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NHL players who score over 150 points during regular season rarely win Stanley Cup

During the 2022-23 NHL season, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored 153 points, becoming the first player since 1995-96 to reach the 150-point plateau. Historically, he became just the sixth player to achieve the feat, behind Wayne Gretzky (nine times) and Mario Lemieux (four), with Phil Esposito, Bernie Nicholls, and Steve Yzerman each collecting one. 

Statistically, four of these players have won the Stanley Cup during their careers. However, outside of Gretzky achieving both 150 points and a Stanley Cup championship in a single season on three occasions, none of the other players had a chance. Surprisingly, the deeper we dig into the numbers, there appears to be a shocking trend that achieving individual success during the regular season does not equal team success in the playoffs. 

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Wayne Gretzky remains the only skater in NHL history with a 200-point season

News: Wayne Gretzky
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Currently, Gretzky is the only skater in NHL history to tally more than 200 points in a single season, reaching that milestone on four occasions. During the 1985-86 season, in which he set the record with 215 points, the Oilers were upset in the second round by their provincial rivals, the Calgary Flames. Before that historic season, he initially set the record with 212 points in 1981-82, the year the young Oilers went home in the first round, beaten by the Los Angeles Kings. 

Interestingly, the only seasons when Gretzky scored 200 points and won the Stanley Cup took place in 1984 (205) and 1985 (208). Ultimately, the team only won three of the seven times The Great One tore up the league, putting up unbeatable point totals. Additionally, after a trade to the Kings in 1988, the team did not advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988-89, losing in the second round, when he collected 163 points, which remains the franchise record over three decades later.

Perspectively, when the Kings went to their first Stanley Cup Final in 1993, Gretzky played only 45 games and collected 65 points to finish fifth in team scoring. 

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NHL Hall of Famers who scored 150 points and captured the Stanley Cup

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Meanwhile, Mario Lemieux occupies four spots amongst the 17 best regular seasons of all time, yet he never won or played in the Stanley Cup Final during the seasons he racked up 199, 168, 161, and 160 points. Although the Penguins qualified for the playoffs in three of those seasons, Lemieux only advanced to the conference final in one of those years, 1995-96. Furthermore, Le Magnifique scored just 45 points (due to injury) and 131 points when he led the Penguins to their first titles in 1991 and 1992. 

Moreover, Steve Yzerman had his best season, 155 points in 1988-89, early in his 22-year Hall of Fame career, but was eight years away from raising the Stanley Cup for the first time. Even though he scored at least 100 points in six consecutive seasons, the longest captain in Red Wings history never scored more than 85 points in any season that ended in a championship. 

Historically, Phil Esposito became the first player in NHL history to score over 150 points in a season, with 152 back in 1970-71, achieving the feat in just 78 games. Interestingly, he had his best season wedged between his only two Stanley Cup victories since the Boston Bruins won in 1970 and 1972. Furthermore, his record lasted ten seasons before Gretzky broke it with 164 in 1980-81. Statistically, the five-time Art Ross Trophy winner had 99 and 133-point seasons when the Bruins won those two championships.

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Connor McDavid in exclusive company with 153-point season in modern day

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers
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Meanwhile, Bernie Nicholls is the only player in league history to score exactly 150 points, largely thanks to Gretzky setting up his linemate during the 1988-89 season. Furthermore, he is the only player on this exclusive list that is not a Hall of Fame caliber player. Realistically, McDavid has already achieved enough in his young career to warrant admission upon retirement, which would leave Nicholls alone again. During his monumental season, the Kings only advanced to the second round and got swept by the Flames.

Finally, McDavid just finished his eighth season in the NHL, winning his fifth scoring title with 153 points. Thus far, today’s best player has never played in the Stanley Cup Final, appearing in the Final Four only once in 2022. Shockingly, after an early second-round exit this year, the Oilers extended a legacy that isn’t one to brag about; the team has failed to win a championship for the fifth time when a superstar from their team scores 150 points during the regular season.

Even though the Oilers took a step back this season when McDavid tore up the league and haunted goalie’s nightmares, it shows that it takes a total team effort to win the Stanley Cup. No matter how great an individual is, they can’t climb the mountain alone. 

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