The NHL's 100 Greatest Single-Season Performances: Nos. 40-21
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 (*: led 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
40. Pat LaFontaine, Buffalo Sabres (1992-93)
LaFontaine flashed brilliance in a 57-game trial with the Sabres in 1991-92, racking up 93 points. He ramped things up the following season, setting his career high in points by a whopping 43 while finishing second in the league behind only a miraculous performance from Mario Lemieux. LaFontaine's effort earned him a third-place finish in the Hart Trophy race.
39. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins (1971-72)
Orr's third consecutive Hart Trophy win wasn't quite as dominant as his second, but it still left both fans and opponents breathless. Orr led the league in assists for the third consecutive year, and had the best plus-minus in the NHL for the fourth season in a row. His success carried over into the playoffs, too, where he had 24 points in 15 games while leading the Bruins to the Cup.
38. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings (1989-90)
After failing to win the scoring title in back-to-back seasons following an eight-year run of dominance, Gretzky returned to the top of the heap in 1989-90 during his second season with the Kings. The legendary center extended his streak of campaigns with 100 or more assists to 10, and his 142 points were 13 more than his former teammate and runner-up, Mark Messier.
37. Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens (1976-77)
The 1976-77 season was special for a number of Montreal players - none more than Lafleur, who rode his career bests in assists and points to a sweep of the Hart, Pearson, and Art Ross trophies. He then contributed nine goals and 17 assists in 14 playoff games to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and nearly made it a five-award season by finishing third in the Lady Byng race.
36. Jari Kurri, Edmonton Oilers (1984-85)
Kurri may own the distinction of having the greatest season of any player who failed to lead the league in a major category. That's the downside of playing alongside Gretzky - but based on Kurri's ridiculous stats in 1984-85, there are plenty of benefits, too. Kurri did lead the NHL in both even-strength goals (54) and game-winning tallies (13), so there's that.
35. Cooney Weiland, Boston Bruins (1929-30)
You might not know Weiland (pictured above holding the Stanley Cup), but you should. He set the standard for big seasons during the NHL's early era, establishing a single-season points mark (73) that stood until Herb Cain had 82 in 1943-44. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to land Weiland the coveted Hart Trophy; he finished fourth in voting.
34. Joe Malone, Montreal Canadiens (1917-18)
Malone was the NHL's first superstar, posting a goals-per-game rate that will never be matched. In fairness, he played in an era when the majority of teams had one or two goal-scoring threats at most, but that doesn't dampen the impact he had as the league's first scoring champ. Malone won a second scoring title in 1919-20 and finished his career with 143 goals in 126 games.
33. Dominik Hasek, Buffalo Sabres (1997-98)
Hasek had a six-year stretch that rivals any goaltender in NHL history - and his performance in 1997-98 might have been his best. In addition to pacing the league in save percentage and shutouts, he led the way in games played (72) and saves (2,002) en route to a second consecutive Hart Trophy. He also captured the Vezina Trophy for the fourth time in five years.
32. Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins (1991-92)
Missing time was nothing new for Lemieux, but it must have been heartening for Penguins fans to at least get 64 games out of him after just 26 the season before. And it was more than enough action for Lemieux to secure his third scoring title, as he finished eight points ahead of Kevin Stevens. Lemieux added 34 points in 15 playoff games to help the Penguins repeat as champs.
31. Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens (1944-45)
While one voter was unimpressed by the feat, it's hard to argue with Richard's 50-goals-in-50-games season, which ranks among the most significant achievements in league annals. He was the only player to reach that plateau until 1960-61, when Bernie Geoffrion scored 50 goals in 64 games. Richard finished second in Hart Trophy voting to teammate Elmer Lach.
30. Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh Penguins (1995-96)
Never were Lemieux and Jagr more dangerous as a tandem than in 1995-96, when they combined for an incredible 131 goals and 179 assists. Jagr was a bit of a forgotten man amid his teammate's accolades, but the gifted winger still led the NHL in even-strength goals (41), game-winning tallies (12), and shots on goal (403) while finishing fourth in Hart Trophy balloting.
29. Bernie Parent, Philadelphia Flyers (1973-74)
Before Hasek and Martin Brodeur were posting double-digit shutout totals and sub-2.00 GAAs, there was Parent, who put together one of the greatest goaltending seasons in NHL history. His 19.94 goalie point shares in 1973-74 rank second all time for a single season; Parent then added 12 more wins in the playoffs to lead the Flyers to their first title.
28. George Hainsworth, Montreal Canadiens (1928-29)
Gretzky might own the most NHL records, but Hainsworth (pictured above as a member of the Maple Leafs) owns two of the oldest. No one has been able to top his goals-against average or shutout marks from his magical 1928-29 season - in fact, no other netminder in NHL history has posted more than 15 shutouts in a single season.
27. Paul Coffey, Edmonton Oilers (1985-86)
Yep, those numbers actually belong to a defensemen. Coffey set the single-season record for goals by a blue-liner in 1985-86, fueled by an incredible nine short-handed tallies. The 138 points are the second most ever recorded in a season by a defenseman, and earned him his second consecutive Norris Trophy. He also placed fourth in Hart Trophy voting.
26. Bernie Nicholls, Los Angeles Kings (1988-89)
Not everyone is impressed with Nicholls' achievement - right, Josh? - but considering the company he now keeps, it's hard to argue with its significance. Nicholls is one of only five NHL players to record 150 points in a season, and while he had plenty of help from a certain No. 99, there's no denying his place in NHL history.
25. Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton Oilers (1987-88)
Injuries not only limited Gretzky to 64 games, but also ended his streak of scoring titles at eight - he finished 19 points behind Lemieux in the Art Ross competition. That said, he still managed to extend his 100-assist streak to eight straight seasons, and his 43 points (!) in 19 postseason games helped the Oilers capture their fourth Stanley Cup in five seasons.
24. Phil Esposito, Boston Bruins (1973-74)
Esposito never did match his 152-point campaign from 1970-7, but he sure came close three years later. His 68 goals were the second most of his career, as were the 145 points. He swept the Art Ross, Pearson, and Hart trophies and was named an NHL First Team All-Star for the sixth consecutive season. That was the last time Esposito won a scoring title.
23. Bobby Orr, Boston Bruins (1973-74)
So if Esposito won the scoring title and league MVP in 1971-72, how does Orr end up with the higher-ranked season? Perhaps because no blue-liner had ever done what Orr was doing - at 25, no less. He led the league in assists for the fourth time, reached the 120-point plateau for the third time, and paced the NHL in plus-minus for the fifth time in six seasons. Not bad.
22. Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg Jets (1992-93)
Say what you will about whether Gretzky is the real record-holder for first-year NHL scoring, but you can't overlook what the Finnish Flash accomplished. Selanne obliterated the rookie goal-scoring mark by 23 - an incredible leap that will never be matched. He predictably ran away with the Calder Trophy and placed sixth in the Hart Trophy race.
21. Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings (1988-89)
Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles following a stunning trade out of Edmonton was a roaring success. He earned his record ninth Hart Trophy as league MVP, and made a star out of the aforementioned Nicholls, among others. Gretzky added 22 points in 11 playoff games, but the Kings were bounced in the division finals.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)