Thursday, January 14, 2010
On this date in 1998, Kirk Muller of the Florida Panthers played in the 1000th game of his 19 year NHL career.
Muller was originally drafted 2nd overall by the New Jersey Devils and played for Team Canada in the 1984 World Junior Tournament and then the Canadian National Team in preparation for his participation in the 1984 Olympics before making his NHL debut with the Devils for the 1984-85 season.
Muller, a durable and great two-way player, would play in all but four games for New Jersey in his seven seasons with the Devils. His best offensive season in New Jersey was 1987-88, when he led the club in scoring with 37 goals and 57 assists for 94 points and was a +19 after being named team captain. The Devils would make their first playoff run in franchise history, knocking off the New York Islanders in six games and Washington Capitals in seven before falling to the Boston Bruins in the conference finals in seven, while "Captain Kirk" would contribute 12 points in 20 games.
The Devils seldom made the playoffs in those days, allowing Muller to participate in the World Championships for Canada in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1989, as well as skating with the NHL All-Stars versus the Soviet Union in the Rendez-vous '87 series.
Just prior to the 1991-92 season, Muller, along with goaltender Roland Melanson was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Stephane Richer and Tom Chorske. In four and a half seasons with the Canadiens, Muller would score 77 points his first season to lead the team and follow that up with his best season in Montreal with 37 goals and 57 assists for 94 points, with all three totals matching his career highs from 1988 in New Jersey. The post season saw Muller add 17 points in 20 games as the Canadiens would capture the Stanley Cup for the only time in his career.
One and a half seasons later Muller, now captain of the Canadiens, would unfortunately be involved in the controversial trade with the New York Islanders that sent Pierre Turgeon to Montreal. Muller wanted little to do with the dysfunctional and downtrodden Islanders, who were mired deep in the standings and wanted Muller to lead their young team. In the end, the unhappy Muller would only play 27 games for the Islanders before being dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in January of the following season.
His time in Toronto was also short-lived, finishing the second half of 1995-96 and most of 1996-97 before being sent to the Florida Panthers, whose run to the Stanley Cup in 1996 was behind them now. In two plus seasons with the Panthers, Muller would register just 13 goals and 34 assists, but would play in his 1000th game on this date during the 1997-98 season.
He would sign with the defending champion Dallas Stars as a free agent for the 1999-00 season and play the final four seasons of his career with Dallas. By this time he was a defensive forward and helped the Stars reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2000. After retiring in 2003, Muller finished with 357 goals and 602 assists for 959 points. His 69 playoff points put him at over 1000 combined for his career, which included playing in six NHL All-Star Games.
Today's featured jersey is a Starter 1997-98 Florida Panthers Kirk Muller jersey as worn during the season Muller played in his 1000th game.
This jersey is the final season for this particular specification of single color names on the back of the Panther's jerseys, as they would change to the always classy vertically arched three-color letters, a welcome and unexpected upgrade in the look, as many teams tend to simplify their look over time, rather than making them more complex.
Today's video shows Muller in the Devils original red and green jerseys wacking one out of the air and into the net.
Here, the Montreal Canadiens are awarded the 1993 Stanley Cup, with Muller being one of he assistant team captains is part of the presenting of the cup and is later shown lifting it as the team skates around the ice in celebration. Later, Muller is interviewed at the 4:39 mark. The Canadiens, by the way, were wearing a French version of the Stanley Cup Finals patch, the only team to ever wear a French variation of the finals patch.