There hasn't been a lot of good news for the Colorado Avalanche this year, so here's something to cheer up Avs fans: Today marks an important milestone in franchise history. Yes, it's been exactly 36 years since Jacques Richard scored his 50th goal of the 1980-81 season, becoming the first player in franchise history to join that exclusive club.
Modern fans could be forgiven for not being all that familiar with Richard; he doesn't quite carry the name value of other Nordique/Avalanche 50-goal scorers like Michel Goulet and Joe Sakic. Richard was a journeyman who'd bounced around for most of the 70s, topping the 20-goal mark only once. But in his first full season in Quebec, he ended up getting put on a line with Peter and Anton Stastny, and the trio clicked. Richard scored 52 goals that year, and then only 24 more over the rest of his NHL career, making him one of the great one-hit wonders in league history.
The Nordiques/Avalanche aren't alone here. When you look back at the list of players to be the first in a franchise's history to hit the 50-goal mark, you run into a lot of names that are exactly the ones you'd expect to see. For the Canadiens, of course, it was Rocket Richard. For the Blackhawks, Bobby Hull. You get legends like Mike Bossy for the Islanders, Marcel Dionne for the Kings, and Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito (in the same year) for the Bruins.
But you also run into a handful of unexpected names, guys you wouldn't expect to see in a particular franchise's history books. Today, in honor of Richard's milestone night, let's look at five other unlikely players who were the very first in franchise history to hit the 50-goal plateau
A half-dozen Flyers have scored 50 in a season, including well-known names like John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Bill Barber, Tim Kerr and Reggie Leach. But the sixth member of that group is a bit of a surprise. It's not Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke, or even Jeff Carter. It's the guy who was the first to join the club, Rick MacLeish.
MacLeish's feat was maybe even more surprising given that it came in his first full NHL season, in 1972-73. The former first overall pick had played 43 games over two seasons and scored just three goals heading into the season, but caught fire to finish with 50 goals on the nose. He also had 50 assists, tying him with Clarke as the first Flyers to have a 100-point season.
MacLeish never hit those heights again, although he did have 49 goals in 1976-77. Those were his only two 40-goal seasons, and he finished his career with a respectable 349 over the course of 14 seasons, as well as the Cup-winning goal in 1974.