"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' 1991-92 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 forward Bryan Trottier.
Trottier's role didn't vary much from the 1990-91 season compared to the 1991-92 campaign. With the team stacked at center with Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis, Trottier was a relegated primarily to third and fourth line duties. Additionally, as one of the older and more experienced players on the team, he was leader. Additionally, as a member of the Islanders' dynasty in the early 1980s, Trottier was one of the few players on the Penguins who had experienced life as a defending champion.
Trottier ended up appearing in 63 games that season and scored 29 points. He also played in 21 postseason games that spring and contributed seven points. Trottier retired as a player in 1994 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame along with Lemieux in 1997.
What was different enterting that season compared to 1990-91?
"Unfortunately (head coach) Bob Johnson was really sick. And that was kind of our focus all through training camp. And as much as a distraction as it was, it was almost inspiring for the guys. Find the focus, find the concentration. And make sure we didn’t drop the ball for the Johnson family, the Penguins organization. It had an impact. A real impact. We just really kind of found a way."
Was it a major adjustment working under Johnson compared to interim coach Scotty Bowman?
"Oh definitely. There is always that adjustment. Bob was extremely positive. There’s no bad days. Bob was very slow in his presentation of forechecks and team concept play. Scotty was very short. Very brief. Had a different tone to his voice. Both were very good coaches."
In the middle of the season, Mario Lemieux missed several games due to injury. You replaced him on the top line with centering Mark Recchi and Kevin Stevens. What was like that?
"When you’re playing with young kids like Recchi and Stevens, it was very easy. Going out there and these guys are generating something every shift. They’re loving the fact I can dish (the puck). The fun part for me was the media and the press were kind of taken aback. ‘How can you do this at your age?’ It’s not the age that’s a problem. It’s the ice time you get."
How difficult was it adding players such as Rick Tocchet, Kjell Samuelsson and Ken Wregget from a rival team like the Flyers via trade?
"It’s tough because you have a team, you have a chemistry and all of a sudden, it’s kind of juggled a bit. Those guys come in and as a veteran, you’ve got to get those guys into the fold. It’s another challenge you have to overcome. You’ve got assimilate and make it work."
How big was Ron Francis' effort in the Patrick Division final series against the Rangers with Lemieux out?
"It’s really kind of exceptional for this team to have that kind of player. Whenever someone was out of the lineup for injury or illness or something, there was always someone to set up. Not just step up, but elevate their game."
Did you expect to sweep Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final?
"It was really neat because it was the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals. It was special because Chicago Stadium was a neat place to play. There was a lot of talk that Chicago was going to give it to us in the finals. And we swept them. And I got to party again with the Stanley Cup. I enjoyed that party in 1991. So I got to party again in ’92."
The Blackhawks played goaltender Dominik Hasek in the Cup-clinching Game 4. Did you have any idea who he was at that time?
"Jagr knew him. He was kind like ‘Best goaltender in the world.’ We’re like, ‘Okay guys, Jags said he’s the best goaltender in the world let’s not let up on him.”
That was your six Stanley Cup championship in your career? Is there any differences between any of them for you?
"They’re all kids. Each one is unique and special for their own reason. You love them all."
(Photo: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)