The last defenceman to score 100 points in a season says it will take a special player on a very good team to do it again.
Brian Leetch, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, had 102 points for the New York Rangers in 1991-92 to become only the fifth rearguard, and the first American, to reach 100.
“It was great to see Mike Green have the season he had last year,” Leetch said Tuesday on a conference call, referring to the Washington Capitals defenceman’s 73-point season in only 68 games.
“You’d have to be on a team like that — Washington or Pittsburgh — where they have a lot of talented young players.
“But until you have a forward who puts up 150 or 160 points, it will be tough for a defenceman to get 100. If the forwards are scoring, it’s an opportunity for defencemen to get points. The power play also has to be successful. But it’s not impossible, and the league is trending that way, with higher point totals. But you’d have to be on a team with the right players in place and that plays the right system.”
Leetch was ninth in NHL scoring the year he topped 100, the same season Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux led the way with 131 points in 64 games.
It was one of many accomplishments for the slick, Texas-born blue-liner, who grew up in Cheshire, Conn., and went on to a brilliant 17-year NHL career spent mostly with the Rangers.
The 41-year-old Leetch is part of an exceptional class of Hall of Fame inductees that include his longtime U.S. Olympic and World Cup teammate Brett Hull, as well as Steve Yzerman and Luc Robitaille and, as a builder, New Jersey Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.
He was inducted in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, the same year his No. 2 jersey was retired by the Rangers. After winning the Calder Trophy as a rookie of the year for his 23-goal debut season in 1988-89, Leetch won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman in 1992 and 1997.
He was captain of the U.S. squad that won the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and won a silver medal with the American team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
And he was a huge part of the Rangers team that ended a 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, when he was the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs.