As the 1966-67 season concluded, significant change was about to happen in the National Hockey League, as it prepared to double in size from six teams to twelve. Expansion meant the end of the NHL’s Original Six era, but at the same time, something special was brewing in Boston.
After years of waiting in eager anticipation, the sad-sack Bruins and the club’s fans were rewarded with the 18-year-old hockey prodigy Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr. The precocious blueliner arrived to remarkable fanfare in an age well before the proliferation of the internet and social media, more than living up to the hype that followed him down from Canada. Having been touted as a player who could help reverse Boston’s fortunes on ice, the rookie Orr took no time to establish himself in the NHL, going on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best first-year player. However, superb as Orr’s performance was, hockey is a team game, and he was just one man. His presence alone was not enough to secure a finish better than fifth for the first time since 1959.
The Bruins had been moribund for the entire decade of the 1960’s, finishing sixth, or last in the field five of seven years before Orr suited up for his first professional game. Prior to that, the B’s had not won a Stanley Cup championship since 1941, the season before the league’s Original Six era began in 1942-43. Long gone were the championships authored by stalwarts like Eddie Shore, Aubrey ‘Dit’ Clapper, Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson, Lionel Hitchman, Milt Schmidt and Frank ‘Mr. Zero’ Brimsek. An entire generation had grown up in Boston without a championship in hockey, and the pressure was on to make the team competitive again. Or, at the very least, get out of the shadow of a powerhouse they shared the Boston Garden with.
Is Alex Ovechkin the most prolific goal scorer in NHL history?
Maybe. Since the 1928-1929 season anyway.
Wayne Gretzky is known as the greatest goal scorer in NHL history simply by scoring the most career goals and having the single greatest goal scoring season. Mike Bossy is considered by many as the best pure goal scorer the NHL has ever seen. Some believe, had he remained healthy, Mario Lemieux could have broken at least some of Gretzky’s records.
And now there is plenty of conversation surrounding whether Ovechkin can catch Gretzky’s career mark. Many believe he can’t, but just as many believe he can catch Gordie Howe for second.
There are plenty of others that ask: how do you account for the “dead puck era? when NHL scoring was at a minimum.
Well, we could look at goals per game. And in doing so, we find Bossy at the top of the pack scoring 573 goals in 752 games for the New York Islanders from 1977-1978 until 1986-1987. That’s a whopping .762 goals per game. He’s followed by Cy Denneny. Denneny played in 325 NHL games for the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins from 1916-1917 until the 1928-1929 season scoring 248 goals for an amazing .756 goals per game.
But how do you account for the fact that Bossy’s team played in an era where they scored 1.8 times as many goals as Denneny’s teams? How do you account for the fact that Lemieux’s Penguins scored 4.66 goals per game while Ovechkin’s Capitals score 2.74 goals per game?
Well, I’ve used a different formula.
I took all NHL players who averaged .5 goals per game or more in the history of the NHL and have nineteen of them. I then took the team(s) those players played for and calculated the average goals per game the team scored while that player was on that roster. I then calculated what percentage of the player’s goals per game made up the team’s goals per game and voila, it tells a different story.
Denneny now surpasses Bossy at the top of the list. His Senators and Bruins squads from 16/17 to 28/29 scored on average 2.33 goals per game over that time span. His .756 goals per game is an unheard of 32.49% of his team’s entire goals per game scored while he played.
Meanwhile, Bossy’s Islanders scored on average 4.15 goals per game from 77/78 to the 86/87 season. Bossy’s .762 goals per game made up 18.34% of all Islander’s goals per game in that span. That’s over 14% fewer than Denneny.
So where does that leave Ovechkin? Well his Capitals have averaged 2.74 goals per game while Ovechkin has been a Capital. Ovechkin’s .626 goals per game makes up 22.88% of all Capital’s goals, still almost 10% fewer than Denneny, but good enough for second all-time.
Here are the 19 players who have scored at a career clip of .5 goals per game or better and their percentage of team goals scored during the time they were on the roster. Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos are the only two active players on the list. (*Their totals from this season are not included). WHA totals are not included.
||% of Team GPG