Stick tap to our friends at Lightning Hockey Blog for the picture
Many years ago, when mastodons roamed the earth and the permafrost extended south to Tampa Bay, fifty goal scorers were as common as hot goalies in the playoffs. You could safely count on a few every year.
But since the dreaded neutral-zone trap prompted a thawing of the ice caps and a cessation of unchecked glacial expansion in North America, fifty goal scorers have joined polar bears as species endangered by the abrupt climate shift.
But last night, we saw hope that once more goals will come in abundance, that teams will value speed and shooting touch again, that our long National (Hockey League) nightmare is over and scoring sanity is coming back. Stevie Stamkos hit the nifty fifty again.
Below the fold, we’ll place Stamkos’ achievement in context
While the neutral-zone trap didn’t cause the last ice age to end, it certainly slowed the pace of prolific scoring. Fifty goal seasons are not impossibilities. At least not yet. Stamkos himself had done this before two seasons ago and barely missed the mark last year when he potted 45 in a full 82 game season. But with Evgeni Malkin just a dozen goals shy of the half-century mark (with just 14 to go). In spite of my sarcasm (he’s really thisclose), he might actually make it. That would exceed last season’s single fifty goal scorer (Corey Perry) but not surpass the trio from the 2009-10 season (Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin)
But it’s a far cry from the mid to late eighties seasons when the nifty fifty was much more accessible. In 85-86 six players exceeded 50 with Jari Kurri pacing the league with 68. Three seasons later, Mario Lemieux led the league in scoring with 85 goals, and again another five players eclipsed the 50 goal mark.
The 10 seasons between 1980 and 1990 saw an average of 7.5 fifty goal scorers per season. The last ten full seasons saw an average of 2. This year’s tally may match that average or pull it down some. Regardless, scoring has been pulled down plenty. Which makes Stamkos’ pair of 50 goal seasons note worthy.
The Lords of the Boards over at NHL central would like you to believe that the note worthy aspect is the age of Stamkos. And credit where it’s due, when only six other players in history have done so. Also worthy of note is that three of those six did so during the high-flying eighties (and another in the equally fast-paced and high-scoring late seventies). Since the devilish trap (pun intended) was popularized only Ovechkin and Stamkos have joined the club. The other player in the group, Pavel Bure did so between the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, just as the trap was implemented in Jersey by Jacques Lemaire
Of hope for lovers of goal scoring, the addition of Stamkos and Ovechkin have come since the league and the NHLPA have clamped down on obstruction following the 2004-05 season being wiped out by the lockout. We’re still a long way from another season where someone tallies 150 points, let alone comes close to Wayne Gretzky’s 212. But it’s getting better.