Twenty Years Later - Joe Mullen - 11-01-10

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

"Twenty Years Later" is a segment, with a highly unimaginative name, which will appear on Empty Netters throughout the 2010-11 season. We will examine the Penguins' 1990-91 season which led to the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. We will look back on games on a particular date and catch up with former players, coaches, executives and media members who were a part or around that team.

Today, we talk with former Penguins right winger Joe Mullen.

Mullen was something of a rarity on the 1990-91 Penguins. He was a veteran all-star with championship experience. Mullen was acquired in the 1990 offseason in a deal which sent a draft pick to the Flames, the team he was won a Stanley Cup title with in 1989. In addition to his Cup ring, Mullen also brought the experience of having played for new coach Bob Johnson in Calgary.

Mullen would be limited to 47 games and 39 points in the regular season due to injuries but he would a vital component of the team's postseason run appearing in 22 games and finishing fifth in scoring with 17 points.

Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, Mullen spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins over two different stints before retiring in 1997. He also served as a coach at various levels with the Penguins organization. He is currently an assistant coach with the Flyers.

On being traded to the Penguins in the 1990 offseason:

"Craig Patrick was the one who made the trade and I knew Craig. I knew if I was going with Craig Patrick, it would be good. I could see what he was doing. He traded for (Bryan) Trottier right before. He signed Bob Johnson that summer. That all happened before I got traded. When I heard I was traded, I was pretty happy."

On the team's early-season struggles:

"Well, I think we were all just trying to get used to everything. There were so many different changes. People were coming and going all the time. And we had a lot of young guys. (Mark) Recchi, Paul Stanton, Jimmy Paek, (John) Cullen, (Jaromir) Jagr was just 18. Kevin Stevens was young. We had a good mixture of veterans and young guys. We had a lot of talent and we knew it. And I think they wanted to make our defense a little stronger so they seemed to concentrate on getting some defensemen when we got Ulfie Samuelsson and Grant Jennings."

On seeing established players like Rob Brown and John Cullen leave while others like Ron Francis and Larry Murphy came on board:

"You could see things unfolding. Every time they made a trade, it benefitted our team. You hate to see a guy like Johnny Cullen go because he was a guy who played with a lot of heart every night. He competed and was a valuable player for while he was here. But you look at the flip side and see what we got coming back. We got Ron Francis, you got Ulf Samuelsson and you got Grant Jennings. It was quite a trade for us."

On the major trade deadline deal which sent John Cullen, Jeff Parker, Zarley Zalapski to the Hartford Whalers in exchange for Ron Francis, Grant Jennings and Ulf Samuelsson:

"I think there was a little bit of shock because Johnny was having a good year. He had a good year before. He was really coming on the year before. I think for Kevin Stevens, they were buddy-buddy so it was probably more of a shock for him."

On Mario Lemieux returning to the lineup Jan. 26 in a 6-5 road win against the Nordiques following offseason back surgery:

"Oh it was just... just to have Mario in the lineup, it was a joy for us. Any time we could get him playing, we knew we had a chance to win."

On his "horse collar" neck brace becoming a signature characteristic:

"It’s on the hockey cards and stuff like that and some of the pictures that they sell. Maybe that’s where they get it from. It was necessary for me to wear it or else, I wouldn’t of. It served its purpose and I got to play."

When did the team feel it could make a legit run at the Stanley Cup?

"I think as soon as the playoffs started to roll around. That first series was tough against (New) Jersey with that big save by Frankie Pietrangelo (in Game 6). We get by that in seven games. We move on to Washington, we started to get on a roll I think and started believing."

On Kevin Stevens guaranteeing victory after losing the first two games of the Wales Conference final in Boston:

“Yeah, we said ‘Kevin, shut up! Don’t be giving them any fuel on the fire.’ Turned out to be good."

On the series-clinching 8-0 road win against the Minnesota North Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final:

"Going into that third period, I think we were up 6-0 at the time. Just watching that clock tick away, it took forever. As soon as the buzzer went, it was nice to see everybody celebrating. Just like all those first feeling from winning the first Cup in Calgary came rushing back. It was just great to win it again."

How did this Stanley Cup win compare to his title win in 1989 with the Flames:

"You feel those emotions and feeling come for the first time when you win it for the first time. When it the second time, the same thing comes back to you so it’s just as good."

(Photos: Penguins Hockey Cards)

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