With two points Monday, John Tavares took a three-point lead on Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom in the Art Ross Trophy race. But Tavares’ 87-point pace is hardly the type of total we’ve come to expect of the NHL’s leading scorer.
Gone are the days of the 150-plus-point season, a staple of the 1980s, and maybe Tavares’ low total signals the beginning of another dead puck era. Or maybe it’s just an aberration – a point total lower because of goaltenders who are having their best statistical seasons or point totals that have been spread out by the constant insistence for a team to have depth and roll four lines.
Whatever it is, though, Tavares’ 87-point pace wouldn’t be the lowest the NHL has seen since expansion. It would, however, tie that mark.
Here are the 10 lowest point totals by Art Ross winners post-expansion:
10. Henrik Sedin, 2009-10 – 112 points
Sedin’s Art Ross came the season immediately before his brother, Daniel, won the award, and he was the higher scorer of the two. His scoring title was thanks to his league-leading 83 assists, as he is one of only two members of this list who failed to score 30 goals in their Art Ross winning season.
In 2007-08, Ovechkin also won the Art Ross with 112 points, but Sedin edges out Ovechkin as the lower scorer for a few reasons. First of all, during Sedin’s winning season the league average for goals per game was higher, albeit by a shade over 0.05. Secondly, only 11 of Ovechkin's 112 points were secondary assists, while Sedin posted 37 secondary helpers.
9. Evgeni Malkin, 2011-12 – 109 points
One of only two 50-goal Art Ross winners on this list, Malkin’s big season was all the more outstanding considering Pittsburgh’s other superstar, Sidney Crosby, was on the shelf for all but 22 games.
En route to the Art Ross, Malkin racked up four five-point games, one four-point night and four three-point contests. He also went on multiple point streaks of eight games or more.
It must be nice for the Penguins to know, should Crosby go down, Malkin will step up.
8. Peter Forsberg, 2002-03 – 106 points
In his 13-year career, Forsberg only eclipsed the 100-point plateau twice. The second time, in 2002-03, was the only time he would capture the Art Ross.
Like Henrik Sedin, Forsberg hit the 100-point plateau (and makes this list) with less than 30 goals. Also much like Sedin, his 77 assists were the top of the league, and he was helped along thanks to a wealth of secondary helpers.
Sadly, the 2002-03 season would be the last great year of Forsberg’s career. He would never again score more than 75 points, and played only 167 more games in the NHL before injuries forced him to retire.
7. Daniel Sedin, 2010-11 – 104 points
Daniel netted 104 points to complete the back-to-back Art Ross trophies for the Sedin twins. However, he wasn’t quite able to match his brother’s total.
What puts Sedin ahead of Crosby on this list is that the Canucks star scored 41 goals, five more than Crosby, and had a lower percentage of his points come from secondary assists. In fact, both men had the same amount of primary helpers, but Sedin’s five extra tallies give him the edge. What Sedin didn’t get, though, was Crosby’s Hart.
While Sedin won the Pearson and Ross, the Hart went to Corey Perry who notched 50 goals and 48 assists for the Anaheim Ducks.
6. Sidney Crosby, 2013-14 – 104 points
Crosby’s second Art Ross didn’t come in as spectacular fashion – it’s hard to beat a 120-point season in your sophomore campaign – but, much like the first time around, he did pair it with the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award, so it helped pad his trophy case.
It was Crosby’s first full season back in the league after an injury-riddled pair of seasons that put him on the shelf for 106 regular season contests. Crosby’s 36 goals were the third highest total of his career and were as many as he had the first time he led the league in scoring.
5. Jaromir Jagr, 1997-98 – 102 points
More than 15 years before Crosby won the Art Ross with 104 points, Jagr scored 102 during the height of the dead puck era to win the first of four consecutive scoring titles. Suffice to say the dominant force in the NHL in the 1990s was Jagr.
In 1997-98, Jagr won his first Art Ross on the strength of 35 goals and 67 assists, the latter of which was the highest total in the NHL. The Art Ross was shockingly the only piece of hardware Jagr took home in ’97-98, though, as the Hart went to Dominik Hasek.
In the three seasons following his first Art Ross win, Jagr racked up 344 points in 225 games. Which brings us to…
4. Jaromir Jagr, 1999-00 – 96 points
Amazingly, Jagr was actually on pace for 125 points in 1999-00, but an injury sidelined him for 15 games and put a damper on his hunt for a third straight 100-plus-point campaign. The following year, Jagr potted 121 points, which would have actually been his third straight 120-plus point year were it not for the 15-game absence.
Jagr scored 42 goals and 54 assists in 63 games, but, again, remarkably lost the Hart as the league’s leading scorer for the second time in three seasons. In one of the tightest races in NHL history, the Hart went to Chris Pronger who edged out Jagr by a single vote. If it weren’t for Pavel Bure’s 58-goal season, it’s possible Jagr would have been able to garner enough votes to take home the Hart.
3. Jarome Iginla, 2001-02 – 96 points
Iginla is the only other 50-goal scorer on this list. He also holds the remarkable distinction, as the player with the lowest assist total (44) of the 10 Art Ross winners featured.
Iginla padded his trophy case in 2001-02, though. On top of the Art Ross, he snatched the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer and the Pearson as the league MVP as voted by the players. However, Iginla’s loss of the Hart to Jose Theodore was even closer than Jagr’s loss to Pronger.
Iginla lost the Hart only because of the tie-breaking procedure. Once all the votes had been tallied, Iginla and Thedore had received 434 votes. Theodore, with 26 first place votes, won the award.
2. Martin St-Louis, 2003-04 – 94 points
It’s not shocking to see the second-lowest scoring Art Ross winner coming the season before the infamous 2004-05 lockout, as the clutch and grab era led to decreased scoring the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the mid-1950s. The average goals per game in 2003-04 was 2.57, while the 2.46 goals-against average for goaltenders was in line with numbers posted in the 1930s.
St-Louis' 94 points paced the league by a wide margin. It was seven points better than the totals posted by Ilya Kovalchuk and Joe Sakic. It was nearly one of the most award-laden seasons in NHL history for a single player, too. St. Louis was voted a first-team all-star, won the Hart, Pearson and Ross, and finished top five in voting for both the Lady Byng and Selke Trophy.
In the postseason, St-Louis helped the Lightning to their first Stanley Cup, potting nine goals and 24 points en route to a seven-game series Cup victory over the Calgary Flames.
1. Stan Mikita, 1967-68 – 87 points
Mikita’s Art Ross victory in the first year post-expansion takes the cake. Whether it was due to the dispersal of talent or an adjustment to the way the game was played, scoring was down when it came to individual totals. However, the season itself was the 17th highest scoring in NHL history with 3.67 goals per game.
So how did Mikita do it? Well, playing alongside Bobby Hull, who led the league in goals with 44 sure helped. It also helped that Gordie Howe turned 39 that season, so he could “only” muster 82 points, third-most in the league. Mikita was one of only two players to score 40 goals and finished fourth in the league with 47 helpers.
It was Mikita’s fourth time leading the league in scoring in five seasons, his only loss in the half-decade coming two seasons earlier when Hull tallied 54 goals in 65 games. Mikita’s 30 goals and 78 points were second best.
Even with the fearsome tandem of Mikita and Hull, the Blackhawks faltered in the playoffs, losing in the semi-finals in five games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens.