Thank you for reading!
Kidding aside, I’m sure there is a long list of people who say they hold claim to this title. Especially those who may have had a short lived career whom feel they were not given their proper shot. It may also seem odd to put one of the greatest players of all time, who has remained relatively healthy his entire career, in this category. However it is for these reasons that I will make my case for why no player in NHL history has been f***ed over more than Alex Ovechkin.
For this to make sense, it must first be made clear that this statement is in the perspective of becoming the NHL’s all-time leading Goal Scorer. Again, a bit of a weird concept when discussing getting screwed over, but keep in mind that the NHL record book is essentially Wayne Gretzky’s career stat sheet. You would be hard pressed to find another athlete with such dominance over their respective league’s all-time records. Gretzky’s career became the barometer for greatness in basically every meaningful statistical category in hockey.
Gretzky (I’ve been told that Mr. Gretzky is reserved for Walter, Wayne’s father) is the NHL leader in Goals (894), Assists (1 963) and Points (2 857). To be quite honest none of which seemed beatable when he retired. Again, for context, assuming a player manages a full 20 year career, they would need to average roughly 45 goals, 98 assists and 143 points. Feel free to re-read that.
We will get to Goals in a moment, but in the history of the NHL, 98+ assists in one season has been accomplished 14 times. Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr did it once each; Gretzky did it 12 times. 143+ points in one season has been accomplished 21 times, Mario (4), Phil Esposito (2), Bernie Nicholls (1), Jaromir Jagr (1), Pat Lafontaine (1) and Mike Bossy (1) all achieved the feat. Gretzky, 10 times.
Those 10 seasons alone accounted for 1863 of Gretzky’s career points. That would rank 4th All-time in NHL scoring behind Gretzky, Jagr and Gordie Howe.
Scoring 45 goals in a season is not the biggest accomplishment, the NHL has 50 goal scorers every year. However none that can do it on a consistent, annual basis. That is until Ovie. I would argue, against anyone, that we are watching the greatest pure goal scorer to ever play the game. The problem is that the numbers don’t reflect this, however there is one small argument I would make that would drastically narrow the gap between 894 and 706.
Now, to finally explain the thesis of this argument, no player who has been this close to history has lost more man games to non-injury related reasons than Alex Ovechkin. Yes, of course he is part of a larger generation of hockey players who faced the same losses. No player in the modern day is even remotely close to catching any of Gretzky’s record (at least as far as I know, but would love to be proven wrong). However, for this let’s bring things way back, to Ovie’s rookie season.
Who remembers Ovie’s rookie season? Nono, not the one where he went head to head with Sidney Crosby for the greatest Calder race ever. The one that he lost because the NHL decided to lock out their entire season. So before even stepping foot on the ice for the Washington Capitals, Ovie is down 82 Games Played due to Lock Outs. To be fair to Gretzky, in this circumstance, his official rookie year was in the World Hockey Association (WHA). Hence why the NHL bought the Oilers (over simplification, I know). So if you wanted to make this a moot point, I wouldn’t blame you.
I also feel this an appropriate time to point out Ovie’s birthday, September 17th. Why does this matter? Well for one, the NHL draft cut off date for eligibility is September 15th. I will add the caveat that this may not have been the case in 2003-04. However, can you imagine if he was born 48 hours earlier and the world was blessed with an Ovechkin rookie season prior to the lock out? It obviously would be a stretch to imagine Ovie would put up Ovie-like numbers two years earlier, but the argument still exists.
Let’s say for argument sake, the Ovie truthers just added another 82 games to his career, but I will follow both timelines for this article.
As far as Lock Outs go, Ovie and the NHL lost another 34 games in the 2012-13 shortened season. Now we have to add games lost due to COVID. This spanned across two seasons (for now, hopefully, or else we will have much bigger problems) which comes to a total of 37 games lost thus far. So to quickly recap, that is 153 games lost or 235 if you choose to go with the birthday conspiracy theory.
I really like the 153 number more because for one, a birthday is a birthday. But more importantly it is very close to being double 77, which is the average number of games that Ovechkin has played per season, thereby making math much easier. Before getting into the numbers, it is important that to this point, Ovechkin has been very healthy. He is averaging just above 2 games missed per season due to injury. For that reason, I will be assuming that Ovie would have missed two game in each of those lost 77 game ‘seasons’.
So in the total of 149 games lost to non-injury related reasons, statistically, that amounts to roughly 91 goals (91.337 if you wanted to be exact). To the truthers, add another 80 games lost, or 49 goals, but if we are being honest, it would take a lot to argue that Ovie would have scored 49 goals two years before his Calder winning season in which he scored 52. Like I said, follow which ever timeline you would like.
This would put Ovie at 797 (846) goals scored at the start of this current NHL season. Making the quest to 894 much more manageable. I want to make one thing very clear, I still think Ovechkin will do it. While Ovie’s career high may only be 65 compared to seasons like 92, 71, 87 or 72 from Gretzky. But Ovie’s ability to consistently score this many goals, this late in his career, is quite literally the most impressive goal scoring accomplishment in NHL history. To put this in perspective, Gretzky scored 25 goals during his age 34 season.
To win the scoring title. Ovie will essentially need to score 50 goals across the next 4 seasons. This seems daunting, until you consider that this would put him at the start of his age 40 season, giving him 1 last season to score what he is missing.
Surpassing Gretzky would essentially make Ovie a 900 career goal scorer. Imagine he was the first 1000 goal scorer?
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Hot Sauce content! Peeze and Alex are joined again by Duke to discuss the NFL, NBA and a very odd situation with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Check them out here to find them on the Streaming platform of your choice!
Hockey talk continues on Weekly Sauce! Alex the Intern, Terry sit down with Jason Paul from Wave Intel to discuss how analytics and information are used in Hockey. They also go over Wave Intel’s player comparison tool using a couple Habs as example!
Don’t forget to take advantage of our Promo Codes by visiting MikesBBQrubMTL.com with Promo Code HotSauce10 to get 10% orders on all individual bottles.