Gretzky hits 50. It may not be a new headline for a player that scored 50 points most seasons in his career but this is time it has taken #99 a bit longer to hit the half century. That is because this time it is 50 years. The ‘great one’ hits the big five 0 this week along with fellow Oiler, Ranger and Team Canada team-mate Mark Messier.
As it is Gretzky’s birthday this week. I though I would take a look at the career of a remarkable player. A glance through the 61 NHL records that Gretzky holds tells you that this player is special. But for me there is one thing that stands out about Gretzky and that all his points and records are shared amongst 4 teams. Showing that whilst ice hockey is a team sport one player can make a massive difference.
There is two stats when shown side by side-show this more than any other. If you look at each seasons assist leader and goal leader you can see a remarkable difference. Whilst Wayne Gretzky is a constant in the assist column the scorer varies.
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||86||1979-80||Marcel Dionne||Los Angeles Kings||53|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||109||1980-81||Mike Bossy||New York Islanders||68|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||120||1981-82||Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||92|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||125||1982-83||Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||71|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||118||1983-84||Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||87|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||135||1984-85||Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||73|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||163||1985-86||Jari Kurri||Edmonton Oilers||68|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||121||1986-87||Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||62|
|Wayne Gretzky||Edmonton Oilers||109||1987-88||Mario Lemieux||Pittsburgh Penguins||70|
|Wayne Gretzky||Los Angeles Kings||114||1988-89||Mario Lemieux||Pittsburgh Penguins||85|
|Wayne Gretzky||Los Angeles Kings||102||1989-90||Steve Yzerman||Detroit Red Wings||62|
|Wayne Gretzky||Los Angeles Kings||122||1990-91||Brett Hull||St. Louis Blues||86|
|Wayne Gretzky||Los Angeles Kings||90||1991-92||Brett Hull||St. Louis Blues||70|
|Wayne Gretzky||Los Angeles Kings||92||1993-94||Pavel Bure||Vancouver Canucks||60|
To put this into perspective. The player with next highest number of season leading the NHL in assists in Bobby Orr with 5 seasons. Apart from the fact that this number is than half of Gretzky’s number of seasons at the top bare in mind Phil Esposito was the league’s leading goal score in each of those seasons.
Take for example the 1986 season. Jari Kurri scored 68 times whilst Wayne Gretzky recorded 163 assists. Even if Gretzky assisted on every Kurri goal there were still 95 other goals scored ultimately from a Gretzky pass.
Point is this whilst great lines make great teams it takes some one very special to be at the top of the sport on his own and that is why he his greatest player of all time.
Although Gretzky’s time in the NHL has passed on the ice at least the other big news is that another great Peter Forsberg is once again skating with the Colorado Avalanche but is just seeing where it goes.