Web Exclusive: Pens 1990-91 Profile: Joe Mullen

By Palm, Mike | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

Web Exclusive: Pens 1990-91 Profile: Joe Mullen


Palm, Mike, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


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. …

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