Monday, February 17, 2020

Is Ovechkin the Greatest Scorer in NHL History?

By Scott Huntington

Alexander Ovechkin seems to be made to score goals. In fact, he's been so consistent in his 15-year NHL tenure that, this season, and possibly any game now, "Ovi" will almost certainly eclipse the 700-goal mark. This feat would move him into the number seven slot in the league's all-time top goal scorers.

With no signs that the Russian Machine will break down any time soon, the only top scorer currently active in the league is on a path to shatter that number in 2020 and continue his ascension past Make Gartner and, more than likely, Phil Esposito. The question that must be asked now is: is Ovechkin the Greatest of all-time?

He Doesn't Have the Most Goals

There are bound to be those who believe no player could possibly surpass "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, whose 894 career goals reside at the top of the list. Gretzky will never fade as the sport's poster child and one of the most important names in the world of hockey, bar none.

Not far below number 99 are names like Gordie Howe, Jaromír Jágr, and Brett Hull. They're all prolific scorers in their own right. However, even Jágr's 766 goals appear within reach of the made-of-steel Ovechkin.

And you have to consider the way in which the perennially high-producing Capitals' scorer has climbed the ranks and the era in which he is playing to fully grasp the argument that Ovi is in fact the finest we've ever seen.

But He Might Be the GOAT

Wayne Gretzky will always be a legend, but he didn't play in the modern era. The caliber of goalies and players in general that Ovechkin faces, in an era where enforcers have been replaced by elite athletes, has to be taken into consideration.

Even Gretzky's scoring dropped off during the latter part of his career. His last 60-goal season came at the rather green age of 26, whereas Ovi continues to deliver at 34 years of age. And he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.

At the current rate, Ovechkin would need another three seasons to threaten His Greatness. That's not at all unrealistic. In sports, it's not just the most talented players who become legends, but rather the most talented players who can manage to stay healthy. The reasons for this are obvious, and it's one of Ovechkin's greatest assets.

During the 1980s, it was common to see a team score in excess of four goals per game. Was it fun to watch? Absolutely — but it was a different game. And the way Hockey has evolved must be taken into account when you talk about who deserves credit. Alex Ovechkin is putting up numbers that compete with legends from an era where that number has decreased by 25%. Imagine what would happen to Ovi's goal count if you multiplied his output by 1.25. It wouldn't even be a contest!

Well on His Way

It's not a simple conversation, and Ovechkin himself seems not to be entertained talking about it. Still, when you really unpack it, his actions speak louder than words.

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