1969-70 was the last season of the great expansion inequality in the National Hockey League. It was the third and final season that would see the strong ‘Original 6’ teams packed into the East Division and the six weak 1967 expansion teams crammed into the West. With the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks joining for the following season, those two teams would be put in the East while the powerful Chicago Black Hawks would move to the west.
The team leaders of the six teams in the East Division varied widely. Bobby Orr led the league, capturing the Art Ross Trophy, with nearly the same amount of points as the leaders of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs combined.
Bobby Orr led the Boston Bruins with 120 points, the second highest total in NHL history at the time. By winning the Art Ross Trophy, Orr became the first and only defenseman ever to win the award. He also won the Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy in 1969-70, the only player to ever win four major awards in a single season. The Bruins captured the Stanley Cup championship with a sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the finals.
Stan Mikita led the Chicago Black Hawks with 86 points, finishing third in the NHL. The Black Hawks and Bruins both finished atop the NHL with 99 points but Chicago was awarded first with more wins. After sweeping the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs, the Black Hawks were in turn swept by Boston in the semi-finals.
Gordie Howe led the Red Wings with 71 points and placed ninth in the league. It was the 21st consecutive and last time Howe placed in the top ten. He finished ahead of teammate Frank Mahovlich by just one point and Mahovlich played two less games. The Red Wings finished just four points back of Chicago in the standings but, as mentioned, were swept by their rivals in the first round.
Yvan Cournoyer led the hard-luck Montreal Canadiens with just 63 points. The Habs finished the regular season tied with the New York Rangers with 92 points. The two teams had identical records so New York was awarded the tie break, having scored two more goals during the regular season than Montreal. Both teams would have finished first in the West. For Montreal, it was the only time from 1948-49 to 1993-94 that the team did not qualify for the post season.
Walt Tkaczuk, in just his second season in the NHL, led the New York Rangers with a career high 77 points. Tkaczuk finished with four points more than teammate Jean Ratelle and placed fifth in the race for the Art Ross Trophy. The Rangers fell to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs, 4-2.
Dave Keon led the Toronto Maple Leafs with 62 points as the team finished last in the East. If they were in the West, Toronto had enough points to finish in second. Keon ended the season with just two more points than teammate Norm Ullman.