One of the footnotes The NHL released its game plan yesterday is that by declaring the regular season over, Alex Ovechkin will win the Rocket Richard Trophy again for most of the season’s goals. He will share it with David Pastrnak because they both scored 48 goals, although Ovechkin did so in two games less. If you wanted to argue that it means he should get the trophy, I won’t stop you.
This is the ninth Richard of Ovechkin’s trophy, and that number alone should mark him as the top scorer in the league. Because no one has come close to leading the league with so many goals. Wayne Gretzky has only done this five times. Mario Lemieux has led three times. Even the guy whose trophy is named, Maurice Richard, has only led the league five times, and it was then that the league had only six teams full of drunk plumbers and that the Canadians could cheat. The only player to even get close to Ovechkin is Phil Esposito, who has led the league six times, 33% more than the amount of Ovechkin leading the league.
Ovechkin, known as the “Russian Rocket”, also becomes the oldest to lead the league in scoring since 1963, while Gordie Howe also did at 34. Whatever the 20-21 season, it is pretty sure that Ovechkin will lead the league by scoring at 35.
We have already documented how NHL work stoppages and now the pandemic took the chances of Ovechkin catching Gretzky’s 894 mark very good from an outside shot. Losing 14 more regular season games cost Ovie about 9-10 goals this year, depending on how fast he was. This is in addition to the 116 regular season games that were locked out. Given his rate of 0.61 goals per game, it is still 70 goals he lost. Add them up and Ovie could have 786 goals in his name right now instead of 706, leaving him just 108 behind Gretzky at the age of 34. It probably wouldn’t take him more than two and a half seasons to catch up. With the target now at 188, it’s four or five seasons of work and in the late thirties.
Ovechkin doesn’t need the record to be considered the NHL’s top scorer because he is. While it is never possible to name a post-season award after an active player, the day Ovechkin retires the trophy should be renamed for him. Just to watch Canadian media and fan heads explode in the biggest fireworks display the world has ever seen at the thought of an NHL award named after a Russian player and taken from a Canadian player. The Canadians would likely devote as many as 10 40-minute pre-game ceremonies to the controversy.