Our NHL Saturday series moves to the 1992 season, when the Pittsburgh Penguins won a second straight Stanley Cup championship. The NHL often has Cup winners who have won before, and here go again after having a few newbies with repeat winners and dominant franchises.
So, keep that context in mind throughout the 1990s here … let’s do this!
1992 Hart: Mark Messier (original), Mario Lemieux (revised)
New York Rangers center Mark Messier (9.9 PS) won the Hart vote although the top 3 forwards in the league outpaced him by a big margin in Point Shares. In truth, the top 3 NHL players overall were not forwards, but even so, Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux (12.39), St. Louis Blues right wing Brett Hull (11.86), and Penguins left wing Kevin Stevens (11.51) all were much better than Messier.
So, how valuable were they to their respective teams’ success? The Rangers posted 105 points to grab the best record in the league, but they had a 26-point cushion for the postseason. New York would have been in the Cup playoffs without Messier. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh only had an 8-point cushion for the postseason, playing in the same division. That automatically makes Lemieux more valuable.
As for the Blues, they had a 16-point postseason cushion, so the issue comes down to both Lemieux and Stevens playing together on the Penguins. Each of them has comparable value; can we choose between them? Not really. With Hull finishing close behind Lemieux overall, we see him as our Hart winner even though he was not the different between the postseason and the offseason. He was still very valuable.
Hull led the NHL in goals (70) again, for the third straight season, but he also topped his peers in even-strength goals (45) and shots on goal (408). But our issue is this: Hull posted a minus-2 rating on a team that finished plus-13 in goal differential. That’s not good. So, we head back to Lemieux by default, really. His 131 points (44G, 87A) were the best in the NHL, and he also put up 94 PIMs and a plus-27 rating.
Considering Pittsburgh, even as the defending champs, only finished plus-35 in goal differential, it’s clear Lemieux had more real value than Stevens did, too (plus-8 ratings and 254 PIMs). So, we give this award to Super Mario in the end. This is his third Hart in our accounts (1988, 1989).
1992 Norris: Brian Leetch (original), Phil Housley (revised)
The top defensemen in the league were Rangers star Brian Leetch (13.18 PS), Winnipeg Jets veteran Phil Housley (11.27), and Boston Bruins legend Ray Bourque (11.24). We know New York had a huge playoff cushion, but what about the Jets or the Bruins? Boston had a 32-point edge for the playoffs, while Winnipeg made it by just 7 points.
So, while Leetch was the best defenseman, Housley was the most valuable, and his PS mark is good enough—in the Top 10 of the league, overall—to warrant this award. Leetch won it here last year, and Bourque has won it three times in this space, but this is Housley’s first nod from us.
His traditional stats: 23G, 63A, and 92 PIMs. At age 27, this was the second-best point total of Housley’s Hall of Fame career as he entered his prime. Remember, he was our pick for the 1983 Calder as well.
1992 Vezina: Patrick Roy (original), Curtis Joseph (revised)
Two goaltenders stood far above the rest during the regular season: Blues youngster Curtis Joseph (14.03 PS) and Montréal Canadiens star Patrick Roy (13.54). In fact, they were the two best players in the NHL during the 1991-1992 regular season.
The Canadiens had a 41-point playoff cushion, though, meaning CuJo is going to take this award away from Roy, the vote winner at the time, since the Blues only had a 16-point margin—and Joseph’s PS mark was better, anyway. This is the third time we’ve stripped Roy of the award (1989, 1990).
In just his third season, CuJo topped his peers in overall saves (1,778), something he would also do the next two seasons. He also notched a career-high 9 assists from the crease as well.
1992 Calder: Pavel Bure (original), Nicklas Lidström (revised)
Three rookies separated themselves from the rest in the NHL: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidström (9.5 PS), Rangers right wing Tony Amonte (6.5), and Vancouver Canucks right wing Pavel Bure (5.7). Because Bure scored 34 goals, he won the Calder vote at the time, but did he deserve it?
Vancouver won the Smythe Division and had 22-point postseason cushion, and we know about the Rangers. As for Detroit, it had a 31-point margin as the winners of the Norris Division. So all things being somewhat equal there, it’s obvious this award should have gone to Lidström as his PS mark was 3.8 PS higher than Bure’s total.
Lidström posted 60 points (11G, 49A), a plus-36 rating, and 22 PIMs, as Detroit started a run of success that would stretch throughout their star rookie’s entire 21-year NHL career.
1992 Conn Smythe: Mario Lemieux (original, confirmed)
The Pens swept the Blackhawks in the Cup Finals, and Lemieux posted 34 points in just 15 games to win the Conn Smythe vote. Pittsburgh needed 21 games to win it all, but he obviously missed some games due to injury. Even so, no one else on the roster registered more 28 points (Stevens, in 21 games). The Penguins went 4-2 without Lemieux and 12-3 with him on the ice.
That’s not a huge difference, so what about the goalie? Tom Barrasso won all 16 games, while losing 5, for Pittsburgh, with a pedestrian .907 S% and a 2.82 GAA. That’s not outstanding enough to top Lemieux’s efforts. So we confirm the vote here, readily.