Could He Score . . . a Thousand???

Cup'pa JoeThe occasion of Alexander Ovechkin’s 50th goal last night led Mike Vogel and Steve Kolbe on the game’s radio broadcast to reflect somewhat whimsically on a flight of extreme fantasy they’d heard bandied about the press earlier this season: could Ovi actually tally 1,000 goals in his career? I shook my head. A thousand? With so many of them needing to be scored on our sheet of ice?

But just as you begin to laugh off the suggestion you pause ever so briefly and think, If it is ever to be accomplished, Ovi certainly seems like the one to pull it off. Some reasons why:

  • Russian Machine doesn’t much break down.

  • He does shoot the puck often enough.

  • He’s not yet in his prime as a hockey player, and in his first four seasons he’s averaged more than 50 goals a season.

  • He looks to have an elite playmaking pivot on his line for as far as the eye can see, one who is his peer and could well set him up for 70- and even 80-goal seasons once Ovi reaches his prime.  

He’d need to keep it up a while, that’s for sure. One thousand goals would require twenty consecutive 50-goal campaigns. That’s mind-boggling.

There are, for me, at least three daunting obstacles standing in the way of such an outlandish feat. The most basic is the extreme unlikelihood that Ovi enjoys the iron-man health he’d need. One relatively serious knee injury, for instance, you would think would be his undoing. Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s all-time goals leader with 894, never suffered a serious knee injury and enjoyed fairly remarkable good health throughout his career. He also had more or less a year-and-a-half head start on Ovi to his goals collecting, not reaching the age of 19 until the middle portion of his rookie season in the NHL. 

But there is also working against Ovi the pernicious claims Mother Nature makes upon even the greatest of athletes: how many 50-goal campaigns do we see from the 35-plus set?

It has been done — once. Johnny Bucyk scored 51 goals at age 35. Nobody else has done it even at 34. Espo had 61 goals at age 33. Marcel Dionne had 56 at 31, and Mario scored 50 at that age. The thirties can be so cruel. 

Then again, Ovi is very much a mold-breaker.

But I have concern, too, with the unfit-for-his-greatness playing surface Ovi is tragically confined to. Because he’s as young as he is he’s relatively immune to the groin-grinding effects of Verizon Center’s ice. I worry what’s in store for him though when he reaches the ages of say Tom Poti, Chris Clark and hopefully even Sergei Fedorov. I do believe that were it possible to somehow magically transport Edmonton’s sheet to D.C. Ovi at 27 could flirt with a 100-goal season.

Already there is robust discussion of the theatrics Ovi displayed in celebrating his 50th goal last night. I definitely would have had a problem with the antics were the occasion say his 47th goal; instead, I’m not sure we would have seen the display absent Don Cherry’s nonsensical diatribe against the planet’s greatest hockey player a couple of weekends ago. This is Ovi’s planet we reside on; Cherry resides in another orbit — Leisure World. Here’s hoping he’s still alive if that 1,000th goal ever arrives. That stick would be too hot to touch.

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4 Responses to Could He Score . . . a Thousand???

  1. I think Ovie definitely plays too physical a game to stick around for 1,000 games. The toll that’s going to take on his body eventually basically precludes him from having that length a career. I see him sort of petering out in a fashion not unlike the late Peter Forsberg.

  2. TG says:

    I’m not so sure he isn’t already in his prime. John Buccigross has written some interesting stuff on it that shows that, for the most part, NHL players have their peak scoring seasons before they hit 25. Not to say that Ovechkin won’t be able to be really good for a number of years, but it’s also possible that the 60 was a high point and he won’t top that again.

  3. Lee (PTO) says:

    The “late” Peter Forsberg? I think he’s still alive… it wasn’t THAT bad of a foot problem! (joking!)
    I agree though, I think of Selanne’s career trajectory and see how his 60-goal season for Winnipeg was the high point of his scoring prowess (correct?).

  4. The Peerless says:

    Can he score a thousand?
    No…we’re pretty much seeing the prime of Ovechkin’s goal scoring life right now.
    Gretzky’s big four year window (323 goals in four years) closed at the age of 24.
    Brett Hull had a big three year window (228 goals) close at the age of 27.
    There have been players whose windows closed later — Phil Esposito had a five year window (323 goals) close at the age of 33. But looking at the all-time leading scorers, they did the most damage by the time they hit their mid-20’s.
    Unless Ovechkin has a couple of 80 goal seasons in the next couple, he’ll almost certainly be a top-five on the all-time rankings, but I don’t think Ovechkin is going to eclipse Gretzky (894).

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