NHL Saturday finds itself with a historical season to analyze this week, with the New York Rangers winning their first Stanley Cup title since 1940. They have not won one since, either, so one of the Original Six has gone a very long time with minimal success in chasing Lord Stanley’s prize trophy. That’s just another reason we love the NHL: There’s no big-market bias in it, or else New York would have been allowed a lot more success in recent years.
Let’s see if the Rangers won some awards now, while we’re here …
1994 Hart: Sergei Federov (original, confirmed)
Only one forward finished in the Top 10 overall for Point Shares in the league this season: Detroit Red Wings center Sergei Federov (13.77). The Red Wings topped the Central Division with 100 points, and they had almost a 30-point postseason cushion, but as the only forward to stand out, he won the Hart vote at the time. Are there any other true candidates here?
Sort of? Vancouver Canucks right wing Pavel Bure (12.3), Chicago Blackhawks C Jeremy Roenick (11.3), Boston Bruins C Adam Oates (10.5), and Toronto Maple Leafs C Doug Gilmour (10.4) also cracked double digits in Point Shares among forwards. All those teams would have made the postseason without their stars, as well, so we will confirm Federov’s award.
He led the league in even-strength goals (39), while posting 120 points overall (56G, 64A) to go along with a plus-48 rating and 34 PIMs. Federov also won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL, too, after he posted 2.1 defensive Point Shares—more than any of the guys listed above as contenders for the Hart. His game was solid all over the ice.
1994 Norris: Ray Bourgue (original), Scott Stevens (revised)
Four blueliners cracked the Top 10 overall in Point Shares: Boston Bruins veteran Ray Bourque (13.51), New York Rangers star Brian Leetch (13.27), Calgary Flames stalwart Al MacInnis (13.25), and New Jersey Devils firebrand Scott Stevens (13.21). They were all closely valued, and Bourque took home the vote at the time. Stevens is the only one in this bunch that hasn’t won the award from us here, which is irrelevant. We now have to examine team impact of these four defensemen.
All four teams made the postseason readily, so that’s not a factor here. And the PS numbers are so close, we need to look at DPS for some separation, perhaps: Stevens was best on defense (6.89 DPS), followed by Leetch (6.44) and Bourque (5.73). This makes us more inclined to give Stevens the nod, since the gap between him and everyone else on actual defense was greater than the overall value gap.
Even more ironic is the fact that Stevens never won a Norris nod in real life: He finished in the Top 5 voting a whopping 7 times, though. His overall numbers in this season: a league-best plus-53 rating, a career-high 78 points (18G, 60A), and 112 PIMs. That is good enough for us.
1994 Vezina: Dominik Hasek (original, confirmed)
The three “best” players in the NHL this season, in terms of value, were goaltenders: St. Louis Blues star Curtis Joseph (16.10), Florida Panthers acquisition John Vanbiesbrouck (15.21), and Montréal Canadiens legend Patrick Roy (14.45). Also in the Top 10 overall, however, were Edmonton Oilers veteran Bill Ranford (13.24) and Buffalo Sabres stud Dominik Hasek (13.12). In the vote at the time, Hasek won the award for topping the league in GAA (1.95), save percentage (.930), and shutouts (7).
In fact, this was the first of six straight seasons that Hasek would lead the NHL in save percentage, and he was clearly the best goalie in the league. But was he the most valuable? The Blues had a 20-point cushion for the postseason, while the Panthers missed the playoffs by a single point. Meanwhile, Montréal cruised in, and the Oilers were dreadful, finishing last in the Pacific Division. Buffalo had a 12-point cushion—making Hasek pretty much the most valuable guy here, along with the Beezer.
Vanbiesbrouck did lead the league in a sabermetric category: goals saved above average (55.6), but in the end, it still wasn’t enough to get the Panthers into the Cup playoffs. Meanwhile, Hasek earned his nickname—The Dominator—in his first full season as an NHL starter. We will confirm this award, but it wasn’t as clear cut as people might have thought it would be.
1994 Calder: Martin Brodeur (original), Sandis Ozolinsh (revised)
Two rookies stood out among the bunch, and both played for postseason clubs: San Jose Sharks defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh (11.2 PS) and Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (8.9). The latter won the Calder vote, because … well, we’re not sure. Brodeur joined a team that made the playoffs the year before while Ozolinsh joined a team that was one of the worst in NHL history. Plus, Ozolinsh brought more value to a team that needed the value more to make the postseason.
With the 30-point postseason cushion, the Devils could have still cruised into the Cup playoffs without him. The Sharks made the postseason by 11 points—pretty much the exact same value that Ozolinsh brought to the ice for them. That seals the deal to us, in truth, no pun intended.
His numbers, as San Jose made the playoffs for the first time ever in its third NHL season: 26G, 38A, plus-16 rating on a team that was outscored by 13 goals, and a 16.6-percent shot rate. We always like Brodeur a lot, but he should not have won this vote over Ozolinsh, all things considered.
1994 Conn Smythe: Brian Leetch (original, confirmed)
The Rangers beat the Canucks in 7 games to win the Cup Finals, and Leetch (34 points in 23 games) won the Conn Smythe vote. He was the top scorer on the New York roster, and Leetch also led his teammates in rating (plus-19) during the postseason. The only other Ranger skater to consider is center Mark Messier (30 points and 33 PIMs in 23 games), while N.Y. goaltender Mike Richter was certainly worthy, too (16-7, 2.07 GAA, .921 S%).
What about the Canucks? Bure (31 points and 40 PIMs in 24 games) deserves some notice, as does Vancouver goalie Kirk McLean (15-9, 2.29 GAA, .928 S%). Neither of them outdid their Rangers counterparts, however, so we will stick the N.Y. candidates here. Will it be Leetch or Richter in our books?
In the seven-game matchup with Vancouver, who was better? Leetch, although not by much. He did post 11 points in the Finals, albeit with a minus-1 rating, but Richter’s meltdowns in Games 5 and 6 almost cost the Rangers the Cup, in truth. He gave up 10 goals in those games with the title right there for the taking. That’s not an MVP goalie. We will stick with Leetch, therefore.