We have reached the last year of the explosive 1980s on NHL Saturday today, and we will start to see a change soon in the statistics, as goaltenders got better, and defense played a bigger role in winning the Stanley Cup. Also, the Calgary Flames won the league title, after years of a few teams just handing the hardware around among themselves. Remember, since we started this whole thing, only 5 teams had won Lord Stanley’s prize.
On with the final season from the decade of excess!
1989 Hart: Wayne Gretzky (original), Mario Lemieux (revised)
Four forwards finished in the top 8 for Point Shares, starting with last year’s Hart winner, Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux (19.56). Behind him were Detroit Red Wings center Steve Yzerman (14.37), Los Angeles Kings center Wayne Gretzky (14.13), and Flames right wing Joe Mullen (11.01). These guys are all Hall of Famers, by the way, and Gretzky won the vote for his impact with his new team out West.
With that huge gap in PS, though, it’s hard not to immediately just hand this award to Lemieux for our second time in a row. Gretzky’s vote win was symbolic, really: The Kings improved by 23 points in the standings, and most of that was the Great One’s doing. The Pens posted 87 points while being outscored overall, however. But in terms of playoff cushion, Lemieux and Yzerman were the most valuable guys.
So, we take this award away from Gretzky to give to Lemieux, who was robbed by this vote at the time. It was the best season of Super Mario’s career, too, as he topped the NHL in goals (85), assists (114), points (199), power-play goals (31), and short-handed goals (13). The 199 points were career best as well. He would repeat the feat of leading the league in those same 5 categories again in 1996, by the way.
1989 Norris: Chris Chelios (original), Paul Coffey (revised)
Three defensemen stood out, starting with Montréal Canadians stalwart Chris Chelios (11.47 PS), followed by Flames rock Al MacInnis (11.11) and Penguins veteran Paul Coffey (10.96). Chelios won the vote, but all three players were very evenly rated, as you can see via the PS marks. So, how did each of their teams fare?
The Canadiens and the Flames were the only squads to finish with over 100 points in the standings. Pittsburgh had the smallest playoff cushion, by far, so we’re inclined to look at Coffey when the individual value is so close. Yet the Pens also had Lemieux in terms of value, so does that impact Coffey’s street cred here? Not at all, because Calgary and Montréal were stellar teams, while Pittsburgh may have been a two-skater squad, in truth.
So, we go with Coffey on this one, after he moved from Edmonton to his new team. His traditional stats: 30G, 83A, and a whopping 195 PIM. Without him, it’s possible the Pens might have missed the postseason. This is his third Norris from us, as well (1985, 1986), but the first that he didn’t win the vote as well.
1989 Vezina: Patrick Roy (original), Ron Hextall (revised)
Montréal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy won the Vezina vote, despite finishing with the fifth-best PS mark (9.28) at his position, for a team that finished with a 54-point playoff cushion. We have a hard time seeing value there to warrant him keeping this award, in truth. So, now what? Being the “best” doesn’t win this award in our minds.
The four “more valuable” goalies were Philadelphia Flyers star Ron Hextall (11.69), Kings journeyman Kelly Hrudey (10.84), Minnesota North Stars youngster Jon Casey (10.47), and Pittsburgh acquisition Tom Barrasso (9.42). Hextall won our Calder in 1987, while Hrudey split time with the New York Islanders during the year, and Barrasso split time with the Buffalo Sabres as well.
In terms of value in relation to playoff cushion, we’re looking at Casey and Hextall, in truth, as they made the biggest impact on their respective teams’ postseason pushes:
- Casey: 18-17-12, 3.06 GAA, .900 S%
- Hextall: 30-28-6, 3.23 GAA, .891 S%
Casey was better, sabermetrically, but he played in 9 fewer games than Hextall did. How did Casey’s backup fare, however? Kari Takko posted an 8-15-4 mark, with a much higher GAA (3.48) and a slightly worse save percentage (.899). That’s significant to us. Hextall’s second, Mark LaForest, posted a 5-7-2 record with an .871 S% and a 4.12 GAA. The Flyers had to play Hextall more, obviously.
Philadelphia had the better team, overall, and Hextall put that team on his back, as well. Casey played better than Hextall did, but his backup wasn’t as bad as the Flyers second stringer. This is close, so we will default to the PS marks above, and so we give this award to Hextall after we took it away from him two seasons ago.
1989 Calder: Brian Leetch (original, confirmed)
The top 3 rookies included two guys on the same team: New York Rangers blue liner Brian Leetch (9.0 PS) and right wing Tony Granato (5.4). The third man was Vancouver Canucks right wing Trevor Linden (4.5). Normally, the two teammates might cancel each other out, but Leetch was just so much better, that it is hard not to confirm his Calder vote win.
He posted 23 goals, 48 assists, 50 PIM, and a plus-8 rating for a team that only outscored its opponents by 3 total goals overall on the season. His 3.6 defensive PS mark was also pretty solid for a rookie on a playoff team.
1989 Conn Smythe: Al MacInnis (original, confirmed)
The Flames topped the Canadiens in the Cup Finals over six games, and MacInnis won the Conn Smythe vote for posting 31 points in 22 games (7G, 24A) to go along with 46 PIM. But goalie Mike Vernon deserved some credit, too, posting a 16-5 record with a 2.26 GAA and a .905 S%. The backup lost one game, posting a 6.00 GAA and an .800 S%, actually. So there’s credit to go around here for Calgary.
Roy was even better for Montréal in net, actually, as no Canadiens skater posted a point per game. But Roy went 13-6 with a 2.09 GAA and a .920 S% while his backup was 1-1 with a 3.38 GA and an .870 S% as well. Why did Roy not start those two games? Perhaps if he had, Roy might have had better claim to this piece of hardware.
In the six Finals games, no team scored more than 4 goals in any single game, so it was a battle of these goaltenders. Roy outplayed Vernon, in truth, so we will stick with MacInnis for his overall leadership and production for the champs.