50 Days Until The Season Begins (as of Tuesday)
By Zach Laing6 months ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane.
Note: This article was supposed to be posted on Tuesday. A new countdown post will come later today for 49 days until the season begins.
With 50 days until the regular season, let’s look back at the 19 times an Edmonton Oilers player scored 50 goals in a season.
Despite a storied history like the one the Oilers have, the list of 50 goal scorers who have donned the blue and orange isn’t that large. In fact, there are only six player who have done it. Let’s take a look at each of them.
An Edmonton Journal article from April 3, 1980 details Wayne Gretzky hitting the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career.
An Edmonton Journal article from Dec. 31, 1981 details Wayne Gretzky scoring five goals against the Philadelphia Flyers the night prior to hit the 50-goal mark.
Gretzky holds the honour of not only being the first 50-goal scorer in Oilers history, but also the most prominent hitting the mark eight times. In fact, he did it in every year but the last that he played for the team.
He became the first Oilers player to do it in his rookie season in 1979-80 hitting the mark late in the season. It came during the second period of an April 2, 1980 game against the Minnesota North Stars that ended in a tie.
“With Gretzky putting on a tremendous show, Oilers easily could have beaten the fifth-place North Stars, who have lost only once in the last 10 games,” the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson wrote the day after Gretzky hit the mark. “The 19-year-old centre had six shots (five more than he managed against Canucks) and sent half a dozen team-mates into the clear with passes from here, there and everywhere.”
Gretzky wasn’t shy about hitting the 50-goal mark scoring at will throughout the ’80’s. We can’t talk about him hitting the mark without talking about the 1981-82 season that saw him hit the mark in 39 games, and score 92 on the year — both record that will likely never be broken.
But don’t listen to me about it. Here are the words from the Edmonton Journal’s Terry Jones:
Today, The Rocket’s Red Glare looks more like a mere flick of a Bic. When it comes to lighting up a league, and the goal lights therein, now there’s Wayne Gretzky and once you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.Make no mistake. It wasn’t just another Great Gretzky game last night. It was the greatest hockey game ever played by the greatest player in the history of the game to break the greatest record ever set in the game. Nothing less than that.Five in one night to do it! Nine in the last two nights! Fifty-in-Thirty-Nine! Forget the adjectives. That says it all.Wayne Gretzky didn’t just break Rocket Richard’s Fifty-goals-in-Fifty games. He annihilated it. And I would hope, today, that it is unanimous especially in every old folks home where they talk in reverent tones of the six team NHL: There’s no way anyone can ridicule the record because of expansion and the style of play and all the other sacred excuses. The Kid made sure of that.And there’s no way anybody can carp that he scored No. 50 into an empty net. Not when it was his fifth goal of the game and in Game 39. Besides, it might just rate as the most exciting empty-net goal in history. In all, what happened last night was more than hockey history. It was one of hockey’s history’s most magic moments of all time. Last night will be, at least until the Oilers win a Stanley Cup, The Game I’ll Never Forget.Gretzky’s not in much of a position to compare his record to the Rocket’s because he wasn’t born when the Rocket set it and he can’t remember watching any six-team NHL games on TV, although he recalls seeing Rocket Richard on a Terry Jones between-periods interview once.“All I can say is that I believe hockey is better now than it was say 15 years ago. I think the players are bigger and better. And 15 years from now, I think they’ll be better than we are. Everything improves.”
Gretzky wasn’t the only Oilers player to score 50 goals in 1981-82, as Mark Messier hit the mark for the first, and only time in his career. While Moose was never shy about filling the back of the net tickling twine 694 time in his 1756 game, 25-year NHL career, he wasn’t always known for his scoring prowess.
But in ’81-’82, that’s what he was known for in his 3rd NHL season. Messier couldn’t have hit the mark much later, either, as it was game 78 of the season when he scored the goal.
In his final three games of the year, Messier scored five goals hitting the 50-goal plateau at the 19:37 mark of the third period of his final game. Not bad.
An Edmonton Journal article from March 23, 1984 details Glenn Anderson hitting the 50-goal mark.
Anderson would be the next to join the group scoring 54 goals in 1983-84 — a career-high mark he tied in 1985-86. He scored his 50th in a March 21, 1984 game against the Hartford Whalers on a night where he would go on to score four goals.
“His 50th, an uncharacteristic missile from 50 feet, tore past Greg Millen,” the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson said of the goal.”
There are two other Oilers who have, or are nearing Gretzky’s eight 50-goal seasons in Edmonton with one being his old linemate, Jari Kurri. He scored 50 four times with the Oilers, the first coming in the 1983-84 season, too.
For Kurri, his 50th of 52 that year came on March 15, 1984 against the Montreal Canadiens. It would begin a four-year run of elite goal scoring from Kurri that saw him tally 245 goals in 294 between that season, and the 1986-87 campaign. He would score 43 and 44 goals in 1987-88 and 1987-88, but wouldn’t some close to the 50-goal mark again.
After Kurri’s last 50-goal season there wasn’t another Oiler to hit 50 goals until Leon Draisaitl did so in 2018-19. While he had in the mid-to-high 20’s before, Leon’s 50-goal campaign seemingly came out of nowhere.
His prior shooting percentage of 13.7 percent flew up to 21.6 percent that season and while history would suggest that number would’ve dropped by now, it hasn’t.
His 50th goal that year couldn’t have come any later, either, as he found the back of the net in the Oilers’ 82nd game of the season against the Calgary Flames on April 6, 2019. The Oilers would miss the playoffs that season and that same night, Connor McDavid suffered his infamous leg injury when Mark Giordano spilled him into the net.
Since then, all he’s done is continue to score goals. He scored 43 in 71 games the following year, and in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, he had 31 goals through 56 games before the season shut down and was, at the time, on pace for 45 goals. In each of the last two seasons, however, he hit the mark again with 55 and 52 goal campaigns.
With three now, Draisaitl is nipping on the heels of tying Kurri.
A March 24, 2024 article in the Edmonton Journal talks about Connor McDavid’s offensive success.
The most recent 50-goal scorer in Oilers history is none other than Connor McDavid.
He hit the mark this past season scoring 64 goals by years end — the seventh-most scored in a season by an Edmonton Oiler. While it wasn’t 50-in-50, it was close for McDavid, who hit the mark in the 61st game of the season.
It came on February 27th, 2023 in a game against the Boston Bruins making him the 94th player to do so in NHL history.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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