Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lock Out Dropouts: The 700 Club

Each lockout has its casualties.  The fans suffer, arena employees suffer, beat writers really suffer.  With each lock out, a meaningful legacy or notable milestone slips through the fingers of some deserving player.  But, in my opinion, there has not been a significant milestone affected more than the elite 700 club during the “Lockout Era.”

The 700 club is a group of NHL players who have scored 700 regular season goals in their illustrious NHL careers.  That list is currently at six glorious names: Wayne Gretzky (894), Gordie Howe (801), Brett Hull (741), Marcel Dionne (731), Phil Esposito (717), and Mike Gartner (708).  There are three retired players who went through at least one NHL lockout that almost got to 700 goals: Mark Messier (694), Steve Yzerman (692), and Mario Lemieux (690).  It’s reasonable to think that the lockouts in 94-95 and 04-05 have kept these Hall of Famers from reaching the club.

I must break you.
Mark Messier was the first casualty of the lockout era 700 club.  Messier only went through one lockout in 94-95, but any reasonable hockey fan could realistically deduce that if The Moose had been able to participate in all 82 games that season, it was very likely he would have scored the 6 goals needed to get to the special 700.  Woulda coulda shoulda, but in my humble opinion Messier gets six more goals playing in 38 extra games at that point in his career.

Steve Yzerman played through two lockouts.  Even with the injuries he dealt with the last half of his career, his numbers remained consistent.  Had the 94-95 season not been shortened and the 2004-05 season not eliminated, even an aging bad-kneed Yzerman could have mucked out the 8 goals he need for 700 goals in those missing 120 games.  This is the singularly the easiest argument to make for a lockout ruining a very special achievement.

Mario Lemieux.  Lemieux was recovering from radiation treatments and dealing with back injuries during the first lockout, so I cannot make the argument that the first lockout affects his career goal totals.  By the second lockout, Lemieux was further limited by injury and treatment.  A healthy Lemieux in those final years easily  gets the 10 goals he needed for 700.  I like Lemieux, but I can’t blame the two lockouts during his career for missing the magical 700 club.  He courageously battled through injury his entire career - and that is what I attribute to him missing that historical mark. 

Jaromir Jagr, or “Puff Nuts” as Chris Pronger affectionately calls him, has 665 career goals.  He left the NHL to play in Pro Hockey’s version of the Nationwide Series in Russia for three seasons.  He’s cost himself 700 goals to this point so far. No sympathy from me.  But he has a chance to make the 700 club if he plays another 2 full and productive seasons, Pat Robertson jokes aside.

Mullets = Glorious.  Sike.
This will be Teemu Selanne’s third NHL Lockout if it happens. Selanne has been fairly healthy most of his career, which is probably why he’s still contributing as a forward in the “New NHL” after 20 years.  Selanne’s goal totals are 11th all-time at 663, 37 goals shy of the big 700.  Even in his advanced age, quick math tells me Selanne is a .40 GPG player in his past three seasons.  You take a possible 120 games lost to lockouts and calculate his GPG at age 40 which gives him 36 more for 699 career goals entering this season.  But, those 36 goals never happened and it is unlikely that The Finnish Flash will get the 37 goals he needs to reach 700 if parts of this season are canceled. 

Selanne is 42, and I can’t help the feeling that his body is playing with house money.  Selanne has a legitimate chance to contribute 20+ goals this season during 82 games, leaving him only a handful of goals left to reach 700 at the age of 43 next season.  But, if parts of this season are lost, the total amount of games lost to labor disputes will likely cost Selanne 700 goals.  Does "Teddy Flash" have two 20 goal seasons left in him, especially if large chunks of this season are lost?  We don’t know, but if the 94-95 and 2004-2005 seasons went on as scheduled, it is very likely the 2012-2013 season ushers in the 9th member to the 700 club.

Selanne is sporting what I assume is called a "Duxedo."

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