Great Eight’s Pursuit of the Great One
Race to 894: Records are made to be broken, as they say. And when Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe on March 23, 1994 for most goals in NHL history, most assumed that might be the exception to the rule. Alexander Ovechkin is making us reconsider that position.
Only Jaromir Jagr and Gordie Howe sit between The Great Eight and The Great One. Coming off a hat trick in a win over Florida on Friday, Ovechkin now sits at fourth all-time with 748 goals. Gretzky’s record is 894. The race is on.
By the Numbers: Let’s start with the obvious — Ovechkin is 36 years old and in his 17th NHL season. As of writing, he needs 146 goals to catch Gretzky. If we somewhat conservatively give him 40 goals this season, that would leave him 106 shy of the record.
Given his career 0.61 goals per game average, Ovechkin would need 177 games to catch Gretzky, or just over two full 82-game seasons. Interestingly, Ovechkin’s 0.61 goals per game rate is actually higher than Gretzky’s career mark of 0.60. The elephant in the room is if Ovechkin can continue that through his 19th and potentially into his 20th NHL season.
For comparison, at the time he broke Gordie Howe’s record, Gretzky had a goal per game rate of 0.71. The remaining six seasons of his career, he scored at 0.25. Ovechkin definitely hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down — he’s averaged 0.57 goals per game over the past five seasons — but you would think some kind of regression is inevitable.
Is #8 the GOAT? As he chases down Gretzky, debates over best goal scorer ever naturally emerge. That’s a different conversation; there are subjective factors that come into play. Was Gretzky’s era easier to score? What if Ovechkin hadn’t missed parts of three seasons due to stoppages — his entire 2004-2005 rookie season and the 48-game 2012-2013 season due to lockouts and the 51-game pandemic campaign? What about Gretzky’s time in the WHA?
For this record, Ovechkin is chasing a finite number: 894. And with the NHL CBA ratified until the 2025-2026 season, he shouldn’t have to worry about another work interruption in his pursuit of the record. By making The Great One’s untouchable record a conversation, The Great Eight has already done something we didn’t think was possible. And there’s surely more greatness ahead.
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