Saturday, December 17, 2011

Randy Cunneyworth

Randy Cunneyworth's career began and ended with the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans. But for the longest time it appeared that Randy Cunneyworth would never have an NHL career. But once leaving the Buffalo organization the hustling winger was able to enjoy an 866 NHL game career.

Randy was a late draft pick in 1980 out of the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario major junior league. But it was the following season that he erupted with the 67's, scoring 54 goals and 128 points while picking up 240 hard earned penalty minutes in 67 games. He ended the season with a 1 game appearance with both the Sabres and AHL Amerks.

It was hardly a surprise when Cunneyworth began his career in the minor leagues in 1981-82. He scored 12 goals and 27 points in 57 games, but it was trademark hustle and enthusiasm that earned him a 20 game tryout with the Sabres. He scored twice and picked up 6 points.

That would be it for Randy in Buffalo though. Until 1985 the Sabres depth on left wing buried the scrappy winger in the AHL. It wasn't until training camp trade in 1985 to Pittsburgh that he was able to get another shot in the NHL.

Cunneyworth transformed his shot into a great NHL career. He combined his strong physical game and good wheels to become a very solid contributor with a Pittsburgh team that featured a maturing Mario Lemieux. Randy would sometimes play on Mario's left side, and made full advantage of that. After a 15 goal and 45 point rookie season in 1985-86, Randy would record at least 25 goals three years in a row. His best season came in 1987-88 when he rode on Mario's coattails en route to a 35 goal, 74 point season.

In 1989, Randy was traded to Winnipeg, where he played in just 28 games before being shipped to Hartford. Randy would enjoy three seasons in Hartford, although was never much of a scoring threat without Mario Lemieux. It didn't really matter as Randy carved out a nice niche as a energetic role player who prided himself in his defensive and physical play.

Cunneyworth had a short appearance in Chicago to end the 1993-94 season before returning to the city where he enjoyed his fine junior career. Randy would be an instrumental figure with the Ottawa Senators from 1994 through 1998, serving as team captain and an inspiring leader who helped get that franchise out of the expansion doldrums.

Randy's career appeared to be all but over in 1998 when he opted to return to the Sabres organization. Aside from a 14 game stint with the Sabres, he spent the whole year back down on the farm in Rochester. He was an essential member of the Amerks team that made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals.

Following the completion of the AHL season, Randy was recalled to Buffalo where the Sabres were going deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Randy was injected into 3 Stanley Cup finals games against the Dallas Stars. Briefly Randy was the talk of the hockey world. He had made a career out of simply outworking everyone on the ice, and that hard work now paid off with his only shot at a Stanley Cup. His spirited play sparked the Sabres to a 7th game before bowing out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Randy returned to Rochester in 1999-2000, this time serving both as a player and an assistant coach. However his season was cut short due to a knee injury. At that point Randy opted to focus all of his attentions towards coaching. He would become a high quality minor league coach and, just before Christmas 2011, he was hired as the interim head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Cunneyworth retired with 189 goals and 414 points in his 866 NHL games. He also picked up 1280 minutes in penalties.

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