Saturday, November 30, 2019

SLU - The Lost Years (a 12 Days of Christmas preview)

This December, The Collector will be celebrating Christmas with a look at some of my all-time favorite toys, games, and gifts. Included in the series will be sports action figures such as McFarlane SportsPicks and Kenner Starting Lineup. I wrote a post about SLU figures in general a few years ago and my 12DOC post(s) will expand on my experiences collecting them as a kid. 

In the meantime, I've been working on something adjacent for years. It always fascinated me that Kenner produced MLB, NFL, and NBA figures starting in 1988. However NHL figures were not produced until 1993. (The 1989 NBA "set" is another topic I'd love to tackle someday.)  

I thought we could fill in the gaps with a mock checklist of figures from every team from 1988-1992. Since we can't create custom figures, I've enlisted the help of Gavin to create some custom cards for each "lost" year of Kenner SLUs. 

In 1988, Kenner produced figures for 132 MLB players, 137 NFL players, and 85 NBA players. (h/t Hockey isn't nearly as popular as those sports in the United States, and that was also true thirty years ago. That being said, one third of the 21 NHL teams at the time were based in Canada - and the top teams and players of the mid-late 1980's were Canadian as well. And so our checklist will be roughly the size of the 1988 NBA series - 80 players. Here they are:

Adams Division:

Boston Bruins (4) 
  • Ray Bourque (Norris trophy winner led Bruins with 81 points)
  • Reggie Lemelin (4th in NHL with 2.93 GAA in 1987-88)
  • Ken Linseman (2nd on Bruins in reg. season scoring, 1st in playoff points)
  • Cam Neely (led Bruins with 42 goals in 1987-88)

Buffalo Sabres (3) 
  • Dave Andreychuk (Sabres' scoring leader with 78 points in 1987-88)
  • Tom Barrasso (Runner-up for Vezina trophy tied for 5th in NHL with 25 wins)
  • Phil Housley (led all NHL defensemen with 29 goals, tied for third on team)

Hartford Whalers (3) 
  • Kevin Dineen (tied for team lead with 25 goals in 1987-88)
  • Ron Francis (led Whalers in scoring with 75 points, co-leader in goals)
  • Mike Liut (3.18 GAA ranked 7th in NHL, 25 wins tied Barrasso for 5th)

Montreal Canadiens (6) 
  • Chris Chelios (led all Habs defensemen with 20 goals, 61 points, 172 PIMs)
  • Claude Lemieux (second on Montreal with 31 goals in 1987-88)
  • Mats Naslund (second on the team with 83 points, won Lady Byng trophy)
  • Stephane Richer (50 goals tied for 6th in NHL in 1987-88, led team)
  • Larry Robinson (40 points in 53 games, second among Canadiens blueliners)
  • Patrick Roy (2nd team NHL All-Star led league in save %, 3rd in GAA)

Quebec Nordiques (2) 
  • Michel Goulet (led Nordiques with 48 goals, 2nd team All-Star)
  • Peter Stastny (tied for 5th in NHL with 111 points in 1987-88)
custom card by Gavin

Patrick Division:

New Jersey Devils (3) 
  • Aaron Broten (57 assists tied for team lead, second on NJ with 83 points)
  • Kirk Muller (led the Devils with 94 points in 1987-88, 14th in NHL)
  • Pat Verbeek (team leader in goals with 46, second in PIMs with 227)

New York Islanders (4) 
  • Pat LaFontaine (Islanders' leader with 47 goals, 92 points in 1987-88)
  • Denis Potvin (led Isles defensemen with 51 points in his final season)
  • Billy Smith (4-time Stanley Cup winner was 8th in NHL with 3.22 GAA)
  • Bryan Trottier (second on Islanders with 82 points in 1987-88)
custom card by Gavin

New York Rangers (4) 
  • Marcel Dionne (scored his 700th career goal in '87-88, finished second on team)
  • James Patrick (45 assists was third on Rangers, first among defensemen)
  • Walt Poddubny (led Blueshirts with 38 goals, 88 points in 1987-88)
  • John Vanbiesbrouck (4th in NHL with 27 wins, 3rd with 1,513 saves)

Philadelphia Flyers (4) 
  • Ron Hextall (3rd among NHL goalies in wins and games played, 2nd in saves)
  • Mark Howe (All-Star was 3rd on Flyers with 43 assists, 4th in points with 62)
  • Brian Propp (Flyers' leader in assists and points in 1987-88)
  • Rick Tocchet (31 goals led the Flyers; 8th in NHL with 299 PIMs)

Pittsburgh Penguins (3) 
    • Paul Coffey (5th among NHL defensemen with 67 points in just 46 games)
    • Mario Lemieux (NHL MVP led league with 70 goals and 168 points in 1987-88)
    • Dan Quinn (second on Penguins in goals with 40 and points with 79)

    Washington Capitals (4) 
      • Mike Gartner (led Capitals with 81 points, tied for 9th in NHL with 48 goals)
      • Clint Malarchuk (6th in NHL with 3.16 GAA, tied for NHL lead with 4 shutouts)
      • Larry Murphy (second on Caps with 53 assists, 22nd in NHL among all skaters)
      • Scott Stevens (Norris trophy runner-up led Capitals with 60 assists)

      Norris Division:

      Chicago Blackhaws (4)
      • Steve Larmer (41-goal scorer in 1987-88, finished second on Chicago with 89 points)
      • Denis Savard (All-Star finished 3rd in NHL with 87 assists and 131 points)
      • Rick Vaive (second on the Blackhawks with 43 goals in 1987-88)
      • Doug Wilson (led 'Hawk defensemen with 24 assists, 32 points in just 27 games)

      Detroit Red Wings (4)
      • Gerard Gallant (second on Red Wings with 73 points, third on team in goals)
      • Glen Hanlon (tied for NHL lead with 4 shutouts in 1987-88, 9th in sv% & GAA)
      • Bob Probert ('88 All-Star led NHL in penalty minutes, led Red Wings in playoff points)
      • Steve Yzerman (team leader in points with 102, scored 50 goals in 64 games)

      Minnesota North Stars (3) 
      • Brian Bellows (North Stars' All-Star finished second on team in goals and points)
      • Neal Broten (4th on Stars with 30 assists, 5th in points with 39 in 54 games)
      • Dino Ciccarelli (led Minnesota with 45 goals and 86 points in 1987-88)

      St. Louis Blues (3) 
      • Bernie Federko (7th in NHL with 69 assists in 1987-88, led St. Louis in points)
      • Doug Gilmour (Blues' second-leading scorer led team with 17 playoff points)
      • Tony McKegney (led Blues with 40 goals, third on team in points and assists)

      Toronto Maple Leafs (4) 
      • Al Iafrate (Toronto's All-Star in 1988 led Leaf d-men with 22 goals and 52 points)
      • Ed Olczyk (Maple Leafs' leader with 42 goals and 75 points in 1987-88)
      • Borje Salming (Leafs' elder statesman was second on team with +7 rating)
      • Ken Wregget (5th in NHL with 1,490 saves, tied for 5th in games played)

        custom card by Gavin

      Smythe Division:

      Calgary Flames (6)
      • Hakan Loob (1st Team All-Star scored 50 goals and led Flames with 106 points)
      • Al MacInnis (second among Flames defensemen - and NHL defensemen - with 83 points)
      • Joe Mullen (5th straight 40-goal season in 1987-88, finished 5th on Flames in points)
      • Joe Nieuwendyk (Rookie of the Year led Flames with 51 goals, 5th-best total in NHL)
      • Gary Suter (led all NHL defensemen with 91 points, 6th among all skaters with 70 assists)
      • Mike Vernon (second among goalies in games played and wins, 4th in saves)

      Edmonton Oilers (6) 
      • Glenn Anderson (one of six Oilers in the All-Star game, 4th on team with 88 points)
      • Grant Fuhr (Vezina trophy winner played 75 of 80 games, led NHL in wins & saves)
      • Wayne Gretzky (Playoff MVP led league in assists with 109, traded in September '88)
      • Jari Kurri (shared team lead in goals with 43, 3rd among Oilers with 96 points)
      • Mark Messier (second on Oilers - and 5th in the NHL - with 74 assists and 111 points)
      • Esa Tikkanen (5th on team with 74 reg. season points, 4th in postseason points)
      custom card by Gavin

      Los Angeles Kings (4) 
      • Jimmy Carson (scored team-leading 55 goals as a 19 year-old in 1987-88)
      • Bernie Nicholls (3rd on Kings with 32 goals and 78 points in 65 games)
      • Luc Robitaille (L. A.'s All-Star led team with 111 points, tied for 5th in NHL)
      • Dave Taylor (Kings' captain scored 67 points in 68 games, 4th on team)

      Vancouver Canucks (3) 
      • Greg Adams (Vancouver's All-Star was second on team in goals and points)
      • Stan Smyl (Canucks' captain was 4th on team with 37 points in 57 games)
      • Tony Tanti (led Canucks with 40 goals and 77 points in 1987-88)

      Winnipeg Jets (3) 
      • Randy Carlyle (led Winnipeg blueliners in goals, points, and PIMs)
      • Dale Hawerchuk (Jets' captain finished 4th in NHL with 77 assists and 121 points)
      • Thomas Steen (fan favorite was 6th on Jets in assists and points)

      I would assume that the Gretzky figure would have been re-painted in Kings colors once the trade went down, but the card would be left as shown. Also I tried to include every team's top players but some lesser names were left out (such as Mike Bullard) if I didn't think they were "collectible" enough. 

      In my next edition of "SLU - The Lost Years" we'll look at the 1988-89 NHL season and series. Perhaps I'll cut down on the stats for that one :-)

      Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!



      1. What a cool project! I love your choices of players, many of whom I remember from playing NHL '93-'95 on my Genesis. Gavin's customs kick ass as well, and he definitely captured that SLU card feel.

      2. I bought a few baseball SLUs the first year it came out. I loved Star Wars figures and I thought baseball figures would be cool, but was underwhelmed when I got them.
        Gotta admit I skimmed the hockey part and didn't realize those were Gavin's customs until I saw Dennis's comment. Totally thought they were real. Light blue is a great color choice for a hockey card.

      3. I was a big fan of the SLU figures, but I have not gotten any of the NHL figures...yet. I do have some of the cards they came with though, an interesting twist as I have several NBA figures I got loose without the card.

      4. Great post, great stats. It would be cool to see the classic North Stars, Whalers, and Nordiques uniforms on a Starting Lineup figure.

      5. Fun post and those cards are spot on. Cool project.

      6. The 1988 Kenner SLU card design is awesome! I only wish that Kenner had used green instead of white for their football cards that year. By the way... Gavin did a great job on these customs... and I love the choice to go with light blue.

      7. I can't take too much credit for the customs, as Chris provided the design and photos.. I basically just put the two together and changed the text. But yes, they turned out pretty good!