Wayne Gretzky, the owner of 61 National Hockey League records, will undoubtedly hold a vast amount of these records for the rest of time. One record that has become a topic of discussion lately though, is his all-time goal scoring record.
We all know the crazy stats that if Wayne Gretzky never scored a goal in the NHL he would still be the all-time points leader. However that should not discount the fact that the Great One could still put the puck in the net. 894 career goals is the all-time record, and even though he has a long way to go, Alexander Ovechkin may be the only one who will ever be within striking distance of breaking this record.
There's been a lot of talk about how much longer Ovechkin will play, and as with any record, health and longevity are the keys here.
On the 31 Thoughts Podcast this summer, Ovechkin told Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek that he will re-evaluate his health in 2 years when his contract expires. He also was adamant that he was not considering Gretzky's record, and said there's no way he'll break it.
To me, that's just the typical conservative hockey player response. You know damn well that Ovechkin wants to go down as the greatest goal scorer ever. Personally, I already think he is, but hockey truthers' will say he needs the record to prove it.
So let's break this down shall we.
Alexander Ovechkin is going into his 15th NHL season, at the age of 34. In these 1,084 regular season games played, Ovechkin has collected 658 goals. His season-low for goals is 32, which he accumulated in 79 games in the 2010-2011 season, as well as in the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season, when he amazingly scored 32 in just 48 games. His season-high for goals is 65, which he scored in 2007-2008.
Looking at his numbers over the span of his career, his 658 goals in 14 seasons equates to an average of 47 goals per year. Looking at a per game basis, Ovechkin has scored at a rate of .607 goals per game in his 1,084 games.
Now, the difference between Gretzky's record and where Ovechkin currently sits is 236. That's still a lot of goals.
Let's say Ovechkin was able to continue his .607 goals per game pace, he would need 389 games to meet these 236 goals. If he managed to play all 82 games a year, which he usually is very close to doing, that would be another almost 5 years in the NHL, as 5 years of 82 games would be 410 games played.
Sticking with these calculations, he would score 49.77 goals per season, and finish the fifth season with 248 goals, passing Gretzky. However, I'd have to say this is highly unlikely.
While everyone has been saying for years, "Ovechkin is going to slow down," he really hasn't. Although it is bound to happen at some point, as it does with everyone, Ovechkin hasn't hit that point yet. Ovechkin has actually upped his goals total each of the past 3 years.
Let's say he starts to decline in 2 years. Following 49 and 50 goal seasons the previous 2 years, let's say he scores 50 this year, and perhaps a little less his average 47 the year after, as he is going to be coming out with vengeance following the Capitals first round playoff loss last season.
That gives his 97 more goals, leaving him 139 short of Gretzky's record, at the end of his current NHL contract.
97 divided by 3 would be 32.33. Meaning, if he could score 33 goals per year for 3 years on a new contract, he would pass Gretzky. Making it sound more feasible than the first option.
Over his 14 year career, Ovechkin has only missed 30 games. However, he has played tough hockey. He was a complete wrecking ball on the ice his first few years, hitting everything in sight. He has been on a playoff team majority of his career, adding countless highly-taxing games on the body.
With this is mind, I think it's a fair guess that Ovechkin will begin to miss more games the later we get into his career.
On the flip side of this though, Ovechkin isn't know for his speed. Nor his hands. He's known for sitting on the off-wing on the powerplay, blasting shots past goalies like it's easy. Does an aging body really slow down a one-timer that has been abusing penalty kills for the past 14 seasons? Do Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov suddenly forget how to feed Ovechkin one-timer passes in his old age?
I threw a lot of numbers around there. Maybe they didn't even make sense. So let me throw the calculations out and give you my personal opinion, with no averages or goals per game rates involved.
If Ovechkin can score over 90 goals in the next 2 seasons, he can catch Gretzky. Whether it be 45 and 45, 50 and 40, or whatever combination you wish, if he hits 90 goals in the next 2 seasons, he will only be 146 goals away as he heads into a new contract.
If I stick with the same prediction as earlier, him playing 3 years on a new deal, putting him into his 39-40 year old season, he would need just over 48 goals per year for 3 more years. That's still a lot.
But as I said earlier, don't try telling me Ovechkin doesn't care about Gretzky's record.
Let's say on this path, he regresses after 2 years as I predicted earlier. Then let's say he scores 41, then 38, then 35. Random numbers, sure, but they illustrate a slight regression each year, while still not falling too far due to the powerplay. He is now 32 goals short heading into his age 40-41 season.
I don't know how much you know about Alexander Ovechkin, but he's a proud guy, and he loves to score. No chance he walks away from the NHL if he is 32 goals away from tying Gretzky. Flashing back to one of the first numbers in this confusing article, 32 goals is his current career low. Very do able.
To summarize, math is hard. Scoring goals is also hard. Ovechkin is good at scoring. Maybe he's good at math. Regardless, Wayne Gretzky's record is indeed within reach for Ovechkin. Thus, I'm sticking by my claim that if Ovechkin can score over 90 goals in the next 2 seasons, The Great Eight will surpass The Great One. If he struggles in the coming 2 seasons, I don't think it's feasible.