This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
1. Wayne Gretzky (2,437)
2. Mark Messier (270)
The massive gap between No. 1 and 2 on this list goes a long way in illustrating Gretzky’s greatness (also, the fact he was named the greatest Los Angeles King as well.) No. 99’s run of dominance with the Oilers will probably never be repeated. Okay, it never will. Just consider what he accomplished from his NHL debut (in 1979-80) to his final season in Edmonton (1987-88):
— Eight Hart Trophies as league MVP
— Four Stanley Cups
— Two Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP
— Four 200-point seasons (the only player in NHL history to ever crack the 200-point plateau)
As far as single-season records that defy logic and convention, I’ve cherry-picked three:
1) Scoring 92 goals in 80 games during the 1981-82 campaign. This was the same year Gretzky hit the 50-goal plateau in his 39th game of the season and recorded 10 hat-tricks.
“If he scored one goal, he wanted two,” Oilers president of hockey ops Kevin Lowe told NHL.com. “If he scored two, he wanted three. He always wanted more. All stars have a love for the game. What separates players like Wayne is the passion — he’s like Michael Jordan. They take it to the next level.”
2) Scoring 215 points in 80 games in 1985-86. Edmonton scored 426 goals that year, meaning Gretzky was in on more than 50 percent of the team’s offense. This was the same year Gretzky shattered his own record for most assists in a single season, with 163; nobody has even come close to touching that (the closest was Mario Lemieux’s 114 during the 1988-89 campaign.)
3) The 1984-85 Stanley Cup playoffs. Gretzky scored 47 points in 18 games and had 17 goals on 67 shots — a shooting percentage of twenty-five. The 47 points still stand as a single-playoff high in NHL history.
Greatest Oiler of all time, and it’s a no-brainer.