Welcome to our second month of NHL Saturday, as we continue moving through the 1970s. This season was definitely one of the haves and the have-nots, as four teams finished with over 100 points in the standings—with only 14 teams in the league playing a 78-game schedule. That’s a lot of top-heavy rosters! Talent concentration can mean a lot of things, and in this ice world, it meant some serious super squads.
Also, we laid out our methodology in the first entry in the series, so revisit that as needed, as one player won three major awards from the voters in 1972—and he can only win two in this space. Just the way it goes!
Here we go …
1972 Hart: Bobby Orr (original), Phil Esposito (revised)
Boston Bruins center Phil Esposito (16.70) was the top forward in Point Shares by quite a lot, and once again, the Bruins posted the best record (119 points) in the NHL, making this another easy decision for Esposito. New York Rangers center Jean Ratelle (13.58) was next in PS.
Esposito’s league-best numbers: 66 goals, 133 points, 27 power-play goals, 16 game-winning goals, and 411 shots on goal. He also added 56 assists, 67 penalty minutes, and a +54 rating. That’s an MVP season right there, no matter what anyone else did on the ice during the season.
1972 Vezina: Tony Esposito & Gary Smith (original), Ken Dryden (revised)
Two goaltenders stood head and shoulders above the rest this season: Chicago Black Hawks star Tony Esposito (12.98 PS) and Montréal Canadiens rookie Ken Dryden (14.95). Both teams finished with over 100 points in the standings, so all things being equal, the award here has to go to Dryden on sabermetrics.
If you recall, he won the Conn Smythe last year from the voters (although we awarded it to a teammate instead) after playing just six games in the regular season. Dryden’s first full season in the NHL was impressive: He started a league-high 64 games, posting a NHL-best 39 wins and 15 ties. The traditional numbers (2.24 goals-against average, .930 save percentage) were quite solid, too, for that much work.
Esposito’s numbers were better, but he played in only 48 games: 31-10-6 record, league-best 1.77 GAA, and league-best .934 S%. Considering the Black Hawks also played in the West Division against 6 expansion teams while the Canadiens toiled in the East with the other original 4 teams (and only 2 expansion teams), the extra games Dryden played against better competition added up to the PS edge. And that means more value.
1972 Norris: Bobby Orr (original, confirmed)
Boston defenseman Bobby Orr led all NHL players in Point Shares (20.08), and his 8.12 defensive PS total was the best in the league as well. He wins his fourth straight Norris from us based on his NHL-tops marks in assists (80) and plus-minus rating (+83), in addition to his 117 total points and 106 PIM.
1972 Calder: Ken Dryden (original, confirmed)
Dryden posted the third-highest overall PS total in the league, behind Orr and Esposito, so it’s easy to give him this award over Buffalo Sabres left wing Rick Martin (7.9) and Detroit Red Wings center Marcel Dionne (7.2). For the record, the Sabres won just 16 games, while the Red Wings posted a mere 33 victories. Neither team made the postseason.
1972 Conn Smythe: Bobby Orr (original, confirmed)
Boston won the Cup again, with a 4-2 series victory over the Rangers, as the NHL switched up the playoff format to allow teams from the same division to meet in the Finals. Orr won the Conn Smythe vote after posting 24 points (5G, 19A) in 15 games. However, Phil Esposito matched Orr’s efforts in almost every way:
- Esposito: 9G, 15A, 24 points, +16, 24 PIM, 3 GWGs
- Orr: 5G, 19A, 24 points, +20, 19 PIM, 1 GWG
The voters were in love with Orr, clearly, but both guys played very well—and quite evenly, although it’s hard to measure the defensive contributions, which probably push Orr higher than Esposito. Plus, four other Bruins posted more than a point per game in the playoffs, too, while Boston goalie Eddie Johnston was stellar as well (6-1, 1.86 GAA, .936 S%). If he had played more than half the games for the Bruins, we’d have to give Johnston the nod with numbers like those.
No one on the Rangers was particularly outstanding statistically at all, so based on Orr’s defensive contributions pushing him above Esposito, we will confirm this one with confidence. This is the first Conn Smythe we have confirmed, by the way.
Check in every Saturday for our NHL awards historical analysis on The Daily McPlay!