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Alexander Ovechkin has had an incredible career as one of the most electrifying goal scorers the NHL has ever seen. In his 15 NHL seasons, he has never failed to score at least 30 goals, with 32 being the lowest mark of his career in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season.
Which brings us to the topic of discussion; we’re going to look back at Ovi’s career and say “what if?”. What if the NHL didn’t have a lockout in his rookie season? What if The NHL didn’t steal another half a season in the prime of his career due to another work stoppage? What if Dale Hunter didn’t undervalue Ovechkin and play him for 13 minutes in a playoff game in 2012? What if Ovi had the opportunity to continue his pursuit of yet another Rocket Richard trophy in the COVID shortened 2019-20 season?
No one can ever doubt Ovi’s goal scoring ability. That’s not what we’re here to discuss. I’m wondering how much closer Ovechkin would be to Wayne Gretzky’s goal scoring record if the league were able to avoid two lockouts and a pandemic didn’t sweep the globe in his career.
Ovechkin was forced to miss al of his rookie season due to the 04-05 lockout. The following year he scored 52 goals and 54 assists for 106 points. In the shortened 2013 season, playing all 48 games, Ovi still tallied 32 goals. This year, before play being halted, Ovechkin was tied for the league lead in goals with David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, scoring 48 goals with 14 regular season games left on the schedule.
Let’s play the guessing game. If you take that rookie season and his sophomore campaign in 2006, Ovechkin scored 52 and 46 goals, respectively. Average those and we’ll say he scored 49 in what would have been his rookie year in 2004-05. With the shortened 2013 season, I’ll safely say he reaches the 50 goal mark once again. This year, before the shutdown, Ovechkin would have easily reached 50, and with the tear he was on in what became the last few weeks of the season, a second career 60 goal season was not out of the realm of possibility. We won’t go crazy on the frustrating Dale Hunter experiment in Washington, when Ovi scored 38 goals with limited minutes for a superstar, but it’s worth being noted he could have ballooned those numbers with his normal shift being played.
Gretzky scored 894 goals in his NHL career and Ovechkin is trailing him with 706 goals, a difference of 188 goals. If we take the numbers from above in all those “what if” scenarios, Ovechkin could have an extra 80 or so goals on his resume, bringing his career goal total to 786. For a 34 year old goal scoring machine entering his 16th NHL season, 108 goals is well within reach of breaking The Great One’s record. This is a guy that can score over 30 goals a year with ease, and has only missed the 40 goal mark in 4 of his 15 years. That record could be only 3 years out of reach.
Instead, because of the league’s well documented incompetence to agree on a CBA every time it’s time to draw up a new deal, a coach who didn’t think Ovechkin’s skills were worth legitimate minutes, and the worst global pandemic in 100 years, the aging Ovechkin will have to remain extremely productive to make up the 188 goal gap on the back 9 of his career.
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