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The greatest fantasy season by one team has to be the 1970-71 Boston Bruins. Many will say it was the Edmonton Oilers of the Wayne Gretzky era but by comparison to the rest of the league, it was the 1970-71 Bruins who take the cake.
The 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers scored 446 goals, the best ever in the NHL, doing it in 80 games, the next best team was the New York Islanders who scored 357 times, a differential of 24.9 percent. In addition, 14 of the 21 teams scored at least 300 goals. That was the Oilers best season. The 21 squads scored 6,627 goals, an average of 315.5 goals per team. The Oilers scored 41.3 percent over the average team in 1983-84.
The Bruins scored 399 goals in 78 games. Montreal was second with 291 goals, a differential of 37.1 percent. That is a huge difference over the Oilers greatest season. In addition, only Chicago and the New York Rangers managed to score at least 250 goals in the 14-team league. The 14 teams managed to score 3,409 times, an average of 243.5 goals per team. The Bruins scored 63.9 percent over the average team in 1970-71.
Now let’s look at the player performances.
Granted, Wayne Gretzky was the best and his dominance over the rest of the league was amazing. He had 205 points and teammate Paul Coffey was second in the NHL with 126 points. But Jari Kurri was the only other Oiler in the top-11 in scoring while Boston in 1970-71 had seven scorers in the top-11 including the top-four in Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk and Ken Hodge.
Gretzky led in goals with 87 (this season was not even his best statistically as he had a 92-goal season two seasons earlier and would have 215 points two years later but he did miss six games this season so really in percentages it was his best year) and was a plus-78), and he truly was the most dominating figure ever, but to anyone who is thinking otherwise, I am writing about the best fantasy team, and that was the Bruins.
The best player in the NHL in 1970-71 was the great Bobby Orr. He established a record of 139 points that has never been broken although Gretzky’s teammate Paul Coffey came close with 138 in 1985-86. Orr controlled the game unlike any player, with Gretzky a close second. It’s too bad that his terrible knees did not allow him to have a full career as he had nine great seasons and only played in 36 games over four years after that, retiring within the first month of the 1978-79 season with Chicago.
A couple of side notes:
This was Gordie Howe’s final season before retiring for the first time. The 42-year-old, just two seasons removed from finishing third in NHL scoring as he got to the 100-point mark for the first time in his career (finishing with 103), had 23 goals and 52 points in 63 games. He would stay retired for two seasons before coming back to play with his sons Marty and Mark in the WHA. He played six seasons in the WHA for Houston and New England and returned for one more season in the NHL when the NHL expanded by four WHA teams. He had 15 goals and 41 points as a 51-year-old in his last NHL season, during the 1979-80 season. He played in five different decades in the NHL.
It was also Jean Beliveau’s final season in the league as he finished in fine fashion with 25 goals and 76 points in 70 games. Unlike Howe, Beliveau stayed retired.
Let’s look at the best of 1970-71. It is heavily-loaded with Bruins.
By the way, the Bruins lost in the first round of the playoffs to Montreal in a stunning upset as upstart rookie Ken Dryden, who played in only six regular season games, stoned Orr and the big, bad Bruins in a great seven game series. The Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup, giving Beliveau his 10th Cup and a great way to end his career.
Best Fantasy Center
This is the easiest one ever as Phil Esposito set marks that were not broken until ‘The Great One’ came into the league. Esposito, in his greatest year ever, had 76 goals and 76 assists, chipped in with 71 penalty minutes and was a plus-69. He set a record for the most shots on goal in a season as he had 550. This has been approached only once as Alex Ovechkin had 528 in the 2008-09 season. To see how dominating this was, the third-highest total is also held by Ovechkin as he had 446 in 2007-08. Esposito was so far ahead of the rest of the centers as Norm Ullman of Toronto was second in points with 85. Espo’s favorite spot was in the slot and he potted 24 power play goals and 51 power play points from that spot. He also had 16 game winning goals in a phenomenal season.
Norm Ullman (Toronto) – 34 goals, 51 assists, plus-14, 24 penalty minutes, 11 power play goals, 23 power play points, 226 shots on goal.
Jean Beliveau (Montreal) – 25 goals, 51 assists, plus-24, 42 penalty minutes, seven power play goals, 24 power play points, 172 shots on goal.
Dave Keon (Toronto) – 38 goals, 38 assists, plus-25, 4 penalty minutes, five power play goals, 18 power play points, 277 shots on goal, eight shorthanded goals.
Best Fantasy Right Winger
Ken Hodge was Phil Esposito’s linemate and came over from the Chicago Blackhawks with Esposito on May 15, 1967 in what could be the best hockey trade ever (for Boston) and the worst as far as Chicago is concerned. Hodge had a great season with 43 goals and 62 assists and was a stud as well with 113 penalty minutes and a plus-69. He would have a similar season for Boston in 1973-74 when he scored 50 for the only time in his career and equaled the 105 points of this season. The amazing thing is Hodge was not a regular on the power play as he had only five power play goals and 12 points with the man-advantage. (The Bruins top power play unit was Esposito at center with John McKenzie and Johnny Bucyk on the wings while Orr was on the point with Fred Stanfield, the third member of the trade from Chicago). Hodge managed 232 shots on goal and his 93 even strength points ranked him second in the NHL, behind Esposito’s 99 and well ahead of Orr’s 77.
John McKenzie (Boston) – 31 goals, 46 assists, plus-27, 120 penalty minutes, 11 power play goals, 31 power play points, 151 shots on goal.
Yvan Cournoyer (Montreal) – 37 goals, 36 assists, plus-18, 21 penalty minutes, 18 power play goals, 34 power play points, 197 shots on goal.
Rod Gilbert (New York Rangers) – 30 goals, 31 assists, plus-20, 65 penalty minutes, eight power play goals, 18 power play points, 226 shots on goal.
Best Fantasy Left Winger
Johnny Bucyk had his career year this season, as he became the oldest player in NHL history to record his first 50-goal season at the age of 35. The Bruins left winger had 51 goals and 65 assists with a plus-37 rating to beat out the Golden Jet, Bobby Hull, as the best left winger. Bucyk had 22 power play goals and 48 points with the man-advantage as well as 225 shots on net. He was a gentleman on the big, bad Bruins with only four minors all season.
Bobby Hull (Chicago) – 44 goals, 52 assists, plus-35, 32 penalty minutes, 11 power play goals, 32 power play points, 378 shots on goal.
Wayne Cashman (Boston) – 21 goals, 58 assists, plus-59, 100 penalty minutes, four power play goals, 10 power play points, 175 shots on goal.
Fred Stanfield (Boston) – 24 goals, 52 assists, plus-31, 12 penalty minutes, nine power play goals, 32 power play points, 267 shots on goal.
Best Fantasy Defenseman
Bobby Orr. Nothing more needs to be said than that. He was the greatest defenseman of all-time and this was his best season in his career. It is said that the Bruins scout who ‘discovered’ him in Parry Sound at the age of 12, told the Boston front office that he was the best defenseman. The Bruins said “On his team?” to which the scout replied, ‘He would be the Bruins best defenseman now.’ Orr had 37 goals and 102 assists with an incomprehensible plus-124, the greatest total in NHL history. Orr could also fight as his 91 penalty minutes attest to. He had only five power play goals but had 49 power play points as he was a true quarterback of the power play. Orr had 392 shots on goal, second-most in his NHL career as he had a record 413 in the 1969-70 season for a defenseman, and the eighth highest total of all-time among all NHL players. It was truly an amazing campaign from the best player, both on the ice and in fantasy, that season. One sidenote on Orr. When I was in grade school, my sixth-grade teacher announced to the class that he was Bobby Orr’s uncle. No one believed him and I wrote Orr and sent it to his Parry Sound home. To my surprise, I received a three-page letter from his sister, and yes indeed, my teacher was his uncle. I met Orr years later at a trade show and told him the story. He said ‘Yup, it was Uncle Reggie.’ Turns out my teacher’s wife and Bobby dad were brother and sister!
J.C. Tremblay (Montreal)– 11 goals, 52 assists, plus-16, 23 penalty minutes, five power play goals, 29 power play points, 122 shots on goal.
Pat Stapleton (Chicago) – seven goals, 44 assists, plus-58, 30 penalty minutes, four power play goals, 19 power play points, 131 shots on goal.
Dallas Smith (Boston) – seven goals, 38 assists, plus-98, 68 penalty minutes, zero power play goals, one power play point, 159 shots on goal.
Guy Lapointe (Montreal) – 15 goals, 29 assists, plus-27, 107 penalty minutes, five power play goals, 14 power play points, 228 shots on goal.
Best Fantasy Rookie
Gilbert Perreault came into the NHL with the expansion Buffalo Sabres as the first pick in the NHL Draft and he did not disappoint with 38 goals and 72 points, giving Buffalo fans a lot of hope for the future of the franchise. It was not surprising that his plus/minus was weak as he was a minus-38 for the expansion squad. He had only 19 penalty minutes, but had 14 goals on the power play and 29 power play points. Perreault had 210 shots on goal for a gaudy 18.1 shooting percentage and had five game-winning goals en route to winning the Calder Trophy. It was the start of a Hall-of-Fame career.
Jude Drouin (Minnesota) – 16 goals, 52 assists, plus-four, 49 penalty minutes, four power play goals, 23 power play points, 208 shots on goal.
Tom Webster (Detroit) – 30 goals, 37 assists, minus-48, 40 penalty minutes, seven power play goals, 23 power play points, 183 shots on goal.
Marc Tardif (Montreal) – 19 goals, 30 assists, plus-25, 133 penalty minutes, four power play goals, 13 power play points, 144 shots on goal.
Best Fantasy Goaltender
This was a tight one between Jacques Plante of the Maple Leafs and Tony Esposito of the Blackhawks. Esposito was amazing the previous year, setting a modern record of 15 shutouts and while he was outstanding again in 1970-71, Plante gets the nod by a whisker due to his peripheral numbers. Plante was 24-11-4 and the 42-year-old netminder (in mid-January) compiled a 1.89 GAA and a .944 save percentage, both outstanding marks. While Esposito had a better win total, and had six shutouts to Plante’s four, the GAA and save percentage gave Plante the nod.
Honorable Mention: (There was not overtime in 1970-71 so the third stat are ties)
Tony Esposito – (Chicago) 35-14-7/2.27/.919.
Ed Giacomin (New York Rangers) – 27-10-7/2.16/.922.
Eddie Johnston – (Boston) 30-6-2/2.53/.914.
Gerry Cheevers – (Boston) 27-8-5/2.73/.918.
Phil Esposito – 152
Bobby Orr – 139
Johnny Bucyk – 116
Ken Hodge – 105
Bobby Hull – 96
Norm Ullman – 85
Wayne Cashman – 79
John McKenzie – 77
Dave Keon – 76
Jean Beliveau – 76
Fred Stanfield - 76
Phil Esposito – 76
Johnny Bucyk - 51
Bobby Hull – 44
Ken Hodge – 43
Dennis Hull - 40
Bobby Orr – 102
Phil Esposito – 76
Johnny Bucyk – 65
Ken Hodge - 62
Wayne Cashman – 58
Shots on Goal
Phil Esposito – 550
Bobby Orr – 392
Bobby Hull – 378
Bill Goldsworthy – 295
Danny Grant – 283
Garry Unger – 278
Stats not kept
Stats not kept
Keith Magnuson – 289
Dennis Hextall – 217
Jim Dorey – 198
Peter Mahovlich – 181
Tracy Pratt – 179
Bobby Orr – Plus-124
Dallas Smith – 98
Ken Hodge – 69
Phil Esposito – 69
Wayne Cashman – 59
Ed Westfall - 57
Tony Esposito – 35
Eddie Johnston – 30
Ed Giacomin – 27
Gerry Cheevers – 27
Jacques Plante - 24
Jacques Plante – 1.89
Ed Giacomin – 2.16
Tony Esposito - 2.27
Gilles Villemure – 2.30
Jacques Plante - .944
Ed Giacomin - .922
Gilles Villemure - .919
Tony Esposito - .919
Glenn Hall - .918
Gerry Cheevers - .918