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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One Star, One Sheet; Grant Fuhr

Grant Fuhr

403 Wins
4 Stanley Cups
2003 HHOF

  Grant Fuhr is considered one of hockey's top clutch goalies.  Fuhr won four Stanley Cups and was in net for Team Canada's memorable 1987 Canada Cup victory.  Accolades, controversy and curiosity were prevalent in Fuhr's career.
  Fuhr was born to a bi-racial couple but was put up for adoption shortly after birth and was raised by a white family.  Fuhr's skin colour made headlines as the Edmonton Oilers selected him 8th overall in the 1981 draft.  Fuhr made the team out training camp, lost his first game but then set a rookie record by going unbeaten in his next 23 games.  He finished the season 28-5-14, with a 3.31 GAA and was the runner-up for the Vezina trophy.  His rookie season was the only time Grant Fuhr finished in the top ten for GAA.  Fuhr's play-off legacy would get off to a rocky start as he was involved in the Miracle in Manchester and a first round exit by the Oilers.

  Fuhr struggled the following season and was actually demoted to the AHL for a month.  Although the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup finals, Fuhr only played 11 mins in the play-offs.  The Oilers went with Andy Moog during the 1983 play-offs.  For fives seasons Moog and Fuhr would split time during the regular season but after 1983, the play-offs were a different story.

  In 1983-84, Fuhr would return to form, he led the NHL in wins and set a single season records for goalies with 14 assists.  Fuhr started the play-offs as the go to guy and he held down the fort as the Oilers ended the New York Islanders dynasty and begin their own.  Fuhr would help the Oilers win four cups in five years.  It could have been five in five if it wasn't for Steve Smith's infamous own goal in 1986.
  Fuhr was Team Canada's starting goalie for the 1987 Canada Cup.  While the scores aren't flattering, 16 goals against in 3 games, Fuhr stood on head during the finals as the Soviets and Canadians kept fans on the edge of their seats.  Team Canada won the third game 6-5 on a late goal by Mario Lemieux,

  Although Fuhr would win the Vezina in 1987-88, his GAA, 3.43, and Save Pct, .881, weren't top ten in either category.  It is the only time since Save Pct became an official stat in 1983, that a Vezina winner did not finish in the top ten in either GAA or Save Pct.  As I mentioned, other than his rookie season, Fuhr never made the top ten in GAA.  Only twice in his career would he have a save percentage over .900, and that was in the mid-90s, during the dead puck era.  It would be Fuhr's play in the play-offs that would catapult him into stardom. 
  During the 1988 offseason, everything changed for the Oilers with the trading of Wayne Gretzky.  Fuhr would have his first losing season of his career, going 23-26-6, with a 3.81 GAA.  The following season, the Oilers would find a way to rebound and win a Cup without Gretzky, but it was also without Fuhr.  First it started with Fuhr's retirement.  Frustrated with his contract and not being able to wear a Pepsi logo on his goalie pads, Fuhr handed in his signed retirement papers to Oiler GM Glen Sather.  Sather, figuring it was only a ploy to get a new contract, never filed the papers.  Fuhr would unretire and make it to Edmonton in time for training camp.
  The inauspicious start to the season would be an omen for Fuhr.  He injuried his knee in pre-season, missing the first 11 games of the season.  He would play 17 of the next 22 games before suffering a shoulder injury.  He missed over 30 games before returning and then re-injuring the shoulder again.  Fuhr would watch creasemate Bill Ranford carry the Oilers to a Stanley Cup victory over the Boston Bruins.
  During the following offseason, Fuhr's career would hit rock bottom.  During the mid-80s, rumours ran rampant about drug use by the Edmonton Oilers.  The story was broke by Sports Illustrated and sparked RCMP investigations into the team.  No charges were laid and no names were named.  Although once Fuhr checked himself into a drug rehab during the 1990 offseason, the controversy sparked up again.  Fuhr admit to using illegal substances, i.e cocaine, from about 1983 to 1990.  The NHL, who had a strict and harsh drug abuse policy, suspended Fuhr for one year.  Considering Fuhr's confession and self-admission to rehab, the NHL later reduced his suspension to four months.  Fuhr made a triumphant return to the NHL on February 18th, 11 months since he last played in the NHL, with a 27 save shutout versus the New Jersey Devils. 
  Fuhr played well enough to get the nod for the play-offs.  He helped the Oilers reach the Conference finals before bowing out to the Minnesota North Stars in five games. 
  When it came time for the 1991 Canada Cup, Grant Fuhr was not invited to camp.  Officially, it was stated he hadn't played enough over the past year to be considered ready.  Instead, it was Fuhr's Edmonton Oiler back-up, Bill Ranford who got the started gig.  Team Canada never lost a game in the tournament and Ranford was selected at tournament MVP. 
  Bill Ranford was proving himself to every bit "money" as Grant Fuhr, but without the baggage.  During the 1991 training camp, Fuhr was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven player deal.  Fuhr led the NHL in losses, 33, in 1991-92 and once again found himself expendable, as top prospect, Felix Potvin, pushed his way into the crease.  During the 1992-93 season, Fuhr was traded to Buffalo.
  In Buffalo, Fuhr continued his mediocre regular seasons and once again found himself hounded by the next hot prospect.  This time it was Dominik Hasek.  Hasek, who actually only two years younger than Fuhr, vaulted over the more experienced Fuhr.  Fuhr found himself riding the pine during the regular season, and also in the play-offs.  He would, along with Hasek, win the William Jennigs trophy in 1994, although Fuhr's GAA was more than 1.50 higher than Hasek's.  After spending a little over two years in Buffalo, Fuhr was once again part of a large deal.  This time he was going to Los Angeles.
  Reunited with former Oilers Wayne Gretzky, and Jari Kurri, Fuhr was expected to provide insurance for the injured Kelly Hrudey.  It was a disaster, Fuhr would go 1-7-3, with a 4.04 GAA.  It appeared Fuhr was done.  The Kings allowed to walk via free agency in the offseason.
   Fuhr still had one admirer, Mike Keenan.  Keenan was so convinced that Fuhr could still play that he didn't bother resigning Curtis Joseph, trading his rights to Edmonton.  At first it seemed like a disaster, Fuhr showed up at training camp overweight, Keenan exiled him from training camp for a week.  Fuhr got his act together in time for the season and would set a NHL record by playing 79 games, including a NHL record 76 straight.  He reinjured his knee in the 76th game of the season, causing him to miss three games, otherwise he likely would have started in all 82 games.  This was also the season the Blues traded for Wayne Gretzky and were expecting a deep run in the play-offs.
  Fuhr's knees would once again get injured during round one of the play-offs versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.  In a controversial play, Nick Kypreos "jumps" on a prone Grant Fuhr during a goal mouth scramble.  Fuhr reinjures his knee and is out for the rest of the play-offs.  Kyperos is suspended for one game.  Jon Casey takes over in net for the Blues.  The Blues are able to beat the Leafs in six games but lost in double overtime of the seventh game versus the Detroit Red Wings in round two.
  Granted, it was during the trap era, statistically, Fuhr had his best seasons while playing for the Blues.  During four season with the Blues, Fuhr was 108-87-41, with a 2.68 GAA and a .900 save percentage.  Fuhr was never able to lead the Blues past the second round in the play-offs and during his final two seasons with the Blues, his back-ups were outplaying him during the regular season.  The Blues let Grant Fuhr leave via free agancy in 1999.
  Fuhr returned to the battle of Alberta, but this time, he was on the other side.  Fuhr signed with Calgary Flames.  Fuhr spent the season as the back-up goalie and his numbers once again ballooned.  In 23 games he was 5-13-2, with a 3.83 GAA.  His 13th loss of the season tied him with Gilles Meloche for most losses in a career.  He retired after the 1999-00 season.
  Grant Fuhr was a first ballot HHOFer.  He certainly never made on his regular season numbers.  He shared the crease with Andy Moog during the 1980s, but Fuhr took his game to another level when it really mattered.  He made his name as big game goalie.  He survived the drug scandal and some horrible years in the early 1990s to finish his career on a positive note.
  If Fuhr had retired in 1989, does he still make the HHOF?  Other than a few good years in St, Louis, again not top ten in GAA or save percentage, Fuhr was mediocre at best.  Andy Moog's regular season numbers were slightly better than Fuhr, and he played well in spot duty during the Cup runs.  If Moog starts during the play-offs, do the Oilers still win those Cups?


  1. I think Moog would have also won those Cups - he did lead the (much lesser) Bruins to the Finals after all.

    But let's not forget that Fuhr was considered the best goalie in the NHL by many - though his numbers didn't warrant Vezinas - until Patrick Roy showed he was for real, say '88 or '89. But they had to give him at least one.

    The reason for Fuhr's so-so stats were that the Oilers went all-out attack, often with all 5 skaters deep in the other zone, precisely because they knew Fuhr would keep down the fort more often than not. They wanted to score 6 goals every game, and it didn't matter if they on 6-1 or 6-5.

  2. Grant fuhr played on the most wide open area in nhl history on the most wide open team in nhl history he probably have more odd man rushes game in game out then any other goalie to ever play the game