The 1990-91 season was a down year for Stephane Richer of the Montreal Canadiens. Two of the three years previous, Richer had scored 50 goals, but in 1990-91 he dropped to 31 goals and 61 points in 76 games.
Though 31 goals in a season is not bad for a 25 year old winger, when you are supposed to be the next Guy Lafleur, it might just chase you right out of town.
In Richer’s case, that is exactly what happened, and the Canadiens dealt their high scoring winger to the New Jersey Devils, along with Tom Chorske for Kirk Muller and Rollie Melanson.
Chorske would go on to have a lengthy yet unspectacular career, and Melanson harldy played at all following the trade. The deal basically boiled down to Stephane Richer going to New Jersey for Kirk Muller.
Richer continued scoring at a decent pace with the Devils, twice reaching the 30 goal mark, but never making it back to being a 50 goal scorer, and did not even reach the 40 goal mark again in his career. He had a great run in New Jersey though, and was a big part of the team winning their first ever Stanley Cup championship in 1995.
So the trade was obviously beneficial for the Devils, but what made it so great for the Canadiens?
Well, much like Richer helped bring a Cup to New Jersey in 1995, Muller played an even bigger role in Montreal winning a Stanley Cup two years earlier.
In his first year with the Montreal Canadiens, Muller led the team with 36 goals and 77 points. Muller was even better in the magical 1992-93 season for the Habs, matching his career highs in goals and points, tallying 37 goals and 94 points. He finished second in both categories behind Vincent Damphousse who was often his left winger on the top line.
Muller’s value went beyond just points. He was the first line center on a contending Montreal Canadiens team, meaning he had to deal with the media, the scrutiny and the second guessing that so frequently happens in this market, and he dealt with it by just working hard on the ice every single shift he was out there.
He was the leader of the team, led them on the power play and was also and excellent penalty killer. We will never know what would have happened had the trade not occurred, but in my opinion the Habs do not win the 93 Stanley Cup without an excellent first line center in Muller.
In the postseason he also played second offensive fiddle to Damphousse but was a great scorer in the playoffs, scoring ten goals in 20 games, and finishing with 17 points.
Muller was a terrific two way center at the front of the Canadiens lineup during his three and a half year tenure in Montreal. He finished his Canadiens career with 247 points in 267 games, and did all the little things that could not be quantified but helped the team tremendously such as killing penalties, blocking shots and being a difficult player to play against.
What makes the Muller trade a great hindsight deal for the Canadiens, is his role in the 1993 Stanley Cup win. Without Muller being acquired, the Habs would not have won a Cup since 1986, and that is what makes the Muller for Richer deal the second best trade in the past 26 years of the Montreal Canadiens.
Tags: Montreal Canadiens