Wednesday

Mike Krushelnyski

Mike grew up skating on frozen ponds in and around his hometown of Montreal. It was there that he learned the fundamentals of the game that led him to an NHL career of almost 900 games.

Mike was a big boy by the time he reached the NHL, playing at 6'2" and anywhere from 200 to 215 pounds. His long stride made up for his lack of natural speed. That compensation helped to make him one of the better skaters in the league. He had a powerful stride and good balance made him very agile for such a large player.

Mike also was very gifted with his hands. A good faceoff man, he was a good puckhandler who could dance the puck past a defenseman. He had good vision and anticipation and a long reach to aid him in his goal scoring pursuits.

His teammates nicknamed "Krusher." It was a play on his name and not his bone crunching body checks. Despite his good size and skating abilities, the physical game was approached reluctantly by Mike. He preferred to stay away from the corners and slot. Although he'd take a hit to make a play, he generally didn't enjoy the physical game. It's too bad. With his speed and shooting abilities, not to mention his incredible supporting cast in Edmonton, he could have been a really good power forward.

Krushelnyski was originally drafted by Boston in the eighth round of the 1979 Entry Draft. He spent two years in the organization before he joined the Bruins full time in 1982-83. He scored 23 goals and 65 points in his rookie season and quickly became regarded as one of the best young players in hockey.

Mike slipped to 45 points in his following season. He did improve to 25 goals but otherwise he was considered to be a victim of the dreaded "sophomore jinx." Yet that didn't keep the Edmonton Oilers away. They offered speedy veteran Ken Linseman prior to the 1984-85 season and the Bruins jumped on the one-for-one swap.

In his first year with the Oilers, Krushelnyski enjoyed a banner season. He recorded career-highs in goals (43), assists (45) and points (88) and was third in the NHL with a plus-56 rating. He even played in the 1985 All-Star Game. He also helped the Oilers capture the Stanley Cup championship that year.

The Oilers had hoped Krushelnyski would be the guy who could play on the left side of Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, a hole that was never really filled until Esa Tikkanen arrived in the late 1980s. "Krusher" was given as good a shot as anyone to play with #99 and #17, but as the season wore on it became more and more obvious that Mike wasn't the right guy on that line either. He spent most of the Stanley Cup playoffs on other units, particularly as a third line shutdown center.

"(Krushelnyski) has a lot of skill, in addition to his size and strength," said John Muckler, Glen Sather's co-coach. "But there are psychological problems involved in working with Gretzky. You have to do things on blind faith, assuming he'll get the puck to you, and that's hard to do. A lot of times, Krush was so astounded by what was happening that he'd fail to react. He couldn't believe the pass he'd just received so there'd be no shot at all."

As Mike's true value to the Oilers became obvious as a third line checker and grinder, his offensive numbers went down. He scored only 16 goals in each of the next two seasons, and 40 and 51 points respectively. He upped that to 20 goals and 47 points in 1987-88 - his final season in Edmonton.

Despite his lack of scoring "Special K" remained a solid contributor to the Oilers success as the Oilers won the Cup in both 1987 and 1988.

Prior to the 1988-89 campaign, Krushelnyski was part of the biggest trades in NHL history. On August 9, 1988, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings with Gretzky and Marty McSorley for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, and Los Angeles’ first-round choices in 1989, 1991 and 1993.

Krushelnyski played parts of three seasons with the Kings before he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1990-91 season in exchange for John McIntyre. The Kings were hoping McIntyre could be a younger version of Krushelnyski at that time, while the Leafs were looking for Mike's experience and leadership. He was with Toronto for four unspectacular seasons before signing for one year with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent during the summer of 1994.

in 1995-96 Mike played in the American Hockey League with the Cape Breton Oilers. He finished his career in 1996-97 after a two game stint with HC Milano in Europe.

Over his NHL playing career, Mike scored a nice 241 goals, 328 assists and 569 points in 897 regular season games. In 139 playoff contests, he totaled 29 goals and 72 points. He was a solid contributor in other ways than just scoring, although it is likely most people will always wonder what happened to Big Mike after his 43 goal, 88 point season.
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3 comments:

Anonymous,  2:18 PM  

He scored one of the greatest goals of his career against Mike Vernon in 1990.

LysKitsune 2:07 PM  

If a career could be built on one goal alone, Krushelnyski's 1990 OT goal against Vernon would make him THE legend. One of the most memorable goals in NHL history from a guy who wasn't always glorious, but played every minute like it counted.

Anonymous,  5:55 PM  

mike is a great guy

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