We’ve had some great posts recently about Daniel Alfredsson’s resurgence this season. The 39 year-old’s play has improved for a variety of reasons: Coach MacLean is providing Alfie with more offensive opportunities while limiting his penalty killing responsibilities (thanks Adnan) and injuries which dogged Alfredsson, ending his 2010-11 season prematurely, have healed.
Alfie currently sits one goal shy of 20 for the season, a feat he has already accomplished 12 times in his career. I don’t think I’m alone in being impressed with his season thus far and I was curious to see how his season (more accurately the 2/3 he has completed) stacks up with other gray haired legends.
I used the age sorted stats at http://www.quanthockey.com/ for this selective comparison.
The top 39 year old performer in NHL history should come as no surprise. Gordie Howe put together an impressive season in 1967-68 with 39 goals, 43 assists, and 82 points in 74 games. However, Johnny Bucyk is right behind Howe with 29 goals, 52 assists, and 81 points in 78 games during the 1974-75 season.
What about players from Alfie’s generation? Nick Lidstrom’s season as a 39 year old saw him score 9 goals and 40 assists, for 49 points in 82 games in 2009-10. This was good enough for 3rd best total from a 39 year old defenseman all time (only Al MacInnis with 68 points in 2002-03 and Ray Bourque with 52 in 1990-00 were better) and 15th position overall. That same year, Teemu Selanne potted 27 goals and 21 assists for 48 points in only 54 games for Anaheim, good for 16th place all time.
Alfie has company this season in the touch of gray sweepstakes as Ray Whitney currently has 16 goals and 35 assists in 57 games for Phoenix and is 19th in NHL scoring. Still, by season’s end, the Captain has a chance to reach 60+ points this season. A 39 year old has only had 60+ points 10 times in NHL history. If Alfie can accomplish this feat, it would be an impressive achievement.
Sens fans want Alfie to play one more year. The question remains, is there a drop off in point production from 39 to 40 historically? Short answer: yes.
Again, Howe, Bucyk, and Selanne have remarkable stats. Howe’s season as a 40 year old was remarkable. He recorded 44 goals, 59 assists for 103 points in 76 games. Yes, 103 points as a 40 year old! What makes it more remarkable is the fact that it was the only time in his Hall of Fame NHL career that he recorded 100 points or more (he would notch 100+ points twice in later seasons with Houston in the WHA).
As a 40 year old last year, Selanne was clutch down the stretch for the Ducks, netting 31 goals and 49 assists for 80 points in 73 games. This was the 3rd highest total for a 40 year old NHLer ever. In only 55 games this season, Selanne has already recorded the 2nd most points by a 41 year old in a season with 51.
However, for those not name Howe or Selanne, reaching your 40s in the NHL is tough. The number of 60+ point players at age 40 drops to six all time, and only Gordie Howe has reached 60+ points at age 41 (in 1969-70). More telling, only six players in NHL history have been 40+ point players at age 41 (including Selanne this season). 40 can be downright cruel to NHL legends as well. In an injury plagued season last year, Mike Modano managed only 15 points in 40 games. Stevie Y only managed 34 points in 2005-06, his last year.
What does all this mean? No matter how long he plays, we should savor every moment of Alfie’s elite production, truly rare at his age.