During the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers epitomized offense. From the 1981-82 season through 1985-86, they scored an average of 5.29 goals per game. They peaked in the 1983-84 season, putting up a whopping 446 goals in 80 games, a 5.58 goals-per-game average. Opposing teams couldn’t stop them, but could only try to limit the damage by containing them. It rarely worked.
The team featured phenomenal talent: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, and Grant Fuhr in goal. The team set virtually every scoring record that stands, routinely racking up 400 goals every season.
The Oilers hold the record for the highest-scoring NHL game in the modern era. On Dec. 11, 1985, they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 12-9. Surprisingly, Gretzky didn’t have any goals in the game, but he did register seven assists, a single-game NHL record. The Oilers also hold the record for most goals scored while shutting out an opponent. On Nov. 8, 1985, they smoked the Vancouver Canucks by a score of 13-0.
Enough about team success. This article is about the players to have cracked the 50-goal mark.
Member of the NHL 90-Goal Club
Scored 51 goals in 79 games during the 1979-80 season.
Scored 55 goals in 80 games during the 1980-81 season.
Scored 92 goals in 80 games during the 1981-82 season.
Scored 71 goals in 80 games during the 1982-83 season.
Scored 87 goals in 74 games during the 1983-84 season.
Scored 73 goals in 80 games during the 1984-85 season.
Scored 52 goals in 80 games during the 1985-86 season.
Scored 62 goals in 79 games during the 1986-87 season.
Gretzky scored 378 goals in his last season playing in a pee-wee league in Brantford, Ontario, which foreshadowed his NHL dominance. He didn’t just join the NHL’s 50-goal club, he was its President. He reached the mark eight times with the Oilers and after being traded to the Los Angeles Kings, “The Great One” also posted a 54-goal season in 1988-89.
In his first full NHL season, Gretzky punched his first ticket into the 50-goal club. He scored 51 goals and tied Marcel Dionne for the scoring race but lost the Art Ross Trophy because Dionne had more goals. He then rattled off seven straight 50-plus-goal seasons and won seven consecutive scoring titles.
In his third season, Gretzky shattered Phil Esposito’s record of 76 goals by lighting the lamp 92 times. He was a one-man goal-scoring machine, demolishing the fastest to score 50 record, accomplishing it in 39 games as a 20-year-old. He poured in four goals in his 38th game (against the Kings), then added five goals in his 39th game, a 7-5 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. The 50th goal was an empty-netter with only three seconds remaining. His teammates mobbed him on the ice while fans cheered on a feat that likely will never be duplicated.
“The one thing about Wayne, is that when he got one or two goals early in the game, he really became hungry,” said teammate Mark Messier.
“We all went out with the great intent of checking the heck out of him,” said Flyers great Bobby Clarke. “He got five [goals that night]. He probably could’ve got seven. It was a phenomenal performance.”
That season, Gretzky scored 50 goals before any other player had even reached the 30-goal mark.
He scored 50 goals in 50 games two more times in his career. In 1983-84, he scored his 50th goal in the team’s 42nd game and the following year scored his 50th goal in the team’s 49th game. All three times he accomplished the feat he did so by scoring at least a hat trick in the deciding game.
During his 50-goal-plus seasons, roughly 69 percent of his goals came at even strength, 21 percent on the power play and nine percent shorthanded. Roughly 11 percent of his tallies were game-winning goals.
After Gretzky retired, the NHL retired his No. 99 to ensure no one else would ever wear it. His skating, stickhandling and shooting were second to none and he is arguably the best player in the history of the game. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
Related: Toronto Maple Leafs’ 50-Goal Scorers
Member of the Oilers’ 50-Goal Club
Scored 50 goals in 78 games during the 1981-82 season.
Mark “the Moose” Messier had one 50-goal season, and came up shy twice, with 47- and 48-goal seasons. He was equal parts power, toughness, playmaker and scorer. On top of that, he was a natural leader, making him one of the most complete players of his generation.
The power forward scored 50 goals in 1981-82, his third season, doubling his output from the previous year. Of his 50 goals, 40 came at even strength and ten were scored on the power play. Three tallies were game-winners. It was the same season Gretzky put up his mind-boggling 92 goals.
Messier is considered one of the greatest NHL players of all time. During his career, his teams sipped from the Stanley Cups six times, he collected two Hart Trophies and was named to five All-Star teams. A physical marvel, playing in 76 games in his final season as a 43-year-old, he’s the only player to captain two franchises to the Stanley Cup. His number is retired by both the New York Rangers and Oilers. The NHL also created a leadership award and named it the Mark Messier Trophy. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
Two-time Member of the Oilers’ 50-Goal Club
Scored 54 goals in 80 games during the 1983-84 season.
Scored 54 goals in 72 games during the 1985-86 season.
Glenn Anderson grew up in Burnaby, British Columbia and was selected 69th by the Oilers in the 1979 Entry Draft. He joined the Oilers for 58 games in the 1980-81 season and scored 30 goals as a rookie. The following season, he made headlines with 105 points, finishing among the top ten scorers in the league.
During his two 50-goal seasons, roughly 67 percent of his goals came at even strength, 27 percent on the power play and six percent shorthanded. More than 18 percent of his tallies were game winners. He was consistently near the top of the NHL in scoring and thrived in the playoffs, scoring overtime winners and game-clinching goals in each of the Oilers’ five marches to the Stanley Cup between 1984 and 1990.
Just before the 1994 playoffs, Anderson was traded to the Rangers for Mike Gartner. There, he joined Messier and other ex-Oilers in winning another Stanley Cup. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008, and his number 9 was retired by the Oilers on Jan. 18, 2009.
Member of the NHL’s 70-Goal Club
Scored 52 goals in 64 games during the 1983-84 season.
Scored 71 goals in 73 games during the 1984-85 season.
Scored 68 goals in 78 games during the 1985-86 season.
Scored 54 goals in 79 games during the 1986-87 season.
Jari Kurri was an unbelievably talented goal scorer who played with Gretzky or in his shadow for much of his career. Together they created one of the most lethal combinations in NHL history, obliterating scoring records and wowing crowds. He was a master of one-timing a pass and burying it in the net.
Born in Helsinki, Finland, Kurri began his career with the Oilers in 1980-81. In 1983-84, his third season, he became the first Finnish-born player to reach the 50-goal mark. It highlighted a stretch in which the Oilers won four Stanley Cups in five seasons.
He followed up his breakout year with three straight seasons of sniping success with 71, 68 and 54 goals. He still holds the record for most goals in a single season by a right winger.
During his 50-goal-plus seasons, roughly 71 percent of his goals came at even strength, 21 percent on the power play and eight percent shorthanded. Nearly 15 percent of his tallies were game-winning goals.
Though he scored goals at will, with a laser of a shot he was also thought to be one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL. Though he never collected much hardware, it was only because most of it went to Gretzky.
Kurri finished his career as the highest scoring European-born player in NHL history. He tallied 601 goals, 797 assists and 1,398 points. In the playoffs, he scored 106 career goals and 233 points, ranking third all-time behind only Gretzky and Messier. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
Related: Montreal Canadiens 50-Goal Scorers
Member of the Oilers’ 50-Goal Club
Scored 56 goals in 80 games during the 1987-88 season.
Craig Simpson, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in November 1987 in the Paul Coffey trade, ended the 1987-88 NHL campaign with 56 goals, 43 of them with Edmonton. That year, for the most part, he played on a line with Messier and Anderson.
Simpson potted his 50th goal against the Buffalo Sabres on March 15, becoming the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals over a season played with more than one team. He finished second in goal scoring, behind Mario Lemieux that year.
Of his 56 goals, 34 came at even strength and 22 with the man advantage. Eight goals were game winners.
Simpson, who suffered a lower back injury and ended his career while playing for the Sabres, is the last Oiler to reach the 50-goal milestone. Since then, he’s enjoyed a successful career in hockey broadcasting.