Saturday, March 5, 2011
The 1991-92 Quebec Nordiques were looking to improve on their previous season in which they finished last overall in the NHL with a 16-50-14 record. Their 46 points were 11 less than the nest worst team, the 20th place Toronto Maple Leafs.
To that end, they selected Eric Lindros first overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, despite repeated warnings from the Lindros' camp that he would refuse to play for the Nordiques due to several factors, including lack of marketing potential and having to learn to speak French if he were to play in Quebec. Standing their ground in the face of the threats from Lindros, the Nordiques chose him first overall and, as promised, he refused to report to Quebec and played for both the Oshawa Generals of the OHL and the Canadian National Team while holding out.
With their second pick, 24th overall, the Nordiques chose left wing Rene Corbet, who would play 17 total games over two seasons with Quebec, scoring just 5 total points. Round 3 saw the Nordiques select Rich Brennan, who would never even wear a Nordiques sweater during his career.
With the much publicized hold out of Lindros, and the lack of any other impact players from the draft, the Nordiques were going to be hard pressed to improve in 1991-92. The most notable additions to their roster consisted of the likes of Greg Paslawski and Russian defenseman Mikhail Tatarinov.
Still, with a top three of Joe Sakic and second year players Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan, there was some hope for increased competitiveness, but the roster had little to offer beyond those three with the exception of Russian Valeri Kamensky.
The 1991-92 Quebec Nordiques
Things got off to a deceptively bright start when the Nordiques won their opening game at home against the Hartford Whalers by a score of 4-2. They then travelled to New Jersey for their first road game of the season. Although they scored a more than respectable 5 goals, they were defeated 6-5. Two nights later they traveled to Minnesota where they lost 3-2 to the North Stars.
After a pair of home games, they lost 5-3 in Philadelphia. An overtime loss in Montreal came after a loss at home to Detroit.
Following their second win of the season at home over Winnipeg, another road loss to the Rangers followed, again by a goal. Their next three road games were all losses, at Chicago, Hartford and Boston, which came as part of a six game losing streak.
The losing streak ended with a win at home over Montreal, only to have the road losing streak extended in Montreal two nights later. After a home win over Hartford, the Nordiques earned their first point on the road in ten tries with a 4-4 tie in Buffalo. After a loss in St. Louis, their best run of form all season included two wins at home and a tie in Boston followed by another pair of wins at home for five games without a loss.
Still, their winless streak on the road continued with losses at Detroit and Washington, a tie in Calgary, a loss in San Jose and a tie at Vancouver. Two wins at home proceeded their worst run of form, with eight consecutive losses in regulation, including four in a row on the road. A win at home only momentarily broke up the losing, as their next nine games consisted of two losses, a tie and then six more losses. From January 2, 1992 and February 13th, the Nordiques would go 1-16-1, including nine more road losses and a tie to remain winless on the road since the start of the season.
Their next three games they managed a tie in Montreal, a win at home over Minnesota and another tie in Pittsburgh to begin a five game road trip. Four games later, a loss in Hartford, a tie in Montreal and losses at San Jose and Los Angeles, left them with 2 points out of a possible 10.
A tie at home against Buffalo preceded their game at Hartford against the Whalers on this date in 1992, with the Nordiques now standing 0-25-8 on the road for the season to date.
The teams ended the first period even at 3 apiece before the Nordiques erupted for five consecutive goals, which included a hat trick by Sundin. The third period saw the Nordiques again outscore Hartford 2-1 to make the final margin 10-4. It was the first win on the road for Quebec all season and their first since March 10, 1991, six days short of a year, which also came at the expense of the Whalers.
Sundin was the star of the night for the Nordiques with 5 goals and 2 assists for 7 points, becoming the 38th player in the 75 year history of the NHL to score 5 or more goals in a single game and just the third player from Sweden to accomplish the feat. His five goals alone were enough to outscore Hartford for the game.
Sundin's linemate Nolan finished the night with a goal of his own as well as 5 assists while the third member of the line, Kamensky had 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points to give the trio 18 points during the game, including 8 of Quebec's 10 goals.
Peter Sidorkiewicz gave up the first 6 goals in 27:11 before being replaced by Kay Whitmore, who fared little better, giving up 4 goals in 32:49.
The Nordiques would go 6-7-2 the rest of the way, winning both ends of a home and home against Buffalo to end the season 20-48-12 with a road record of 2-30-9.
Joe Sakic would lead the club in scoring with 94 points, followed by Sundin's 76. Owen Nolan led the team in goals with 42 on his way to third in scoring with 73 to distance the top three from the rest of the squad, with no one else scoring more than 45.
The Nordiques fortunes would begin to turn around in the off-season when Lindros was finally traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for six players, a pair of first round draft picks and $15 million, which led to the Nordiques making the playoffs in 1992-93 and beginning the franchise's rise to prominence, albeit in Denver, Colorado as the Avalanche.
Sundin would play one more season for the Nordiques, his fourth, before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the summer of 1994.