Sidney Crosby's 1,000 points are the most impressive 1,000 points in NHL history. It took him 757 games to do it, which should be acknowledged and embraced as a staggering accomplishment given the era and the players he had to work with. That's seven games faster than Jaromir Jagr, and 124 games faster than contemporary Alex Ovechkin. At his current rate, Connor McDavid will reach 1,000 points in about 900 games.
(Note: When Jagr records his 2,000th career point, specifically points 1,001 through 2,000 from ages 29 to 46 while skipping three NHL seasons to futz around in Russia, those will become the most impressive 1,000 points in NHL history. Until then, though, the distinction should belong to Crosby.)
Only ten players have reached 1,000 points faster Crosby. The fastest, of course, was Wayne Gretzky, who recorded his 1,000th point in his 424th game—56 percent of the time it took Crosby. But Gretzky got there between 1979 and 1984, when the league was its most offensive-oriented. Back then, the average game had a combined eight goals. Today, scoring is down about 30 percent. Only once during Crosby's career has the NHL averaged more than six goals per game over a season, and that was when he was a rookie. The league hasn't been above 5.6 goals per game over the past seven seasons.
In other words, Crosby reached 1,000 points with the game on genius level; Gretzky reached his 1,000 points against an opponent that didn't have a working controller.
Gretzy's specific accomplishment will never be matched or exceeded because today the NHL is content to goose scoring by having goaltenders wear skinnier pants instead of something meaningful. It's the only entity on the planet that can diagnose a problem, have the means to fix it, want to fix it, and come up with a solution that's "I want to see the outline of the goalie's ass through his equipment better."
Comparing hockey eras four decades apart is nearly impossible, though. Pinpointing the exact number of games Gretzky would have needed in Crosby's time and vice versa is a waste of time. Fun, but a waste of time. Like John Wick fan fiction. It's not real but it sure is entertaining as hell to imagine it.
So let's consider not the overall level of the league, but the players who they each played with.
Thanks to stats.hockeyanalysis.com, we know who Crosby's most common linemates were at five-on-five from 2007 until now. So we're missing two years (and all of Gretzky's, of course) of this information, but if you've paid even slight attention to the Penguins over the past decade, you know who Crosby has played with most.
Are Kunitz and Dupuis good players? Sure. But they were undrafted forwards that probably owe 50 to 70 percent of their NHL salaries to the time they spent on Crosby's wing. Not only does this make Crosby's numbers staggering; it shows how many of his prime years were played under a general manager, Ray Shero, who may have been actively plotting against him. It's the best explanation for Crosby's linemates over the years.
Crosby's third-most-frequent linemate is Evgeni Malkin, who is destined for the Hall of Fame. Beyond Malkin, it's Patric Hornqvist, Bill Guerin, David Perron, Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko…
Want to guess how many Hall of Famers played with Gretzky during his run to 1,000 points? Four: Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, and Paul Coffey.
It's actually five if you want to count Grant Fuhr, but his four assists during Gretzky's ascent to 1,000 points probably had a minimal effect on the Great One's numbers.
Beyond Malkin, who is Hall of Fame bound from the Penguins? Maybe Kris Letang? Then again, hockey's movers and shakers felt Malkin wasn't one of the 100 best players in league history, so who knows if he gets enshrined.
If we built a time machine and swapped Gretzky in the 1980s for modern-day Crosby—a terrific idea for a TV show, if anyone wants me to write it—Crosby would've gotten to 1,000 points in 300 games and Gretzky would still be trying to figure out how all the padding on Pekka Rinne is legal.
Barring the NHL becoming a four-on-four league, no one will ever break Gretzky's record for fastest to 1,000 points. But as long the NHL exists in its current form—plodding, systematic, and unwilling to make nets bigger—no one will touch Crosby's pace to 1,000, either.
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