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The New Jersey Devils single-season goals record was set 14 years ago and the player was one of the biggest underdog stories in team history.

Kyle McKenna

April 18, 2020 marks 14 years since the New Jersey Devils’ single-season scoring record was set.

For once, Patrik Elias and John MacLean aren’t atop of a record-setting list for an offensive category. Don’t worry, Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t break the record, either.

Brian Gionta set the Devils’ record for most goals scored in a single season with 48 back in 2005-06.

Not only did the NHL return after a year-long lockout, but Gionta’s offensive heroics were a complete surprise and huge understory.

The 1998 third-round draft pick first suited up for New Jersey during the 2001-02 campaign and later captured fans’ hearts after helping the Devils win the 2002-03 Stanley Cup. Prior to the painful 2004-05 lockout, Gionta recorded 29 points (eight goals, 20 assists) in 2003-04.

Let that number sink in.

No. 14 returned to Jersey’s team and earned 89 points in 2005-06—a “40-40” campaign.

The increase in points was absurd. It was a memorable season for New Jersey, which also entailed the Devils’ first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff series win over the New York Rangers during the first round of the postseason.

Let’s not forget that only one Devils player has earned a 40-goal season since Gionta’s career season.

Zach Parise is the lone New Jersey skater to find the back of the net on 40 occasions when the beloved forward recorded 45 goals in 2008-09. That Devils team also set a franchise record with 51 wins that season, only to disappoint fans with a Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs.

For the record, nine other skaters have inked their names in the Devils’ 40-goal club, but it’s fair to say none of those former greats would surprise fans. However, Gionta and Parise were the only American-born players for the red and black.

Gionta’s feat in 2005-06 was arguably one of the biggest surprises and success stories in franchise history due to his expectations following the lockout.

The 5-foot-7 winger also shocked fans in large part because the Devils roster possessed All-Star caliber skaters such as Scott Gomez, Elias, Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner. The chances are that Gionta recording 20 goals that season would’ve satisfied New Jersey fans. While the NHL’s rule changes might have helped a smaller forward such as Gionta, it’s safe to say no one saw that record-setting season coming.

What’s also interesting is that Gionta set another single-season record that year.

He notched 24 power-play goals en-route to breaking the Devils’ goal-scoring record. Prior to the Gionta’s 24 tallies on the man-advantage, MacLean owned the respective record (19 PPG), but it dated back to the 1990-91 season.

While Gionta won a Stanley Cup in 2002-03 with New Jersey, fans envisioned the great forward winning at least one more as a top skater for the Devils. That wasn’t the case and the Devils let Gionta walk via unrestricted-free agency to the Montreal Canadiens during the 2009 offseason.

Now it’s a question of who’s the next Devils to record 40 goals in a season…Nico or Jack?

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.