The NHL's 100 Greatest Single-Season Performances: Nos. 60-41
Throughout the month of September, James Bisson and a cast of editors from theScore will share their rankings of the greatest players, teams, and moments in the 100-year history of the National Hockey League. This week's list focuses on the best individual seasons (* denotes a statistic led the league).
- James Bisson, National Sports Editor
- Josh Wegman, NHL News Editor
- Sean O'Leary, NHL News Editor
- Esten McLaren, NHL News Editor
- Michael Amato, Senior News Editor
- Craig Hagerman, NHL News Editor
- Lanny Foster, Senior Social Media Editor
- Arun Srinivasan, News Editor
60. Alec Connell, Ottawa Senators (1925-26)
Ahhh, the good old days. Connell was as stingy as any goaltender has ever been in NHL's the 100-year history, allowing no more than one goal in 23 of his 36 games played. Unfortunately, his offense didn't do him any favors in the playoffs; while he allowed just two goals in the two-game series against the Montreal Maroons, Ottawa scored just once.
59. Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens (1975-76)
Each of Dryden's five Vezina Trophy-winning seasons is special in one way or another; this one featured his highest single-season win total, as well as his lowest full-season goals-against average. And as usual, he saved his best work for the postseason - posting a 12-1 record with a minuscule 1.92 GAA and a shutout to lead Montreal to the first of four straight titles.
58. Tony Esposito, Chicago Black Hawks (1969-70)
When people talk rookie records, Teemu Selanne's name comes almost immediately to mind. But Before the Finnish Flash, there was Tony O, who took the NHL by storm as a first-year player in 1969-70. The 26-year-old posted the most shutouts ever by a rookie goaltender, earning both the Calder and Vezina Trophies while finishing second in the Hart Trophy race.
57. Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings (1952-53)
Coming off a second straight scoring title and a second Stanley Cup title in three seasons, fans were expecting more of the same from Howe - and Mr. Hockey didn't disappoint in the slightest. He won the scoring title by an otherworldly 24 points over runner-up Ted Lindsay, while the 49 goals stood up as a career high for the then-24-year-old.
56. Adam Oates, Boston Bruins (1992-93)
Known primarily for being one of the league's premier set-up men - just ask Brett Hull - Oates stunned everyone in 1992-93 by scoring 20 more goals than he had in any single season prior. He added a career-high assist total to finish third in league scoring behind Mario Lemieux and Pat LaFontaine despite losing future Hall of Fame winger Cam Neely for most of the season.
55. Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins (1968-69)
Esposito didn't just break the triple-digit point barrier - he shattered it into 126 pieces. Expo became the first player in NHL history with 100 or more points in a campaign, beating the previous single-season record by a whopping 29 points. That earned him both his first Art Ross Trophy and a runaway victory in the Hart Trophy voting.
54. Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings (1979-80)
Wayne Gretzky should have won the NHL scoring title as a rookie - after all, 137 points was almost always good enough back then. But Dionne was juuust good enough to fend off the 19-year-old mega-star, finishing with the same number of points but scoring two more goals. It was the only Art Ross Trophy for Dionne, who finished second in the Hart and Lady Byng award voting.
53. Terry Sawchuk, Detroit Red Wings (1951-52)
The first five seasons of Sawchuk's career measure up against any netminder in history - but it was his second full campaign that stands out above the rest. Sawchuk put together back-to-back 44-win seasons as part of the powerhouse Red Wings of the early-1950s, and his goals-against average and shutout tallies from that 1952-53 season stood up as career bests.
52. Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens (1976-77)
In a career full of incredible seasons, the 1976-77 campaign might well have been Dryden's best. Imagine a starting netminder losing just six of his 56 games played; if that weren't enough, he rolled to a 12-2 record with a 1.55 GAA and four shutouts in the playoffs. Inexplicably, Dryden wasn't considered for the Hart Trophy - but he had no problem walking away with the Vezina.
51. Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers (1974-75)
For two seasons in the mid-1970s, there was no goaltender in the world better than Parent. Coming off one of the best showings in league history a year earlier, Parent provided a suitable encore, racking up a whopping 10 more victories than the next-best netminder. Parent was just as good in the playoffs (10-5, 1.89 GAA, 4 SOs) as the Flyers repeated as champs.
50. Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens (1977-78)
"The Flower" bloomed in a big way in 1977-78, reaching the 60-goal plateau for the only time in his career while exceeding 130 points for the second year in a row. His sensational season allowed him to repeat as Hart Trophy winner while securing his third straight Art Ross Trophy. He also led the way with 10 goals and 21 points in the playoffs, leading the Habs to their third straight Cup.
49. Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins (1971-72)
Nobody quite knew what to expect from Esposito in the first season following his 152-point breakout. It turned out, Espo had plenty left in the tank - finishing 16 goals ahead of the next-closest competitor while winning the scoring title by 16 points over teammate Bobby Orr. In addition to capturing his third Art Ross Trophy, Esposito finished third in Hart Trophy balloting.
48. Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres (1993-94)
While 1992-93 was all about the scoring, Hasek made sure goaltenders were given their due the following the season. Thrust into a full-time starting role for the first time, Hasek posted the first sub-2.00 goals-against average in two decades and the highest save percentage since the league began tracking the statistic in 1983-84. That earned him his first of six Vezina trophies.
47. Howie Morenz, Montreal Canadiens (1927-28)
Voters clearly disagreed over the value of a 50-point season from 90 years ago. But Morenz's dominance in 1927-28 can't be ignored; he was the first player to break the 50-point barrier, a mark he would reach twice more in his Hall of Fame career. Morenz fended off a challenge from goaltender Roy Worters to win his first of three league MVP awards.
46. Paul Coffey, Edmonton Oilers (1983-84)
Not since Bobby Orr had the NHL seen such an offensively gifted blue-liner - and Coffey really let loose in 1983-84, joining Orr as the only defensemen to score 120 or more points in a season (an honor they still share). Yet, as good as Coffey was, Norris Trophy voters weren't quite sure what to make of his offense-first approach; he wound up finishing second to Rod Langway.
45. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers (1979-80)
It's hard to reconcile not one, but two voters leaving Gretzky's rookie campaign off their top-100 lists - but hey, it's not like this series isn't already chock full of The Great One. The 19-year-old blitzed the NHL from the start, setting a league record for points in the first season of a career. That year marked the start of a streak of eight consecutive Hart Trophies.
44. Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders (1978-79)
Few 22-year-olds have had a season like Trottier did nearly 40 years ago. The former second-round pick won an entertaining scoring race, fending off Marcel Dionne by four points and Guy Lafleur by five. The 134 points stood as a career best for Trottier, who would later become a pivotal piece in the Islanders' Stanley Cup dynasty.
43. Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo Sabres (1992-93)
Prior to the 1992-93 season, new Sabres center Pat LaFontaine proclaimed he could help Mogilny score 70 goals. Sure enough, LaFontaine's promise came true; Mogilny tied Teemu Selanne for the league league in what was far and away the greatest season of his career. Yet, despite the incredible goal total, Mogilny was an afterthought in Hart voting.
42. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (1984-85)
Anyone who saw his electrifying goal on the first shift of his NHL career knew Super Mario was going to be in for a really good rookie season. And while it wasn't quite of Gretzky's caliber - particularly in the plus-minus department - the fact he was able to record 100 points on a team that was otherwise devoid of talent is nothing short of miraculous. Even for him.
41. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (2007-08)
Ovechkin did plenty of incredible things in his first two NHL seasons, but his third campaign remains the best of his career. Ovechkin became the first player in 12 years to score 60-plus goals in a season, and he racked up enough assists to hold off Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for his one and only scoring title. That earned Ovechkin the first of two straight Hart Trophy nods.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)