Amber's 10 Degrees: Top milestones and records
Maurice "Rocket" Richard established a benchmark for hockey greatness by becoming the first player to score 500 goals on Oct. 19, 1957.
At the time, no one thought another player could match that amazing milestone. Half a century later, records aren't just made to be broken, they're made to be shattered. The 500-goal club is closing in on 40 members. They're all great players, but clearly it's not the most exclusive club or the most impressive milestone anymore. A perfect time for "10 Degrees" to count down, in reverse order, the Top 10 all-time NHL milestones and records.
10. Martin Brodeur: 11 consecutive 30-plus-win seasons
After breaking the single-season wins record with 48 victories in 2006-07, Martin Brodeur should extend his NHL record of 11 straight 30-plus win seasons in 2007-08. Brodeur, just like Patrick Roy, wants to leave the NHL as the game's winningest goalie, and he will. At 35, Brodeur has at least a handful of solid seasons ahead. When all is said and done, he could retire with this record deep into the teens.
Two things make this record breakable: 1. The new "win" system for goalies, under which shootout wins count as victories (previously, more than 15 percent of games ended in ties); 2. The wealth of great young goalies in the league. Roberto Luongo, Cam Ward, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Miller, Henrik Lundquist and Marc-Andre Fleury are all in their early-to-mid-20s and are all capable of being good, if not great, for the next decade or more.
Patrick Roy has the second-longest streak of consecutive 30-plus-win seasons with eight. Tony Esposito is third with seven.
9. Dave "Tiger" Williams: 3,966 career penalty minutes
Enforcers, policemen, goons, whatever you want to call them, they have been around hockey forever. None left as many marks on opponents, or in the record books, as Dave "Tiger" Williams. In 14 NHL seasons, including 962 regular-season games, Williams amassed an NHL record 3,966 penalty minutes, and those weren't holding-the-stick infractions. Williams had more than 300 penalty minutes in a season six times. What makes this career record remarkable is both the longevity and ability of Williams to literally fight his way to the top. As a 20-year-old rookie or a 34-year-old vet, Williams was always a willing combatant. His fight card included a staggering 308 NHL regular-season bouts, a ridiculous number especially for an undersized enforcer (5-foot-11, 190 pounds). He also had more than 66 hours in the penalty box -- that's nearly a full season.
With the league handing out record-setting suspensions and more teams choosing to shy away from even including a designated "enforcer" in their lineups, this record is etched in stone. Last season, Ben Eager led all players with a modest 233 PIMs. At that rate, it will take almost 20 seasons to pass Williams. I don't think you'll find a lot of 40-year-olds willing or able to go toe to toe night after night.
Best bet? Sean Avery
There is no shortage of players who would love to fight Avery and he has enough skill to stick in the NHL for another decade. But realistically, at 5-9, 195 pounds, his body couldn't survive trying to equal Williams. Avery has nearly 1,000 career PIMs, so he would need basically 300 per season for the next decade. Good luck.
Williams has 401 more regular-season PIMs than Dale Hunter, who is second on the all-time list with 3,565. He also played a regular shift for most his career and had four 20-plus-goal seasons.
8. Henri Richard: 11 Stanley Cup rings
Forget about "one for the thumb." Henri Richard has one for the big toe. His 11 Stanley Cup rings meant being part of, not one, but two of the NHL's greatest dynasties. At 5-7, 160 pounds, the "Pocket Rocket" never attained the personal accomplishments that his older brother Maurice did; but when it came to winning titles, no one has been on par with Henri. During 1955-60, Richard averaged nearly a point per game as the Canadiens won five straight Stanley Cups. Then, over a span of nine seasons beginning in 1964, Montreal and Richard picked up another six titles. Richard finished his career with more than 1,000 points and more championships than Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky combined.
Dynasties appear to be a thing of the past. Six different teams have won the last six Stanley Cups. Richard won seven of his 11 Cups in the Original Six era. With 30 teams under a salary-cap structure, it's impossible to think any player can be on a championship team for more than a few seasons before the financial forces dismantle it player by player.
Best bet? Rick DiPietro
He's young, he's a goalie, which should mean a longer career span, and he's under contract basically forever. Years from now, DiPietro might be considered underpaid and become a tradable commodity for teams vying for a Stanley Cup. Still, don't bet on this record falling any time soon.
Jean Beliveau is second with 10 Stanley Cups. Only one other athlete in North American professional sports has achieved winning 11 championships in his respective league -- Bill Russell of the NBA's Boston Celtics.
7. Darryl Sittler: 10 points in a game
Picture going to Vegas with your buddies and winning huge on the tables. Then, you head into a five-star restaurant for the best meal of your life and Jessica Alba picks you up at the club. On Feb. 7, 1976, Darryl Sittler lived out the NHL equivalent of that dream night, scoring six goals and adding four assists as the Maple Leafs beat the Bruins 11-4. Sittler collected two assists in the first period and poured in three goals and two more assists in the second before scoring another hat trick in the third period. Sittler broke the previous record of eight points set by Maurice Richard during the 1944-45 season.
Sure, Sittler's record has stood for more than three decades and even held up against the game's two greatest scorers in Mario Lemieux and Gretzky. But unlike most of the records on this list, this is a one-game situation. Crazy things can, and do, happen in the NHL. Sittler's teammate Ian Turnbull (a defenseman) once scored five goals in a game. Patrick Sundstrom, hardly an NHL star, posted eight points in a playoff game for the Devils in 1988. Sooner or later, someone, somewhere will break Sittler's record.
Best bet? Thomas Vanek
A sensational young player who scores in bunches. Playing on the power play for a skilled, offensive-minded Sabres team means many big nights are ahead for this 23-year-old forward.
A player has collected eight points in a game only 12 times in NHL history, most recently Lemieux in 1988. Lemieux and Gretzky are the only players ever to record two eight-point games. Peter (four goals and four assists) and Anton (three, five) Stastny both collected eight points on Feb. 22, 1981 when the Quebec Nordiques beat the Washington Capitals, 11-7.
6. Scotty Bowman: 1,244 career coaching wins
With all due respect to Jack Adams, shouldn't the coach of the year award be called the Scotty Bowman Award? Bowman owns virtually every meaningful NHL coaching record. None is more impressive than his 1,244 all-time regular-season wins. Bowman amassed more wins than coaching luminaries Fred Shero (390), Jacques Demers (409) and Lester Patrick (281) combined. On 16 occasions, Bowman led a team to at least 45 wins during the regular season. Bowman's nine Stanley Cup rings, while unmatched, aren't as eye popping as Toe Blake's eight Cups in 13 seasons. But as far as longevity and overall greatness goes, never suffering a full losing season, Bowman has no equal.
These types of career records are made to be broken. There was a time when Red Auerbach's all-time NBA coaching record seemed unbreakable, but six different coaches have since passed Auerbach. As long as you're a likeable guy and have a decent track record, there will always be an NHL bench waiting for you (see: Pat Quinn).
Anyone not named Mike Keenan. There is no way Iron Mike won't wear out his welcome in Calgary or anywhere else for another 600-plus wins. A Bowman disciple, Jacques Lemaire (Minnesota) has the brains, but not the youth. Paul Maurice (Toronto) has the youth, but not the team.
Bowman has won Stanley Cups with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit. No other head coach in the history of the four major pro leagues has won championships with three different teams.
5. George Hainsworth: 22 shutouts in one season
No goalie has ever had a season like George Hainsworth's 1928-29 campaign for the Montreal Canadiens. Hainsworth won his third straight Vezina Trophy, collecting 22 shutouts in 44 games, and allowed just 43 goals overall. The most remarkable stat in this record is the Canadiens didn't win a single game that season when Hainsworth allowed a goal. Montreal went 22-7-15 and all 22 wins were shutouts by Hainsworth.
Last season, Martin Brodeur led the league with 12 shutouts (the most of his career). Dominik Hasek has never had more than 13. In fact, no goalie in the modern era has come close to equaling Hainsworth's 22 shutouts. With the rules now focused on increased scoring, don't expect this record to be beaten any time soon.
Best bet? Roberto Luongo
He's good enough to shut out an opponent any night, and you know he'll be in net at least 70 times a season. But bear in mind, coming into this season, Luongo had just 32 career shutouts in 398 starts.
Hainsworth retired with a career 1.91 GAA, the lowest in history (shared with Alex Connell). Hainsworth's 94 career shutouts ranks second to Terry Sawchuk's 103.
Long before he was the "Finnish Flash," Teemu Selanne was just a rookie trying to make a splash in the NHL. With a record-setting 76 goals in his first season, it was more like a tidal wave. During the 1992-93 season with the Winnipeg Jets, Selanne shattered Mike Bossy's rookie record of 53 goals. In fact, Selanne's 76 goals are tied for the fifth most in a season -- period. Last season, Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier led the league with just 52 goals.
Think about the most highly touted rookies in the last 25 years -- Mario Lemieux (43 goals), Eric Lindros (41 goals), Sidney Crosby (39 goals). To emerge a superstar as an NHL rookie is almost impossible. These three guys all did and still came nowhere close to Selanne.
Best bet? John Tavares
He's the best can't-miss prospect since Sidney Crosby. Tavares, 17, already has NHL GMs salivating. At 14, he was the youngest player drafted into the Ontario Hockey League. Still, he will be hard-pressed to come anywhere close to Selanne in any season, let alone as a rookie.
During 2005-06 season, Alexander Ovechkin became just the fourth rookie to score at least 50 goals in a season with 52.
3. Doug Jarvis: 964 consecutive games played
Wayne Gretzky might be the most famous person born in Brantford, Ontario, but even The Great One couldn't match the record set by fellow Brantford son Doug Jarvis. For 12-plus seasons (1975-88), Jarvis played every single NHL game. The final tally earned him the title of NHL's "Iron Man." Jarvis, who retired in 1987, never missed a single game during his entire NHL career. An amazing feat, especially considering Jarvis (5-9, 170 pounds) was often asked to shut down, harass and mix it up with the some of the other teams' best players as a checking center. Jarvis won four Stanley Cups with Montreal in the 1970s and another one as an assistant coach with Dallas in 1999.
Bigger, stronger, faster players mean harder hits and shots and a greater chance to get injured. Despite advancements in equipment, there are more injuries now than ever. When Jarvis played, players didn't miss games because of plantar fasciitis, or even concussions. Throw in multi-million-dollar contracts, and the investment is too large for owners and GMs to allow a player to play through an injury.
Best bet? Andrew Brunette
He began the season with 371 consecutive games played. He's big, strong and durable, and plays a lot on special teams, which doesn't take the same physical pounding as 5-on-5 play.
Jarvis passed Gary Unger's games streak of 914 during the 1986-87 season. Vancouver's Brendan Morrison began this season as the NHL's active "Iron Man" with 512 consecutive games.
2. Mike Bossy: Nine straight 50-goal seasons
You have to wonder where Mike Bossy would rank in all-time scoring if he stayed healthy. Maybe ahead of Gretzky and Gordie Howe? Sound crazy? Consider that Bossy scored 53 goals as a rookie, then collected eight more 50-plus-goal seasons -- in a row. In five of his record nine straight 50-goal seasons, he had at least 60 goals. Bossy was forced by lingering back problems to retire at age 30, so there's no telling what numbers he could have put up. It took him only 752 games to score 573 goals; Jari Kurri needed 1,251 games to score 601 goals and Kurri spent most of his career alongside Gretzky.
To have a decade like Bossy did from 1977 through '87 seems almost impossible. The longest active 50-goal-season streak is two by Dany Heatley, and he scored exactly 50 both seasons.
Best bet? Sidney Crosby
He's getting better every season and is young enough to put together a string of great campaigns. Still, he is a playmaker more than a goal scorer.
Bossy and Gretzky are the only two players to have nine career 50-goal seasons (Gretzky did it over 20 seasons). Bossy averaged .762 goals per game in the regular season, more than any other player in NHL history.
1. Gretzky: 50 goals in 39 games
With a flair only he could provide, Gretzky left yet another indelible mark in the NHL record books on Dec. 30, 1981. Coming off a four-goal game against Los Angeles, Gretzky stood at 45 goals after 38 games. At the time, only Maurice Richard and Mike Bossy had scored 50 goals in 50 games, but Gretzky told his teammate Kevin Lowe he could score 50 before 40 games. So, in game No. 39, the 20-year-old Gretzky abused Pete Peeters and the Philadelphia Flyers, scoring four goals before the final minute. Then, with just three seconds left, Gretzky stared down an empty net and made history with his fifth goal of the game. Gretzky finished with 92 goals for the season, another record that has yet to be challenged.
No one has come close to this record. Yes, Cam Neely scored 50 in 44 games, but that's a far cry from 39 games. In fact, out of the last 27 50-goal scorers, a player has needed at least 60 games to get to 50. Even if the new rules swing the pendulum toward greater scoring, we are nowhere near the offense from the 1981-82 season, when 16 teams scored at least 300 goals. Last season, only Buffalo broke that mark (308).
Best Bet? Alexander Ovechkin
Ovie's 52 goals as a rookie was not a fluke. He has great scoring ability, but his Capitals will never be mistaken for the Oilers' 1980s dynasty.
When he retired, Gretzky owned or shared 61 NHL records. Gretzky (three times) Lemieux (three), Kurri, Maurice Richard, Bossy, Brett Hull (two), Alexander Mogilny and Neely are the only players to score 50 goals in 50 games or less.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.
MORE NHL HEADLINES
- Lundqvist, Rangers blank surging Canadiens
- Ducks' Stoner latest with possible mumps
- NHL files motion to dismiss concussion suit
- Stars sign Spezza to 4-year, $30M extension