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Starting Lineup & The Bench: Hockey history compromised by lockouts

Sam McCaig
Yahoo Sports

The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted four all-timers last Monday, welcoming Pavel Bure, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin into the inner circle. But as Y! NHL writer Nick Cotsonika noted, all four had something else in common: they all lost games due to lockouts, whether it was an entire season in 2005-06 (Sakic and Sundin) or an abbreviated 48-game campaign in 1994-95 (all four of them). How many more goals and points and individual awards – and maybe even another Stanley Cup for Sakic – did they miss out on?

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Jaromir Jagr's lofty standing in the NHL pantheon could be even higher if not for three work stoppages. (Y! Sp …

On the morning of his Hall of Fame induction, Sakic was asked how he wanted to be remembered. The first thing he said was that he played in the NHL for 20 years, adding, "I lost a year of hockey. It would have been 21 years instead of 20." Sundin echoed that sentiment, saying, "It's a huge loss for the players, whether it's on your contract or just on your career."

Which brings us to this week’s Starting Lineup & The Bench.

Among active NHLers, who has paid the steepest price for lockouts past and present? There’s no denying that hockey is a numbers game – goals, points, Cups – and players are often compared and ranked based on statistics and the size of their trophy mantle. So, who has seen their standing among the game’s all-time greats compromised due to work stoppages?

These guys have:

STARTING LINEUP

Jaromir Jagr

Granted, the Dallas Stars winger (it’s gonna be awhile before that sounds right) has already secured his legacy as one of the most electrifying and offensively prolific players in NHL history. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer; a two-time Cup champ; a five-time scoring champ; an MVP; he’s Jaromir Jagr and you’re not.

But Jags could’ve been even more.

[Nick Cotsonika: Lockouts past and present taint Hall of Fame]

Consider: He sits eighth all-time in points (1,653), 11th in goals (665) and 12th in assists (988). Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy with 70 points in a shortened 48-game season in 1994-95, and sandwiched 74 (’03-04) and 123 points (’05-06) around the lost 2004-05 campaign. He scored 32 times in ’94-95 – which pro-rates to more than 50 goals – and had 31 in ’03-04 and 54 in ’05-06.

It’s not a stretch to say the 110-plus games that Jagr lost due to ’94-95 and ’04-05 cost him 50-60 goals and 120 points (or more). And that doesn’t even take into account this season, which very well could be his NHL swan song. He’d probably be sitting fifth all-time in points, on the verge of passing Ron Francis (1,798) and maybe even have a shot of overtaking Gordie Howe (1,850) for third place all-time. Imagine that, Jagr ahead of Howe. Gotta believe a few old-timers are suddenly thinking maybe the lockout’s not entirely a bad thing after all.

Of course if Jagr hadn’t skipped out on the NHL for three KHL seasons (2008-11), he might be in third place already and setting his sights on taking down No. 2 all-time Mark Messier (1,887). Wayne Gretzky’s first-place position, another galaxy away at 2,857 points, is safe even from Jagr’s impressive reach.

Teemu Selanne

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Teemu Selanne has indicated his NHL career could be over if the lockout lasts all season. (Getty)

Like Jagr, Selanne’s standing among the best of the best is already locked down. The ‘Finnish Flash’ exploded onto the NHL scene in 1992-93, smashing Mike Bossy’s rookie record for goals by scoring 76 times in 84 games. And Selanne hasn’t looked back; he’s right behind Jagr in goals – 12th all-time with 663 – and he’s 19th in points with 1,406 in 1,341 games. And, like Jagr, the ’94-95 and ’04-05 lockouts cost him 110 games and a heap of goals and points. Ironically, though, the ’04-05 shutdown may have helped Selanne in that it gave him time to recover from knee surgery; after scoring a career-low 16 times in ’03-04, he roared back with 40 goals in ’05-06 and 48 in ’06-07.

Keep it conservative and mark Selanne down for an extra 30-35 goals – plus whatever he would’ve racked up this season – and he’s within sight of fifth place all-time (Phil Esposito is No. 5 with 717). Instead, it’s highly doubtful Selanne will hit 700; in fact, he might not be seen in the NHL again.

Jarome Iginla

You can almost make the case that all-around good guy Iginla has been walloped by work stoppages worse than anybody. No, he wasn’t around in ’94-95, but he had seasons of 41 and 35 goals on either side of ’04-05, and scored 32, 43 and 32 in the past three years. Surely he’d have at least another 40 – and counting – on top of his career total of 516. Instead of 35th all-time, he’d probably be 25th. He’d have a shot at 600 goals and the top 15 all-time. Now, not so much. Iginla’s 35 years old and might be 36 before the puck drops again in the NHL. He’s got a couple more productive years left, although his age and rambunctious style of play suggest his string of 11 straight 30-plus goal seasons is about to come to an end. But probably not because of injury – Iginla played all 82 games in six of the past seven seasons since the last lockout.

Martin Brodeur

Yes, Mr. Brodeur already leads all goalies in wins (656) and shutouts (119). But he’d surely have surpassed 700 victories if not for ’94-95 and ’04-05, especially considering the latter lockout interrupted a 12-season stretch in which he averaged 41 wins. To put Brodeur’s impressive numbers in perspective, Patrick Roy is second all-time with 551 wins, followed by Ed Belfour (484) and Curtis Joseph (454). And he’s 16 shutouts up on George Hainsworth, whose record of 103 stood for 73 years before Brodeur finally broke it in 2010.

[Also: 2013 NHL draft rankings: Top 30 prospects]

On the flip side, Brodeur has the most career losses, too, with 371 – pretty good chance he’d be up over 400 by now if not for those blessed work stoppages.

Ray Whitney

Yeah, that’s right, Ray Whitney. No, he’s not an all-time great headed to the Hall of Fame when his career is over. But did you know that Whitney ranks 79th all-time with 1,003 points? Or that he’s 63rd all-time with 638 assists? Or that the 40-year-old Whitney – who signed a two-year deal in the summer with Jagr’s Stars (nope, still doesn’t sound right) – is coming off a 77-point season with Phoenix, tied for the second-best campaign of his career? This is the third work stoppage Whitney has endured; believe it or not, he’d have a shot at the top 50 scorers in NHL history if they’d played a full schedule in each of the lockout-afflicted seasons.

Roman Hamrlik

Like Whitney, Hamrlik isn’t destined for the Hall. But the 38-year-old defenseman – the No. 1 draft pick in 1992 – has played more games than any other active NHLer. He’s at 1,379 (36th all-time), and has one year left on his contract with the Washington Capitals. Hamrlik is in the midst of his third lockout; give him another 100 contests for time missed in ’94-95 and ’04-05 – and now – and he’d easily bump Glen Wesley (1,457) for 20th place in career games.

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Joe Thornton is second only to Jagr among active NHLers in assists. (Getty)

THE BENCH

Joe Thornton: He’s 40th in NHL history with 754 assists, the most among active NHLers not named Jagr. Notably, Thornton had 96 assists in ’05-06, a season he split between Boston and San Jose (and helped Jonathan Cheechoo break out with a 56-goal campaign that won him the Richard Trophy). At age 33, his playmaking days aren’t over yet. This is also a good place to acknowledge Chris Pronger, Saku Koivu, Brad Richards, Sergei Gonchar, Patrik Elias, Martin St-Louis, Jason Arnott and Scott Gomez, all of whom are just outside the NHL’s top 100 in all-time assists; some of them will get there, but some will not.

Ilya Kovalchuk: The New Jersey Devils sniper has 406 goals in 779 games; by way of comparison, Pavel Bure skated into the Hall of Fame with 437 goals in 702 games. So Kovalchuk still has some work to do, but he’s only 29 years old. He’s already been robbed of one year of his prime, though, and now watching another one go down the drain. Kovalchuk tied for the Richard Trophy with 41 goals in ’03-04, then tied for third in the NHL with 52 goals in ’05-06. Safe to say he would’ve potted 40-plus in ’04-05, no? We’ll never know. And more’s the pity.

Daniel Alfredsson: The Ottawa Senators captain is 58th all-time in points (1,082), well back of Jagr and Selanne and just ahead of Thornton and Iginla. His most productive season came after the last lockout, when he put up 103 points in ’05-06. He’s 60 points out of the top 50; he’d be there already if not for the lost season, but now it’s doubtful he’ll get there at all. Or, like Selanne, if he’ll play in the NHL again.

Chris Neil: The Sens tough guy – who has 90 goals and 200 points in 731 games – leads active players with 1,861 penalty minutes. That’s good for 62nd all-time, and Neil is the only active player in the top 100. (Pronger is 103rd , Jody Shelley 121st and Zdeno Chara 134th). Neil needs about 200 PIMs to break into the top 50; coincidentally, he averaged 199 in the seasons before and after the ’04-05 lockout. Don’t worry, though, he’s under contract for three more years so he’ll get there eventually.

Marian Hossa: The Chicago Blackhawks star probably wouldn’t be playing right now anyway as he’s still recovering from that Raffi Torres headshot. But the 33-year-old sniper is tied with free agent Arnott for 75th all-time with 417 goals, and Hossa scored 36 goals in ’03-04 and 39 in ’05-06. Assuming a healthy return he’s looking good for 500 goals, but he’d be a lot closer if not for, you know, the boardroom showdowns.

Jason Arnott: Speaking of Arnott, he’s 38 and staring down his third lockout. With 938 career points, he’d likely be over 1,000 by now. But he isn’t. And given his age and declining productivity, the odds are against it. And that’s a shame.

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