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March 8, 2014
LCS Top 100: 40-31
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
Knocked for his skating and work ethic, Hull rounded into a pretty solid all-around player late in his career. Despite the personal squabbles between the two men, Mike Keenan seemed to have a profound influence on Hull during Iron Mike's brief stint in St. Louis, convincing Hull to backcheck and even take the body on occasion. The defensive apprenticeship continued under Ken Hitchcock in Dallas, and Hull was instrumental in helping the Stars win the Stanley Cup in 1999, scoring the Cup-clinching goal in overtime to slay the Sabres. And, yes, his skate is still in the crease. Three years later, Hull won a second Cup, this time with the filthy Red Wings. Hull skated with two kids named Datsyuk and Zetterberg and led all playoff scorers with 10 goals.
Hull always found the soft spots in a defense, drifting away from the puck and then appearing at just the right time to blister a shot into the net. Among his many scoring exploits, Hull owned a 50-in-50 season and 33 career hat tricks. He formed a lethal combination with center Adam Oates, who seemed to share a telepathic connection with The Golden Brett. Yet the Blues still played hardball with Oates on a new contract, shipping him off to Boston after only two-plus years with Hull and ruining perhaps the best scoring connection in NHL history. We'll never know how many more 70-goal seasons, or hits like "Maneater," Hull & Oates could have produced. Thanks, Blues. Thanks a heap. Jerks.
Perreault recorded two 100-point seasons, three 40-goal campaigns, and averaged 1.11 points per game for his career, but numbers hardly tell the tale. He lifted fans from their seats on a nightly basis, orchestrating one thrilling rush after another. And his production never fell off in the postseason, where he maintained a 1.14 points-per-game average and led the Sabres to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in franchise history.
While known for his fierce competiveness, Clarke was an exceptional playmaker, setting the table for the likes of Bill Barber and Reggie Leach. He posted two 89-assist seasons and eclipsed 60 helpers on four other occasions. Clarke was the first player from an expansion team to reach 100 points, registering 104 in 1973. He'd go on to have two more 100-point seasons, with his best year coming in 1975-76 when he finished with 30 goals, 119 points, and a plus-83.
Clarke wasn't a natural goal-scorer. He managed to crack 30 goals four times, with a career-high 37 in 1973, but he had to scratch and claw for every one of them. The same tenacity made him a tremendous defensive center as well. Clarke never had a minus season and finished his career with a plus-506 to go along with one Selke Trophy. Clarke's true greatness came in his leadership, work ethic, and intense desire to win. He'd stop at nothing, even Gillooly-ing Kharlamov's ankle.
Thanks to his lethal partnership with Mike Bossy, Trottier notched six 100-point seasons and five 40-goal campaigns, bagging a career-high 50 goals in 1982. His best season came in 1979 when he scored 47 goals, tallied a league-leading 87 assists, and won the Art Ross with a career-high 134 points. If that wasn't enough, he also finished a career-high plus-76 and captured the Hart Trophy.
During New York's run of four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, Trottier claimed one Conn Smythe, led the playoffs in scoring twice, and recorded 37 goals and 107 points in 75 games. Trottier finished his career winning two more Cups with Pittsburgh, bringing his veteran leadership and guile to the high-scoring Penguins.
Oh, and he's one hell of a trash talker.
From 1931 to 1936, Conacher led the league in goals five times in a span of six years, going for more than 30 goals on four occasions. And remember, this was in the days of 48-game schedules. He also led the league in points twice, with 52 in 1934 and 57 in 1935. Conacher captured his lone Stanley Cup in 1932, leading the Leafs with six goals in seven playoff games.
Go back and watch games featuring those great Oiler squads. Talk all you want about Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, and the rest, Coffey is the one who leaps off the screen. He was spectacular. There's never been a faster, more effortless skater than Coffey. He glided past opponents with shocking ease, seeming to accelerate without even taking a stride.
Nicknamed The Doctor for how he operated off the ice, Coffey passed with surgical precision, making a career out of springing the likes of Mario Lemieux for breakaways. While he didn't have a bomb from the point, Coffey's shot was always on net. And thanks to his skating, Coffey got an inordinate amount of chances from in tight off the rush. He was like a fourth forward. A really, really fast fourth forward.
Coffey's stats are ridiculous. He posted eight 20-goal seasons, including totals of 24, 29, 29, 29, 30, 37, 40, and 48, which broke Bobby Orr's record for most goals in a season by an NHL defenseman. Coffey cracked 100 points five times, reaching a career-high 138 in 1986. His overwhelming offensive production won him three Norris Trophies. But that third one didn't come in Edmonton or Pittsburgh. He won his last Norris with Detroit in 1995, scoring 14 goals and 58 points in just 45 games during the lockout-shortened schedule.
He may not have been a punishing hitter or an intimidating presence in front of the net, but Coffey's speed allowed him to chase down pucks and disrupt plays that normal men could never reach. His hockey smarts also made him an exceptional mentor for young defenders like Rob Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom, who both benefited from Coffey's knowledge.
Lindsay skated the left wing for Sid Abel and Gordie Howe on Detroit's legendary Production Line. In 1948, Lindsay led the NHL with 33 goals, one of his four career 30-goal efforts. Two years later, Lindsay took the overall scoring crown with 78 points in 69 games. He spent his first 13 years with the Red Wings, winning four Stanley Cups and being named a 1st-Team All-Star eight times. Lindsay's best season came in 1956-57 when he totaled 30 goals and a career-high 85 points. Little did he realize it would be his last in the Motor City.
See, Lindsay was instrumental in forming the NHLPA, which didn't go over so well with his boss, Detroit GM Jack Adams. Even though he was team captain, Lindsay hadn't spoken to Adams in three years. Before the 1957-58 season, Adams got revenge, trading Lindsay to Chicago. While he never matched his previous scoring totals, Lindsay's leadership helped transform the Hawks from the league doormat into a playoff contender. Lindsay hung up his skates in 1960, just one year before Chicago sipped from the Cup, but he came out of retirement to join the Red Wings for the 1964-65 season, registering 14 goals, 28 points, and 173 penalty minutes as a 39-year-old.
Sadly, Morenz's career, and life, came to a tragic end in 1937 when he suffered a horrific injury against the Chicago Blackhawks, crashing into the boards and breaking his leg in four places. When doctors told him he would never play hockey again, Morenz slipped into a deep depression. He died only weeks later of an apparent heart attack.
"Hockey was Howie's life," said Morenz's teammate Aurel Joliat. "When he realized he would never play again, he couldn't live with it. I think Howie died of a broken heart."
Hard to get happy after that one.
As a goaltender, Sawchuk crouched low and relied on quick reflexes to turn aside pucks. He barely wore equipment, only resorting to a mask after catching a Bobby Hull slapper flush in the face. But Sawchuk seemed to feed off pain, continuing to challenge shooters despite a continually bruised and battered body. In a sport synonymous with courage, Sawchuck was f'n Braveheart.