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Jarome Iginla - Top 5 Goal Scorer of All Time ?

With a career total of 451 career goals and an average of approximately 0.43 goals per game, Jarome Iginla is considered a good goal scorer but not thought of as one of the best goal scorers of all time. He is under contract for two more years and there is no reason to think he will not finish that contract out. Given that he is still scoring close to his career average it is safe to assume he will have at least 525 goals at the end of 12 13. That would place him about 32nd on the all time goals list. Is that his true place ? I make the case that it is not, in fact he may be among the top 5 of all time.

What started me thinking on this inquiry was the election of Dino Cicarelli to the Hall of Fame last year. I opposed Cicarelli’s election because I did not feel he was a dominant player at any time during his career. Although he finished with over 600 goals, he never won a Cup or any individual trophies in his 19 year career. My sense of it was that Cicarelli's only cred was goal scoring and he played in perhaps the highest scoring era of the NHL. What also made me oppose Dino, was despite the fact that he played with some great teams and great players, those guys did not win championships with him around.  Some of the guys he played with included : Bobby Smith, Neal Broten, Brian Bellows, Dale Hunter Peter Bondra, Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidstrom,and Igor Larionov. Playing with those guys also surely helped Dino pad his statistics.  The only guy that Jarome has played with so far  that may even have a sniff of a chance of making the Hall of Fame is Theoren Fleury, and that for only a little more than 2 years. For example, the year the Flames went to the final, the guy who finished second to Iggy in regular season goal scoring on the team was….wait for it ……Shean Donovan. When Iggy led the league with 52 goals and 96 points, only 2 of his team mates had 20 goals and 2 more had over 10. During Dino’s two 50 goal seasons, on both occasions there were a dozen guys on his team in double digits, and Dino was 5th in the league in goals one year and 6th in the other

In order to allow for the quality of team mates, rather than just using the average goals scored in the league as a measure to even the comparison, I totaled the goals scored by the team the player played on and then calculated the percentage scored by the player in question. Through December 1 Jarome has 451 goals in 1049 games, scoring at a 0.431 goals per game clip. During his career the Calgary Flames have scored a total of 2853 goals, or 2.727 goals per game. Jarome has therefore scored 15.8% of his team's goals. Cicarelli had 608 goals in 1232 games or a 0.493 goals per game average; so it looks like Dino was, based on the GPG statistic was a better goal scorer than Jarome until you look at the context. During Dino’ s career his teams scored 4900 goals or 3.977 per game. That’s one and a quarter goals per game more. Ciccarelli high fived his team mates 2000 more times than Jarome has. Two thousand ! So Dino scored 12.4% of his team’s goals during his career, still pretty good but nowhere near Jarome. One could argue that with a 3.4% raw difference that Jarome is 27.5% more valuable (3.4 div by Dino’s 12.4) of a goal scorer to his team.

So what would happen if we switched those guys around, what if Jarome had played when and where Dino had ? If Iggy had played 1049 games with teams that scored 3.977 goals per game and he had continued to score 15.8% of the teams goals ? Jarome would be looking at today a career goal total of 659, and perhaps another 140 goals in the next 2.67 years. Cicarelli on the other hand, if he scored 12.4% of his team’s goals on a team that averaged 2.727 for 1232 games would have ended his career at 416. I am pretty sure that if any player ended his 19 year career next year with no trophies, all star selections or Cups with 416 career goals, there’s no chance he is in the Hall of Fame.

Surprising  - maybe a little, but I think I knew Iggy was better than Dino by a long shot.

So let’s tackle perhaps the greatest pure goal scorer of all time, Mike Bossy. Bossy played only 10 seasons, but leads in the goal per game stat, having averaged 0.762 goals per game, 573 goals in only 752 games. During his 10 years with the Islanders from 1977 to 1987 his team scored 3323 goals, 500 more goals than Iggy’s Flames have managed in over 13. That’s an average of 4.419 goals per game, 63% more prolific than Jarome’s mates. Bossy shot the lights out, but that was an awesome group in a high flying era. Despite that sick team scoring rate Bossy still managed to be the absolute #1 guy, scoring 17.2% of his team’s goals throughout his career. If Bossy had made it to 1000 games, he surely would have been well over 700 goals and if he had a 1200 or 1400 game career, Gretzky might not be the all time goals leader.

Clearly Jarome would have benefited playing with the 70’s and 80’s Islanders, using that same formula of 15.8 % of team goals, Jarome would be looking today at 730 career goals in 1049 games, though one doubts the Islanders would have continued that 4.41 gpg rate much beyond Bossy’s 752 game career.

So here is a look at some significant goal scorers, their GPG rate and the teams GFA, the final column is the team GFA without the player.

Player

Goals

Player % of team

Player GPG

TEAM GFA

Adj Team rate

Mario

682

16.4%

0.745

4.548

3.803

Wayne

894

13.7%

0.601

4.375

3.774

Bossy

573

17.2%

0.792

4.418

3.626

Dino

608

12.4%

0.493

3.977

3.484

Shanahan

656

12.4%

0.43

3.48

3.05

Bure

437

17.6%

0.622

3.537

2.915

Richard

544

16.3%

0.556

3.42

2.864

Howe

801

14.7%

0.448

3.048

2.6

Iggy

451

15.8%

0.431

2.727

2.296

 

 

As you can see from this chart, some players scored more of their teams goals than Jarome has, including Bure, Mario, Bossy and Rocket Richard, however Gretzky, Howe, Dino and Brendan Shanahan, whose 0.43 GPG is identical to Iggy’s, all scored a lower percentage of their teams goals. All of the players in question played on teams that scored at a much higher rate than Jarome’s Flames. This is due to 2 factors, the era in which the teams played, but also due to the quality of players that were on those teams. Even Pavel Bure’s teams scored at a much higher rate, despite ending his career in the dead puck era on a terrible Florida team. Even when you subtract the players in question, all of their teams ( except Howe’s)  still have a higher GPG than the Flames WITH Iginla.

One would assume that Jarome would score at a higher GPG on a better team in a more prolific era, in short on all of these teams,  but how much better. The first formula was a little unfair, assuming that Iggy would continue to score his historical percentage of a team’s total goals, since those totals include the comparative player, and Iggy’s percentage is based on a team that doesn’t score much ! It’s also unrealistic to think subtracting Bossy 0.762 GPG and adding Jarome at 0.431 would  be the for  the Islanders. So, instead of taking 15.8% of the total , let’s first subtract the comparative player, then add Jarome’s 15.8% back in. So in cases where players scored at a higher rate than 15.8% of team totals, the team’s adjusted goals go down, and in cases of less the team total goes up. Multiply that GPG rate by the 15.8% and Jarome’s games to get his ALIAS totals

 

adj team rate

Plus 15.8%

Iggy's GPG on this team

Goals to date

Goals at 1270 games

Mario

3.803

4.403874

0.696

730

884

Wayne

3.774

4.370292

0.691

724

877

Bossy

3.626

4.198908

0.663

696

843

Dino

3.484

4.034472

0.637

669

810

Shanahan

3.05

3.5319

0.558

585

709

Bure

2.915

3.37557

0.533

559

677

Richard

2.864

3.316512

0.524

550

665

Howe

2.6

3.0108

0.476

499

604

 

 

Even in the worst case scenario, playing as Gordie Howe, Jarome is over 600 goals by the end of his current contract.  In 4 cases – playing on the Oilers, Penguins, Islanders or as Dino in Minny, Washington and Detroit, Jarome has over 800 goals before his 36th birthday.  Perhaps the best comparative however is Shanahan. Only 8 years older than Iggy, the eras are the closest, however Brendan did have the advantage of the relatively prolific late 80’s and early 90’s that Jarome did not. Shanahan certainly had better teams to play with, 4 seasons riding shotgun with Brett Hull in St Louis, then 9 years and 3 Cups in Detroit first with Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov and later with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Shanny’s teams scored three quarters of a goal more per game than Jarome’s has, so if Jarome can score at a 0.43 gpg rate playing with the guys he has played  with he certainly would have done better in Shanahan’s situation.

Note : to account for injuries, if a player missed more than half of the season I adjusted the team goals scored to a per game average that the player suited up for. If a guy missed a few games in a season I did not bother, mostly because I wanted the durability to be factored in a bit, but for big missing chunks of a season like Lemieiux had, I did not want to overtate the team’s goals in seasons he played only 20 or so games. In fact I did not even include Mario’s last 2 partial years in the totals.

I suppose I could have compared to active leader Teemu Selanne, or Mark Recchi who is also ahead of Jarome on the career list. Selanne scored 162 goals in his first 4 seasons, the years before Jarome came in to the league and he currently leads Jarome by 163 total goals.  Recchi is only 116 goals ahead of Iggy, yet he scored over 220 in the years before Jarome started and the defensive era took over. If Jarome plays to 40 as the two of them have he will likely surpass them both, and even if he does not I would make the case that he has done better with his conditions than they have with theirs. 

 

When the Ciccarelli election happened the subject of Pavel Bure came up. I argued with a few Canuck fans that Bure was not up to snuff for the Hall either. Primarily a goal scorer, finishing your career in the low 50’s all time does not make for much sauce without some other accolades such as big trophies. Bure had the back to back 60 campaigns but in those years he didn’t lead the league – lots of goals were going in, and even guys like Ray Sheppard were scoring 50. What I didn’t give as much consideration was Bure’s later career, especially in Florida. He had 2 seasons there that were off the charts in relative terms, 58 and 59 goals, the second on a squad that scored only 200 goals. He was one goal away from being 30% of the offense. That season, along with his other solid years puts him as the highest percent of goals for his team during his career at 17.6%.So while Bure’s career totals are not that good, he really was a lone wolf his entire career.  To put Bure’s 30% year in perspective , Gretzky’s 92 goal season came in a year the Oilers scored 417, putting Wayne’s total at 22.1% of the goals scored that year, the only year Wayne topped the one fifth mark of goals his team scored.

The more I look at stats like this, the more annoyed I get that Jarome got jobbed in 2001-02 for the Hart Trophy by the Montreal writers. 52 goals on a team with just 201, he was clearly the most valuable to his team that year with 26% of the team’s goals. Wayne’s 92 goal season and even Mario’s 85 goal season were relatively less dominant. The lack of an MVP trophy or Stanley Cup could hurt Jarome’s Hall of Fame aspirations. Thanks Red Fisher.

At the end of the day where do I rank Jarome Iginla as a goal scorer ? Certainly in the top 10 of all time. His goals per game is nearly equivalent to Gordie Howe’s, despite playing in a leaner era and without the benefit of Hall of Fame team mates. I could argue everyone in the top 20 had a situational advantage on Jarome. Either a higher scoring era, or much better teams or, often both.   I would have him ahead of Shanahan who is 11th, but would rank him behind Bossy and maybe Bure. I would put Jarome ahead of Robatille, Messier and Esposito who all had great totals and long careers but also the benefit of playing with slouches like Gretzky, Orr and the like. I’m torn on Richard, he obviously had a great team around him, but he was far ahead of his peers.  So final ranking 1. Brett Hull 2 Mario Lemiuex 3 Mike Bossy 4 Wayne Gretzky 5 Gordie Howe 6 Pavel Bure 7 Jarome 8 Rocket

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