Friday, October 29, 2010

NHL Leaders : 1954-55

A common occurrence at the start of each NHL season is the individual who comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders. A quick start will often place a player higher up on the statistical ladder concerning goals, assists and points, compared to his standing at the end of the season.

As the first month of the current schedule is closing out, there are several examples of this. Who anticipated players like Nathan Horton, J-M Liles, Chris Stewart and Patrick Sharp cracking the top 12 in scoring (GP to October 24, 2010). In April, do we expect these players to have maintained their same ranking? Will Alex Ovechin (22nd) and Evgeni Malkin (27th) remain on the outside looking in?

Back in the 1954-55 season, the main source for statistical data pertaining to the NHL, was a local newspaper. The Hockey News publication (The Bible of Hockey!) provided expanded details for fans who devoured such information.

The NHL Top 12 as detailed in the sports section - 1954/55
The leading scorers of 56 years ago, reads like a who's who of hockey. Of the 12 players on the list, 5 would be eliminated come the end of the regular season - Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Don "Bones" Raleigh, Don McKenney and Doug Harvey. Their replacements would be Red Sullivan, Bert Olmstead, Sid Smith, Ted Kennedy and Ed Litzenberger. The aspect of the number of games played was only a factor for Ted Lindsay. He skated in less than 50 contests. In late January of 1955, Lindsay served a 10-day suspension for striking a fan with his stick.

The biggest battle was for the number one position on the points board. Approaching the finish line, Rocket Richard had a slim lead over teammate Bernie Geoffrion. In a late season game against Boston, Richard punched linesman Cliff Thompson. The Montreal forward was suspended for the final 3 games and the playoffs (resulting in the Richard Riots on March 17, 1955). While Richard was sidelined, Geoffrion passed him to win the scoring title - 75 points to 74. Of interest, Maurice Richard never won the Art Ross Trophy in his career.

Hopefully, the 2010-11 points race will be as close and exciting as 54-55. I doubt, however, if the pure drama and social ramifications of March 1955 will ever be duplicated.

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