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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Team Checklists - Adams Division

This is the first of four posts that will feature the team checklists that were included in the 1991-92 Upper Deck series. These cards differ from the standard checklist of names and numbers in that they include great illustrations on the front of the card for a feature player from the team. The illustrator for the cards, Steven R. Cusano, is an artist based on Pennsylvania (not much info exists on him aside from a LinkedIn profile).

The two conference (Wales and Campbell), four division (Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe) organization of the NHL began in the 1974-75 season. The league had expanded to 18 teams with the addition of the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitals. There would be tweaks along the way as teams moved geographic locations, but the set up going into the 1991-92 season had been in place since the 1982-83 season, when the Colorado Rockies began the New Jersey Devils and were moved to the Patrick Division, with the Winnipeg Jets taking their place in the Smythe Division. 1991-92 would see the San Jose Sharks added as the NHL's 22nd franchise, and they would reside in the Smythe Division with other Pacific-based teams.

For our first post we will start with the Adams Division in the Wales Conference. The Wales Conference was named after the Prince of Wales Trophy, which was donated by, wait for it, the Prince of Wales in 1925. The trophy was to be awarded to the NHL champion; the Stanley Cup did exist at the time, but you will recall it was to be awarded to the winner of a playoff between the NHL and the Western Canadian Hockey league. The Prince of Wales himself would go on to be crowned King Edward VIII, but would abdicate the throne in order to a marry a commoner, Wallis Simpson. His legacy would live in in the form of his trophy, which would be eventually awarded to the playoff winner of the conference bearing his name.

The Adams Division is named after the legendary Jack Adams, coach/general manager of the Detroit NHL franchises from 1927 to 1947. Adams would win nine Stanley Cups over his career (which includes a 10-year playing career), and is the only person to win the Cup as a player, coach and general manager. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959 and passed away in 1968, six years before the division bearing his name came into being.

Card # 87 - Montreal Canadiens - Russ Courtnall

In the 1990-91 season the Canadiens finished second in the Adams Division. They defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the division semi-final in six games before dropping the division final to Boston in seven games.

Coached by the late Pat Burns, the Habs won the Adams Division in 1991-92, finishing seven points ahead of Boston. Kirk Muller (36-41-77) and Denis Savard (28-42-70) lead the team in scoring, and forward Guy Carbonneau won his third and final Selke Trophy as best defensive forward. Patrick Roy led the way in goal, boasting a 36-22-8 record, 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage, winning his third Vezina Trophy and third Jennings Trophy.

In the playoffs, the Habs beat the Hartford Whalers in seven games in the division semi-final on the strength of a Russ Courtnall double overtime goal. Much like the previous year, the Canadiens would be defeated by the Bruins in the division final, getting swept 4-0.

During the season, the Habs acquired leading scorer Kirk Muller from New Jersey in exchange for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske. They also traded away highly-touted prospect Andrew Cassels to Hartford for a draft pick they would use to select Valeri Bure.

YouTube clip: player introductions from the home owner for the 1991-92 season. Enjoy a time when player introductions were simply their name and number accompanied by a few notes from an organ, instead of laser light shows. For some real entertainment, skip ahead to 3:50 and check out Pat Burns' hat, sweater, tie combo.

Card # 78: Boston Bruins - Cam Neely

In the 1990-91 season the Bruins had won the Adams Division and would defeat Hartford and Montreal, advancing to the Wales Conference final, where they would lose in six games to the eventual champs, Pittsburgh.

Led by Rick Bowness (current coach for the Dallas Stars, 30 years later), Boston would finish second in the Adams in 1991-92, with a 36-32-12 record. The team would be led in scoring by defenceman Ray Bourque (21-60-81), with Vladimir Ruzicka leading the team in goals with 39. Andy Moog would lead the way in net, sporting a 28-22-9 record to go with a 3.23 goals against average.

The Bruins would start hot in the 1991-92 playoffs, winning three straight games to take a 3-1 series lead in their division semi-final against Buffalo. They would lose games 5 and 6 by a combined score of 11 to three, but come back to win game 7. The division final would go more smoothly, with a sweep of arch-rival Montreal. Boston would be on the wrong end of a sweep in the Wales Conference final, losing for a second year in a row to Pittsburgh. The Bruins were the definition of streaky in these playoffs, putting together three and four game winning streaks, followed by a four game losing streak.

With the Penguins winning their second straight Cup in 1991-92, the Bruins franchise had lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion in four of the five seasons leading up to and including 1991-92 (they twice previously lost to the Oilers in the Cup Finals).

The Bruins made one trade of note during the season, acquiring centre Adam Oates late in the year in exchange for Craig Janney and Stephane Quintal. Oates would go on to lead the team in playoff scoring in 1991-92.

YouTube Clip: a bench-clearing brawl between the Bruins and Detroit Red Wings on November 2, 1991. The Bruins had won 4-1, with the brawl started as a result of scrum at the final whistle between Garry Galley and Alan Kerr. Things seems to settle before the late Bob Probert starts things up as the teams leave this ice.

Card # 79: Buffalo Sabres - Dale Hawerchuk

The Sabres were coming off a 1990-91 season that saw them finish second in the Adams Division and bow out in the division semi-final in six games to the Montreal Canadiens.

1991-92 would see the team backslide a bit, finishing in third in the Adams. Coach Rick Dudley was fired partway through the season, replaced by team GM John Muckler. The team was led in scoring by the player featured on this card, Dale Hawerchuk (23-75-98). The newly-acquired Pat LaFontaine (more on that in a minute) led the team in goals with 46. The Sabres were definitely a high-powered offensive team, as they also boasted Dave Andreychuk (91) and Alex Mogilny (84).

Goaltending was more of a platoon situation, with a three-way split between Daren Puppa (11-14-4), Clint Malarchuk (10-13-3) and Tom Draper (10-9-5). Draper, acquired in the off-season from Winnipeg for a seventh-round pick, would win the starting role by the time the playoffs rolled around.

The Sabres would face the division champion Boston Bruins in the division semi-final and would almost come back from a 3-1 deficit, but would fall in seven games.

As teased earlier, the Sabres did complete a blockbuster trade early in the season, acquiring Pat LaFontaine, Randy Hillier and Randy Wood from the New York Islanders for Benoit Hogue, Uwe Krupp, Dave McLlwain and Pierre Turgeon.

YouTube clip: pregame footage from the Sabres December 20, 1991 game versus Edmonton, featuring an interview with the equipment manager showing off the various helmet modifications made for Pat LaFontaine, who was returning to the lineup from a fractured jaw. The game would end in a 4-4 tie, on the strength of a Tony Tanti hat trick.

Card # 84: Hartford Whalers - John Cullen

1990-91 saw the Whalers finish fourth in the Adams Division, making the playoffs but losing in the division semi-final to the first-place Boston Bruins.

Hartford would start the 1991-92 season with a new coach in Jimmy Roberts, but again would finish fourth in the Adams, this time sporting at 26-41-13 record. Their leading scorer was John Cullen (26-51-77); goaltending duties were split between Kay Whitmore (14-21-6, 3.62 GAA, .880 save percentage) and future expansion draft fodder Peter Sidorkiewicz (9-19-6, 3.34 GAA, .882 save percentage).

The Whalers would again make the playoffs despite having a losing record; this was thanks to having the even worse Quebec Nordiques in the Adams Division. Hartford would give the first place Montreal Canadiens a run for their money, winning Game 6 at home thanks to an overtime goal from Yvon Corriveau. They would fall just short of the upset in Game 7, losing in overtime. That day, May 1, 1992, would mark the last playoff game in Hartford Whalers history as the team would not again qualify for the playoffs before moving to Carolina in 1997.

YouTube clip: Corriveau’s game winner as mentioned above, including the great play-by-play call from Bob Cole.

Card # 93 - Quebec Nordiques - Mats Sundin

1990-91 saw the Nordiques finish last in the Adams Division for the fourth straight season, compiling a 16-50-14 record. This also put the Nords last in the NHL, 11 points behind Toronto.

1991-92 would be marginally better, as the Nordiques would finish last in the Adams again, this time with a 20-48-12 record. The team would start the season with Dave Chambers as coach, but he would be dismissed after winning only 3 of the first 18 games; Pierre Page would take over. Quebec would avoid finishing last in the NHL, thanks to the first-year San Jose Sharks.

For 1991-92 the team was led in scoring by Joe Sakic (29-65-94), and also had young Mats Sundin (33-43-76) and Owen Nolan (42-31-73). Starting goalie duties were split between three tenders: Jacques Cloutier (6-13-3, 3.93 GAA, .876 save percentage) and Stephane Fiset (7-10-2, 3.76 GAA, .890 save percentage). Ron Tugnutt would take over the starting role after being acquired from Edmonton, posting a 6-17-3 record, 4.02 GAA and .890 save percentage.

In addition to acquiring Tugnutt, the Nordiques would also acquire two players at the end of their careers during the 1991-92 season. Prior to the start of the season, they would acquire Guy Lafleur from the Minnesota North Stars (Lafleur would retire before ever lacing up again for Quebec). The second trade saw them acquire John Tonelli from Chicago; the four-time Stanley Cup champ would play 19 games in Quebec before retiring.

YouTube clip: 58 seconds of the Nordiques goal horn/celebration music from the 1991-92 season. Warning: the video does contain Rock n Roll Part Two by Gary Glitter in the background.

The next post will feature the other Wales Conference division, the Patrick Division.

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