1978–79 NHL season

The 1978–79 NHL season was the 62nd season of the National Hockey League. The Montreal Canadiens beat the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals four games to one for their fourth consecutive Cup. The Cleveland Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars (continuing as the North Stars), reducing the NHL membership to 17 teams; the last time that the NHL contracted. In the 1978–79 season, two of the "Original Six" teams met in the Finals, which would not occur again until 2013. The Boston Bruins joined the Canadiens and Rangers in the 1978–79 semifinals and marked the last appearance by three Original Six teams in the final four until 2014.

1978–79 NHL season
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
DurationOctober 11, 1978 – May 21, 1979
Number of games80
Number of teams17
Top draft pickBobby Smith
Picked byMinnesota North Stars
Regular season
Season championsNew York Islanders
Season MVPBryan Trottier (Islanders)
Top scorerBryan Trottier (Islanders)
Playoffs MVPBob Gainey (Canadiens)
Stanley Cup
ChampionsMontreal Canadiens
  Runners-upNew York Rangers

League business

This season saw the first reduction in the total number of teams since the Brooklyn Americans folded following the 1941–42 season. Fearing that two teams were on the verge of folding, the league approved the merger of the financially unstable Cleveland Barons and Minnesota North Stars franchises, reducing the number of teams to 17. The merged team continued as the Minnesota North Stars, but assumed the Barons' place in the Adams Division.

This reduction would only be temporary, however, as negotiations continued toward an agreement with the World Hockey Association that would see it fold following this season, with four of its teams joining the NHL as expansion franchises for 1979–80.

For the first time since the NHL All-Star Game became an annual tradition, it was not played. In its stead was the 1979 Challenge Cup, which saw Soviet Union players come over to North America to play against NHL players. The Soviets won the series two games to one.

Regular season

For the past three seasons, the Montreal Canadiens had dominated the regular season, but times were changing. The New York Islanders had been steadily improving over the past few seasons and this season saw them beat out the Canadiens by one point for the best record in the league.

This was the last season until the 2005–06 season that the St. Louis Blues missed the playoffs.

Final standings

GP = Games Played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, PIM = Penalties In Minutes
Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold

Prince of Wales Conference

Adams Division
Boston Bruins80432314316270100
Buffalo Sabres8036281628026388
Toronto Maple Leafs8034331326725281
Minnesota North Stars8028401225728968


Norris Division
Montreal Canadiens80521711337204115
Pittsburgh Penguins8036311328127985
Los Angeles Kings8034341229228680
Washington Capitals8024411527333863
Detroit Red Wings8023411625229562


Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points
       Teams that qualified for the playoffs are highlighted in bold.

Clarence Campbell Conference

Patrick Division
New York Islanders80511514358214116
Philadelphia Flyers8040251528124895
New York Rangers8040291131629291
Atlanta Flames804131832728090
Smythe Division
Chicago Black Hawks8029361524427773
Vancouver Canucks8025421321729163
St. Louis Blues8018501224934848
Colorado Rockies8015531221033142



Playoff seeds

The twelve teams that qualified for the playoffs are ranked 1–12 based on regular season points.

Note: Only teams that qualified for the playoffs are listed here.

  1. New York Islanders, Patrick Division champions, Clarence Campbell Conference regular season champions – 116 points
  2. Montreal Canadiens, Norris Division champions, Prince of Wales Conference regular season champions – 115 points
  3. Boston Bruins, Adams Division champions – 100 points
  4. Philadelphia Flyers – 95 points
  5. New York Rangers – 91 points
  6. Atlanta Flames – 90 points
  7. Buffalo Sabres – 88 points
  8. Pittsburgh Penguins – 85 points
  9. Toronto Maple Leafs – 81 points
  10. Los Angeles Kings – 80 points
  11. Chicago Black Hawks, Smythe Division champions – 73 points
  12. Vancouver Canucks – 63 points

Playoff bracket

  Preliminary Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Stanley Cup Finals
  1 NY Islanders 4  
    8 Chicago 0  
  1 NY Islanders 2  
  4 NY Rangers 4  
1 Philadelphia 2  
8 Vancouver 1  
  4 Philadelphia 1
    5 NY Rangers 4  
2 NY Rangers 2
7 Los Angeles 0  
  2 Montreal 4
  4 NY Rangers 1
  2 Montreal 4
    7 Toronto 0  
3 Atlanta 0
6 Toronto 2  
  2 Montreal 4
  3 Boston 3  
  3 Boston 4
    6 Pittsburgh 0  
4 Buffalo 1
5 Pittsburgh 2  
  • Division winners earned a bye to the Quarterfinals
  • Teams were re-seeded based on regular season record after the Preliminary and Quarterfinal rounds

Stanley Cup Finals

Prior to 2013, this was the last time two Original Six clubs met in the finals. Both teams would next appear in the Stanley Cup Finals: Canadiens winning in 1986 and 1993, Rangers winning in 1994.

Montreal won series 4–1


1979 NHL awards
Prince of Wales Trophy:
(Wales Conference regular season champion)
Montreal Canadiens
Clarence S. Campbell Bowl:
(Campbell Conference regular season champion)
New York Islanders
Art Ross Trophy:
(Top scorer, regular season)
Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy:
(Perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication)
Serge Savard, Montreal Canadiens
Calder Memorial Trophy:
(Top first-year player)
Bobby Smith, Minnesota North Stars
Conn Smythe Trophy:
(Most valuable player, playoffs)
Bob Gainey, Montreal Canadiens
Frank J. Selke Trophy:
(Best defensive forward)
Bob Gainey, Montreal Canadiens
Hart Memorial Trophy:
(Most valuable player, regular season)
Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders
Jack Adams Award:
(Best coach)
Al Arbour, New York Islanders
James Norris Memorial Trophy:
(Best defenceman)
Denis Potvin, New York Islanders
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy:
(Excellence and sportsmanship)
Bob MacMillan, Atlanta Flames
Lester B. Pearson Award:
(Outstanding player, regular season)
Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings
Vezina Trophy:
(Goaltender(s) of team(s) with best goaltending record)
Ken Dryden & Michel Larocque, Montreal Canadiens
Lester Patrick Trophy:
(Service to hockey in the U.S.)
Bobby Orr

All-Star teams

First team  Position  Second team
Ken Dryden, Montreal Canadiens G Glenn Resch, New York Islanders
Denis Potvin, New York Islanders D Borje Salming, Toronto Maple Leafs
Larry Robinson, Montreal Canadiens D Serge Savard, Montreal Canadiens
Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders C Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles Kings
Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens RW Mike Bossy, New York Islanders
Clark Gillies, New York Islanders LW Bill Barber, Philadelphia Flyers

Player statistics

Scoring leaders

GP = Games Played, G = Goals, A = Assists, Pts = Points, PIM = Penalties In Minutes

Player Team GP G A Pts PIM
Bryan Trottier New York Islanders76478713450
Marcel Dionne Los Angeles Kings80597113030
Guy Lafleur Montreal Canadiens80527712928
Mike Bossy New York Islanders80695712625
Bob MacMillan Atlanta Flames79377110814
Guy Chouinard Atlanta Flames80505710714
Denis Potvin New York Islanders73317010158
Bernie Federko St. Louis Blues7431649514
Dave Taylor Los Angeles Kings78434891124
Clark Gillies New York Islanders7535569168

Source: NHL.[2]

Leading goaltenders

Note: GP = Games played; Min - Minutes Played; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; W = Wins; L = Losses; T = Ties; SO = Shutouts

Player Team GP MIN GA GAA W L T SO
Ken DrydenMontreal Canadiens4728141082.30301075
Chico ReschN.Y. Islanders4325391062.50267102
Bernie ParentPhiladelphia Flyers361979892.70161274
Michel LarocqueMontreal Canadiens341986942.8422743
Billy SmithN.Y. Islanders4022611082.8725841
Mike PalmateerToronto Maple Leafs5833961672.952621104
Don EdwardsBuffalo Sabres5431601593.02261892
Mario LessardL.A. Kings4928601483.102315104
Glen HanlonVancouver Canucks311821943.10121353
Gerry CheeversBoston Bruins4325091323.16239101

Other statistics

  • Bryan Trottier, New York Islanders


Patrick Division

Adams Division

Norris Division

Smythe Division



The following is a list of players of note who played their first NHL game in 1978–79 (listed with their first team, asterisk (*) marks debut in playoffs):

Players marked with § began their major professional career in the World Hockey Association.

Last games

The following is a list of players of note that played their last game in the NHL in 1978–79 (listed with their last team):

See also


  • Diamond, Dan, ed. (2000). Total Hockey. Kingston, NY: Total Sports. ISBN 1-892129-85-X.
  • Dinger, Ralph, ed. (2011). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book 2012. Toronto, ON: Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-22-5.
  • Dryden, Steve, ed. (2000). Century of hockey. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. ISBN 0-7710-4179-9.
  • Fischler, Stan; Fischler, Shirley; Hughes, Morgan; Romain, Joseph; Duplacey, James (2003). The Hockey Chronicle: Year-by-Year History of the National Hockey League. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Inc. ISBN 0-7853-9624-1.
  1. National Hockey League Official Guide and Record Book 2006, p. 163, Dan Diamond & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, ISBN 0-920445-98-5
  2. Dinger 2011, p. 151.
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