Milestones that could be reached in 2011-12
|Marian Hossa is headed for th 400-goal plateau this season. (Photo by Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks)|
Perhaps more than any other sport, hockey is a team game. Winning a Stanley Cup requires 20 players performing a variety of roles and working together for a common goal.
This doesn't mean that individual accomplishments aren't important; it's just that no player wants to be seen as placing his own stats before the achievements of his team. Milestones are still something to be celebrated -- as long as they fit into the team context.
Here's a look at some players who have a good chance to reach individual milestones during the 2011-12 season:
500 goals: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Calgary's captain and all-time scoring leader passed the 1,000-point mark late last season. He starts the new season with 484 goals after finishing third in the NHL with 43 in 2010-11 -- his best season since getting 50 in 2007-08.
With 10 consecutive seasons of 30 or more goals, there would appear to be little doubt that Iginla will get the 16 he needs to become the 42nd player in NHL history to reach the 500-goal mark. A 35-goal season, hardly a stretch by Iginla's lofty standards, would put him into the top 35 all-time -- Pierre Turgeon is currently 35th with 515 goals, three behind Dale Hawerchuk.
No other active player is even close to Iginla; Jason Arnott, now with St. Louis, is next at an even 400.
1,000 assists: Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia Flyers
Reaching 1,000 assists is a lot harder than scoring 500 goals -- only 11 players in NHL history have managed it. Jagr's return to the NHL with the Flyers after three seasons in Russia's KHL will give him the chance to make it 12; the last player to reach the mark was Joe Sakic in 2008-09, his final NHL season.
Jagr's first point of the season will give him 1,600 -- and if he can match last season's pace for assists (31 in 49 games) over an 82-game NHL season, he would get the 47 he needs to join a list that includes former Pittsburgh teammates Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis and Paul Coffey.
No other active player is close to Jagr in career assists; Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom is next at 855.
400 goals: Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators; Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks, Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils
Alfredsson also reached the 1,000-point mark in 2010-11, one of the few things that went right for Ottawa's captain in a season that was cut short by injury after he managed 14 goals and 31 points in just 54 games while watching the Senators miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Alfredsson had 10 consecutive 20-goal seasons before 2010-11, and even at age 38, if he can stay healthy, he should get the 11 goals he needs to reach 400.
Hossa isn't the prolific scorer he was in his younger days -- he had 25 goals in 65 games for the Hawks last season and has exceeded 26 goals just once in the past four seasons. But with 388 goals at age 32, he should have no trouble passing 400 by midseason and has a decent chance to finish his career with 500 or more.
By the time Hossa is thinking about 500, he'll likely be looking up at Kovalchuk, who enters the season with 369 goals in just 702 NHL games. The 31 goals Kovalchuk needs to hit 400 matches his total from 2010-11 -- a season that was his worst since he had 29 goals in 65 games as a rookie in 2001-02. Prior to last season, Kovalchuk had scored at least 40 goals in six consecutive seasons, and his second-half performance in '10-11 left no doubt that he's still got the touch when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
Outside chance: Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks (357); Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche (357)
300 victories: Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames
Nabokov brings his 293 NHL victories to training camp with the Islanders, where he will be one of six goaltenders jockeying for playing time. Given the Islanders' efforts to build with young players, it's not unlikely that they could deal the 36-year-old if he shows that his game hasn't suffered from a largely-lost season that included a stretch in Russia and his decision not to report to the Isles after they claimed him on waivers.
Ironically, the player Nabokov finally beat out for the top job in San Jose is also nearing 300 wins. Kiprusoff and Nabokov both came to the NHL with the Sharks and split the goaltending for a couple of seasons before San Jose dealt Kiprusoff to Calgary in November 2003. He had 37 wins last season and has 35 or more in each of the last six seasons, so getting the 24 he needs to reach 300, a plateau reached by just 25 goalies in NHL history, could happen before the All-Star break.
Outside chance: Tomas Vokoun, Washington Capitals (262); Jose Theodore, Florida Panthers (260)
Lifetime achievement: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
Neither Nabokov nor Kiprusoff is any threat to catch all-time wins leader Brodeur, who enters the season with 625 and figures to pass the 650-victory mark. Ironically, Brodeur is also all but assured of breaking the NHL record for most regulation losses by a goaltender. He begins the season with 350, two behind record-holders Curtis Joseph and Gump Worsley.
Sometime before the All-Star break, Brodeur is also poised to become the first goaltender in NHL history to stop 27,000 shots; late last season, he passed Patrick Roy for the most career saves and enters the season with 25,976. He stopped 1,313 shots in 56 games last season and 2,004 in 77 appearances in 2009-10. It's not impossible he could finish with as many as 28,000 if he's healthy and plays upwards of 70 games.