Bernie Nicholls: Wayne Gretzky's most productive teammate?

RECsGuy*
03-09-2010, 11:59 PM
Did Wayne Gretzky have a more productive teammate, points-wise, than Pumper Nicholls? Everyone laughs at Nicholls' supposedly fluke '88-'89 campaign, but Bernie was on pace to duplicate that apparent aberration more than half way into the '89-'90 season before being dealt to the Rangers:

137 GMS - 104 G - 137 A - 241 PTS (144.25 PTS/82 GMS AVG.)

Bernie was still quite the producer on his own:

1108 GMS - 413 G - 669 A - 1082 PTS (80.08 PTS/82 GMS AVG.)

Combined ('81-'99):

1245 GMS - 517 G - 806 A - 1323 PTS (87.14 PTS/82 GMS AVG.)

Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom ended up carving out nice careers in Los Angeles (especially the agitating Swede), but might the Kings have been better off building around the seemingly instant chemistry between Bernie and Wayne? They fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champs (Calgary) in the only post-season the two participated in together, so no real disappointment/under-achievement there, but only after taking down the defending Stanley Cup champs in Rd. 1 (Edmonton).

*all stats are regular season + playoffs

Fish on The Sand
03-10-2010, 12:51 AM
some dude named Messier put up a couple of points in his career.

arrbez
03-10-2010, 01:00 AM
I think Nicholls legacy is almost hurt by playing with Gretzky. When Nicholl's is mentioned, people almost immediately think of him being carried to an outlandish season thanks to the Great One, but forget that he was an extremely productive player his entire career (I'm guilty of it too). He's still a 1,000 point scorer without his 1989 season, and it's not like he wouldn't have scored at all that year. He was a consistent 85-95 point guy on his own during that era.

Even if 150 was a product of Gretzky, it makes you wonder why Kurri never approached that number, especially since Gretzky was scoring around 40 more points a year in Edmonton than he was in LA. If the Nicholls-Gretzky combo had stayed together a few more years, it's not that hard to imagine Nicholls in the Hall of Fame.

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 01:01 AM
some dude named Messier put up a couple of points in his career.

to the tune of 1.76 PPG alongside Wayne? 137 games is a small sample size, but a sample nonetheless, and Nicholls put up numbers in that time frame that others who played with Gretzky for longer stretches couldn't touch. why was bernie able to pull those stats off and yet so many others were not? I believe his accomplishments during that period are unjustifiably mocked and that moving him to New York is an overlooked mistake by the Kings.

f1nn
03-10-2010, 01:01 AM
then there was that one dude whos name sounded like an indian food (when pronounced the english way)

arrbez
03-10-2010, 01:03 AM
then there was that one dude whos name sounded like an indian food (when pronounced the english way)

Pita Klima?

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 01:05 AM
Pita Klima?

nope. klima and gretz never played together.

arrbez
03-10-2010, 01:07 AM
You missed my Pita joke.

f1nn
03-10-2010, 01:09 AM
You missed my Pita joke.


Don't worry buddy, I got it :nod:

Spamhuis
03-10-2010, 01:52 AM
Jari Kurri says hi?

Brodie
03-10-2010, 01:57 AM
Nicholls was a phenomenal player on some very bad Kings teams before Gretz showed up... if the team had been better, people might remember that he was actually talented in his own right.

tony d
03-10-2010, 05:51 AM
I think Jari Kurri is the answer here.

Lead Role in a Cage
03-10-2010, 06:38 AM
to the tune of 1.76 PPG alongside Wayne? 137 games is a small sample size, but a sample nonetheless, and Nicholls put up numbers in that time frame that others who played with Gretzky for longer stretches couldn't touch. why was bernie able to pull those stats off and yet so many others were not? I believe his accomplishments during that period are unjustifiably mocked and that moving him to New York is an overlooked mistake by the Kings.

Disagree. Adding Granato and Sandstrom proved to be a very good deal for the Kings actually. The following three seasons (90-91, 91-92, 92-93) were arguably the best period in Kings history, culminating in the Stanley Cup finals 92-93. Both Granato and Sandstrom played big roles in this.
The same summer (1993) saw the beginning of misery for the Kings, first trading McSorley for McEachern, then in the middle of the season trading back McSorley, also receiving the immortal Jim Paek while giving up Sandstrom and trading back McEachern. A series of brutal moves ensued as well as ownership issues and the rest of the 90's was pretty much history.

Ohashi_Jouzu
03-10-2010, 07:31 AM
I guess semantics suggest that "most productive" should be replaced by "most prolific". One thing is for sure, Bernie definitely benefited from joining up with Gretzky while both were still in their prime. He never would have cracked 50 goals, let alone 70 (including a boat load of PP goals), without Wayne. They were obviously quite good together, especially with the man advantage.

reckoning
03-10-2010, 07:46 AM
The players with the most career goals that Gretzky assisted on:

364 Kurri, Jari
115 Robitaille, Luc
106 Anderson, Glenn
99 Coffey, Paul
80 Messier, Mark
68 Granato, Tony
57 Krushelnyski, Mike
57 Sandstrom, Tomas
45 MacDonald, Blair
40 Nicholls, Bernie

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 09:13 AM
The players with the most career goals that Gretzky assisted on:

364 Kurri, Jari
115 Robitaille, Luc
106 Anderson, Glenn
99 Coffey, Paul
80 Messier, Mark
68 Granato, Tony
57 Krushelnyski, Mike
57 Sandstrom, Tomas
45 MacDonald, Blair
40 Nicholls, Bernie

Of Gretzky's 102 goals between '88-'89 and '89-'90 (postseason and regular season combined), any way of finding out how many Nicholls had a hand in?

reckoning
03-10-2010, 09:29 AM
There used to be a list of all players who had assists and goals with Gretzky at this link http://www.nhl.com/hockeyu/history/gretzky/assistsplayer.html, but it appears to be dead now.

I just had the top ten goal scorers from an earlier post.

The other factor to consider is how much easier Gretzky's presence helped Nicholls even when they weren't linemates. The opposition would likely try to match their top defensive players against Gretzky's line, rather than Nicholls.

seventieslord
03-10-2010, 09:38 AM
The players with the most career goals that Gretzky assisted on:

364 Kurri, Jari
115 Robitaille, Luc
106 Anderson, Glenn
99 Coffey, Paul
80 Messier, Mark
68 Granato, Tony
57 Krushelnyski, Mike
57 Sandstrom, Tomas
45 MacDonald, Blair
40 Nicholls, Bernie

Hmm, so Gretzky assisted on less than half of Nicholls' goals while they were in LA together. It seems that besides the PP benefits, he must have also had a great even strength benefit on Nicholls by distracting the top checkers away from his line.

vadim sharifijanov
03-10-2010, 11:19 AM
i've always considered coffey gretzky's most productive teammate. maybe not on the level of pure points accumulation, though he is very close to kurri in that respect, but in terms of offense mutually produced.

Ziggy Stardust
03-10-2010, 01:20 PM
Nicholls didn't play on Gretzky's line, although they were often together on the PP.

Gretzky centered the top line and was often playing with a rotation of wingers that included the likes of Bobby Carpenter and Mike Krushelnyski, later it would be Steve Kasper (with Carpenter going to Boston). Mike Allison and Chris Kontos would also be used as Gretzky's wingers. Bernie was often centering a line with Luc Robitaille on his LW and Dave Taylor on RW.

On the PP, the Kings would use 4 forwards and 1 defenseman: Gretzky, Robitaille, Nicholls, Taylor and Duchesne would usually play the entire PP.

poise
03-10-2010, 01:25 PM
Nicholls was a star player in his own right, there's absolutely no question about that. He put up great numbers playing second fiddle to Dionne and even to Carson before Gretzky came along as well.

As already pointed out, Gretzky wasn't in directly on Nicholls production at levels as that of Kurri, because Nicholls centered his own line as well. Part of his scoring can also be explained by the attention that Gretzky drew away from him, but there is still the fact that Nicholls own numbers can be partly explained that he himself had hit his peak and was playing the best hockey of his career when Gretzky came in.

Let's not forget that in the first half 1988-1989 season Nicholls was outscoring Gretzky for stretches and he even overtook Lemieux briefly for the scoring lead following an 8 point game which is pretty amazing if you look at the start Mario had.

His numbers dropped significantly when he was traded to the Rangers, but do remember that with the Rangers he was playing in a much more conservative system than in L.A. which had a huge impact alongside no Gretzky.

What's telling is that in a peer (player/coaches) poll during the 1989-1990 season, Rob Brown was overwhelmingly named the most overrated player. Nicholls was not mentioned as either overrated or underrated. Kurri was voted the second most underrated player.

Even if 150 was a product of Gretzky, it makes you wonder why Kurri never approached that number, especially since Gretzky was scoring around 40 more points a year in Edmonton than he was in LA. If the Nicholls-Gretzky combo had stayed together a few more years, it's not that hard to imagine Nicholls in the Hall of Fame.

Kurri's numbers are a bit lower because in his three year peak in the mid 1980's he missed time each season, but his 1984-1985 season prorates to 78 goals and 148 points in a 80 game season. In his two best seasons with Gretzky he produces at a better rate than Nicholls did.

Also part of the reason that Kurri didn't put up more points is because of his role. Had he wished to focus on offense more, he could have certainly scored more goals and more importantly, utilized some of his playmaking talent that wasn't often shown because he didn't handle the puck much, but with the emergence of Coffey and Messier and Anderson on the second line, there wasn't a real benefit for the team for Kurri to do that at expense of his defensive duties.

There were some articles in the early to mid 1990's that spoke of Nicholls as a potential Hall of Famer. When he was demoted to the 4th line in his last years with the Sharks I believe his coach made a comment calling him a "future Hall of Famer."

reckoning
03-10-2010, 01:40 PM
Of Gretzky's 102 goals between '88-'89 and '89-'90 (postseason and regular season combined), any way of finding out how many Nicholls had a hand in?
I finally found the goals list on archive.org (http://web.archive.org/web/20010810123654/www.nhl.com/hockeyu/history/gretzky/gretgoals.html)

The players who assisted on Gretzky's goals (regular season only):

196 Kurri, Jari
116 Coffey, Paul
68 Messier, Mark
63 Anderson, Glenn
62 Huddy, Charlie
46 Robitaille, Luc
40 Krushelnyski, Mike
37 Lowe, Kevin
33 Tikkanen, Esa
29 Callighen, Brett
29 MacDonald, Blair
28 Granato, Tony
27 Siltanen, Risto
25 Lumley, Dave
25 Sandstrom, Tomas
21 Duchesne, Steve
21 Fogolin, Lee
21 Nicholls, Bernie

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 02:12 PM
What's telling is that in a peer (player/coaches) poll during the 1989-1990 season, Rob Brown was overwhelmingly named the most overrated player. Nicholls was not mentioned as either overrated or underrated. Kurri was voted the second most underrated player.

---

There were some articles in the early to mid 1990's that spoke of Nicholls as a potential Hall of Famer. When he was demoted to the 4th line in his last years with the Sharks I believe his coach made a comment calling him a "future Hall of Famer."

citations for either of these?

Jack DiBiase
03-10-2010, 02:12 PM
I think we all know the obvious, Gretzky leeched off Kurri most of his career.

kmad
03-10-2010, 02:40 PM
Side note - would there be a way to find out which pair of players were together in on the highest number of goals?

I have a feeling it'll end up as Daniel and Henrik Sedin... but I doubt they're at that point yet.

arrbez
03-10-2010, 02:53 PM
Side note - would there be a way to find out which pair of players were together in on the highest number of goals?

I have a feeling it'll end up as Daniel and Henrik Sedin... but I doubt they're at that point yet.

All-time, I imagine it would be Gretzky and Kurri. After that though, it would be interesting. Obviously it would have to be two superstars who played together for a significant period of time. Howe-Delvecchio played 21 years on the same team, although they weren't linemates the whole time, and it was mostly in a lower-scoring era. Maybe them, maybe Orr-Esposito who put up crazy numbers over a shorter period, or similarly Gretzky-Coffey.

reckoning
03-10-2010, 03:44 PM
Maybe Trottier-Bossy?

poise
03-10-2010, 08:07 PM
citations for either of these?

From the Toronto Star, January 25, 1990:

One of the more interesting tidbits to come out of last weekend's NHL all-star festivities was a poll of 123 players, taken by the Pittsburgh Press. The players were asked to rate their colleagues. Mark Messier was called the best all-around player, Wayne Gretzky the best playmaker and so forth. But the really interesting category was "most overrated." The winner, by a wide margin, was Pittsburgh's Rob (Hollywood) Brown, a major hot dog who tallied 49 goals and 66 assists last season on Mario Lemieux's line. Brown got 39 votes to 23 for Jimmy Carson. Viacheslav Fetisov and Rod Langway got 20 votes each. Luc Robitaille, who scored two all-star game goals, got 18 votes.

Interesting to note Robitaille made the cut here but not Nicholls.

From the Star Tribune, December 31, 1989:

For the fifth time, Goal magazine will publish the results of a poll examining the NHL's best in various categories. The poll was based on the opinions of players, general managers, scouts and coaches after last season.

...

Most underrated forward/ 1. Joe Mullen, Flames. 2. Steve Larmer, Blackhawks. 3. Jari Kurri, Oilers. Mullen is so consistent that he doesn't inspire much notice.

(my mistake, he was third)

Big Phil
03-10-2010, 08:32 PM
I guess if you are solely going on point production for one season then it is correct to say that Nicholls had more points than any other #99 teammate.

But almost everyone will point to Kurri as the most productive in terms of effectiveness. Together they won 4 Cups put up some lofty regular season and post season numbers and are generally regarded as the best tandem in NHL history.

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 08:48 PM
I guess if you are solely going on point production for one season

Nope. From OP:

"Everyone laughs at Nicholls' supposedly fluke '88-'89 campaign, but Bernie was on pace to duplicate that apparent aberration more than half way into the '89-'90 season before being dealt to the Rangers:

137 GMS - 104 G - 137 A - 241 PTS (144.25 PTS/82 GMS AVG.)"

reckoning
03-10-2010, 09:05 PM
At the time of the trade Nicholls was 27-48-75 in 47 games. Nowhere near his pace from the previous season.

metalfoot
03-10-2010, 10:19 PM
There used to be a list of all players who had assists and goals with Gretzky at this link http://www.nhl.com/hockeyu/history/gretzky/assistsplayer.html, but it appears to be dead now.

I just had the top ten goal scorers from an earlier post.

The other factor to consider is how much easier Gretzky's presence helped Nicholls even when they weren't linemates. The opposition would likely try to match their top defensive players against Gretzky's line, rather than Nicholls.

Here, have a link thanks to the Internet Archive: http://web.archive.org/web/20060411075635/http://www.nhl.com/hockeyu/history/gretzky/assistsplayer.html

lextune
03-10-2010, 10:30 PM
Hmm, so Gretzky assisted on less than half of Nicholls' goals while they were in LA together.

Assisting on 40 out of 97 goals is still quite significant.

Not to mention Gretz assisted on 5 of Bernie's 7 playoff goals.

They were fantastic together and I have always stood by the trade being a stupid mistake.

RECsGuy*
03-10-2010, 10:35 PM
At the time of the trade Nicholls was 27-48-75 in 47 games. Nowhere near his pace from the previous season.

47 GMS - 27 G - 48 A - 75 PTS

projects to...

80 GMS - 46 G - 82 A - 128 PTS

The projected 22-point drop off (14.67%) isn't as astronomical as you are making it out to be. Plus, 128 points would have placed Nicholls 3rd in league scoring at the close of the '89-'90 season instead of 6th, which is where he still managed to finish. Gretzky won that season's Art Ross with 142 points.

RECsGuy*
03-11-2010, 09:25 AM
Not to mention Gretz assisted on 5 of Bernie's 7 playoff goals.

They were fantastic together and I have always stood by the trade being a stupid mistake.

From a recent interview with the Bleacher Report:

“The funny thing is that I had just signed a new contract that year, so I’m talking to [then-owner] Bruce McNall,” Nicholls explained. “I wanted to buy a house and it was an expensive house. He said, ‘oh yeah, it’s a good time. Buy it. I’ll never trade you.’”

“We were at the [NHL] All-Star Game and I think it was [goaltender] Mike Vernon from Calgary,” said Nicholls. “He said, ‘I heard you were traded.’ I thought, ‘what?’”

“So I pegged Bruce underneath the stairwell and I said, ‘what’s going on here?’ He said, ‘well, you know, I think maybe we might’ve made a deal.’ They traded me during the All-Star Game.”

“That was obviously tough,” Nicholls lamented. “You score seventy goals the year before, you’re playing with Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player in the world. The next thing you know, they’re shipping you off.”

“Who wouldn’t want to play more with Wayne? I played a year and a half with him and I got traded,” Nicholls elaborated. “Man...I could play a lifetime with that guy. That was a big disappointment.”

“My first game here was awesome,” he said. “The seventy-goal year was great, having an opportunity to play with Wayne was great, the way the fans treated me here.”

“For me, I still get a kick of going out and playing, seeing kids, seeing people,” he added. “The fans of LA have always treated me great and I’ve appreciated that.”

“It’s always been my favorite team, my favorite city,” said Nicholls. “Anytime I get a call to come and do something for the Kings, I’m on the first flight out.”

shazariahl
03-11-2010, 12:15 PM
Wow, I had no idea they'd done the trade at the all-star game, or that McNall was so evasive about it. If I were Nicholls, I would have been extremely disappointed too. I don't care if it was because of Gretzky or not, but 150 pt seasons have only been done by 5 people IIRC (Esp, Gretz, Mario, Yzerman, and Nichols), though a bunch have come close with 145+. But that's some pretty elite company to be in, especially since it was in their only complete season together.

Big Phil
03-11-2010, 03:50 PM
At the time of the trade Nicholls was 27-48-75 in 47 games. Nowhere near his pace from the previous season.

Yeah kind of what I was thinking. Not saying Nicholls was going to have a bad year but '89 was clearly his best year

RECsGuy*
03-11-2010, 09:35 PM
Yeah kind of what I was thinking. Not saying Nicholls was going to have a bad year but '89 was clearly his best year

see post #34