It was a huge deal, and one that you don’t see very often now in today’s NHL. On January 29th, 1993, the Detroit Red Wings acquired high-scoring defenseman Paul Coffey from the L.A. Kings in a 6-player blockbuster trade.
As stacked with talent as the mid-to-late 90’s Red Wings were, they were constantly improving. Acquiring Coffey added just another weapon to their already potent blue line, stacking up for a Stanley Cup run that post-season. The Red Wings got Paul Coffey, right wing Jim Hiller, and center Sylvain Courturier from the Kings in exchange for Jimmy Carson, and two minor-leaguers in Gary Shuchuk and Marc Potvin. Carson was a great player for Detroit, putting up 100 goals among 202 points in 240 games with the Wings. He never quite replicated that success after heading back to L.A., with whom he started his NHL career. Shuchuk would play very limited time in his NHL career, and Potvin would also see limited time in the NHL up till his tragic death in 2006.
Needless to say, Detroit got the better of that deal. They added to a blue line that in the next couple years featured the likes of legends such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Viacheslav Fetisov, and Vladimir Konstantinov. With already arguably the most explosive offense in the NHL spearheaded by captain Steve Yzerman and superstar Sergei Fedorov, with the addition of the formation of the Russian Five, the Red Wings were the team to beat for at least the next two years, though that rarely happened in the regular season.
In the 1993-94 season, Detroit went 46-30-8 (W-L-T), good for 100 points and first in the Central Division. They would get eliminated in the Quarterfinals in the post-season by the San Jose Sharks, though. The 1994-95 season, a year that was shortened due to a lockout, they recorded a 33-11-4 season and again captured the top seed in the division, as well as being awarded the President’s Trophy for best record in the regular season. They made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals that year, exacting revenge by sweeping the Sharks in the Semifinals. They would end up getting swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Cup finals; a disheartening finish to a great season.
The disappointment only drove them to improve, and improve they would. The following year, the 1995-96 season, was arguably the greatest regular season in Red Wings franchise history. They set the new NHL record for most wins in a season with 62, a record that still stands today (previously 60, by the ’76-’77 Canadiens), captured the President’s Trophy for the second straight year with a 62-13-7 season and 131 points, as well as their third consecutive division title, and were the only NHL team that season to not be shutout in any of their 82 games. Coffey would lead all Red Wings blueliners with 14 goals and 74 points in 76 games. He’d also add 5 goals and 14 points in 17 post-season games that year.
The Red Wings were ultimately eliminated in the Western Conference Finals by their then-arch rivals, the Colorado Avalanche, after going into the post-season as the heavy favorites to take home the Cup and end their lengthy championship drought.
Coffey would have a falling out with then-head coach Scotty Bowman, and was subsequently traded the following season to Hartford Whalers, ironically the year the Red Wings would finally win the Stanley Cup, their first of two consecutive championships.