Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A look back at players who have led the NHL in goal-scoring

Ovechkin recently announced that, in order to
"make it more challenging", he will play all future
shifts while simultaneously performing show tunes.

The NHL season has a week to go, and there's no question about who the hottest player in the league is down the stretch. That would be Alexander Ovechkin, the much-maligned superstar who has recorded 20 goals in his last 18 games.

That streak has pushed Ovechkin to the top of the league's goal-scoring race, making him the favorite to lead the league for a third time. That would put him in great company. The league has honored the goal-scoring leader with the prestigious Rocket Richard Trophy since 1999, but even in the years before that award was created there's always been a special aura associated with leading the NHL in goals.

Here's a look back at some of the players from the past who've held that honor.

2006 - While offensive totals increase dramatically due to a series of post-lockout rule changes aimed at increasing scoring, in hindsight the league may have gone too far with that whole "nobody is allowed to use a goalie when Jonathan Cheechoo is on the ice" thing.

2007 - Vincent Lecavalier's 52 goals wins the Rocket Richard Trophy, which Brian Lawton will later claim he totally could have traded for two Stanley Cups, three Vezinas and the Lombardi Trophy.

2003 - Milan Hejduk wins the award with a 50-goal season, causing you to reminiscence fondly about how they're just aren't any players like that in the league any more right up until he awkwardly taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that he actually still plays for Colorado.

1993 - Teemu Selanne ties for the league lead when he scores 76 goals as a rookie, then decides to dial it back a little since he doesn't want to be one of those flash-in-the-pan types who burns out after only 16 or 17 seasons.

1980 - Charlie Simmer, Danny Gare and Blaine Stoughton finish in a three-way tie for the league goal-scoring lead, just in case you were wondering why that "1980 season highlights" video is always in the discount bin.

1995 - Peter Bondra leads the league in goals despite recording just nine assists. He accepts the honor while graciously thanking his linemates, a cardboard cutout of Dennis Maruk and that one broken piece from your childhood table-top hockey game.

1996 - While impressive at the time, most historians now agree that Mario Lemieux's 69-goal season was tainted due to his flagrantly unfair advantage of being healthy enough to play in 85% of his team's games while also being Mario Lemieux.

1981 - Mike Bossy tops the league with 68 goals while leading the Islanders to their second of four straight Stanley Cups, according to the Islander fan who just woke up from the coma he asked to be placed in until the next time he'd have anything to be happy about.

2004 - The Rocket Richard Trophy is shared in a three-way tie between Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk, before the league immediately shuts down for a lockout over a salary cap that will ensure that young superstars can finish their NHL careers with the teams they started with.

1997 - Anaheim's Selanne and Phoenix's Keith Tkachuk battle until the final day for goal-scoring title after the NHL decides that would be easier than having Gary Bettman wander the streets of Winnipeg punching every hockey fan he sees in the throat.

2001 - Pavel Bure wins his second straight Richard Trophy thanks to his blinding speed, accurate shot, and the patented breakaway move he calls "distract the goalie with the fact that all your knee ligaments are dragging behind you like wet spaghetti".

1982-87 - Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri combine for six consecutive years in which an Edmonton Oiler wins the goal-scoring title, which they will later attribute to teammate Kevin Lowe's leadership, motivation, and ability to talk them out of having shoulder surgery even when it's obvious they really need it.

2012 - Steven Stamkos becomes only the second player in 15 years to reach the 60-goal plateau, a mark that many historians predict will not be reached again until, oh, sometime this weekend at the rate Ovechkin's going.

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  1. As usual, the photo caption is pure gold.

  2. The best DGB in a while. So many gems in this one.

  3. "Wayne Greztky "

    That's blasphemy, DGB. DEPORT THE NON-CANADIAN.

    1. Ugh, no kidding. Misspelling Gretzky is pathetic.

    2. Or, it could just be a typo that was missed.

      Chill out Canadian dude.

  4. Wait, wouldn't the Islander fan have woken up after they beat the Pens in 1993? Or did the trauma from the Hunter hit knock him out again?

    1. The Other, Better-Looking, AnonymousApril 26, 2013 at 9:53 PM

      Not a Flyer fan, who thinks just beating the Pens gets them something other than the chance to be stomped by New Jersey. An Islander fan who remembers Mike Bossy isn't going to wake up until they get to the Finals.

  5. There is--to this very day--much disagreement about whether the Finnish words "Teemu Selanne" translate into English as:

    • "Benjamin Button"
    • "Dorian Gray"
    • "Dammit Pronger!"

    Hockey is the greatest sport ever, and just 'cause I'm not Canadian doesn't mean I can't love it too. GO LEAFS! (except when they are playing the Caps)

  6. "1982-87 - Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri combine for six consecutive years in which an Edmonton Oiler wins the goal-scoring title, which they will later attribute to teammate Kevin Lowe's leadership, motivation, and ability to talk them out of having shoulder surgery even when it's obvious they really need it."


  7. Wow, Sean, you are a ****ing bandwagon hopper! Three months ago, you were unabashedly assailing Ovechkin, and now he is the second coming of Christ in your eyes!

    1. Hi Mike!

      I'd like to point you over at Seans Grantland column where he talked about that exact issue ( http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/58120/nhl-grab-bag-getting-rid-of-fighting-obscure-players-and-don-cherry )!

    2. He is a comedian. He makes jokes about what is relevant in the hockey world at the time.

    3. He is a frontrunner, is what he is.

  8. Goddamn that Winnipeg sting.

  9. Awesome as always! Really love the Dennis Maruk mention, a player that should be remembered more often.

  10. This article is very informative. Here we see the history of NHL at a glance from 1982-2012. Really here we see many change.

  11. I would watch Ovechkin sing show tunes. That would be the perfect way to make the NHL awards watchable. Or a new event for the all-star game: karaoke!

  12. I laughed so hard I almost puked at the 1997 one

  13. I HONESTLY did not realize that Hejduk still played for Colorado. I have to go think about my life for a while...

    And that caption is brilliant too

  14. Ahhh Phoooey to Peter Bondra linemates. For the record they were Joey Juneau and Michal Pivonka. Take from that what you will.... I would've had him thanking his stellar netmender... Jim Carey.