toronto Maple Leafs utility man Wendel Clark (3.1 PS). Suter won the vote at the time, posting 68 points and 141 PIMs to have a serious impact for a playoff team.
The Flames posted 89 points to easily make the postseason, while the Canadiens totaled 87 points in the tight Adams Division to claim a spot by just a few of points. The Maple Leafs stunk (57 points), but they still claimed a playoff berth by 17 points in the weak Norris Division of the Campbell.
Calgary still would have cruised into the postseason without Suter, in truth, while Montréal probably would not have made it without Dahlin’s contributions. That sticks out to us here, so … Suter may have been the better player, but Kahlin had the greater impact as a rookie with his stats (71 points in 77 games). We revise this award, accordingly.
1986 Conn Smythe: Patrick Roy (original, confirmed)
The Canadiens won the Cup Finals, 4-1, over the Flames, winning three one-goal games, and the Montréal goalie, Patrick Roy, won the Smythe vote for posting a 15-5 record in the playoffs with a stunning 1.93 GAA and a .923 S%. Considering the overall NHL averages for the regular season were 3.96 and .872, respectively, it’s clear Roy was outstanding. He literally may have stolen the Cup for the Canadiens.
Just for comparison’s sake, the two Calgary goaltenders totaled a 12-10 record with a 3.01 GAA and .893 S% for the postseason. With no skater from either team posting more than a point per game, it’s easy to confirm Roy’s vote win and label this as one of the most dominant postseason runs ever for a goalie in NHL history.
And we hate the guy, personally: But when he was good? He was damn good.