If Victor Hedman breaks Paul Coffey’s NHL record 12 goals by a defenceman in a playoff year, he’ll be saluting the Tampa Bay Lightning assistant captain for a job better done.
“Somebody asked me the other day if it bothers me when a player inches up or ties or breaks a record and I said, ‘absolutely not.’ It’s the old cliche, if it’s a lofty enough goal and a guy breaks it, he’s a helluva hockey player. It’s fantastic,” said Coffey, who had his 12 goals and 25 assists in the Edmonton Oilers 1985 run to their second Stanley Cup and didn’t win the Conn Smythe trophy.
“I think Gretz had 52 points (actually 47),” laughed Coffey. “Wayne, as gracious as he always is, said we should share the award … I told him, ‘no we shouldn’t, it’s yours but we’ll share the Stanley Cup.’”
Coffey’s 12 goals in 18 games that spring of ’85 were remarkable. His 37 points is an NHL record for defencemen too. He had a phenomenal two-month run.
Coffey had 36 goals in seven playoff years for the Oilers with 12 in that one season when they played Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Chicago and Philadelphia going 15-3 overall.
The goals weren’t all end-to-end rushes. His shot was underrated. He did score 396 goals in league play.
“I think I got two in the last game against the Flyers (Cup final), one-timers, ripped a couple,” he said.
One was the game-winner, the other off a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Gretzky.
Coffey had four game-winners in ’85, tied for the all-time best with Brian Leetch (’94 Rangers), Al MacInnis (’89 Flames) and Slava Voynov (2013 Kings). Hedman has three for the Lightning going into Game 4 against Dallas.
“I was trying to think … who had the old record? Was it Bobby (Orr)?” said Coffey.
Yup, Orr had nine in 1970 with Boston and Brad Park also popped nine goals in 1978 with the Bruins.
Leetch scored 11 for the Rangers in their Cup ride in 1994, winning the playoff MVP.
“Maybe because I was still playing, but I don’t remember Leetchie’s 11 goals. I mean, he’s a great player but I don’t remember anybody calling me,” said Coffey.
That’s because they were all talking about Mark Messier back in ’94.
“Yeah, for sure, captain of the Rangers,” said Coffey.
Coffey hasn’t watched the playoffs religiously during COVID, but he knows how good Hedman is, when he’s got the puck and when he doesn’t.
“This (10 goals) is good for the game. I saw him score the goal in Game 4, great shot, low stick side,” said Coffey.
Hedman’s 10 goals have all come in the playoffs’s series too. He didn’t get any in the round-robin portion against Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, so there’s no asterix there.
Hedman has been a finalist for the Norris trophy the last four years but has only won once. He doesn’t have the offensive chops of fellow Swede Erik Karlsson, but nobody does what he does at both ends. He’s a smart player.
“When he’s taking a player out, he’s also thinking of getting up the ice ahead. When you’re playing against the other team’s top players, talented offensive guys … I mean nobody likes to back-check and if you can get a step on those guys (forwards) you can create something,” said Coffey.
“Hedman’s unreal as a skater for a big man (six-foot-six). He’s strong and as great as he is, he’s just starting to figure his game out and his game is grown because is so aware on the ice. He knows who he’s playing against. Who he can beat up the ice and who he can’t. When to go, when not. That’s a trick in itself. He looks like he’s having a lot of fun out there,” said Coffey
Coffey and Orr are the greatest skating defencemen of all-time, of course. Point-producing machines. Coffey certainly gravitates to that skill-set.
“I love it that there’s so many good offensive defencemen right now. I’m looking at it from a fan’s point of view. If you’re a defencemen and you want the forwards to really like you, put the puck on their stick and join the rush,” said Coffey. “Wayne would give me hell if I didn’t get up the ice with him. I know they’re talking about defencemen joining the rush now, this isn’t new.
“Colorado’s got (Cale) Makar, Vancouver’s got (Quinn) Hughes, Dallas has the Finn (Miro Heiskanen) and (John) Klingberg. No. 4’s (Heiskanen) skating really stands out but Klingberg is like (Sergei) Zubov or Murph (Larry Murphy), patience with the puck,” said Coffey.
Until this playoff, Hedman had just seven goals in 84 games. But he’s caught Lightning in a bottle in the Year of the Bubble.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020