Tuesday, January 2, 2018

NHL All-Stars of the 1980s, circa 1979

I recently picked up an old issue of Hockey Digest at the local flea market from December 1979, (OK it was a part of a self-bought Christmas present...self-buying your presents is really the only way to go). One of the first articles in the magazine was titled as shown above, "Here Are The All-Star Teams of The 1980s!". In the article, author George Vass makes bold predictions on who would be the stars of the next decade.
The All-Stars of the 80s were selected as seen below:
The author makes the rather bold statement while selecting his teams of the 1980s; 
"In fact, though it's taking a risk considering that injuries can cut short the most promising careers, it's possible to pick hockey's All-Star Team of the 1980s with  the assurance that one is not likely to be very far off."
Well...he was indeed very far off in his picks. The problem was, there was a slew of Stars, Hall of Fame players,and All-Time greats just starting their careers in 1979 or soon thereafter. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Michel Goulet, Mike Liut, Pete Peeters and Ray Bourque were mere days into their NHL careers at the time the article was written. In the next year or two Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, Jari Kurri, Peter Stastny, Denis Savard and Dale Hawerchuk would join the league. All could be considered for All-Star teams of the 1980s. A few that the author selected definitely would not.
Perhaps the most absurd pick in hindsight for All-Star team of the 1980s is David Shand on Defense. After, back-to-back solid seasons as a 21 and 22 year old, Shand played only 207 games with 36 points before retiring in 1985. Perhaps he could have become Rod Langway, but he did not. Another pick that seems ridiculous in retrospect was Ron Sedlbauer. After notching 40 goals for the 78/79 Canucks, he played only two more seasons potting 45 total goals. The one thing that links these two would-be stars of the 1980s is the fact they both were eventually traded to the early 80s Maple Leafs. Apparently this was their downfall.
The point is further illustrated when looking at the two goalies that Vass selected as the goalies of the 1980's. Both Mike Palmateer and Don Edwards finished their careers with the Leafs in a season they posted a Goals Against Average of over 4.78. Hardly player of the decade numbers.
In selecting Bossy, Trottier and even Doug Wilson, Vass did select a few of the players who would be in the conversation for players of the decade. Perhaps though he should not have been so cocksure of his selections, and picked fewer future Leafs of the early 1980s. If he really needed a Leaf of that era, he would have been better off picking Rick Vaive and his future three consecutive 50 goal seasons...ahh hindsight.

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