This has got to stop. I don’t know how we got here but at some point in sports history we decided that to be one of the greatest players in any sport, you have to win championships. If you’re an all-time player, but you win zero championships this attitude tells us you will be forgotten. Lost among the greats who have won a championship or two.
It may be true for some, but it won’t be true for Alex Ovechkin. According to Joe McDonald of ESPN, he says “unless he wins a Stanley Cup, Ovechkin’s career numbers won’t matter.” I believe I speak for a lot of Washington Capitals fans when I say, give me a big fat ESPN-sized break.
This ESPN writer did mention Ovechkin’s current career stats which are impressive enough. But allow me to go further. Instead of stopping at where we are now, let’s move ahead five or six years. Then, the readers of this can decide whether or not Ovechkin needs a team trophy to cement himself as one of the best of all-time.
Unlike Evgeni Malkin, who has only played 683 possible games out of around 825 games.
Ovechkin has played 879 games out of a possible, wait for the drum roll, 908 games. Comparing Ovechkin to some of the greats of today, one sees that Crosby has missed 167 games and Malkin has missed 142 games. Ovechkin has missed just 29 games.
According to this ridiculous argument, Malkin will end up a better player “all-time” because he has two Stanley Cups. Malkin, who has played in 10+ seasons, has only scored over 30 goals four times. Since Malkin scored 50 goals in 2011-12, his highest total for a season is just 28. Let’s see if Malkin is able to get to 600 career goals, while Ovechkin has his eyes much higher than that.
Now we can move onto career game-winning goals. Ovechkin already sits in the top twenty in this stat with his 94 winners. Who does he already sit above? Recognize the name Wayne Gretzky? He only had 91 career game winners. Jeremy Roenick, Mike Madano and Mark Messier had 92 GWG’s. Sergei Fedorov and Joe Nieuwendyk had 93 career clinchers. Mike Gartner who played 1,432 games and scored 708 career goals. Ovechkin is above Luc Robitaille who scored 89 game winners in 1,431 games, while also scoring 668 career goals. Keep going down this list and Ovechkin is ahead of some impressive names who have played well over 1,000 career games.
Ovechkin has not yet played 1,000 games. He’s at just 879. Throughout his career Ovechkin has averaged about seven to eight game winners. This season, in 40 games, he has four. So lets give Alex just four more. That would put him at eight for the season and 98 in his career. Give him that many, and he passes Steve Yzerman, Patrick Marleau, Mats Sundin, Guy Lafleur and Jarome Iginla. Marleau and Iginla are obviously still playing and can still add to their totals too.
Jaromir Jagr is the pace setter right now with 133 career game winners. If Ovechkin continues at his current goal-scoring pace, that is not out of reach. Even if Jagr continues to set the record, top two isn’t a bad place to settle. Phil Esposito is second at 118.
Skip on over to power play goals. Ovechkin has scored 202 PPG’s in his career, already good enough for 17th in NHL history. This season he has seven PPG’s so let’s just give him eight more, which means he would end up with 15 which, quite frankly, would be a little low for him, but let’s just go on the low side here. If he did end up with eight more he would have 210 career power play goals, which would put him up to 14th all time. Among the names Ovechkin would pass in this category are Yzerman, Gretzky and Joe Sakic.
If Ovechkin did end up with 210 after this season, give him three more season of 15 and he would end up with 255. You know where that would put him? Top 3. The only remaining names are Brett Hull at 265 and Dave Andreychuk at 274. I’m just giving Ovechkin THREE seasons at 15, which is a very low total for him. What if he does six more years at 20?
And last but not least, total goals scored. We can talk about game-winning goals, power play goals, shorthanded goals, power play points or any stat you want, but at the end of the day, this is what Ovechkin does, score goals.
Right now, Ovi has 544 career goals. At just age 31, Ovechkin is already 30th all-time in goals-scored. If you want to, go ahead and look at the people he has already passed, because there are already some names that you’ll know.
So let’s go low again. Just give the Great Eight 18 more goals this season. That would mean he finishes this season at 37. That would give Ovechkin 562 and Top 25 in NHL history. That would put him ahead of Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Ron Francis, Lafleur, and Modano.
How many goals could he end up with? Of all the stats mentioned before, this one is the hardest to estimate. It depends on how long Ovechkin plays in the NHL. There has been rumors Ovechkin would like to return home to Russia to finish his career. How many years does that give him in the NHL at 31 years old? Well there is really no telling.
Ovechkin does have five years remaining on his current contract, so I’d assume he has that many years AT LEAST. So give him the 37 goals like I said earlier, which puts him at 562, then you have to guess he’d have what, say two 40-goal seasons and three 30-goal seasons. That’s 170 more goals which would put him up to 732. That would be in the Top 5 behind only Gretzky, Jagr, Gordie Howe and Hull.
Ovechkin will be as great as he wants to be. If he wants to go home at age 37 and finish his career good for him. But as long as Ovechkin stays at an elite level and can play for another eight, nine, or 10 seasons in the NHL, he can become one of only three players ever to score 800+ career NHL goals.
Does all that mean nothing IF he can’t win a Stanley Cup? Does that mean as fans and writers and coaches and managers that we were watching just an OK player? Does that mean he’s just a good player who couldn’t win a team trophy?
If Ovechkin retired or left the NHL right now or after this season, we can make that argument. But in just a couple of more NHL seasons, Ovechkin is going to turn his ok stats into easy Hall of Fame stats. In the next few years, Ovechkin is going to take his name and put it in some very exclusive clubs.
This stupid argument needs to stop. The Super Bowl is a team championship. LeBron James can’t win an NBA title on his own. You need a team to win a World Series, not just one pitcher or batter. The same goes for hockey.
Will it be a major disappointment for the Washington Capitals and their fans if they can’t win a Stanley Cup with Alex Ovechkin? Obviously. But can you seriously sit back and say Ovechkin’s individual stats when his career is all said and done mean NOTHING?
If you think that, just stop watching sports and stop watching the NHL. What you should do is sit back and marvel at one of the greatest players that has ever hit the ice and don’t worry about his legacy if he can’t win a TEAM championship.
By CJ Paige