The NHL Stanley Cup pursuit is in full swing and with that, the hockey wheat is separated from the shinny chaff. Those that elevate their games accordingly can lead their teams to Cup glory and in the process also put their stamp on the Conn Smythe trophy. The great Jean Beliveau was the trophy’s first recipient, amassing 16 points in 13 games back when the league was a six-team loop. Montreal’s captain led by example, pushing his team to great heights year in and year out. Now, the Conn Smythe is the ultimate accolade for individual performance, but there have been monster playoffs where some players excelled without winning either the Cup, or the Conn Smythe. Think Toronto Maple Leafs’ captain Doug Gilmour back in 1993. His 35 points and unbelievable on-ice wizardry was ultimately undone by none other than Wayne Gretzky — whose LA Kings were toppled by Montreal and Conn Smythe winner Patrick Roy in the final.
Sometimes, a lesser light shines brightly enough to pull a talent laden squad along to a Cup victory. Enter Robert “Butch” Goring. While he was a steady 20-to-30 goal man with the LA Kings in the 70s, Goring was ultimately picked up by the Islanders in a three-player deal and was tabbed as the “final piece to the puzzle.” He scored 19 points in 21 games in the Isles first of four Cup runs in 1980, which put him in the running for the Smythe (won by superstar Bryan Trottier). His biggest impact would come a year later. With leaders like Trottier, Mike Bossy and Denis Potvin also riding herd, Goring was brilliant, scoring 10 goals and 10 assists and grabbing the Conn Smythe as New York won its second consecutive Cup.