A look at the Minnesota North Stars’ All-Decade team for the 1980s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1980s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1980-81 and 1989-90) during the regular season. A complete list is available here.
Team: Minnesota North Stars (1980-81 to 1989-90)
326-347-127, .487 WIN PCT, 2,978 GF vs. 3,043 GA, -65 Diff, 8/10 Playoff Appearances, 0 Stanley Cups
Minnesota started the decade out quite strongly, posting 85+ points in five of the first six seasons in the decade (including two 90+ point seasons). But the wheels fell in the last half of the decade, and the North Stars lost 165 games over the final four seasons of the 1980s. But thanks to playing in a very weak division, they still made the playoffs eight times (including qualifying with just 62 points in ’84-85). Minnesota was a surprisingly balanced two-way team. Their offense was below average, ranking 15th with 3.72 goals for per game. But their defense was firmly middle-of-the-pack, ranking 11th with 3.80 goals against per game. Their differential was a decent-enough -65, ranking 11th, and their 48.7% win percentage during the 1980s ranked them 12th for the decade. They had two strong playoff runs during the first half of the decade: they made it to the finals in 1981 (losing to the New York Islanders), and the Semi-Finals in 1984 (where they were taken out en route to the Edmonton Oilers’ first Stanley Cup). While they had enough ups and downs to give their fan base heart attacks, they did have some memorable seasons during the decade.
Left Wing: Brian Bellows (593GP, 277-295-572, -54, 453 PIM, 32 GWG)
Brian Bellows is one of those players who just looked out of place in any other uniform besides the North Stars jersey. He was a fantastic talent for them in the 1980s. Not great defensively (he never had a positive +/- rating), he was always a point-per-game threat. During his eight seasons for Minnesota in the 1980s, he never scored less than 23 goals or 50 points. He had a 55-goal, 99-point season in ’89-90, his high-water mark. He also added two 40-goal seasons, two 30-goal seasons and three 20-goal seasons. He scored 79+ points four times in total, and his 32 game-winning goals represented a healthy 12% of his goal total. He was a great powerplay threat too, twice hitting 21 PPG and getting double-digits on three other occasions. He even potted 12 short-handed goals. A consistent threat from the left side for Minnesota.
Centre: Neal Broten (639 GP, 216-444-660, +25, 393 PIM, 23 GWG)
Neal Broten was practically born to wear North Stars green. He played three games during the ’80-81 season, and was a regular for the rest of the decade. Although there were some durability and consistency issues, he was a solid player. Six of his nine full seasons saw him post a positive +/- rating, and in eight he scored 18 or more goals. He had a pair of 30-goal seasons, and four seasons of 85+ points (including a high of 105 in ’85-86). A talented playmaker, he had four seasons of 60+ assists. He was also a threat on special teams, consistently chipping in 4-9 PPG a season and a few SHG too (16 over 8+ seasons).
Right Wing: Dino Ciccarelli (602 GP, 332-319-651, Even, 642 PIM, 27 GWG)
Dino was a mainstay on the North Stars’ right wing until he 1\was shipped to Washington with Bob Rouse in a blockbuster deal that saw Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy come the other way. Dino was one of those players you hated unless he was on your team. Because not only was he capable of playing tough and getting under his opponents’ skin, but he was talented too. For Minnesota in the 80s, he had two 50-goal seasons, two 40-goal seasons, and three 30-goal seasons. He cleared 100 points twice, and had two more seasons in 86-89 range. He consistently had moderate PIM totals, with four seasons of 79+. He was a beast on the powerplay with two 20+ PPG seasons, and five others of 13+. He also had 200 or more shots on goal in every season where he played at least 65 games. One of the better players in the history of the North Stars, not just the 1980s.
Defense: Craig Hartsburg (491 GP, 84-285-369, -3, 737 PIM, 10 GWG)
Craig Hartsburg managed to do something I thought nearly impossible: keep a fairly even +/- rating in the Norris division during the 1980s. He was never worse than -9, and never better than +11. He was also quite talented offensively: he posted double-digit goal totals five times in nine seasons, made even more impressive when you consider he played 32 games or less four times. In his five FULL seasons, he scored 60+ points three times, including a high of 77 in ’81-82. He also hit 50 assists three times, and had another season of 47 assists. He wasn’t shy about physical play, with four 100+ PIM seasons and another with 93. He would chip in a few powerplay goals as well, with 33 of his 84 goals coming with the man advantage. It’s a shame wasn’t more durable, because he had some terrific numbers on a team that didn’t have much blueline depth during this decade.
Defense: Gordie Roberts (555 GP, 33-224-257, +11, 832 PIM, 2 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Curt Giles
Curt Giles made a strong case for himself with his consistency (five seasons of 23-30 points, only one negative +/- rating in ten seasons), but Roberts managed to hit some higher highs (although he dropped off towards the end of his tenure). Gordie Roberts was a fantastic defenseman for Minnesota in his first five seasons, and then somewhat ordinary for his final three. He scored 30+ assists and 34+ points in each of his first five seasons, including a high of 53 in ’83-84. He was also willing to stand up for himself, hitting 100+ PIM in six of his eight seasons (and 94 in another). Not much of a powerplay threat, he was a reliable two-way player. A bit inconsistent defensively (four seasons of positive +/-, and three negative), but he brought a nice mix of skill and toughness to Minnesota in the 80s.
Goalie: Jon Casey (158 GP, 62-57-21, 4 SO, 3.33 GAA, 0.894 PCT)
Honourable Mention to Gilles Meloche
There really wasn’t much to choose from in Minnesota’s net during the 1980s. Casey made the cut with two strong seasons at the end of the decade, and three seasons of sporadic appearances. Gilles Meloche had five seasons in Minnesota with above-.500 records in four of them, but his GAA wasn’t great (3.66 in 220 games), and his save percentage was erratic. Casey will always be fondly remembered for backing the North Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 1991, and he rose to prominence in the last half of the 80s. In his two seasons as a starter he went 49-39-16 with four shut-outs with a 3.15 GAA and a .897 PCT. Prior to that he was up-and-down between Minnesota and the minors, playing 42 games over parts of three seasons. But he when you consider that his strong record and stats came during a time when Minnesota’s record was 63-77-20, it makes it even more impressive. Plus he had a kick-ass goalie mask, something that is difficult to ignore.