FanPost

Toronto Maple Leafs: Year in Review 1992-1993


Record: 44-29-9 and 3rd in the Norris Division making the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. Their 99 points was a franchise best at the time. *The record is not a typo, for the first time ever the NHL used an 84 game schedule. The regular season had been 80 games since the start of the 1974-75 season.


Playoffs: Toronto upset Detroit in 7 games in the first round. They then beat St. Louis in the second round before losing in 7 games to LA in the conference finals. (It was a wild freakin’ ride!)


Special Teams: PP 17.5% (16th); PK 80.9% (11th)


GF: 288 (16th)

GA: 241 (2nd - only Chicago allowed fewer goals)

Difference: +47


1992 First Draft Choice: (C) Brandon Convery 8th overall


1992 Best Prospect at the time: Convery was a big (6’1", 195lb) center who scored 40 goals in 44 games with the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves during his draft year.


Coach: Pat Burns

GM: Cliff Fletcher



Cliff Fletcher had a busy summer trying to build off a successful second half of the 91-92 season. First he hired former Jack Adams winner Pat Burns. Fletcher also made several trades, two on draft day all including picks. First, one trade with the Islanders and then later another one with the Capitals. At the end of it, Toronto got the 8th, 23rd, 32nd and 95th picks at the ‘92 draft. Picks the Leafs gave up ended up becoming future hard nosed, body crushing defenseman Darius Kasparaitis and future Vezina winner, Jim Carey. But for Fletcher, he got the player he wanted to draft and that was Convery. Adding to his defensive depth, Fletcher also acquired 25 year old defensively minded (D) Sylvain Lefebvre from Montreal just before the season began.


As big as the offseason was, the 1992-93 season will always be fondly remembered by Leafs fans as the season the Passion Returned. Everyone was anxious to see what Gilmour could do in a full season and not only did he not disappoint, he created some of the best memories Leafs fans will ever have. Gilmour produced a phenomenal, franchise record breaking season in 92-93. "Killer" was just a beast. He was always all over the ice, conducting play, controlling the offensive zone, working the boards, hitting, back checking like his butt was on fire and very creative with the puck. Every time he was on the ice, he was a treat to watch. Listed at just 5’11" and 177lbs, Gilmour played like he was 6’ 4" and 220lbs. He set a franchise record 6 assists (5 of them primary assists) in one game during a 6-1 beating of the North Stars on Feb 13/93. He scored a franchise single season record 127pts and finished 8th in league scoring (an unbeatable, 21 players scored 100+ points this season). He was runner-up for the Hart Trophy (Mario Lemieux was the clear, and very deserving winner), but Gilmour did win the Selke by a landslide and he was just edged out by Pat LaFontaine for the season ending 2nd All-Star team centre.


The 92-93 season started out pretty well. Toronto was 9-5-3 midway through November. That month, Fletcher traded for former 30 goal scorer, 28 year old (C) John Cullen from Hartford. Cullen scored 41pts in 47gp with the Leafs after the trade.


Toronto endured a rough December, winning just 4 of their 13 games, including an 8-0 shutout loss to the Rangers in New York. But just like the previous year, the Leafs improved in January. Toronto started 1993 by getting 19 of a possible 28 points in the month and then, another big trade happened.


On February 2/93, Fletcher traded away (G) Grant Fuhr and a 5th round pick in 1995 to Buffalo for former 2 time 40 goal scorer (LW) Dave Andreychuk, former All-Star and Vezina runner-up Daren Puppa plus a 1st round pick at the ‘93 draft. Just like he had 13 months earlier with the Flames, Cliff Fletcher robbed the Sabres in another one sided trade.


Andreychuk and Gilmour were a perfect match. Dougie was the leader and playmaker while Dave was the big man in front of the net finisher. Andreychuk lit it up in a Leafs sweater scoring 25 times in just 31 games. Combining his half season in Buffalo and half season in Toronto, Andreychuk scored a career best 54 goals in 92-93.


What made Fuhr available for trade was the sensational play of 21 year old Felix Potvin. "The Cat" led the NHL with a 2.50 GAA. His incredible .910SA% was underscored by his many, many inhuman saves. It felt like every kid in Ontario was Felix Potvin when they played road hockey (including my friends and I). He was second, only to Gilmour as the hottest thing on ice in town. Potvin would make the All Rookie Team, be a Calder finalist and finish 4th in Vezina voting in 1993. Fuhr only played 64 games over 3 seasons in Buffalo before they let him go.


Shortly after the trade with the Sabres, the Leafs went on a 10 game unbeaten streak (9-0-1) and had a 20-9-3 record the rest of the way.


Coupled with the great trades and Gilmour’s career year, rookie (RW) Nikolai Borschevsky came out of nowhere to score 34 goals and 74 points. Glen Anderson had another 20+ goal season, and Toronto had two x 40 point players from the blueline (Dave Ellett 40pts and a career high 43pts from Todd Gill).


For the first time since the 1978-79 season, Toronto scored more goals than they allowed. They also made the playoffs and were about to take Leafs Nation (and the whole hockey world) on an incredible and unforgetting playoff trip.



PLAYOFFS


The NHL playoff format in 1993 saw the top 4 teams in each of the 4 divisions make the postseason. The division winner would face the 4th placed team from the same division while the 2nd and 3rd placed teams would meet. The Leafs 99 points was good enough for 3rd in the "Chuck" Norris Division in 1993. The Detroit Red Wings finished the year with 103 points, finishing 2nd in the division. This would be the 23rd all time playoff matchup between these long time rivals. The last time they met was in 1988 when the Wings won in 6 games.


The key head to head battle would be focused on the two superstars, Doug Gilmour and Steve Yzerman. The Detroit captain was coming off his 6th straight 100+ point season, this time "Stevie Y" filled the net with 58 goals and 137pts, finishing 4th in NHL scoring. The Wings offence was best in the league, scoring 369 times. Dino Ciccarelli had 41, Sergei Fedorov and Paul Ysebaert each scored 34, Ray Sheppard had 32 and Jimmy Carson scored 25. There were 6 future HHOFers in the Wings lineup to start the 1993 playoffs.


The first two games at the Joe made it look like a sweep for Detroit. The Red Wings beat the Leafs 6-3 in game 1 and 6-2 in game 2. Yzerman had 3 goals and 5 points. Tim Cheveldae had a .902SA. Gilmour had 2 goals and 3 points while Felix Potvin sported a hideous .809SA. Special teams were winning this series. Through two games, Detroit had 4PPG and 2SHG.


Toronto buckled up and won both games at home. Rob Pearson scored the winner midway through the 3rd period in game 3 and Dave Andreychuk scored the winner in game 4. Gilmour registered 4 apples at home while Yzerman was held pointless in Toronto. Felix was the hero in game 3, making 34 saves. The Leafs are down 3-0 in the series if not for Potvin’s play between the pipes. In fact, Potvin mustered a .934SA at home while Cheveldae slipped to a .886SP. Toronto only allowed 1 PPG and 0 SHG over the 3rd and 4th games.


Game 5 in Detroit is a very memorable one for Leafs fans. Down 4-1 in the 2nd, Toronto came storming back. Dave Ellett scored a pair and Captain Clark tied the game just past the halfway mark of the 3rd period. Just 125 seconds into overtime, Mike Foligno fired one in the slot through the legs of Cheveldae, winning the game and giving the Leafs a 3-2 series lead. Both goalies had trouble in game 5, Cheveldae especially. He allowed 5 goals on only 21 shots. No way the Leafs win this game without Detroit’s poor goaltending helping out.


Detroit gave all Leafs fans a huge, "screw you" in game 6 in Toronto. The Wings wiped the floor with the Leafs, winning 7-3. Dino scored a hat trick, Paul Coffey scored a goal and 3 assists. The Wings scored 4PPG and 2SHG in game 6 alone!


Back to the Motor City for do or die game 7. The home team is up 3-2 when Dougie puts the team on his back. Already with 2 assists, Gilmour scored the tying goal with less than 2 minutes to go in the game, forcing overtime. Then it was the rookie, Nikolai Borschevsky, who tipped in the Bob Rouse point shot, past Cheveldae’s right pad and into the net for the series winner. "THIS HAS BEEN AN UNBELIEVABLE TURN OF EVENTS!" - Bob Cole, HNIC. Gilmour kept the puck in at the Detroit blue line and made the play to Rouse, meaning Gilmour was in on every Toronto goal in game 7. Big players come through in big games! He finished the series with 3 goals and 12 points. His counterpart (Yzerman) scored only 2 points over games 3-7.




Toronto paired up with St. Louis for the Norris Division final. The Blues had upset the Campbell Conference champion Blackhawks in the first round. Curtis Joseph was the talk of the hockey world as he stoned the Hawks, stopping 134 of 140 shots and a .954SA as the Blues swept the series. Every Leaf fan knew beating the Blues red hot goalie was the only way to move on.


The Leafs and Blues had last met in the playoff in 1990 when the Blues pushed aside the Leafs in 5 games.


Game 1 in Toronto is one of the best hockey games I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s burned into my memory. While watching it live, I just knew I was witnessing an instant classic. The Leafs poured 63 shots on "Cujo" but he was nearly unbeatable. Once again, Gilmour was the hero. In double overtime, Dougie had the puck behind the Blues net, faked one way then did a Bobby Orr spin-o-rama to wrap the puck in on the other side. The roof on Maple Leaf Gardens came unglued!

In game 2, Cujo stood on his head again. He made 57 saves and defenceman Jeff Brown scored early in the 2nd overtime period, tying the series. Joseph’s incredible work still gets all the attention today (as it should) but Felix was no slouch. Potvin earned a .961SA through the first two games.


Joseph was downgraded from superhero to just hero in game 3 in St. Louis. He only had to make 34 saves and the Blues won 4-3. Toronto tied the series at 2 with a 4-1 win in game 4 and followed that up with a 5-1 win in game 5. But Cujo and the Blues weren’t done yet. Joseph stopped 40 of 41 Toronto shots in game 6 and again it was Jeff Brown who scored the winner, taking the series to the limit.


St. Louis put everything they had on the table in game 6 leaving nothing in the tank for game 7. In front of their home crowd, Toronto hammered the Blues 6-0. Andreychuk opened the scoring with his 11th of the playoffs and breaking Lanny McDonald’s club record for goals in a single playoff year. Another playoff memory burn is when Wendel Clark scored 2 goals in game 7 and nearly took Cujo’s head off with a bullet shot that ripped the goalie’s mask off his head! Despite getting lit up on the scoreboard and taking a massive shot to the head, Joseph didn’t stay down for a second. He skated, maskless, into the corner, picked up his bucket and went back to work. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.


Toronto outshot St. Louis 299-213 in the series and even after giving up 6 in game 7, Cujo still authored a .930SA in the series. This was the first year of Joseph’s many unbelievable playoff series performances, but we’ll get more into that when we cover the late 90s and early 2000s.


Again it was Gilmour leading the way with 3 goals and 10 points in the series. He had already set a new franchise record for most points in a single playoff year with 22, breaking Darryl Sittler’s record.





Now onto the last ever Clarence Campbell Conference Final. Toronto and Leafs Nation was white hot with playoff excitement. The Leafs playoff run was the biggest topic in my 15 year old world. Like Toronto, the LA Kings had also finished 3rd in their division during the season. LA only had 88 points in 92-93, but Luc Robitallie enjoyed a career year with 63 goals and 125 points. Tony Granato also scored a career best 82pts. Jari Kurri was still a point a game player. Tomas Sandstrom scored 25 goals in only 39 games. And Wayne Gretzky missed nearly half the season but still contributed 65pts in 45gp.


LA had upset both Calgary and Vancouver in 6 games each, winning the Smythe Division. Toronto and LA had met twice previously in the playoffs. Both in the 70s and the Leafs won both times.


Again, game 1 was an instant classic. "Killer" was at the top of his game. He scored twice and added two assists in a 4-1 Leafs win. Gilmour was a pit-bull too, hitting, scrumming, battling, it was his best game of the playoffs. But game 1 is also remembered for the big fight. Late in the game, Marty McSorley caught Dougie cutting into the middle and laid him out with a good, hard hit. Wendel Clark immediately jumped in and the two heavyweights dropped the mitts. Clark pounded McSorley, cutting him badly. Fortunately, Gilmour was just fine. It was the topic in everyone’s mouth the next day at school. It felt like my entire high school had watched the game and everyone was thrilled with the news.


Sandstrom fired a laser late in the 3rd to win game 2 for LA and the Kings scored 2 shorties to win 3, grabbing a quick 2-1 series lead. Despite giving up a pair of PPG in game 4, Toronto doubled up the Kings 4-2 to square the series heading back home.


The Kings were up 2-0 in game 5, but the Leafs came from behind, forcing overtime. This time the hero was Glen Anderson who batted home his own rebound, winning the game. Anderson’s goal would not have been possible without Felix Potvin. "The Cat" made 41 stops and saved the Leafs bacon after falling down 2-0 late in the 2nd period. Toronto was just 1 win away from a Stanley Cup birth and we all could taste it. The excitement was almost too much to bear.


Game 6 was in LA, The Great Western Forum. The Kings were up 4-2 after 40 when Wendel went to work. Clark scored his 2nd of the game midway through the 3rd, then absolutely wired home the game tying goal with only 1:21 left on the clock. Emotions were CRAZY! We went from joy to anger and disbelief very quickly. Anderson was called for boarding with just 13 seconds left in the game. Calling a penalty this late in a playoff game was an unspoken, but understood Cardinal Sin. Unless you chopped a guys arm off, ref’s were NOT supposed to call a penalty in this situation. I held my breath (literally) for those last few moments of regulation and thankfully nothing happened.


Now, those who lived it, know what’s coming. Even if you didn’t live it, you probably still know what happens next. Only one of the biggest controversies in NHL playoff history and absolutely the most debated moment in Toronto Maple Leafs playoff history.


Early in overtime, Wayne clips Dougie with a high stick. Gilmour is bleeding but there is no penalty called. Less than a minute later, Gretzky scored the OT winner on a PP. The Leafs, again, were going to game 7. Referee Kerry Fraser wrote a lot about it in his 2010 book, "The Final Call: Hockey Stories from a Legend in Stripes". He says he never saw the high stick and I believe him, but it still really, really sucks! But if 99 was called, he would have received a major, he’s gone for the night and the Leafs would have an extended PP. The unfortunate combination of the stupid boarding call on Anderson, and Gretzky’s uncalled high stick produced an absolutely terrible concoction that I can still taste in my mouth!


For the second time in 2 weeks, Toronto was hosting a game 7. This series had captured the attention of every hockey fan in the world. Wayne Gretzky was still proving he's "The Great One" and the often miserable Leafs were finally making some playoff noise. It was an infectious blend that was impossible to ignore. Remember when I said big players come through in big games? Wayne got the ball rolling with a SHG and LA was up 2-0 after 20. Toronto tied it up, but then Gretzky was able to walk into the slot and blast one past Felix and the Kings were up 3-2 after 40. It was nuts. Leafs Nation was holding onto hope for another miracle in a playoff year that was full of them.


It looked good when Clark scored his 2nd goal of the game a minute and half into the third. As the minutes slowly ticked by and every play potentially leading to something big, it was Mike Donnelly who jammed home a loose puck on Potvin’s left giving the Kings a 4-3 lead with less than 4 minutes to go. Donnelly was so excited that he skated full speed into McSorley and knocked him over in celebration.


That hurt. Down a goal and only 3:51 left in the game. How on Earth are we going to score again? When it rains it pours and only 37 seconds later, Wayner banked a shot from behind the Leafs goal, off Ellett’s skate and past a stunned Potvin. And there is no way it was a fluke! Gretz accomplished what he was trying to do. There was no teammate in front to pass to. He wanted to bank it in and he did. It was devastating and of course it was Gretzky. He scored the OT goal in game 6 to force a game 7 and now he scores a hat trick in game 7. Big players…


These Leafs though didn’t quit. Ellett snapped one past Kelly Hrudey from the top of the left circle to cut the Kings lead to one. Now just 67 seconds were left on the clock. It felt bleak, but every fan wanted it SO bad. When Gilmour’s centering pass was knocked away and cleared outside the line with 5 seconds left, we knew it was over. Gut punch!


I’ve heard it said before that the joy of winning never meets the despair of losing and boy it felt like it on May 29/93. Despite all the wins, all the heroics, it felt absolutely brutal to lose this game. Canada was robbed. Had the Leafs won, it would be a Toronto/Montreal matchup for the Stanley Cup. Instead, the Habs won their 24th Cup in 5 games over LA.


Doug Gilmour saved his best for last, scoring 4g and 13pts in the series and 10g and 35pts in 21gp for the playoffs. I feel kinda bad saying this because he scored 12g and 19 playoff points, but Dave Andreychuk was held goalless in the conference finals.


Toronto had played 21 games in 42 days. Their 3 consecutive 7 game series held up the rest of the playoffs. Teams like Montreal got a lot of rest thanks to Toronto always needing to go the distance. The 1992-1993 season was over, but for a huge chunk of Leafs fans, this was the best time ever to be a fan.



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