Wayback Wednesday: Goalie Decision 1993

Jeff Veillette
March 19 2014 01:17PM


You know, despite him being a friend and a co-worker on this website, I don't actually listen to Steve Dangle's Podcast all that often. It's very good, Adam and Chris make it that much better, but I just don't. It's nothing personal; I stopped regularly listening to almost any Podcasting efforts once I switched away from using an iPod/iPhone (Android is awesome, but I miss syncing to iTunes). 

If I do listen, it's because I can't sleep and need some background noise, but don't want to listen to music. Last night was one of those nights, and I had Sunday's episode on. One point struck a nerve. So, Adam - I'm calling you out.

At about the half hour mark, a point about Petr Nedved retiring turned into player nostalgia, which turned into NHL 2001 talk (You guys forgot the Target icon for snipers, by the way. Also, Marco Strum is the best speed guy by a mile! He was 99 in every skating stat!), which turned into "why is NHL 94 so popular?" (the Leafs had nothing to do with it, blame Swingers). At this point, Steve brings up Felix Potvin, and Adam jumps on him, saying that the Leafs probably shouldn't have traded Grant Fuhr. "Maybe, maybe Cliff traded the wrong goalie." Adam then says he'd look up the numbers later and bring it up again on another episode. I did the work for you Adam, and you're thoroughly and completely off base.

Asset Management

Before we even get into "which goalie was better at the hockey afterwards", the Leafs already come out way ahead based on the assets involved in how they part ways with the two.

When it came time to trade Fuhr, the cost was going to be high. A bidding war ensued and the Buffalo Sabres became the victors. Victors, in the sense that they got what they wanted at the time, not that they won the trade. Oh, no. The Leafs got back Dave Andreychuk, Daren Puppa, and a first round pick, which they used to pick Kenny Jonsson. An absurd return, especially when you consider that Buffalo had a blossoming Dominik Hasek to work with already.

Andreychuk made an immediate impact on the team, scoring 25 goals in 35 games to finish the season with 54, making him the first player to score 25 goals with two different teams in a season. He then scored 12 in 21 in the playoffs, which lead the team, and scored 53 goals, second highest in Leafs history. Overall, he played 269 games (season+playoffs) in blue and white, scored 140 goals, and had 253 points. That alone is already enough to require a Weak Toskala vs. Peak Luongo-esque gap between Potvin and Fuhr to make the decision bad.

Andreychuk was eventually traded to New Jersey for a 1996 2nd round pick, which was used on Marek Posmyk. He turned out to be a bust and never played a game for Toronto but was also part of the package given to Tampa Bay for Darcy Tucker.

Puppa only played eight starts for the Leafs, but had a stellar (for 1993) save percentage of 0.922 in that time. He was basically 2009 Martin Gerber on a roster that didn't suck. The Florida Panthers claimed Puppa from the Leafs in the 1993 expansion draft, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning being jerks and claiming him from the Panthers in the same expansion draft.

Jonsson was, for a time, one of the most hyped up defensive prospects in hockey. He had an okay rookie year and a stellar sophomore season for the Leafs, and was traded to the New York Islanders as the biggest piece in the trade (ahead of Sean Haggerty and Darby Hendrickson) that brought home Wendel Clark and sent Mathieu Schneider with him (along with D.J. Smith). The issue, of course was that the second biggest piece was a 1st round pick that eventually became the 4th overall pick, which the Islanders used to select Roberto Luongo.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the 1st and Hendrickson were the cost of Clark, and Haggerty was the cost of Smith, leaving Jonsson to be the cost of Schneider. Schneider wasn't very well liked in Toronto, but he put up some okay numbers, scoring 56 points in 115 games. Schneider was then traded to the New York Rangers for Alexander Karpotsev and a 4th round pick. He was okay, and contributed his two years, before being traded along with a different 4th pick for Bryan McCabe.

We're all aware of McCabe's contributions. He was pretty good, followed by really good, followed by a bit disappointing but not as bad as we all made him out to be. He played 574 games for the Leafs and scored 323 points, peaking with a 19 goal, 68 point season in 2005/06. Eventually, he was traded for Mike Van Ryn.

Van Ryn is where the direct asset train ends. His main job was to have a lower cap hit, but he was also fairly solid on a terrible 2008/09 Leafs team, putting up 11 points in 27 games before a career ending injury.

In summation, directly from trading Grant Fuhr, the Leafs received good goaltending for eight games, but more importantly, reaped massive rewards on the skaters end. Over seventeen years, the chain of players combined for 1102 regular season games played, 132 playoff games, 662 regular season points, and 71 playoff points.

Dave Andreychuk 1992/93 31 25 13 38 21 12 7 19
  1993/94 83 53 46 99 18 5 5 10
  1994/95 48 22 16 38 7 3 2 5
  1995/96 61 20 24 44 0 0 0 0
Kenny Jonsson 1994/95 39 2 7 9 4 0 0 0
  1995/96 50 4 22 26 0 0 0 0
Mathieu Schneider 1995/96 13 2 5 7 6 0 4 4
  1996/97 26 5 7 12 0 0 0 0
  1997/98 76 11 26 37 0 0 0 0
Alexander Karpotsev 1998/99 56 2 25 27 14 1 3 4
  1999/00 69 3 14 17 11 0 3 3
Bryan McCabe 2000/01 82 5 24 29 11 2 3 5
  2001/02 82 17 26 43 20 5 5 10
  2002/03 75 6 18 24 7 0 3 3
  2003/04 75 16 37 53 13 3 5 8
  2005/06 73 19 49 68 0 0 0 0
  2006/07 82 15 42 57 0 0 0 0
  2007/08 54 5 18 23 0 0 0 0
Mike Van Ryn 2008/09 27 3 8 11 0 0 0 0

That's while ignoring the eventual trade of Potvin! Felix was worth more once developed than he was as an unproven rookie, and when it was time to replace him with Curtis Joseph, the Leafs shipped him off to Long Island for Bryan Berard. 

Berard was one of the most promising defensive prospects of the late 90's, and had five ~0.5PPG seasons under his belt by the tiime he turned 23, even as his minutes lowered on a competing Toronto roster. The only thing that stopped him from being a star player was fluke eye injury, that nearly ended his career entirely, and ended his time with the Leafs.


There's also the matter of Potvin being the, you know, better goalie over those six years that followed.

Felix Potvin

1992/93 48 25 15 7 116 1286 1170 0.91 2.5 2 2781 27.7 59.4
1993/94 66 34 22 9 187 2010 1823 0.907 2.89 3 3883 31.1 58.3
1994/95 36 15 13 7 104 1120 1016 0.907 2.91 0 2144 31.3 51.4
1995/96 69 30 26 11 192 2135 1943 0.91 2.87 2 4009 32 51.4
1996/97 74 27 36 7 224 2438 2214 0.908 3.15 0 4271 34.2 41.2
1997/98 67 26 33 7 176 1882 1706 0.906 2.73 5 3864 29.2 44
TOTAL 360 157 145 48 999 10871 9872 0.908 2.86 12 20952 31.1 50.3

Grant Fuhr

1992/93 58 24 24 6 185 1729 1544 0.893 3.3 1 3359 30.9 46.6
1993/94 32 13 12 3 106 907 801 0.883 3.68 2 1726 31.5 45.3
1994/95 17 2 9 3 59 464 405 0.873 4.03 0 878 31.7 20.6
1995/96 79 30 28 16 209 2157 1948 0.903 2.87 3 4365 29.6 48.1
1996/97 73 33 27 11 193 1940 1747 0.901 2.72 3 4261 27.3 52.7
1997/98 58 29 21 6 138 1354 1216 0.898 2.53 3 3274 24.8 55.2
TOTAL 317 131 121 45 890 8551 7661 0.896 2.99 12 17863 28.7 48.4

  • 1992/93 - Potvin has a higher team points percentage, wins more games, has a lower GAA, much higher save percentage, and has more shutouts. Fuhr faces more shots per 60 and plays more games. Advantage Potvin.
  • 1993/94 - Potvin has a higher team points percentage, wins more games, has a lower GAA, much higher save percentage, has more shutouts, and plays way more games. SA/60 is about equal. Advantage Potvin.
  • 1994/95 - Potvin has a higher team points percentage, wins more games, has a lower GAA, much higher save percentage, and plays way more games. Either get a shutout, and SA/60 is about equal. Advantage Potvin.
  • 1995/96 - Potvin has a higher team points percentage, and a higher save percentage. Faces more shots per 60. Fuhr plays a whopping 79 games, making Potvin's 69 seem smaller than it is. GAA is a wash, and they have equal wins. We'll call this one a draw.
  • 1996/97 - Potvin faces the most shots in NHL history (a record that lasted 10 years until Roberto Luongo broke it in 2006/07), and seven more per game than Fuhr. Potvin also has a higher save percentage. Fuhr has a higher team points percentage, lower GAA, more wins, and more shutouts. I'm going Advantage Potvin again; the save percentage gap despite two totally different teams is too much to ignore.
  • 1997/98 - Potvin has a much higher save percentage, faces four more shots a game, and despite the Leafs being just as bad, has more shutouts. Fuhr has a higher team points percentage, lower GAA, and more wins in less games. Advantage Potvin once again, save percentage rules the house and shutouts are equally impressive, especially on such an awful team.

So in those six years, Potvin was the better goaltender in at least 5, and you can argue the 6th (Though Fuhr got Hart and Vezina votes that Potvin didn't). Potvin was at or above the league average save percentage in all six of his seasons, where as Fuhr was below the mark in four of his. Potvin wins more games, has a higher team points percentage, has a higher save percentage, lower GAA, faces more shots per game, and has an equal amount of shutouts. 

Potvin carries the Maple Leafs in this time, much like what happens today. Fuhr is above average in one year after he leaves Toronto. I know that the Oilers incarnation of Fuhr has a reputation as one of the great "money goalies" of our time, but comparing these two in the pocket of time we're working with is like putting James Reimer next to Ondrej Pavelec, except older.

But since Fuhr is the "Money Goalie", how about the Playoffs?

Felix Potvin

1992/93 21 11 10 62 636 574 0.903 2.84 1 1308 29.2
1993/94 18 9 9 46 520 474 0.912 2.46 3 1124 27.8
1994/95 7 3 4 20 253 233 0.921 2.83 1 424 35.8
1995/96 6 2 4 19 198 179 0.904 3.26 0 350 33.9
TOTAL 52 25 27 147 1607 1460 0.909 2.75 5 3206 30.1

Grant Fuhr

1992/93 8 3 4 27 216 189 0.875 3.42 1 474 27.3
1995/96 2 1 0 1 45 44 0.978 0.87 0 69 39.1
1996/97 6 2 4 13 183 170 0.929 2.18 2 357 30.8
1997/98 10 6 4 28 297 269 0.906 2.73 0 616 28.9
TOTAL 26 12 12 69 741 672 0.907 2.73 3 1516 29.3

Potvin's first playoff run is arguably better than all four of Fuhr's appearances put together. Besides that, while Fuhr seems to improve come the spring, Potvin's save percentage is just a hair better, and he faces more shots. Fuhr also only wins two playoff rounds (one of them was actually clinched by Hasek, but it was a sweep so whatever), while Potvin wins four. Advantage continues to go to Felix Potvin.

Explain To Me Like I'm A Bandwagoner

For people who are relatively new to watching the Leafs; this would be like trading 2007 Andrew Raycroft for James Reimer, James van Riemsdyk, and Jake Gardiner, to let Jonathan Bernier play awesome for half a decade. You let Reimer walk, and end up trading JVR after several good years. You eventually trade Gardiner for Gunnarsson, then trade Gunnarsson for Raymond, and then trade Raymond for Phaneuf. After Phaneuf outstays his welcome, you trade him for Cody Franson, who's career suddenly ends and for some reason it's seventeen years later.

In Summation

I like Adam, I really do. He's a cool dude and he usually knows his stuff. I know he was trying to rile up Steve, because Steve is a Felix Potvin fanboy to the utmost degree. But he felt pretty confident in his statement that we may just be over nostalgic about Potvin.

I get where he's coming from. Leafs Nation does do a bit of revisionist history when it comes to the mid-90's. The 92/93 Leafs weren't some underdog team going into the playoffs (they set a franchise record for points that lasted almost a decade!). Doug Gilmour wasn't some hidden gem before he got here. Wendel Clark is probably in the rafters because of our feelings more than his actual ability as a player. You know what, maybe Potvin wasn't an elite goaltender. But he was a fair bit above average, and the saving grace when things went down the drain.

Eventually the Leafs picked up an even better Curtis Joseph in free agency and parted ways with him, but not before they maximized the goalie controversy in 1993. Grant Fuhr was an all time great, but the reality is, Potvin was a much better goalie in the time after his departure, and on top of that, the return on him ended up guaranteeing the Leafs either a first line winger or top four defenceman for a decade and a half.

I over-thought this so you didn't have to, Adam. You're welcome.

PS - Even if none of the above was true, the Hextall fight would've still made it worth it.

Managing Editor of Hockey Content at the Nation Network. Just here so I'll get the opposite of fined. If you'd like to collaborate or simply have a question, email me at jeff@veillette.me
#1 MaxPower417
March 19 2014, 03:13PM
Trash it!

Grant Fuhr is one of if not the most overrated goalie of all time.

The asset chain is just gravy.

#2 ReggieP
March 23 2014, 10:08PM
Trash it!

Grant Fuhr played on the most wide open era in nhl history on the most wide open team in nhl history. He was the best player for the leafs his first year with them when gilmour was traded halfway through the season. He helped the team develop and gave them a chance to play every night. The next season potvin took over and grant had injury problems and was eventually traded to buffalo. His best years post edmonton came with the blues and his best chance of winning the cup came in 96 when he was stoning the leafs and outdeuling felix potvin first few games and then he was kypreozed and almost ended his career.

That one play cost the blues a real shot at the stanly cup because jon casy and the blues went 7 games with the redwings. The way fuhr was playing that year the blues could have beaten anyone. How soon we forget.

And about fuhr's playoff success post edmonton he won 3 rounds not 2, 1 against montreal when he was on buffalo and 2 with the blues 98 first round against the kings and 1st round against coyotes. About potvin being better then fuhr in the playoffs thats a myth. All playoff teams fuhr lost to were all stanly cup champions post edmonton. On buffalo against montreal, on st louis detroit and dallas. So I dont think grant's playoff post edmonton were that bad because the teams he lost too all won the stanly cup.

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