Stanley Cup record breakers McDavid, Bouchard leading the charge in Edmonton Oilers' bid

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Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of Edmonton Oilers’ remarkable playoff run in 2024 is their growing assault on the NHL record book.

In recent days the Oilers have recorded a pair of wins over Florida Panthers to pull back into the final series they trailed by the grim margin of 3 games to 0 just a week ago. In each game, a current Oiler set a new standard for postseason playmaking. The men whose records they surpassed? None other than a couple of hallowed names from the club’s own storied past.

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The dynasty squad of the 1980s provided the franchise and its fans with a proud history, however their epic feats cast a very long shadow over future iterations of the Oilers. The club won the ultimate prize 5 times in a 7-year span; in the process, several of its individual members established a number of scoring records that have stood the test of time.

Until recently, that is. Thrice in recent times, twice in the last week alone, we have seen one of those records finally get toppled… by other Oilers. It’s a best case scenario for fans of the club.

All season long McDavid has been putting on a playmaking clinic. In the regular season he became just the third player in NHL history to reach the 100-assist mark, joining Wayne Gretzky (11 times!!) and the trailblazer Bobby Orr as the only NHLers to do so. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov would macth McDavid’s century on the last day of the season.

Come the playoffs, McDavid has carried on setting up goals at a prodigious rate. In Edmonton’s 8-1 shellacking of Florida in Game 4, he scored once and recorded a trio of helpers, his 30th, 31st and 32nd of the postseason. In the process, he dislodged the Great Gretzky from the top of a different leaderboard.

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Here’s the updated version of that list, including another pair of assists from McDavid’s 2-2-4 performance in Game 5:

Playoff year assists

The list is dominated by Oilers of 2 eras, 5 in all including 3 different players of the current team. Among them, they hold 8 of the top 10 playoff seasons all-time! Call it 8 of 12 if you prefer, it’s still absolutely staggering that one franchise could be so dominant. Only 3 other NHLers ever collected 25 apples, once each, while Gretzky did so yet a fifth time as an LA King.

Not every day nor even every decade that a Wayne Gretzky record gets taken down, especially in his top specialty of playmaking. In this case, the Great One held the top three spots on the list, all during his time with the Oilers and each in a Stanley Cup season. His 31st assist in 1988 topped his own 3-year-old mark and set yet another NHL record with his very last point as an Oiler. But now that legendary swan song has been eclipsed, by Edmonton’s modern scoring sensation.

It’s hard to compare the two phenoms who achieve/d their greatness through very different skill sets. Cam Cole, a superb sportswriter for the Edmonton Journal during the glory years (now retired), made a very good stab at it with this recent tweet:

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The new single-playoff-season assists record is hardly #97’s only claim to fame this spring, though other of his accomplishments could be better branded as marks or milestones than recognized NHL records. For example, in Games 4 and 5 he became the first player ever to record 4 points in consecutive games in the Stanley Cup Finals. Indeed, only one other player in NHL history has multiple 4-point SCF games in his entire career! You can guess who that is: Gretzky, who did it 4 (!) times, thrice as an Oiler and once more as a King.

Evan Bouchard

The relationship between Paul Coffey and Evan Bouchard is a remarkable human interest story that has developed over the course of this season. The 63-year-old Hall of Famer has dipped his toe in coaching waters for the first time at this level, and has clearly made a strong impact on the d-corps. None more than Bouchard, surely.

Immediately after Coffey somewhat reluctantly took on the role in mid-November, Bouchard rattled off a 13-game point streak, becoming the first Oiler d-man not named Paul Coffey to reach double digits. As I wrote approvingly at the time, “a few short days ago Coffey had the 10 longest such streaks in Oilers history. Now he has 10 of the top 11… and he’s coached the other one in his first month on the job.”

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Six months later, Bouchard has taken down one of Coffey’s NHL records set during his incredible playoff run in 1985. That spring the swift-skating rearguard set single season marks for goals, assists and points by a d-man that have remained unbeaten and untied from then until now this past Tuesday. That’s when Coffey’s own disciple Bouchard finally tied, then broke one of those marks, namely assists. Here’s the updated top 10:

Playoff year d-men assists

Bouchard roared past Coffey in a similar manner as McDavid had Gretzky the previous game, with a 3-assist game to draw near, tie and ultimately surpass the old standard.

“Just” the 2 Oilers listed here, both at the top of the page. The rest of the list includes some mighty fine d-men to put it mildly. At one end of it we see Duncan Keith, who ended his career as Bouchard’s partner in Edmonton. At the other, Evan Bouchard himself, a single point above his coach. For now.

Leon Draisaitl

The first of the new Oilers to make his mark on the playoff record book was Leon Draisaitl, who became the first NHLer ever to record 15 assists in a playoff series, needing just 5 game to do so against Calgary Flames in 2022. In the process, Draisaitl surpassed the all-time playmaking wizard, Gretzky.

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Playoff series assists

The updated version of this list shows not only Draisaitl’s fantastic performance vs. the Flames — in only 5 games! — on top of the list, but now includes a pair of Oilers from the current season. Both McDavid vs. the Kings and Draisaitl himself against the Canucks recorded 11 assists to squeeze their way into a multi-way tie for sixth all-time.

Only 13 times in history has a player scored more than 10 assists in a playoff series. Stunningly, over half of those feats have been recorded by members of one franchise, the Oilers, including the only two guys to do it twice: Gretzky and Draisaitl. McDavid, Coffey and Mark Messier did so once each. Superstars all, but spread across two very different generations of the Oilers, separated by decades.

One reason the old Oilers didn’t record even bigger totals was simply how efficient the team was. That 1985 squad, subsequently dubbed the NHL’s Team of the Century, lost only 3 games en route to the Cup; the ’88 club just 2 (and a tie!). Whereas the current Oilers’ only route to the grail is an onerous 25 games. That said, it took McDavid and Bouchard 22 and 23 respectively to set their marks, in a lower-scoring era. They need not apoligize that their assists-per-game figures are slightly lower.

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Also worth mentioning that we’ve focused here on the handful of records that have been broken and not the many which remain intact, such as Gretzky’s 47 playoff points, Coffey’s 37 points, and Jari Kurri’s 19 goals, all on the powerful 1985 squad. Don’t expect the dynasty Oilers to get expunged from the record book any time soon! But it’s way cool that the few of their records which have been broken were surpassed by other guys wearing the Oil drop.

Any of these men — Gretzky, McDavid, Coffey, Bouchard, Draisaitl — would surely say the records themselves are not the objective, that team success is what it’s all about. But the numbers do speak to extraordinary individual performances which contribute mightily to that greater goal.

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