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  • Writer's pictureDerek Ochej

Unlikely 50 goal scorers

The first player featured in this week's post, Gary Leeman, led me to research an interesting record: which one-time 50 goal scorer achieved the highest percentage of their career goal total in the one season in which they scored 50+ goals. Leeman scored 51 goals in the 1989-90 season; for his career he scored 199 goals, therefore 25.6% of his career goal total was scored in that one season. This, however, is not the highest percentage out of NHL players, in fact it ranks fourth:

  1. Jacques Richard - 52 goals in 1980-81, 160 career goals, 32.5%

  2. Wayne Babych - 54 goals in 1980-81, 192 career goals, 28.2%

  3. Hakan Loob - 50 goals in 1987-88, 193 career goals, 25.9%

  4. Gary Leeman - 51 goals in 1989-90, 199 career goals, 25.6%

  5. Guy Chouinard - 50 goals in 1978-79, 205 career goals, 24.4%

Not surprisingly, none of the players above would be considered star players or even household names. All of the players above achieved their breakout 50 goal season in late 70s or 80s, at a time when scoring the NHL was significantly easier than any other time in league history.

Card 272 - Gary Leeman

A right winger, Leeman was drafted 24th overall by Toronto in 1982. A defenceman during his junior days with Regina, he was converted to forward when he turned pro. In Leeman’s first three pro seasons he averaged 53 games per season with the Leafs, scoring less than 10 goals per season.

1986-87 was his first full season in Toronto, scoring 21 goals and 52 points. Leeman’s next two seasons would see goal totals of 30 and 32, with an appearance at the 1989 all-star game. 1989-90 would be Leeman’s breakout season, scoring 51 goals and 95 points, both career-highs. He finished seventh overall in league goal scoring and was fourth in all-star team voting at right wing.

Early in 1992 Leeman was sent to Calgary as part of the Doug Gilmour trade where a record 10 players were swapped between the two teams. He last only parts of two seasons with the Flames, scoring 11 goals before a trade to Montreal in 1993 in exchange for Brian Skrudland. Leeman won a Cup with the Habs that season, contributing three points in 11 playoff games. His following season would be split between Montreal and the AHL, then he would be out of hockey until January 1995 when he signed with Vancouver.

Leeman played 10 games with the Canucks, scoring two goals before spending the 1995-96 season in Italy. The following season he signed with St. Louis, playing two games with the Blues and the rest in the minors. From 1997 to 1999 he played in Germany and Switzerland before retiring.

In 13 NHL seasons Leeman played in 667 games, scoring 199 goals and 466 points. Incredibly he scored over one-quarter of his career goals in a single season. Leeman currently works in sales and does personal appearances; he was most recently in the news as part of a group of former players suing the NHL over concussions.

YouTube clip: scoring his 50th goal of the season in 1989-90, becoming the second Leaf to score 50 in a season (the first was Rick Vaive).

Card 273 - Valery Kamensky

A left winger, Kamensky was drafted 129th overall by Quebec in 1988. He had played four pro seasons in the Soviet Union by that, the last two with CSKA Moscow, aka the Red Army. Kamensky played another two seasons at home before coming to the NHL for the 1991-92 season at the age of 25. The previous season he won the Soviet Player of the Year, and the best forward at the World Championships.

In his rookie season Kamensky played 23 games, scoring seven goals and 21 points. The following season his totals improved to 28 goals and 65 points. By the time the Nordiques moved to Colorado, Kamensky was fully comfortable in North America, scoring career-bests in goals (38) and points (85). In that spring’s playoffs he contributed 10 goals and 22 points, good for second on the team in playoff scoring as the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in their first season in Colorado.

The season following the Avs' Cup victory, Kamensky broke the 20-goal barrier for the fourth and final time in his career. That spring the Avs would lose to Detroit in the Western Conference Finals, with Kamensky contributing eight goals and 22 points. After eight seasons with the Nords/Avs franchise, Kamensky signed a free agent deal with the New York Rangers for the 1999-2000 season. As part of the underwhelming Rangers’ teams of that time, he would score in the mid-30s in points for two seasons.

For the 2001-02 season Kamensky signed with Dallas, playing 24 games before a trade to New Jersey. He played his last 30 NHL games with the Devils, retiring from the NHL in August 2002. From 2003-05 he played in his native Russia.

In 11 NHL seasons, Kamensky played in 637 games, scoring 200 goals and 501 points. He is a member of the Triple Gold club, having won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, and world championship title. From 2013 to 2015 he was president of Atlant Mytishchi in the KHL, and since 2015 has been vice-president of hockey operations for Spartak Moskva.

YouTube clip: an intense 4 minute highlight video of Kamensky’s international and NHL career.

Card 274 - Marc Bureau

A centre, Bureau signed as a free agent with Calgary in 1987 after playing three seasons in the QMJHL. Turning pro, he played four seasons in the IHL with Salt Lake City, averaging well over a point-per-game in the 1989-90 and 1990-91 seasons. During those two seasons Bureau appeared in 10 games with the Flames.

In March 1991 he was traded to Minnesota for a draft pick. Bureau joined the Stars just in time for their unexpected run to the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, playing in 23 playoff games and scoring three goals and five points. After 46 games with the North Stars the following season, he would be claimed off waivers early in the 1992-93 season by Tampa Bay. Bureau found a regular role with the expansion Lightning, scoring 10 goals and a career-high 31 points that season.

After two more seasons in Tampa, Bureau was traded to Montreal for Brian Bellows. During his three seasons with the Habs he recorded a career-high 13 goals in 1997-98. After his time in Montreal, Bureau played two seasons in Philadelphia before returning to Calgary in March 2000. He played the final nine games of his NHL career in Calgary, where his career started a decade earlier.

In 11 NHL seasons, Bureau played in 567 games, scoring 55 goals and 138 points. For a bottom six forward he did manage to have two career penalty shots, both misses. From 2011 to 2014 he was a scout with Cape Breton in the QMJHL and he has also coached high level youth hockey in his home province of Quebec.

YouTube clip: scoring in Game 1 of the 1991 Cup Finals against Pittsburgh. His short-handed goal put Minnesota up 3-2 in the second period.

Card 275 - James Patrick

A defenceman, Patrick was selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers in the 1981 Entry Draft. He played two seasons of college hockey at North Dakota and went to the 1984 Olympics as part of the Canadian National Team.

Patrick played 12 games with the Rangers in the 1983-84 season, turning pro full time the following season, contributing eight goals and 36 points. Over his next seven seasons on Broadway he scored 10+ goals and 40+ points each season, including career-high totals of 17 goals and 62 points in 1987-88. The Rangers teams of the 80s and early 90s were not successful in the playoffs, only making the Conference Finals once in Patrick’s 11 seasons.

Early in the 1993-94 season Patrick was traded to Hartford in a five-player swap that saw the Rangers land Nick Kypreos and Steve Larmer. Both players played key roles in the Rangers winning their first Cup in 54 years that spring. Patrick played only 47 games with the Whalers before a trade to Calgary that saw Hartford acquire Gary Suter. Between the Rangers, Whalers and Flames that season Patrick scored 10 goals and 35 points.

Patrick played four seasons in Calgary, only twice appearing in more than 60 games in a season, being limited to 19 games in 1996-97. For the 1998-99 season he signed with Buffalo, playing a veteran role on an ascending team that would make the Cup Finals that season, only to lose in controversial fashion to Dallas. Patrick played five more seasons in Buffalo, averaging 50-60 games per season; he retired in September 2005 from the NHL, playing one additional season in Germany.

In 1280 games over 21 NHL seasons Patrick scored 149 goals and 639 points. He was an assistant captain with the Rangers from 1986 to 1992 and the Sabres in 2003-04. Upon retiring Patrick took an assistant coaching role with Buffalo, which he held until 2013. From 2013 to 2017 he was an assistant with Dallas and since 2017 has been head coach of the Winnipeg Ice of the WHL. His nephew Nolan was the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

YouTube clip: laying out Pat LaFontaine in Game 1 of the 1990 Patrick Division Semi-Finals.

Card 276 - Dino Ciccarelli

A right winger, Ciccarelli signed with Minnesota as a free agent in 1979. He had played three seasons with London in the OHL, and played one more season before turning pro late in the 1979-80 season with Oklahoma City in the CHL. Ciccarelli made his NHL debut the following season, scoring 18 goals and 30 points in 32 games. He continued his torrid pace in the playoffs that season, scoring 14 goals and 21 points in 19 games as the North Stars would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the New York Islanders. That goal and point total still stands as record totals for a rookie in the playoffs.

Ciccarelli continued scoring in his sophomore season, totaling 55 goals and 106 points, good for fourth in the league in goals. Over the next six seasons he scored 30+ goals five times, including two 40+ goal seasons and 52 in 1986-87. In that 52 goal season Ciccarelli set the record for least number of games played to reach 20 goals in a season, with 15.

During the 1987-88 season Ciccarelli attacked Leafs defenceman Luke Richardson with his stick, resulting in an assault conviction and Ciccarelli spending a day in jail. The following season he was traded to Washington with Bob Rouse for Larry Murphy and Mike Gartner. In his first season as a Capital he scored 41 goals and 79 points; Ciccarelli played two more seasons in Washington before a trade to Detroit in June 1992 for Kelly Miller.

In his first season as a Red Wing Ciccarelli scored 41 goals, the seventh and final time he would break the 40 goal barrier. He was part of the Red Wings teams that were on the verge of greatness, losing in the 1995 Finals to New Jersey (Ciccarelli scored nine goals in 16 games) and the following playoffs in the Western Conference Finals to eventual champion Colorado. In the 1996 off-season he was traded to Tampa Bay, playing 1.5 seasons with the Lightning before a cross-state trade to Florida. The Panthers was Ciccarelli’s final stop, lasting 42 games before retiring following the 1998-99 season.

In 19 NHL seasons Ciccarelli played in 1232 games, scoring 608 goals (19th all-time) and 1200 points. He played in four all-star games (1982, 83, 89 & 97) and holds the record for most goals scored by an undrafted player. Ciccarelli was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 1993 he purchased the Newmarket Royals of the OHL, moving them to his hometown of Sarnia the following season. Ciccarelli owned the Sting until 2009 when he sold the team to his brothers; he was also the director of hockey operations from 2000 to 2004.

YouTube clip: scoring three power play goals in the 1993 Norris Division Semi-Finals against Toronto, equaling a record for most power play goals in a single playoff game.

Card 277 - Ron Tugnutt

A goaltender, Tugnutt was drafted 81st overall by Quebec in the 1986 draft. He played one further season with Peterborough in the OHL before turning pro for the 1987-88 season. Through his first two professional seasons Tugnutt primarily played in the AHL, but he did manage 32 games with the Nordiques, winning 12.

Tugnutt became the starter for the 1990-91 season, playing in a career-high 56 games, posting a 12-29-10 record for the dead-last Nordiques. That season he led the league in losses, but also set an NHL record for most saves in a regular season game, making 70 stops in a 3-3 tie with Boston.

In March 1992 he was traded to Edmonton for Martin Rucinsky. After two seasons as back up to Bill Ranford, Tugnutt was selected by Anaheim in the 1993 expansion draft. He lasted 28 games with the Mighty Ducks, winning ten, before a trade to Montreal for Stephan Lebeau. Tugnutt would play back up to Patrick Roy for parts of two seasons before signing as a free agent with Washington, although he would never play for the Caps, instead playing the 1995-96 season with Portland in the AHL.

Tugnutt’s career took a turn for the best when he signed as a free agent with Ottawa for the 1996-97 season. In a tandem with Damian Rhodes, he would appear in 40+ games three times with the Senators, posting back-to-back 22 win seasons in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. In the 1998-99 season he led the NHL with a 1.79 goals against average, played in the all-star game and finished third in postseason all-star voting and fifth in Vezina voting.

At the 2000 trade deadline Tugnutt was sent to Pittsburgh for veteran Tom Barrasso. The Senators dealt Tugnutt feeling they needed a playoff-tested goalie to finally beat division rival Toronto. It turns out their logic was flawed, as Ottawa lost in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals to the Leafs, and Tugnutt would lead the playoffs with a .945 save percentage as the Penguins would make it to the Conference Semi-Finals.

In 2000 he signed with Columbus, winning 22 games for the third straight season. After two seasons with the Blue Jackets he was traded to Dallas with a second round pick for a first round pick. Tugnutt played his final two NHL seasons as back up to Marty Turco, retiring after the 2003-04 season.

In 16 NHL seasons Tugnutt played in 537 games, posting a 186-239-62 record, 3.05 goals against average and .895 save percentage. He is the only NHL goalie to record the first win in franchise history for two teams (Anaheim in 1993 and Columbus in 2000). From 2008 to 2012 he coached in the OHL with Oshawa and Peterborough, as well as with the Team Canada junior program. In 2012 he purchased a Junior B hockey team located just outside of Ottawa, the Kemptville 73s, coaching the team from 2014 to 2017. Tugnutt would sell the franchise to former Senators teammate Jason York in 2017.

YouTube clip: a deep dive into Tugnutt’s record setting 70 save performance (literally every save). Watching the video, 27 of Boston’s shots could have been classified roughly as being in the home-plate scoring area - Quebec only had 26 shots total in the game!

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