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Bernie Nicholls: Wayne Gretzky's most productive teammate?

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Old
03-09-2010, 11:59 PM
  #1
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Bernie Nicholls: Wayne Gretzky's most productive teammate?

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
Attached Images
File Type: jpg nicholls.jpg‎ (34.5 KB, 19 views)
File Type: jpg bernienicholls.jpg‎ (37.6 KB, 14 views)


Last edited by RECsGuy*: 03-10-2010 at 02:02 AM.
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03-10-2010, 12:51 AM
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Fish on The Sand
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some dude named Messier put up a couple of points in his career.

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03-10-2010, 01:00 AM
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arrbez
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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.

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03-10-2010, 01:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Fish on The Sand View Post
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.

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

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03-10-2010, 01:03 AM
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arrbez
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4 nipple finn View Post
then there was that one dude whos name sounded like an indian food (when pronounced the english way)
Pita Klima?

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03-10-2010, 01:05 AM
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Pita Klima?
nope. klima and gretz never played together.

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

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03-10-2010, 01:09 AM
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Originally Posted by arrbez View Post
You missed my Pita joke.

Don't worry buddy, I got it

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

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03-10-2010, 01:57 AM
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Brodie
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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.

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

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03-10-2010, 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by RECsGuy View Post
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.

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03-10-2010, 07:31 AM
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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.

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03-10-2010, 07:46 AM
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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

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03-10-2010, 09:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
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?

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03-10-2010, 09:29 AM
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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/g...stsplayer.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.

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03-10-2010, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
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.

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03-10-2010, 11:19 AM
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vadim sharifijanov
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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.

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03-10-2010, 01:20 PM
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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.

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03-10-2010, 01:25 PM
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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.

Quote:
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."

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03-10-2010, 01:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RECsGuy View Post
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

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

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03-10-2010, 02:12 PM
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Originally Posted by poise View Post
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?

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

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03-10-2010, 02:40 PM
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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.

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