Web exclusive: Pens 1990-91 profile: Joe Mullen

When Joe Mullen had surgery Feb. 6, 1991, he didn’t know if he
would be back on the ice that season ? or ever.

The surgery to remove a herniated disc from his neck created
doubts about his future.

“I didn’t know. I was very unsure of it,” Mullen said recently.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of players that came back from that type
of injury, so I was very unsure if my career was over or not.”

But fitted with a huge neck collar to prevent whiplash, Mullen
returned to the lineup just two months later April 7, scoring a
goal in Game 3 of the
Penguins’ first-round series against
New Jersey.

As to whether his return to the lineup provided a boost to
Penguins?

“I’d like to think so,” he said, “but only the team can answer
that.”

Prior to the injury, Mullen provided exactly what the
Penguins had hoped for: goals and
veteran leadership. He had 17 goals (eight on the power play) and
22 assists in 47 games.

Mullen downplayed his contribution, instead crediting the talent
of the team ? six players in the Hockey Hall of Fame, with two more
likely on the way.

“We could feel that we had that type of surroundings around us,
that we had the makings of a real good team,” Mullen said. “(Mark)
Recchi was very young; (Jaromir) Jagr was very young, but talent
galore. I think we felt good about our team.”

Mullen continued scoring in the playoffs with eight goals,
including two in the Stanley Cup-clinching victory over the
Minnesota North Stars.

“It’s just a thrill that we ended that season like that,” he
said. “We had an abundance of talent, talented players out there,
and to win a game 8-0, it’s pretty cool.”

On whether he was brought in to provide leadership:

We did have guys put in place already like, Mario (Lemieux) was
young at the time, but he was a leader just because he was the best
player in the league. You know you had guys like Bryan Trottier,
who came in the same year I did. I figured they brought him in for
some leadership. I’d won the Cup in Calgary a couple years before,
so I think they brought me in for my goal scoring and experience.
(Paul) Coffey was already there. Another guy, not too old, but a
lot of experience, a lot of playoff experience, a lot of Cups and a
lot of offense by Paul, too. You got a veteran goalie like Tommy
Barrasso was there, and at the end of that season, we brought in
Ronnie Francis, Ulf Samuelsson — more leadership and more veteran
players that had a high skill level and that overall leadership
ability on and off the ice.

On all the trades during the 1990-91 season:

No, when you bring in veteran guys like that, I don’t think it
messes with chemistry. It may take a game or two just to get it
going, but I think the quality of the player we were bringing in
kind of speaks for itself and made it easier to make that kind of
transition, you know, because each and every one of the guys that
came in could read of each other.

On “Badger” Bob Johnson:

He was the type of coach that always had something to counteract
what the other team was doing, always thinking, always had a play
in place, a plan in place for the team against every team that we
played. He always stuck to his plans and drilled it into us.

On when the
Penguins knew they were going to win
the Stanley Cup:

I think just going into the third period. It was just a matter
of the clock moving a little quick. It seemed like we were watching
that clock, and it was taking forever to tick down.

On the second time winning the Stanley Cup:

Just tremendous. It’s kind of like the same emotions came
rushing back. Calgary was the first time I experienced it, so it
was pretty neat there. The exact same emotions came back the second
time. … You could look at the other guys that won it for the
first time and see what you experienced two years before that.

On Consol vs. Civic/Mellon Arena:

There’s no comparison. Mellon Arena was the oldest arena in the
league at the time, and it had a lot of character. A lot of people
would call it a rathole, but you know, it was one of those older
buildings like Chicago Stadium, Boston Garden, Maple Leafs Garden,
the Montreal Canadiens building. All the old buildings had some
kind of character to them, a tradition that each team built in
those buildings. You know, this is a brand new building, everything
is top of the line, (state) of the art-type stuff, which all the
new buildings are becoming. It just determines how much character
they will have by the teams that play in them.