The number of 50 goal scorers was cut in half for the 1976-77 NHL season from the year before. In 1975-76 there were six players with 50 or more goals. Ironically, up until the end of the 1970-71 season, there were only five different players in the history of the league to accomplish this feat.
Steve Shutt of the Montreal Canadiens led the league with 60 goals. For the sniper that ended his NHL career with 424 goals in 930 regular season games, it was the only time he surpassed the 50 goal plateau. Montreal marched to their second of five Stanley Cup championships by beating the Boston Bruins in the finals.
Guy Lafleur of the Canadiens scored 56 goals for the second consecutive season. Lafleur was right in the middle of a six year run or 50+ goal seasons and won his second of three consecutive Art Ross Trophies. He ended his NHL career with 560 goals in 1,127 regular season games. Lafleur played seventeen years in the league with the Canadiens, New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques.
Marcel Dionne of the Los Angeles Kings finished third with 53 goals. Back in 1971, Dionne was drafted second overall, behind Lafleur. This was just another chance for Dionne to play second fiddle to Lafleur. Marcel scored 731 goals in 1,348 regular season games in a career that spanned from 1971-72 to 1988-89 with the Detroit Red Wings, Kings and New York Rangers. 1976-77 was the first time Dionne reached the 50 goal plateau and he would do it five more times.
Rick MacLeish of the Philadelphia Flyers finished fourth with 49 goals. It was second highest total after reaching 50 in 1972-73, his first full season in the NHL. MacLeish scored 349 goals over 846 regular season games between 1970-71 and 1983-84 with the Flyers, Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
Lanny McDonald of the Toronto Maple Leafs finished fifth with 46 points as he emerged as a true sniper in his fourth season in the NHL. McDonald scored exactly 500 goals in 1,111 regular season games in a career that spanned from 1973-74 to 1988-89. He played with the Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies and Calgary Flames. It was with the Flames that he achieved his greatest success with a 66 goal season in 1982-83 and a Stanley Cup championship in 1985-86.
All five but Rick MacLeish are now in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Guy Lafleur went first in 1988, before returning to the NHL for a three year comeback. Marcel Dionne and Lanny McDonald were both in the class of 1992. Steve Shutt was the last to be inducted, entering the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.