Grant Fuhr's Rookie Season (1981-82)

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by The Panther, Dec 11, 2019.

  1. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Anybody have any particular memories of Grant Fuhr's rookie season (1981-82) in Edmonton? It's a little before my time, so although I know the results and the stories I wasn't privy to the talk and the buzz as I was in 1st grade in Elementary School.

    Every time I look back at his record and stats from that season, I'm kind of stunned: He had a 28-5-14 record (that's .745 in decisions; the back-ups were .683), had the #1 'Goals Saved above Average' (GSAA) in the NHL, was a 2nd-team All Star, and was 2nd in Vezina voting. All this at age 19, for a club that had never had a winning season before, and starting three months after being drafted!

    He lost his very first game in the NHL (4-2 to Winnipeg on Oct. 14th, 1981)... and then didn't lose again until January 16th, 1982 (at Toronto, of all places). Of only 5 games in 47 decisions that he lost, he had a .909 and a .917 in two of them, outstanding for the time.

    Unfortunately, he and the young Oilers coughed up a hairball in the playoffs, with Fuhr pitching a .735 in the ridiculous 10-8 loss to L.A. the first game, giving up 5 goals in the third, plus the overtime 'loser', in the Miracle on Manchester in game three, and then another ugly .774 in the deciding game five in Edmonton.

    Training camp the next season (Sept. 1982) began Fuhr's personal problems, I think, with his coming to camp overweight (as he often did), and his poor play most of that season (9 wins in his first 24 decisions), which led to his being booed by Edmonton fans, which -- if I understand the story correctly (I might not) -- led to the start of his substance abuse problems.

    It really seems that he was dialed-in that rookie season, right from the first game, and didn't let up (until the playoffs). Not to say he wasn't great from 1983 to 1991, because he was, but he was quite inconsistent and prone to bad games and bad goals, though he usually was razor-sharp in the playoffs. Granted 1981-82 isn't exactly the banner-season for NHL goaltending standards, but anyway it seems to have been a remarkable rookie season that almost gets lost in the shuffle, with Gretzky utterly decimating the record-book that year and Hawerchuk as the favorite for the Calder.

    Any memories / thoughts of Fuhr from that season?
     
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  2. tony d

    tony d HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

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    It was before my time but on the surface his #'s look good. He proved to be a good part of the Oiler's success in the 80's.
     
  3. Doctor No

    Doctor No Registered User

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    Here's Fuhr's table for 1981-82:
    1981-1982 Edmonton Oilers Goaltender Game-by-Game Performance

    Regular-season wise, it appears to divide nicely into three portions:
    • From the start of his career, Fuhr didn't have a significant below-average game until early December (15 apperances). Even including that, Fuhr's hot start really went through his 33-save performance against Vancouver on December 23rd.
    • Between then and the all-star break or so, his numbers kind of hit the skids.
    • From Valentine's Day through the end of the regular season, Fuhr was solid again (even when the team's record was not going great).
    Edmonton started with Moog (the prior spring's playoff hero) but he struggled in his first two outings.

    Last but not least, here's a Montreal Gazette photo of the rookie (December 3, 1981). I agree with the conclusion drawn here.

    The_Gazette_Thu__Dec_3__1981_.jpg
     
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  4. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Hard to think of anything else of Fuhr from that year other than allowing that perfect shot from Darryl Evans to go in during the Miracle on Manchester game. But yeah, nice stats. I am guessing in 1982-'83 things caught up with him a bit and maybe it also had to do with him starting in the NHL so young at 19. I think he probably still needed some seasoning in the AHL, which he did play a handful of games in. That's normal, he was still 20 then.
     
  5. vikash1987

    vikash1987 Registered User

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    My question: couldn't a case have been made at the time for Fuhr to have been a favorite for the Calder over Hawerchuk? Playing in goal had so much more pressure than being a center, and especially for a goalie who was drafted so highly (8th overall). He proved so many skeptics wrong, and to have gone so many consecutive games without a loss....just unreal (even when you factor in the talent in front of him).

    It seemed as if Fuhr was screened on the OT goal by the two guys who just took the faceoff. It must have been a devastating loss for him. I think I remember reading that he even vomited afterward.
     
  6. LeBlondeDemon10

    LeBlondeDemon10 Registered User

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    Didn't Hawerchuk break the rookie record for points?
     
  7. Passchendaele

    Passchendaele Registered User

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    Nope, Stastny did that one year earlier.

    Still, what Hawerchuk accomplished was really impressive. The Jets won all of 9 games one year earlier, only to play .500 that season.
     
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  8. vikash1987

    vikash1987 Registered User

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    Peter Stastny had more points as a "rookie" the season before.

    Hawerchuk's rookie season was amazing, and he was very deserving of the Calder. Not trying to dismiss what he accomplished. I'm just curious what the thinking was at the time, and whether Fuhr was viewed as a possible favorite by season's end.
     
  9. brucejohnjennerlawso

    brucejohnjennerlawso Registered User

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    FWIW coming from someone with some experience of what its like to play as a goalie, thankfully no firsthand experience with cocaine, but I have a rough idea of what the effects are like, its entirely possible that Fuhr might have used it as a slight crutch at times. Its not unheard of for goalies to use legal stimulants of a similar kind (adderal, concerta, etc) for a performance boost, although I doubt you would be able to do so without any scrutiny in todays game.

    Then again he might just have done it because he tried it at one of the Oilers legendary team parties and liked it, but I dont find it impossible to imagine some sort of situation where a string of bad starts sends him back to his bad habit as a way of compensating
     

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