This is Mike Krushelnyski. In the fall of 1983 the Boston Bruins had a logjam at center and very little depth on left wing. It is in a very real way similar to what is going on with the Edmonton Oilers currently (strength at center and very weak on right wing) and I thought it might be interesting to see how they handled it.
To quote the Hockey News from October 13, 1983: The left wing situation is crowded with Mike Krushelnyski, Craig MacTavish, Brad Palmer, Mike Gillis, Luc Dufour and rookies Nevin Markwart, Geoff Courtnall and Dave Reid all in the race.
Krushelnyski, a reformed center, was the only one assured of a job at left wing. MacTavish (10 goals), Mike Gillis (goalless in 5 games), Dufour (14 goals) and and Palmer (6 goals) fighting for their jobs.
“When you score 10 goals, as I did last year, you’re expendable,” said MacTavish. “I did a lot of skating in the summer. When your job is on the line, you have to come to camp in good shape. You can’t afford to get yourself in good shape once you get here.”
“The only reason they got me in the first place was for my scoring,” said Palmer. “But last year it got to the point where I couldn’t even score in practice. Hopefully they still believe I can do it.”
One left winger who showed up at camp by surprise was Stan Jonathan, 28. He provided the Bruins with a certain toughness and fisticuffs during six years in Boston. Markwart, who was drafted by the Bruins in the first round, 21st overall, in the 1983 draft. “My major strength is I play really aggressive. I’m not afraid to use my body. I’d like to be bigger, but I’m not.”
The Bruins ended up breaking camp with MacTavish, Dufour, Markwart and Krushelnyski on the roster, and here’s how each of their careers progressed:
- Mike Krushelnyski became a pretty famous player. Among his 801 NHL games from fall 1983 to the end of his career were a ton with Gretzky, in Edmonton and then Los Angeles. He was a very good hockey player into the 90s, and scored 25 goals in 83-84.
- Craig MacTavish had a very fine NHL career, playing in 946 NHL games from fall 1983 onward. He popped 20 goals in 83-84 which was his final year with the Bruins.
- Brad Palmer’s NHL career was over. He spent 83-84 in the AHL and then to Finland and Austria, and was done by summer 1990.
- Mike Gillis played the 83-84 season with the Bruins as an extra man, scoring only 6 goals. He would be heard from again by the NHL, but not as a player.
- Luc Dufour split the 83-84 season between the AHL and the NHL. He would be dealt the following October to Quebec but didn’t play much there either.
- Nevin Markwart did make the NHL at age 19, but it probably hurt his long term development. He had 30 points in 83-84 as a rookie, but that was his career high.
- Geoff Courtnall played 5 games with the big club at the end of the 83-84 season, but wouldn’t make the grade for real until 84-85 (at 22). He had a fine NHL career, but not in Boston (which is pretty much a theme here).
- Dave Reid played 8 games for the Bruins and then made the NHL midway through the following season. He had a long career as an effective role player and was on the 1999 Dallas team.
Is there anything we can learn from this Boston training camp? Yes. Choose the right damn people, and the right damn people aren’t always the guys who make the team out of camp. And sometimes when your 19-year old boy wonder makes the team it hurts his long term development.