When the final Stanley Cup Playoff game is won and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman steps onto the ice to a chorus of boos, the first thing he’ll do – prior to handing the Cup to the captain of the winning team – is award the Conn Smythe Trophy to the playoffs’ Most Valuable Player. One player, whose performance stood above the rest will have his name engraved among 36 others on the trophy.
The Stanley Cup may be the hardest trophy to win in all of sports and a team doesn’t raise it without strong performances from its key players. The Chicago Blackhawks are looking to win their third championship since 2010 in large part due to the performances of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in the Stanley Cup Final thanks to the emergence of young stars Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov in Tampa Bay along with Steven Stamkos and the stellar play of Ben Bishop between the pipes. Being the most valuable player on a team full of valuable players is no easy task and it takes a special player to outshine everyone when your team needs you the most.
Many stars have been named playoff MVP over the years. Legends like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemiuex, Jean Beliveau, and Bobby Orr have all won the trophy bearing the name of the former Toronto Maple Leafs owner.
Sometimes a team’s success comes from an unexpected source, but as this list shows most often it’s not always the big names who get the job done. Every player who has his name on the trophy has accomplished something that many can only dream of and all of those players have had very good NHL careers. However their names just don’t quite measure up to some of the legends that have taken home the Conn Smythe. This list will compare the player’s particular playoff run as compared to the rest of their careers. Here’s a look at the worst of the very best playoff performers.
15. Jean-Sebastien Giguere
J.S. Giguere helped the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim get to the playoffs in the 2002-03 season. He then surprised many by putting on a performance for the ages, carrying the Ducks to a Stanley Cup Final loss to the New Jersey Devils. Jiggy posted a .945 SV% and a 1.62 GAA in 21 playoff games. Giguere won the Cup in 2007 with the Ducks, but never won any other major NHL awards. Groin injuries and playing on some very bad Ducks teams ultimately kept Giguere from joining the conversation of greatest NHL goaltenders.
14. Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick finished the 2011-2012 season second in Vezina Trophy voting after posting a career best .929 SV% and 1.95 GAA to go along with ten shutouts. He then put up a .946 SV% and 1.41 GAA in the postseason to lead the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup championship. Quick however drew criticism for his play in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season in which he posted a career worst .902 SV%. The goaltender rebounded to win his second Stanley Cup championship in 2014, but failed to get his team back to the playoffs this season. Where Quick eventually ends up among the best NHL goaltenders remains to be seen.
13. Reggie Leach
Reggie Leach potted a career high 61 goals and 91 points in the 1975-76 season. He followed that up with 19 goals and 24 points in 16 playoff games in the Philadelphia Flyers 1976 Stanley Cup Final loss to capture the Conn Smythe. Leach was a dynamic scorer in Philadelphia for nine seasons, after stints in Boston and California, but aside from a lone Cup victory in 1975 and that one great season in 1975-76, Leach never managed to win any other NHL awards.
12. Brad Richards
When the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, Brad Richards led the team with 26 points in 23 playoff games. Richards followed that up with a career high 91 points in the 2005-06 season. However, aside from 91 and 77 point seasons in Dallas in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively, Richards has mostly failed to live up to the expectations that have come with the large salary contracts he signed in Tampa Bay and New York.
11. Tim Thomas
There was no doubt that Tim Thomas was the Boston Bruins best player in their 2011 Stanley Cup victory. The goaltender posted a .940 SV% to go with four shutouts and a 1.98 GAA. For a few years, there was no one better in the game between the pipes and Thomas won the Vezina Trophy twice in a three year span from 2008-09 to 2010-11. Prior to his emergence in Boston, however, Thomas toiled in Europe, and failed to play in his first NHL game until the age of 28.
10. Scott Stevens
An offensive threat early in his career, after joining the Devils, Scott Stevens became known more for his defensive game and bone crushing hits. In 2000, Stevens won the Conn Smythe despite recording just 11 points in 23 playoff games on a defensive minded Devils team. Others who could have been considered would include Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and you could never go wrong with Martin Brodeur.
He’s most remembered in that playoff run for his concussion causing hit on Eric Lindros.
9. Billy Smith
Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy after picking up a career best 32 wins in the 1981-82 season. He was a member of four consecutive New York Islanders championship teams from 1979-80 to 1982-83. Smith won the Conn Smythe after going 13-3 in the Islanders 1983 victory. However, Smith was forced to split goaltending duties for most of his NHL career, only starting 50 games once in 18 seasons. The 1981-82 season was the only time he surpassed the 25 win mark.
8. Dave Keon
Dave Keon is considered by many to be the greatest player to ever don the Maple Leafs jersey, known more for his defensive play than his offensive ability. When the Leafs won their last Stanley Cup in 1967, Keon finished the playoffs with only eight points in 12 games. Four of Keon’s teammates – Jim Pappin, Pete Stemkowski, Bob Pulford and Frank Mahovlich – actually finished with more points, while Tim Horton equaled Keon’s eight points. Keon was awarded the Conn Smythe more for his defensive play than his offensive play on that championship team.
7. Mike Vernon
After helping the Calgary Flames to capture the Stanley Cup in 1989, Mike Vernon posted a 16-4 record with a .927 SV% and a 1.76 GAA in the Detroit Red Wings’ 1997 victory to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. While a very good goaltender with a long NHL career, Vernon was never considered the best in the game at his position, failing to win the Vezina in any NHL season and finishing his career with a .890 SV% and a 2.98 GAA.
6. Claude Lemieux
Claude Lemieux will never be remembered as one of the elite regular season players in the game. He only reached the 80 point plateau once in parts of 21 NHL seasons. However, come playoff time few players were better. Lemieux won four Stanley Cup championships with three different teams and his 80 playoff goals are good enough for ninth all time. In the New Jersey Devils’ 1995 Stanley Cup victory, Lemieux won the Conn Smythe after potting 13 goals in 20 playoff games.
5. Glenn Hall
The former NHL goaltender had a very solid NHL career, playing parts of 18 seasons and eclipsing the 30 win mark six times. He won the Calder Trophy in 1955-56 and picked up the Vezina Trophy on three separate occasions. However, in the St. Louis Blues 1968 Stanley Cup Final loss, Hall won the Conn Smythe despite finishing the playoffs with a losing record, going 8-10 with a 2.43 GAA. It’s hard to imagine getting to a final with a losing record, isn’t it?
4. Justin Williams
When it comes to Game 7s, the Los Angeles Kings forward may be the best. His 14 points in those games are the most in NHL history and only Glenn Anderson has equaled his seven game seven goals. Williams captured the Conn Smythe after posting 25 points in 26 playoff games in 2014 while helping the Kings to their second Cup in three years. Still, the three time Stanley Cup champion will never be confused for a Hall of Fame player. In 14 NHL seasons, Williams has reached the 30 goal mark just twice and has only reached the 70 point plateau once.
3. Cam Ward
In the 2006 playoffs, the Hurricanes rookie goaltender stepped into the crease after an injury to incumbent Martin Gerber during their opening round series with the Montreal Canadiens. Ward posted a .920 SV% and two shutouts while guiding the team to its first Stanley Cup to take home the Conn Smythe. Ward followed that up by posting 30 or more wins in five of his next five seasons, but the Hurricanes only managed one more playoff appearance in 2008-09. In recent years Ward has battled injuries and inconsistent play and even temporarily lost the Hurricane’s starting job to Anton Khudobin.
2. Roger Crozier
The former Detroit Red Wings goaltender went 40-22-7 with six shutouts and a .913 SV % en route to winning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in the 1964-65 season. Crozier followed that up by leading the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1966 and picked up the Conn Smythe while losing to the Montreal Canadiens. Playing in parts of 11 more NHL seasons, Crozier was never able to replicate his early success, never posting more than 23 wins in a single season, due in large part to several bouts with pancreaitis.
1. Bill Ranford
The former Edmonton Oilers goaltender was between the pipes when the Oilers picked up their fifth Stanley Cup victory in 1990. Bill Ranford went 16-6 with a .912 SV% in the playoff run and made Grant Fuhr expendable in the eyes of Oilers management. Ranford played well for the Oilers, but his career numbers remain unspectacular. In parts of 15 NHL seasons, Ranford topped the 30 win mark just once and never posted a SV% above .900 in any full NHL season, making him the worst player to ever win the Conn Smythe Trophy.
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