Since the 2005-06 NHL season, the Art Ross trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s top point getter, has never been captured with anything less than a 100 point season. The only slight exception to that stat is that Martin St. Louis won the award in the shortened season of 2012-13 with 60 points.
This year’s winner is the captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn. He won the Art Ross in dramatic fashion by putting up a hat-trick and an assist in the final game of the season. That gave him 35 goals and 52 assists which is good for 87 points. It wasn’t just a final strong game that won Benn the hardware, as the talented forward also recorded 12 goals and 11 assists in the final 12 games of the season.
In 2012-13, Sidney Crosby secured the Art Ross with 104 points. In 2011-12, fellow Penguins teammate, Evgeni Malkin, did it with 109. Alex Ovechkin earned the trophy with 112 points in the 2007-08 season. With all these hundred point seasons winning the title, why then did Benn only score 87 points? Let’s also be clear on one thing; 87 points is a great season. It just doesn’t follow the usual path of the past Art Ross winners. So, what could have led to such a low scoring Art Ross trophy winner?
The Decline of Unskilled Players
It could have something to do with the overall quality of the league and the players. The competition becomes significantly stiffer which in turn affects the top players. The better the opposition, the harder it is for the superstars to produce huge numbers year after year.
The days of unskilled players dominating the fourth line are done. In today’s NHL, it is about rolling four complete lines that can each chip in every time they hit the ice. Teams are simply better prepared. There is more attention to detail and especially to shutting down the opposition’s top players. Balanced scoring is quickly becoming the norm in NHL line-ups.
Another factor could be the emergence of elite goaltenders. Goalies today are much bigger, faster and more conditioned than their brethren of the past. All are extremely highly-trained and athletic, as well. Their equipment is better and the position is constantly evolving to find better ways to learn how to stop the puck.
When you are playing against goalies like Pekka Rinne, Carey Price and Braden Holtby on a regular basis, you know that goals are going to be tough to come by.
Maybe in the future the NHL will implement changes that will help to promote scoring. That could mean reducing the size of goalies’ equipment even further, or more likely, increasing the size of the nets and the ice surface. The 2014-15 season was definitely a low for NHL scoring. Only the future will tell if 87 points in a season is an anomaly or the new norm.