Monday, April 6, 2015

The History of the NHL Single Season Scoring Record

The National Hockey League made it's debut in 1917 with a 22 game schedule. Joe Malone of the Montreal Canadiens (on loan from the dormant Quebec Bulldogs) set the standard by leading the league in scoring with 44 goals and 4 assists for 48 points, an average of two goals per game!

Joe Malone photo Joe Malone Canadiens 1917-18.jpg
Joe Malone set the first NHL scoring record in 1917-18

Two seasons later in 1919-20, Malone would raise the bar by a point following his 39 goal, 10 assist effort for 49 points in a now 24 game schedule while back with the revived Quebec franchise.

The NHL had changed dramatically by the 1927-28 season, expanding from four clubs to now ten with the additions of the Montreal Maroons, New York Americans, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Cougars and Chicago Black Hawks to the Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. This necessitated a now longer 44 game schedule and Howie Morenz of the Canadiens took over the league record for single season point scoring with 33 goals and 18 assists for 51 points, bettering Malone's eight year old mark of 49.

Howie Morenz photo Morenz Canadiens.jpg
Howie Morenz

Morenz's record would be obliterated two seasons later when rule changes allowed forward passing in the offensive zone and temporarily removed the offside rule. Players camping out in front of the opponents goal led to the rule being reinstated by mid-season. The Boston Bruins Cooney Weiland was the biggest beneficiary of the new offensive freedom and scored 43 goals and 30 assists in 44 games for a new league record of 73 points, 22 more than Morenz just two seasons earlier.

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Cooney Weiland brought the scorning record to the United States

Weiland's mark would remain the standard for over a decade. By the time World War II arrived, the NHL had contracted back to what is now known as the Original 6, while the season schedule had expanded to 50 games. Doug Bentley of the Chicago Black Hawks tied Weiland's record of 73 in 1942-43 with 33 goals and 40 assists.

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Doug Bentley equalled the scoring record in 1943

One season later, Herb Cain of the Bruins put together the season of his life with a 36 goal, 46 assist campaign for 82 total points after just 36 the season before and never exceeded 45 in the final two seasons of his career. Despite breaking Weiland's 14 year old record, Cain remains the only eligible former NHL scoring champion not inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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Herb Cain

Cain's stellar season would remain the record for seven seasons until Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings, playing in his fifth NHL season, raised the mark to 86 points with 43 goals and 43 assists in 1950-51 in what was now a 70 game schedule, finishing a clear 20 points ahead of second place Maurice Richard,

Howe equalled his 86 points the following year with 47 goals and 39 assists in 1951-52 before beating his own league record with a 49 goal, 46 assist season for 95 points, a dominant 24 points clear of Detroit teammate Ted Lindsay. Howe would lead the league in points again the next season for four consecutive scoring titles and once more in 1957 for five in seven years.

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The legendary Gordie Howe raised the scoring record twice

Six seasons after Howe set the record at 95 points, Dickie Moore would return the league record to the Canadiens when his 41 goals and 55 assists in 1958-59 eclipsed Howe by a single point with 96 in what was still a 70 game schedule.

Dickie Moore photo Dickie Moore Canadiens_1.jpg
Dickie Moore was the last of three Canadiens to hold the record

Moore's record would stand the test of time for a decade until the game saw it's first 100 point scorer in 1968-69. While Bobby Hull of Chicago set a new goal scoring record with 58, it was Phil Esposito of the Bruins who destroyed the old mark with his record shattering 126 points from 49 goals and 77 assists in a 76 game schedule. Both Hull (107) and Howe (103) also surpassed the 100 point mark that season to usher in a new era of offense in the NHL.

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Phil Esposito was the first man to reach 100 points in an NHL season

Esposito easily broke his own record in 1970-71 when he set new records for goals and points with 76 goals and 76 assists for 152 points in a 78 game schedule, 13 clear of teammate Bobby Orr, who took away the MVP honors despite Esposito's scoring record.

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Esposito was the third Bruin to set the scoring record

It would be another 10 years before the arrival of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, would seize the record, first with a 164 point season from 55 goals and 109 assists in his second season in the NHL, 1980-81, in an 80 game schedule. Gretzky's 109 assists broke Orr's record of 102 set back in 1970-71.

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Wayne Gretzky rewrote the record books

Gretzky broke his own record the following season of 1981-82. He announced his intentions of setting a new record when he scored 50 goals in just 39 games! He eventually finished the season by defeating Esposito's record of 76 goals with a new mark of 92 goals, which still stands to this day and remains the only 90 goal season in NHL history. Gretzky also blew away his record of 109 assists with 120 for a total of 212 points, shattering his own record for single season points by an amazing 47 points and becoming the first, and still only, player to ever reach 200 points.

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Gretzky led the Oilers to four Stanley Cups

After two more 200 point seasons, Gretzky then set the NHL record on this date in 1986 when the Oilers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 with Gretzky picking up an assist, his 163rd of the season to break his own single season assist record. He also added 52 goals for a combined 215 points, a single season points scoring record which remains unbeaten now 29 seasons later, as the wide open, firewagon hockey of the 1980's has given way to improved goaltending and defensive systems, which has resulted in no player leading the league with even 130 points since 1996 and as few as 94 points in a full 82 game season in 2003-04.

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Gretzky with the Art Ross Trophy (left) as the scoring champion
along with the Stanley Cup and Hart Trophy as league MVP


The Evolution of the NHL Single Season Scoring Record

Joe Malone - 1917-18 - 48 points
Joe Malone - 1919-20 - 49
Howie Morenz - 1927-28 - 51
Cooney Weiland - 1929-30 - 73
Doug Bentley - 1942-43 - 73
Herb Cain - 1943-44 - 82
Gordie Howe - 1950-51 - 86
Gordie Howe - 1951-52 - 86
Gordie Howe - 1952-53 - 95
Dickie Moore - 1958-59 - 96
Phil Esposito - 1968-69 - 126
Phil Esposito - 1970-71 - 152
Wayne Gretzky - 1980-81 - 165
Wayne Gretzky - 1981-82 - 212
Wayne Gretzky - 1985-86 - 215

Today's featured jersey is a 1985-86 Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky jersey as worn the season Gretzky set the NHL single season scoring record, which has now stood the test of time for nearly 30 years.

The Oilers changed the colors of their crest to a higher contrast and much more pleasing blue letters on a white background, rather than the orange background of their final WHA jerseys, in 1979-80 when they entered the NHL. In 1981-82 the shade of blue became lighter and the jerseys remained unchanged through the 1995-96 season, which included the team's dynasty of five Stanley Cups in seven seasons.

 photo Edmonton Oilers 1985-86 jersey.jpg

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