The 2011-2012 NHL season is nearly upon us, as the Boston Bruins hope to make a successful title defense. As usual with most leagues, we open the record books to check out and see if there’s any chance of a non Canadian in the top 10 players with the most points in NHL history (clue – there is, just one) and is anyone even remotely close to Wayne Gretzky (nope).
Number 10 – Phil Esposito, 1590
Elected into the hall of fame in 1984, Esposito played in the NHL for 18 season, sharing his time with the Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, retiring in 1981, turning into management. Esposito finished his career with 717 goals (5th all time) and 873 assists (21st all time), leading the league in Points five times. His career best is 152, and he is one of only five players to ever reach the 150 points mark in a season. He won two Stanley Cups (1970, 1972 with the Bruins) and the Hart Trophy twice.
Number 9 – Jaromir Jagr, 1599
Four months before his 40th birthday, the Czech winger will return to the NHL after a three season absence, signing a 3.3 million dollars, one year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. A member of the triple gold club (Winning the Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and the World Cup), Jagr has led the league in points five times. He’s 12th all time in goals (646) and 14th in assists (953), a two time Stanley Cup winner with the Penguins and a Hart Trophy winner in 1999.
Number 8 – Joe Sakic, 1641
Recently retired, currently in the Avalanche Front office, Joe Sakic never led the league in points, goals or assists, but his consistency over his 20 NHL seasons with the Quebec Nordics and their later version, the Colorado Avalanche. Sakic led the Avalanche to two Stanley Cup wins (1996, 2001) and won the Hart trophy for the 2000-2001 season. He’s 15th all time in goals (625) and 11th in assists (1016).
Number 7 – Mario Lemieux, 1723
The Penguins’ current owner, Mario Lemieux is the only person to win the Stanley Cup as a player and an owner. He led the Pittsburgh Penguins to two Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. In the 2009 championship he was the owner. A Penguin for life, Lemieux might have had a better shot of challenging Gretzky for the best ever if it wasn’t for his health problems plaguing his career – Spinal Disc Herniation, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, chronic back pain and tendinitis. He retired twice, once in 1997, battling lymphoma, and for a second final time in 2006 (after making a 2000 comeback), diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
Lemieux led the league in points six times, going over 160 four times, including a 199 season in 1988-1989. He’s ninth all time in goals with 690 and 10th all time in assists with 1033. He won the Hart Trophy three times.
Number 6 – Steve Yzerman, 1755
A Red Wings player for life, Steve Yzerman played 22 consecutive seasons in Detroit, winning three Stanley Cups and making nine All-Star games. Never the best player, but unparalleled longevity. He never led the league in points, goals or assists but had six consecutive +100 point season, including 155 in 1988-1989. He’s 8th all time in goals with 692 and 7th in assists with 1063.
Number 5 – Marcel Dionne, 1771
Inducted into the hall of fame in 1992, Marcel Dionne played 19 seasons in the NHL, playing for the Red Wings, Kings and New York Rangers. He led the league in points once (1980), but never won a Stanley Cup or a Hart Trophy. He’s fourth all time in goals with 731 and ninth in assists with 1040, going over 100 points in a season eight times.
Number 4 – Ron Francis, 1798
Like others on this list, Francis, who spent his 23 seasons in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers (now the Hurricanes in Carolina), Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes and one short stint with the Red Wings, never led the league in points, but 23 season go a long way in the stat sheets. He won two Stanley Cups win the Penguins (1991-1992) and is second all time in NHL history with 1249 assists.
Number 3 – Gordie Howe, 1850
Just the number of nicknames gets your head spinning – Mr. Hockey, Power, Mr. Everything, Mr. All-Star, The Great Gordie, The King of Hockey, The Man, No.9 and more. His NHL (and also WHA) career spanned five decades, playing for the Detroit Red Wings from 1946 to 1971 and one retirement season with Hartford in 1980, at the age of 51, scoring 15 goals and finishing with 46 points.
He won four Stanley Cups in the 1950′s with the Detroit Red Wings and the Hart Trophy six times. He led the league in points six times, but only passed 100 during his WHA days. He’s second in goals with 801 and 8th in assists with 1049.
Number 2 – Mark Messier, 1887
The only player to Captain two teams to Stanley Cup glory, Mark Messier was the last remaining fossil from the 1970′s and WHA when he retired as a New York Ranger in 2004. Messier began his NHL career in 1979-1980 after a WHA stint and player for the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and returned to New York. He was nicknamed “The Messiah” for leading the Rangers to their 1994 Stanley Cup, ending a 54 year drought.
He won six Stanley Cups in all, five with the 1980′s Edmonton Oilers. He’s seventh on the all time goals list with 694 and third in assists with 1193.
Number 1 – Wayne Gretzky, 2857
Simply the best, with nearly 1000 points more than Messier at number two. The two players won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers before Gretzky, preforming at a level unseen before and probably since, left to play for the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and the New York Rangers. Gretzky is the All-Time leader in both Goals (894) and Assists (1963). He had 14 seasons with over 100 points, nine with over 150 and four with over 200. He won nine Hart Trophies and made 18 All-Star games.