There is something about high-scoring duos that really fires up an NHL fanbase. McDavid and Draisaitl. Matthews and Marner. A pair of players who have the ability to not only make an impact on a game, but to actually take over a game. Going back a few decades, here are who I consider to be the top 4 NHL duos of the 1990s. As someone who started watching hockey in the 90s, ranking them caused me more personal anguish than I was anticipating.
Top 4 NHL Duos of the 1990s
4. Kariya/Selanne – Mighty Ducks of Anaheim
Despite Paul Kariya’s rookie season being the 1994-95 season and Teemu Selanne not joining the Ducks until the 1995-96 trade deadline, this duo was one of the most productive of the 1990s. Combined, they recorded 409 goals and 887 points in 709 games for the Ducks during that decade. They were especially deadly on the powerplay, scoring 320 points (36% of their total) with the man advantage.
Unfortunately, the team did not have much talent besides this pair, so the Ducks experienced limited playoff success in the 1990s, only making the Conference Semi-finals in 1996-97 and the Conference Quarterfinals in 1998-99. Despite the lack of team success, Kariya and Selanne we as electric as any duo in the 90s.
3. Yzerman/Fedorov – Detroit Red Wings
Unlike Kariya and Selanne, Steve Yzerman and Sergei Fedorov had the advantage of not being members of an expansion franchise. However, playing for an Original Six franchise didn’t automatically mean success. When Fedorov defected from the USSR and joined the Wings for the 1990-91 season, it had been 35 years since the team had won a Stanley Cup and 25 years since they had even been to the Cup Final.
Along with Nicklas Lidstrom, Yzerman and Fedorov turned the Red Wings into a dynasty in the 1990s, making the playoffs every season, making it to the Finals four times, and winning two Stanley Cups. Yzerman and Fedorov combined for 637 goals and 1,604 points in 1414 games during the decade, the second most points out of any duo in the 90s.
2. Sakic/Forsberg – Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche
One of the biggest playoff rivalries of the 1990s was between the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche, and Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg were right in the middle of it. Sakic played for the franchise for the whole decade (and was the captain of the team for almost all of it), but Forsberg didn’t join the club until the 1994-95 season.
Despite arriving part-way through the decade and battling several injuries, Forsberg was second in total points for the Nords/Avalanche behind Sakic in the 1990s. Combined, the duo put up 1,387 points in 1095 games – a 1.27 points per game average. The two were the perfect 1-2 punch up the middle, winning their division every year that both were on the team, making it to the conference finals four out of five seasons in the 90s, and winning the Stanley Cup in 1996.
1. Jagr/Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins
No duo dominated the 1990s like Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux. Jagr scored 958 points during the decade (the most in the NHL, and all for the Penguins). Between significant injuries and retiring (the first time), Mario only played 318 games in the 90s, but his 2.06 points per game played during the decade put him firmly in first place during that time period (Gretzky was second with 1.37).
Between the two, the duo combined for 1614 points in 1043 games for the Penguins, making the playoffs every season and winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. If Lemieux had been able to remain healthy, it’s hard to imagine the massive numbers that this pair would have been able to accumulate together.
There were many great duos that I ended up leaving off the list: Gretzky and Robitaille, Lindros and Brind’Amour, Bourque and Oates, Mogilny and Lafontaine. Should any of these duos have been in my top 4? What do you think?