Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Honoring Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged Most Valuable to his Team during the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. The trophy depicts Maple Leafs Gardens, which Smythe had constructed in 1931 as a new home to his Maple Leafs.
In contrast to other sports leagues playoff MVP awards, the Conn Smythe Trophy is based on a players performance during the entire postseason and not just the final game or series.
The award was first announced in 1964 and the first recipient on this date in 1965 was Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens for his performance during the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs during which Beliveau scored 8 goals and 8 assists for 16 points in 13 games as Montreal captured their 13th Stanley Cup following a seven game series against the Chicago Black Hawks.
The first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, Jean Beliveau
The following season Roger Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings became the first goaltender to win the Conn Smythe trophy as well as the first player to be a member of a team that did not win the Stanley Cup.
The first goaltender to win the Smythe, Roger Crozier
Subsequent winners were Dave Keon of Toronto in 1967 and goaltender Glenn Hall of Chicago in 1968. Serge Savard of the Canadiens was the first defenseman to win the Smythe in 1969, followed by another defenseman, Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins in 1970.
Dave Keon poses with the Conn Smythe Trophy
Perhaps the most unexpected winner ever was Montreal's Ken Dryden, who was named the winner in 1971 with just 15 combined games of NHL regular season and playoff experience!
In 1972 Orr became the first player to win the trophy twice following the Bruins second title in three seasons. After Yvan Cournoyer of Montreal was named the winner in 1973, goaltender Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Flyers became both the first goalie to win the Conn Smythe twice as well as the first player to win it in back to back seasons and ushering in an era of domination.
Reggie Leach became the second player on a losing club to win the trophy, extending the streak of Flyers winners to three. The next three seasons the trophy went to Canadiens, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. The New York Islander dynasty then included four consecutive Conn Smythe recipients, Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith in 1983, ending a run of ten years monopolized by three clubs.
Montreal's Larry Robinson
Mark Messier of the Edmonton Oilers got his name added to the trophy in 1984, followed by teammate Wayne Gretzky in 1985. Patrick Roy of the Canadiens won his first in 1986 as a rookie, only the second one after Dryden, prior to the Flyers Ron Hextall becoming only the third player on the losing side to receive the honor in 1987.
Gretzky won his second in 1988 and Mario Lemieux matched that feat with back to back Conn Smythe trophies in 1991 and 1992. The following year Roy joined Parent, Gretzky and Lemieux as two-time winners.
Mario Lemieux with his second Conn Smythe Trophy
1994 saw Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers be the first non-Canadian and only American player to win the Conn Smythe, as well as the first and only Ranger.
The only American to win the Smythe, Brian Leetch
In 2001, Roy, now a member of the Colorado Avalanche, became the first, and to date only player, to win the trophy three times and the only man to have won it while a member of two different teams.
Roy with his record setting third Conn Smythe
The next year new ground was broken, as Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit became the first European to ever be named the winner in the trophy's 38 year history.
The first European to win the Smythe, Nicklas Lidstrom
2003 saw goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere become the fourth player on the losing side to take home the honors and goaltender Cam Ward became the third rookie to be named the winner, all of which were goalies, when he led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup despite not having been the Hurricanes number one goaltender at the start of the playoffs. He finished the season having a total of 28 regular season and 23 playoff games of NHL experience.
Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg joined Red Wing teammate Lidstrom as only the second European and second Swede to be named the winner of the trophy in 2008, immediately followed by Evgeni Malkin becoming the first Russian to earn the honor for Pittsburgh in 2009 before Chicago's Jonathan Toews regained the trophy for Canada in 2010.
The first Russian to be named the winner, Evgeni Malkin
Others to have won the trophy are Al MacInnis, Bill Ranford, Claude Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Mike Vernon, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Brad Richards and Scott Niedermayer.
Steve Yzerman lifts the Conn Smythe in 1998
Today's featured jersey is a 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau jersey from the first man to have his name added to the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Believau was a ten time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal in his 20 years with the club. In addition to the Conn Smythe, Beliveau also won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1956 and the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1956 and 1964. Had the Conn Smythe Trophy been in existence prior to the 1965 finals, odds are that Beliveau would have won at least one other one, particularly in 1956 when he led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in just ten games.
Today's first video is a terrific find, footage of Beliveau being the first man to ever receive the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965.
Next is the Top Ten Conn Smythe Trophy winners and a look at each of their spectacular playoff performances.