Welcome to part two of my series looking at each season of the Red Wings historic playoff streak which recently came to an end. For part one on the 1990-91 season, you can click here.
By this point in time, I still was more interested other things than hockey, so just like part one, all of my knowledge of the 1991-92 season is from research. I will admit though, that is was probably around this time period that I first learned that hockey players were able to fight, which was an exciting new concept to me. Of course, fighting wasn’t allowed in any sport, and certainly not in school. I was in third grade at the time; so I along with countless others, had already had it beaten into our heads that fighting was bad and that we shouldn’t do it. Seeing hockey players fight each other and not getting suspended for it, but only having to go to the penalty box seemed pretty cool.
Anyway, the Red Wings were trying to become Stanley Cup contenders, so the 1991 off-season was an important one. Red Wings head coach/general manager Bryan Murray signed four players that would each become key players and transform the Red Wings from a mediocre team lucky to make the playoffs into a team to be reckoned with.
Two of these signings were players that were part of the 1989 draft class, which included Sergei Fedorov, who had just completed his first season in Detroit. Both were defensemen from Europe, Niklas Lidstrom, a Swede, and Vladimir Konstantinov, a Russian. The third signing was Russian left winger, Slava Kozlov, a 1990 draft pick.
The fourth signing probably seemed like a gamble, right winger Ray Sheppard. Here was guy who wasn’t a fast skater, and not known for his passing or defense. The one thing he could do well though was score. There were few scorers though in the league that were as one dimensional as Sheppard, and he didn’t score enough with the Buffalo Sabres or New York Rangers to stick with either of those teams. Murray took a chance on him, since he was building a team that could score. These four players would join the likes of Steve Yzerman, Fedorov, Gerard Gallant, Paul Ysebaert, Steve Chiasson, Yves Racine, Bob Probert, and Tim Cheveldae.
The 91-92 Wings squad would deliver a stellar regular season with the league’s second best record behind only the Rangers. So they were the top team in the Campbell Conference. Five different Red Wings scored 30 or more goals that season. Yzerman led the way with 45. Sheppard, in his first season in Detroit, scored 36, his highest total since his rookie season in Buffalo. Ysebaert, in his first full season in Detroit, scored 35, while Jimmy Carson added 34, and Fedorov scored 32. Yzerman led the Wings with 103 points, while Fedorov added 86.
Perhaps the biggest trade was early in the season with Rick Zombo going to the St. Louis Blues for Vincent Riendeau.
In the playoffs, the Red Wings overcame a 3-1 deficit to win three straight games and win their first round series against the defending Campbell Conference Champion Minnesota North Stars. Unfortunately, they would then be swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in four games. Then every Red Wing fan had to watch the Blackhawks reach the Stanley Cup Finals. The good news however was that the Red Wings now had a very good foundation in place, though it would take few more years before they finally won Cup.