Marty McSorley was a 6-foot-1, 236-pound right-handed defenseman who could also play on the wing. He’s mainly remembered for being an enforcer who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves, but from 1990-91 to 1992-93 he was silently one of the Los Angeles Kings’ most skilled skaters.
Prior to 1990-91
Before becoming a member of the Kings, he most famously laced up his skates for the Edmonton Oilers, where he won the Stanley Cup in 1987 and 1988. He racked up 886 penalty minutes (PIM) and 64 points in 247 games played before arriving in the bright, Hollywood lights of LA. He was sent to the Kings in the Wayne Gretzky trade, as his presence helped ward off players from throwing dirty hits on “The Great One.”
His first two seasons in LA were nothing impressive. He produced 63 points in 141 games played and mainly was used as an enforcer. He racked up 672 PIM and fought 33 times in that timeframe, demonstrating that he was mainly on the ice to intimidate other teams, not to play skilled hockey. This changed in 1990-91, as he began playing skilled hockey while also maintaining his mean streak.
The 1990-91 season was one of the first where McSorley played at right wing. Surprisingly, he did so with a great deal of success. He missed time due to injuries, but in 61 games played he posted 39 points, which was his second-best point total in his career. His 0.63 points per game ratio were the best of his career. He posted a plus-48 rating, which was tied with Theo Fleury for the best in the league, and ranked plus-6 higher than third-placed Al MacInnis.
His numbers are even more impressive considering he had 221 PIM, which means he spent the equivalent of 3.7 games of the season in the penalty box. If you remove these games from his totals, then 39 points and plus-48 in 58 games played is even more impressive. His fantastic play was acknowledged, as he finished 21st in Selke Trophy voting and he received votes to be named to the all-star team, making 1990-91 the lone season where he was nominated for accolades.
In 1991-92, McSorley was switched back to being a blue-liner. Despite this sudden change, he still had a good season. In 71 games he posted 29 points, which ranked 43rd among defencemen. His 22 assists ranked 50th among blue-liners. Overall, his offensive totals weren’t spectacular, but they still were among the league’s top defensive players.
Similar to 1990-91, his offensive totals look better if you eliminate the games that he spent in the penalty box. His dirty play led to him spending 268 minutes in the sin bin, which is equivalent to 4.5 games. Excluding these games, his 29 points in 67 games look a bit better than his prior total.
McSorley scored a career-high 15 goals and added 26 assists for a career-best 41 points during the 1992-93 season. His point totals ranked 31st in scoring by a defenseman, but you have to remember this was a stacked era of blue-liners where six hit over 80 points: Phil Housley; Paul Coffey; Steve Duchesne; Larry Murphy; Ray Borque; and Gary Suter.
His 15 goals were even more impressive, as they ranked tied for 13th for most goals by defencemen. McSorley was one of the league’s best offensive defensemen in 1992-93. Despite this, he still played with an edge, posting a staggering 399 PIM, which ranks fifth all-time for a single season and is equal to 6.65 entire games in the penalty box.
McSorley’s grit and heavy-hitting tremendously helped the Kings in the playoffs, as he helped them make the Stanley Cup Final where they lost in five games to Montreal. He especially helped them beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Conference Final. He would hammer Leafs’ star Doug Gilmour whenever his head was down, making him look twice before skating through the neutral zone. This physical play and repeated hits on Gilmour agitated the Leafs, particularly Gilmour’s linemate Wendel Clark.
LA’s Heavyweight Champ
A modern-day example of a player similar to McSorley is Brad Marchand. Obviously Marchand is way more skilled than McSorley was, but fans often discredit him due to him being “The Rat”, and ignore the fact that he’s always one of the league’s top point producers and is a great two-way player.
From 1990-91 to 1992-93 McSorley did it all for LA. He received Selke Trophy votes and led the league in plus/minus in 1990-91. He was among the league’s top offensive defencemen in 1991-92 and 1992-93. He played a pivotal role in LA making the Stanley Cup Final. While doing this, he managed to be one of the league’s biggest pests and one of the dirtiest players in the game.
Although he’s remembered for fighting and throwing illegal hits, McSorley was a great player for LA, who excelled no matter what position he had to play, and should also be remembered for his skill.