clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Top 5: Best Regular-Season New York/New Jersey Hockey Teams

TORONTO ON - NOVEMBER 07: Bill Smith and Bryan Trottier lead players out for the Legends Classic Hockey Game at the Air Canada Centre on November 7 2010 in Toronto Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TORONTO ON - NOVEMBER 07: Bill Smith and Bryan Trottier lead players out for the Legends Classic Hockey Game at the Air Canada Centre on November 7 2010 in Toronto Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The New York Rangers have been piling up points almost as fast as everyone's been coming up with puns for Jeremy Lin's surname, and the Blueshirts should easily surpass the century mark this season. Which begs the question: Which local hockey team compiled the most points during the regular season? As luck would have it, the Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils all made the top five. Of course, as the decades have gone on, the schedule and rules have changed greatly, from 44 games per season up to 84 and then down to 82, and overtime didn't begin until the 1980s and now, of course, the shootout has been added, which gives teams a chance to rack up points like never before. So this list favors newer teams, with pre-1970s squads nary a chance to be listed. Some great teams just missed the list, such as the 1970-'71 and 1971-'72 Rangers, who both tallied 109 points in a 78-game schedule. And the two local defunct teams never came close: The old New York/Brooklyn Americans' best season in their 17-year history came in 1928-'29, when they had 50 points in 44 games, and the WHA's New York Raiders/Golden Blades/New Jersey Knights totalled 68 points in each of their two seasons here before vamoosing to California and morphing into the San Diego Mariners. Here are the Top 5 best regular-season local teams, and interestingly enough only two of them won a Stanley Cup.

5. 2000-'01 Devils, 111 Points (48-19-12-3): This edition of the Devils tied for second for most points in the NHL that season (with the Detroit Red Wings), only behind the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche (118 points). New Jersey led the league in goals, and were fifth in goals against. Patrik Elias was the left wing on the NHL's First-Team All-Star squad, led his team in points (96) and tied for first in plus/minus. The Devils also had the third-, fourth- and fifth-place players on that list. Alexander Mogilny scored 43 goals to lead the team. Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer led the dominating defense, and Martin Brodeur led the league with 42 wins. After beating the Hurricanes, Maple Leafs and Penguins to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, they fell to the Avalanche in seven games in the franchise's only Finals loss.

4. 1977-'78 Islanders, 111 Points (48-17-15): This version of the Islanders was in the process of becoming a dynasty, as they were establishing themselves as a true NHL power. They finished in first place in the Patrick Division, and third in the league in points (behind NHL Finals combatants Montreal and Boston). They were second in the league in goals scored and third in goals against. And they began to accumulate individual awards and accolades: Mike Bossy won the Calder Trophy (scoring 53 goals), Denis Potvin won the Norris Trophy (94 points, plus-57) and Potvin, Bryan Trottier (league-leading 77 assists, second in points with 123) and Clark Gillies were First-Team All-Stars, with Bossy making the Second Team. Chico Resch and Billy Smith split time in goal, with Resch playing the bulk of the games in their Quarter Finals playoff series loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

3. 1993-'94 Rangers, 112 Points (52-24-8): This was the year the Rangers finally won the Cup, of course, as the Garden faithful were rewarded for their 54-year wait. The Rangers won the President's Trophy, and then defeated the Islanders, Capitals, Devils and Canucks before being able to hoist the Cup in triumph. Brian Leetch was the Conn Smythe winner, Adam Graves set a franchise single-season goal-scoring record, with 52 (and he also won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy), Mike Richter's 42 wins led the league and he was the All-Star Game MVP, Sergei Zubov led the team in points, with 89, Leetch and Graves were Second-Team All-Stars and Mark Messier made the second most famous guarantee in New York sports history. If the Rangers didn't turn their great regular season into a championship, they probably would have been run out of town.

2. 1978-'79 Islanders, 116 Points (51-15-14): This was finally going to be their year. The Islanders piled up the most points in the NHL. They led the league in goals (and were second in goals against). Trottier won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies (134 points). Potvin won another Norris Trophy (101 points, plus-71). Bossy led the league in goals, with a career-best 69. They had four of the top five in plus/minus. Trottier, Potvin and Gillies were First-Team All-Stars. Bossy and Resch were Second-Team All-Stars. They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the Quarter Finals. But then a nightmare took place. They were defeated by the underdog Rangers, thwarting them from qualifying for their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The roles were reversed from the previous time the two teams had met in the playoffs, in 1975, with this time the Islanders being the Big, Bad Powerhouse while the Rangers were the Little Team That Could. Of course, it didn't take long for the Islanders to recover.

1. 1981-'82 Islanders, 118 Points (54-16-10): Possibly the best local team of all-time, the 1982 Islanders won their third consecutive Stanley Cup, after totaling the most points in the NHL (and were second in the league in both goals for and against). They easily defeated the Rangers, Penguins, Nordiques and Canucks in the playoffs, and were in the midst of a North American sports record by winning 19 straight postseason series. Bossy won the Conn Smythe, put up a career best in points (147), and his 64 goals were the third of five times that he would exceed 60 (neither total came close to leading the league, though, as Wayne Gretzky scored a record 92 goals, with 212 points). Trottier (50/79/129) passed the 100-point mark for the fifth of six straight seasons. Potvin won his third (and final) Norris Trophy. Billy Smith won the Vezina Trophy. He and Bossy were First-Team All-Stars, with Trottier and John Tonelli making the Second Team. The 1982 Islanders were the epitome of true greatness.