The Montreal Canadiens recorded the best record in NHL history during the 1976-77 season going 60-8-(15 ties). Many would think that the leading goal scorer was a legend like Guy Lafleur, when in fact it was a lesser-known Hall of Famer Steve Shutt who became the first Habs player to score 60 goals (Lafleur did it the next year) in a season that led the team.
Countless articles are written about that team as a whole, but Shutt’s individual season often isn’t talked about enough. This was a very impressive season as the Canadiens forward wasn’t able to replicate anything close to it again.
What Makes Shutt’s Season So Special
It is definitely a special season when you become the first player to score 60 goals in a season for such a storied franchise, but it goes much further than that. For one, Shutt never had another 50-goal season in his career, which really proves that this season was an outlier. That’s not to say he wasn’t an incredible player for the Canadiens throughout the 1970s as he was definitely one of their best players. He just never came close to that feat again.
Shutt had a few 40-goal seasons, but there is a big difference between that and a 60-goal season. His next best was the following season when he potted 49 goals, coming just short of the 50-goal mark. Shutt was definitely more of a scorer than a playmaker as well. Most seasons of his 13-year career, he’d score more goals than assists. He was one of the most prolific goal scorers in Canadiens history.
During that 1976-77 season, he not only had his most goals but assists as well. His 45 assists helped him reach 100 points for the first and only time of his career. The fact was that this historical team definitely helped Shutt get career highs across the board. The next closest was when he scored 42 assists and 89 points in his first season away from centre Jacques Lemaire during the 1979-80 campaign.
Lemaire definitely played a big role in Shutt and Lafleur’s goal totals. In the late 1970s, the trio was unstoppable and a huge part of four consecutive Stanley Cups.
Why Did 1976-77 Go So Well For Shutt
When looking at the stats, everything went well for the Canadiens that season, but Shutt in particular had a much better season than usual. He managed to lead the league in goals for the only time of his career. The main reason was that his linemate Lafleur was also at his best. Shutt was a premier sniper at the time and the fact that his legendary linemate was also playing at his best allowed him to get off a lot more shots.
Shutt had 292 shots and scored on an amazing 20.5% of his shots. While his shooting percentage looks pretty high, during his prime years from 1975-1982, he scored on 20% or more of his shots on five occasions. In fact, his highest shooting percentage was during the 1979-80 season with a 21% shooting percentage. That season, he also had only 224 shots, which is a significant difference from 1976-77’s 292. Shutt’s next highest season shot total came the following year with 243 shots. The fact that he managed to shoot 49 extra pucks on net, will definitely make a difference at season’s end as it did.
The reason that this goes back to his linemates is that they were gunning to put the puck on his stick more often. This was especially the case with Lafleur who managed to get a career-high 80 assists that season. The craziest part of all is that centre Lemaire only scored 41 assists and 75 points in 75 games, despite playing alongside the powerful duo.
Nonetheless, it is clear that Shutt and Lafleur’s chemistry was magical that season. The two combined for 116 goals and 241 points during the regular season.
Shutt’s Playoff Performance
Following the regular season, Shutt and his linemates continued the domination. While his playoff performance was good with eight goals and 18 points in 14 games, it was nowhere near his regular season as he finished behind Lafleur and Lemaire in scoring. However, Shutt, Lafleur and Lemaire got the job done to bring the Canadiens their 20th Stanley Cup.
This playoff performance was also Shutt’s best when it came to points. The next season he had nine goals and 17 points in 15 playoff games for the Canadiens to help them capture their third straight Cup.
That whole season really showed all the best there was out of Shutt. While he never produced close to it again, he had a great career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall Fame in 1993.