Power Ranking the Stanley Cup Champions of the 1990s

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2013

Power Ranking the Stanley Cup Champions of the 1990s

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    The 1990s was one of the most memorable decades of the last 50 years in the NHL.

    The decade started with the last of the Edmonton Oilers' five Stanley Cup championships—and the only one accomplished without Wayne Gretzky.

    It also featured two Stanley Cup titles by the Pittsburgh Penguins and Mario Lemieux. The Detroit Red Wings came back to the NHL forefront in the 1990s and also won a pair of Stanley Cup championships.

    Only two Presidents' Trophy winners came away with the Stanley Cup during that decade, but neither of those teams—the 1994 New York Rangers and the 1999 Dallas Stars—finished as the top team in our power rankings of the 1990s.

10. 1995 New Jersey Devils

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 22-18-8; 52 points; tied for ninth

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Detroit Red Wings, 4-0

    Why they rank 10th: The Devils won the Stanley Cup in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season. However, that's not why they finished 10th.

    They were quite ordinary in the regular season and got off to a slow start in the truncated season before they rallied to make the playoffs.

    While they got hot in the postseason, they scored only 15 more goals than they gave up during the year and  didn't have any player named to the first or second All-Star team.

    Right wing Stephane Richer was the team's leading scorer with 23 goals. Goalie Martin Brodeur had an ordinary 2.45 goals-against average, a figure he would better 16 times in his stellar career.

9. 1992 Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 39-32-9; 87 points, tied for seventh

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0

    Why they rank ninth: The Penguins were loaded with talent, so at first glance, it's difficult to slot them as low as ninth.

    However, they were simply too cavalier during the regular season. No team with Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr should ever lose 32 regular-season games. While they clearly had the talent to turn it on when it mattered most, there was not enough consistent play in the regular season.

    Lemieux had 44 goals and 87 assists in 1991-92, while Jagr had 32 goals and 37 assists. High-scoring Kevin Stevens exploded for 54 goals, while Joey Mullen contributed 42.

    The Penguins were rather ordinary on the defensive side—they allowed 308 goals—but their offensive firepower more than made up for it.

8. 1998 Detroit Red Wings

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 44-23-15; 103 points, third place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Washington Capitals, 4-0

    Why they rank eighth: The Red Wings won their second consecutive Stanley Cup title and served notice that they would be one of the best teams in the NHL on a year-in, year-out basis.

    This was a team that featured Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov and goalie Chris Osgood.

    This team was able to win games on talent and grit, and it put away the upstart Washington Capitals with ease. Head coach Scotty Bowman knew exactly how to get the most out of his players and even though they did not have a dominant regular season, it seemed inevitable that they would repeat their championship.

     

7. 1999 Dallas Stars

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 51-19-12; 114 points, won Presidents' Trophy

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Buffalo Sabres, 4-2

    Why they rank seventh: The Stars were not about to be denied in the 1999 Stanley Cup playoffs after having the best record in the regular season and the remarkable leadership of Joe Nieuwendyk, Brett Hull and superb goalie Ed Belfour in the net.

    Hull scored one of the most famous and controversial goals in NHL history when he scored the Stanley Cup Final winner by beating Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek—even though he had a toe in the crease when he shot the puck.

    The Stars had been beaten in the Western Conference Final the year before by the Red Wings, and that defeat stayed with them for a full year.

    Prior to taking out the Sabres and lifting the Stanley Cup, they had beaten a powerful Colorado Avalanche team in seven games. Once they won that series, they were solid favorites over the Sabres, and they made no mistakes against a very game and feisty opponent.

6. 1997 Detroit Red Wings

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 38-26-18; 94 points, fifth place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Philadelphia Flyers, 4-0

    Why they rank sixth: The Red Wings had been banging on the door for quite a while at the start of the 1997 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    They knew they were a great team whose time had come. They had suffered one of the great disappointments of the decade the year before when they were upset by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final by a 4-2 margin.

    That defeat came on the heels of a 131-point regular season, a mark that gave them a 27-point edge over their next nearest competitor.

    By the time the 1997 playoffs started, the Red Wings were peaking. While they did not enjoy the same kind of regular-season success they had the season before, they were not about to be stopped.

    Sergei Fedorov was at the top of his game, and so were Nicklas Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman. Feisty forward Darren McCarty scored one of the most artful goals in the Stanley Cup Final when he weaved his way through the Flyers defense and nailed this Cup-clinching goal.

5. 1993 Montreal Canadiens

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 48-30-6; 102 points, sixth place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Los Angeles Kings, 4-1

    Why they rank fifth: The Canadiens did not seem like they were going to win the Stanley Cup when the 1993 playoffs started. 

    Not only did they finish third in the Adams Division behind the Boston Bruins and the Quebec Nordiques, they dropped the first two games at home to the Nordiques in their first-round playoff series.

    However, when the series moved to the Colisee Pepsi, the Canadiens were a transformed team. Instead of gripping their sticks tightly, as they did at the Montreal Forum, they played relaxed hockey on the road and upped their level dramatically.

    They swept the remaining four games of the series and never slowed their roll. The Canadiens won an amazing 10 consecutive overtime games that year. Patrick Roy was nothing short of amazing in goal, and the Canadiens had a new offensive hero seemingly every night.

    The 1993 Canadiens were one of the most spectacular playoff teams the NHL has ever seen.


4. 1990 Edmonton Oilers

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 38-28-14; 90 points; third place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Boston Bruins, 4-1

    Why they rank fourth: Many thought the Edmonton Oilers' dynastic run came to an end in the summer of 1988 when they traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.

    However, the Oilers were still loaded with talent in the 1989-90 season, and they were not content to settle for four Stanley Cup championships. They wanted that fifth ring.

    Led by Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Jari Kurri, the Oilers rampaged through the Western Conference playoffs, defeating the Winnipeg Jets, Gretzky's Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks to get to the Stanley Cup Final.

    They did not have home-ice advantage in the series, and the Bruins were supposed to give them a tough battle. However, when Edmonton won the first game in triple overtime on Petr Klima's goal, the Bruins never recovered, and the powerhouse Oilers earned their fifth title.

3. 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 38-28-14; 88 points; seventh place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Minnesota North Stars, 4-2

    Why they rank third: The Penguins were not expected to win the Stanley Cup in the 1991 playoffs. They appeared to be a good team on the rise, but it did not seem like their time had come when the postseason started.

    However, Mario Lemieux was not going to be denied. He had been limited to 26 games in the regular season because of a back injury, but once the playoffs started, he fought through the pain. The Penguins rolled to victories over the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals in the first two rounds but trailed the Boston Bruins 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final.

    That's when Lemieux and his teammates said enough is enough and reeled off four straight wins against the Bruins.

    They dominated the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup Final, securing their first championship with an 8-0 victory in the sixth and last game. Lemieux scored 44 postseason points en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy that year.

2. 1994 New York Rangers

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 52-24-8; 112 points; won Presidents' Trophy

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Vancouver Canucks, 4-3

    Why they rank second: There have been few more meaningful championships in the history of New York City professional sports than the Stanley Cup won by the New York Rangers in 1994.

    Hockey fans had been waiting 54 years since the Rangers' last title in 1940, and many thought the Rangers were destined to keep on waiting.

    They had been brilliant in the 1993-94 regular season, winning the Presidents' Trophy with a deep team led by Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter. They had been pushed to the limit in the Eastern Conference Final by the New Jersey Devils, but the Rangers survived that series by winning the seventh game in double overtime on a goal by Stephane Matteau.

    After building a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the Canucks won two games to push that series to a seventh game, but the Rangers held on for a dramatic 3-2 victory in one of the most memorable Stanley Cup triumphs in NHL history.

     

1. 1996 Colorado Avalanche

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    Regular-season record and ranking: 47-25-10; 104 points; second place

    Stanley Cup Final results: Defeated Florida Panthers

    Why they rank first: The Avalanche were loaded with proven playoff performers. They were able to turn to Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Claude Lemieux and Valeri Kamensky for offense, and they had the redoubtable Patrick Roy in goal.

    However, they were not supposed to get past the Detroit Red Wings when they met them in the Western Conference Final. The Red Wings had been amazing in the regular season, running off a record of 62-13-7 and finishing with 131 points, 24 more than the Avs.

    However, the Avs were the better playoff team, as they upset the Red Wings in six games.

    The Stanley Cup Final was a four-game sweep over an outclassed Florida Panthers team. 

    The Avs were the best of the NHL's 10 championship teams in the decade of the 1990s.