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NHL Career Leaders: Era-Adjusted Points Per Game

Adjust the entirety of NHL history for era affects and some remarkable things appear.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After posting the era-adjusted leading scorers by season, I received an email asking about career scoring leaders and what happens to the numbers "especially the 70's and 80's" when you adjust them the same way.  So I crunched some numbers

I didn't think much of it while I was doing the work, but as I started combing through the results, it became one of my favorite hockey-related projects I've ever done.  You know you're way down the rabbit hole when you're looking at the career stats of the "Garbage Collector" and wondering how in the world a guy missing two fingers can appear from nowhere and disappear just as fast. Oh, and why didn't I know about the "Light Brigade Line"?  Why don't we have guys named Duke Keats or Babe Dye or Elmer Lach anymore?  And, man, Alex Mogilny was such a good player.

The table below shows the top 25 career era-adjusted scorers in NHL history sorted by era-adjusted points per game.

Years G P Adj P/G
Mario Lemieux
1984-06 915 1518 1.66
Wayne Gretzky
1979-99 1487 2393 1.61
Sidney Crosby * 2005-14 550 824 1.50
Peter Forsberg
1994-11 708 947 1.34
Bobby Orr
1966-79 657 877 1.33
Evgeni Malkin * 2006-14 518 688 1.33
Alex Ovechkin * 2005-14 679 875 1.29
Jaromir Jagr * 1990-14 1473 1824 1.24
Mike Bossy
1977-87 752 898 1.19
Joe Sakic
1988-09 1378 1636 1.19
Phil Esposito
1963-81 1282 1507 1.18
Eric Lindros
1992-07 760 892 1.17
Newsy Lalonde
1917-27 98 113 1.15
Jean Beliveau
1950-71 1125 1289 1.15
Steven Stamkos * 2008-14 410 469 1.14
Howie Morenz
1923-37 550 622 1.13
Ziggy Palffy
1993-06 684 770 1.13
Pavel Bure
1991-03 702 790 1.13
Gordie Howe
1946-80 1767 1983 1.12
Bobby Hull
1957-80 1063 1186 1.12
Marcel Dionne
1971-89 1348 1484 1.10
Nicklas Backstrom * 2007-14 495 540 1.09
Ilya Kovalchuk
2001-13 816 890 1.09
Joe Thornton * 1997-14 1207 1302 1.08
Paul Kariya
1994-10 989 1058 1.07

* - Denotes active player

The still active players have a chance to slide down the list as they age and their production decreases.  Obviously Sidney Crosby isn't going to slide very far down the list, but his numbers should fall off. Seeing Lemieux, Crosby and Jagr drives home a point I often make about how ridiculous it is that the Penguins have essentially had the best player in the NHL on their roster for the last 25 years.

I was shocked to see Peter Forsberg that high up the list and even more shocked to see that defenseman in 5th place.  Other eye-openers for me were Newsy Lalonde and Ziggy Palffy.  Palffy came into the league just as the modern dead puck era began, and he didn't hang on at the end of his career as his production dwindled.  Lalonde was 30 years old when the NHL began play in 1917 and only played for five seasons, plus a one-game appearance as a player-coach for the New York Americans five years after being sold to Saskatoon of the WCHL.

Author's Note:  Developed by Jonathan Willis, these specific era-adjusted comparables are determined by adjusting each season as if there was an average of 6 goals scored per game while holding player production ratios constant.