Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Conn Smythe Trophy Winners in NHL History

Franklin Steele@FranklinSteeleAnalyst IIJune 5, 2013

Ranking the 10 Most Impressive Conn Smythe Trophy Winners in NHL History

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    The Conn Smythe Trophy is one of the most special awards presented by the NHL every year. Unlike the postseason MVP mementos that the NBA, NFL and MLB give out, the Conn Smythe is awarded to the most outstanding player of the playoffs overall—not just the final series or game.

    Starting in 1965, members of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association voted at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final to determine which player was most valuable to their team throughout the playoffs. The award has gone to 41 different players—only five times has the Conn Smythe been given to a player on the losing team of the final.

    Players such as Wayne Gretzky who won the trophy more than once will only be represented on a single slide. Their most impressive performance will be representative of their numerous wins.

10. Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers (1975)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Philadelphia Flyers defeat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2.

    Playoff Stats: 15 GP, 1.89 GAA, .922 save percentage, 4 shutouts

    Why It Stands Out: Bernie Parent won his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy in 1975 as he led the Flyers to their second consecutive Stanley Cup. The defending champs weren't given much of a chance against the high-octane Sabres, but Parent was a stone wall in the Stanley Cup Final.

    A 1.89 GAA is astounding throughout a playoff run by today's standards—Parent posted that three decades ago, when goals were scored at a much higher rate than they are today.

    The 1975 Conn Smythe capped off what many believe to be the finest back-to-back seasons by a goaltender ever.

9. Reggie Leach, Philadelphia Flyers (1976)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Montreal Canadiens defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-0.

    Playoff Stats: 16 GP, 19 G, 5 A

    Why It Stands Out: Reggie Leach's 19 tallies should grab your attention, especially since it's still the NHL record for most goals scored in a single playoffs. 1976 was the third straight time that Philadelphia made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final—it was also the third consecutive time that a Flyer won the Conn Smythe.

    Sadly for Leach and his Flyers, the Stanley Cup was not handed to Bobby Clarke (captain of the team at the time) after the final was over. Philly was downed quickly by the Habs in four straight games, making Leach's MVP award all the more impressive.

    He is still the only non-goaltender to have ever won the Conn Smythe while playing for the team that did not win the Stanley Cup.

8. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins (1970)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Boston Bruins defeat the St. Louis Blues, 4-0.

    Playoff Stats: 14 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 1 "The Goal"

    Why It Stands Out: The Stanley Cup-winning goal that Bobby Orr scored 40 seconds into overtime in Game 4 lead to what is arguably the most recognizable hockey image of all time.

    A quick Google image search of "Bobby Orr tattoo" will tell you all that you need to know about this moment. The overtime-marker ended a 29-year Cup drought for the Bruins, capped off by Orr winning the Conn Smythe for his outstanding play on both sides of the puck.

    (Note: Orr would win another Conn Smythe in 1972, becoming the first player to win the trophy twice.)

7. Brian Leetch, New York Rangers (1994)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: New York Rangers defeat the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3.

    Playoff Stats: 23 GP, 11 G, 23 assists

    Why It Stands Out: The New York Rangers and their magical run to the Stanley Cup in 1994 is most likely remembered for three simple words ("We'll Win Tonight"). What gets lost in all the "Matteau! Matteau! Matteau" noise is Brian Leetch's incredible performance.

    The defenseman didn't just lead all blueliners in scoring during the postseason—he had the league lead while anchoring the Rangers on the back end en route to the Cup.

    No one will forget the Guarantee or the sight of Mark Messier joyfully hoisting the Cup over his head in Game 7. What more people should remember is how dangerous Leetch was during the 1994 playoffs that ended a record 54-year championship drought for New York.

6. Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins (2011)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Boston Bruins defeat the Vancouver Canucks, 4-3.

    Playoff Stats: 25 GP, 1.98 GAA, .940 save percentage, 4 SO

    Why It Stands Out: Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins played 25 games en route to defeating the Canucks for the Stanley Cup in 2011. It was a record-breaking run for the Bruins goalie.

    No other goaltender has ever faced more shots during a playoff run (849) or made more saves (798). To boot, no other netminder has ever made more stops during a Stanley Cup Final. Through the seven-game series with Vancouver, Thomas stopped 238 pucks.

    As the memories of the vicious final between the Bruins and Canucks fade over time, Thomas and his ridiculous performances will stand the test of time for all those who witnessed his acrobatic saves and outlandish aggression.

5. J.S. Giguere, Anaheim Ducks (2003)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: New Jersey Devils defeat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim 4-3.

    Playoff Stats: 21 GP, 1.62 GAA, .945 save percentage, 5 SO

    Why It Stands Out: Fans of the Detroit Red Wings still have nightmares about Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and likely flinch every time someone plays "Gettin' Jiggy With It" by Will Smith. Giguere helped the seventh-seeded Ducks sweep the defending Cup champion Red Wings in the first round en route to the Stanley Cup Final.

    Along the way, he also downed a heavily favored Dallas Stars team.

    That, of course, was before Anaheim swept the Minnesota Wild out of the Western Conference Final. Giguere only surrendered a single goal in that series, posting three straight shutouts and 217 straight minutes of goalless hockey.

    All that ended in one of the most depressing hockey photos of all time after the Ducks lost in Game 7 to the New Jersey Devils.

4. Patrick Roy, Colorado Avalanche (2001)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Colorado Avalanche defeat the New Jersey Devils, 4-3.

    Playoff Stats: 21 GP, 1.70 GAA, .934 save percentage, 4 SO

    Why It Stands Out: Patrick Roy cemented his legacy as the best money goalie of all time in 2001 when he spearheaded the Avalanche to another Stanley Cup. Roy remarkably won the trophy in three different generations and is the only player to accomplish that feat. He's also the only player to have won the award with two different teams.

    Out of Roy's three Smythe-worthy Cup runs, 2001 might be the most definitive. It came toward the end of his illustrious career—despite the age, he was actually better that year than he was when he won it as a rookie in 1986.

    (Note: Roy also won the Conn Smythe in 1993.)

3. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (2012)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Los Angeles Kings defeat New Jersey Devils, 4-2.

    Playoff Stats: 20 GP, 1.41 GAA, .946 save percentage, 3 SO

    Why It Stands Out: Jonathan Quick put the L.A. Kings on his back and delivered the franchise its first Stanley Cup. While the skaters obviously had to score some goals, they didn't have to net many.

    Quick's save percentage and GAA are both playoff records, the likes of which we likely won't see for a long while. The goals against in particular is mind-bending when viewed side-by-side with what Patrick Roy did in 2001 and what Tim Thomas did in 2011.

    Every time the Kings scored the first goal in a game, there was the feeling that it was all that they'd need, and that was because of Quick and his odd style in net, as outlined by thehockeyguild.com.

2. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (1992)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0.

    Playoff Stats: 15 GP, 16 G, 18 A

    Why It Stands Out: Not even an infected and herniated spinal disc could slow down Mario Lemieux. Nor could a viscous and malicious slash from Adam Graves. That play broke Lemieux's wrist, but it wouldn't prevent him from playing in the Stanley Cup Final against the Blackhawks.

    Despite only competing in 15 games through the playoffs Lemieux still managed to post 34 points. He did all this after missing a chunk of time during the regular season due to his back problems.

    Lemieux's gutsy performance in 1992 will stand the test of time, not only because of the gaudy numbers, but because of what he had to fight through physically and mentally to achieve them.

    As was the case through much of No. 66's magnificent NHL career, this defining moment is only overshadowed by the accomplishments of one man.

    (Note: Lemeiux also won the Conn Smythe in 1991.)

1. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers (1985)

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    Stanley Cup Final Result: Edmonton Oilers defeat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1.

    Playoff Stats: 18 GP, 17 G, 30 A

    Why It Stands Out: Wayne Gretzky's 1985 season is regarded as one of the best ever played, according to ESPN.com. After a 208-point regular season, the "Great One" followed that up with 47 points in only 18 games as the Oilers stormed their way to the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.

    The numbers here speak for themselves. Every game No. 99 played in during the '85 playoffs, he dominated. No one was even close that year, and no player has come close to breaking the postseason points record that Gretzky set that year either.

    (Note: Gretzky also won the Conn Smythe in 1988.)

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