Selanne could have been second all-time in goals

Only injuries have stopped Selanne from being the second greatest goal-scorer of all-time. (Cheryl Adams/Wikimedia Commons)

Only injuries have stopped Selanne from being the second greatest goal-scorer of all-time. (Cheryl Adams/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

Last week, Chris Messina looked at Jaromir Jagr’s career numbers, concluding he could finish second all-time in scoring had he not spent three seasons in the Kontinental League and that made me wonder about another aging, yet still productive, superstar, Teemu Selanne.

Selanne recently passed Luc Robitaille on the career goals list with his 669th on March 1 against Minnesota to move into the top 10 all-time (Yes he’s 11th, but with him and Jagr, 671 goals, so close, either could be the 10th highest goal-scorer any given week.). Like Jagr, Selanne could be higher on the all-time list, but unlike Jagr, his current spot isn’t because of a decision to play elsewhere.

Knee injuries prevented him from becoming a 700 or possibly 800-goal scorer for his career and after a 16-goal 2003-04 season, it looked as though the Finnish Flash was, well, finished. But his reemergence in 2005-06 was one of the positive things to take away from the ’04-05 lockout which he spent recovering from knee surgery in Finland. In the years since he has cemented his place as one of the top offensive threats ever mainly because, as Down Goes Brown put it, “having all your internal organs replaced with titanium cyborg parts is apparently now called ‘knee surgery’ in Finland.”

His knee troubles are well documented. It’s why he went from his insane 76-goal, 132-point rookie season with the original Winnipeg Jets to putting up 71-103-174 over the next two-and-a-half seasons before a move at the 1996 trade deadline sent him to Anaheim where he teamed up with Paul Kariya to form one of the most potent combinations in recent memory. In the next three seasons, he hit the 50-goal and 100-point marks twice each before declining steadily for the next five years leading up to the lockout. You can take a look at his career numbers, but a visual representation shows just how much he missed in the prime of his career.

Here is a look at Selanne’s goals-per-game average, compared to that of the top 10 career goal scorers averaged out, by age (Determined by how old the players were at the end of the regular season.). There is no data for Selanne at age 34 as that was the lockout year. Click on the chart for a larger view.

Teemu Selanne

He obviously peaked during his rookie year at 22, but the times in his career he was truly healthy, specifically with Anaheim ages 26-28 and following the lockout, his averages are above the best snipers in history.

Here’s another chart, this one going by season. Once again notice the big dip in what would be the prime of his career.

Teemu Selanne goals per game average by season

He is right on pace with the others for his career save for his eighth through 12th seasons where his knee problems and the Dead Puck era cost him dearly. Here’s what his yearly goal totals looked like in those five seasons. Listed below are those seasons: games played-goal total, (average goals-per-game for the top 10 goal scorers) and finally what his season totals could have been using that average.

  • 1999-2000: 79-33 (.648) 51
  • 2000-01: 73-33 (.649) 47
  • 2001-02: 82-29 (.628) 52
  • 2002-03: 82-28 (.645) 53
  • 2003-04: 80-16 (.538) 43

That increase in production would raise his career total from 669 goals to 776, 35 more than Brett Hull and just 25 behind Gordie Howe. It would also give him six career 50-goal seasons, tying him for the second most behind Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy who have nine each. With Selanne refusing to take any days off, 802 is a mark that wuold have been reachable by next season. Kevin Allen of USA Today reports even at 42, Selanne doesn’t like to take days off and will do anything to get on the ice. Allen reports from mid-February:

Coach Bruce Boudreau’s serious attempts to give 42-year-old Teemu Selanne a day off often play like a comedy routine inside the Anaheim Ducks dressing room.

“Bruce tried to hide his skates last week, so Teemu went in and got a new pair and went on the ice anyway,” Ducks general manager Bob Murray said.

Selanne actually rummaged around until he found an old pair of skates he could use to join teammates at practice.

“I tried to hide behind the other guys, and (Boudreau) saw me and said, ‘What are you doing out here?’ “

It’s that unbridled enthusiasm that sets Selanne apart and allows him to remain one of the top players at an age many are perfecting their golf swing. He may not go duck hunting on the ice anymore as he did when he broke Bossy’s rookie goal record, but it’s hard to think of anyone who loves the game more. It’s why he received a video tribute and standing ovation in Winnipeg last season in his first appearance in the city in over a decade-and-a-half. He has earned the respect from everyone, even the Detroit Red Wings who he burned for possibly the second most famous goal of his career, an overtime winner to give the Ducks a 3-2 series lead in the 2007 Western Conference final.

It really is too bad he lost so much in the prime of his career, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. It’s fun to think about, but whether he finished second or tenth, he’s one of the best scorers in hockey history as his record 37 points in the Olympics can attest to. Who knows, he may even add to that number next year in Sochi. Fortunately, he made up for lost time by becoming one of the most prolific old-age scorers. His 217 goals after 35 trail only Johnny Bucyk (244) and Gordie Howe (261).

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