The NHL is notorious for having many of the most unbreakable records in sports. This is due somewhat to the evolving rules, speed, and athleticism of the game, and in no small part due to the outrageous career of “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky. All told, Gretzky has 23 records that have been considered “unbreakable,” meaning that opportunities to collect career records in the NHL are few and far between.
And yet, record-breaking moments are iconic sports memories across generations. So while some of the headline records are safely in Gretzky’s immortal hands, we shouldn’t overlook others just because they’re less discussed. As recently as the 2020-21 season, we saw Patrick Marleau set the record for games played in the NHL, surpassing the legendary Gordie Howe. But there are several more records that remain in jeopardy. Here’s a look at five NHL records that may well be broken in the next few years.
5) Career Faceoff Wins: Sidney Crosby (And Others)
As of this writing, the NHL record for faceoff wins in a career is held by Patrice Bergeron, with a whopping 12,834. That stands over 1,000 above his closest competition, Sidney Crosby, who currently has 11,734. But all signs indicate that Bergeron — who will turn 38 this offseason — will retire after this campaign is finished. Meanwhile, Crosby has three seasons left on his current contract. Since he has averaged just over 746 faceoff wins in his career, it won’t be hard for him to catch Bergeron once the five-time Selke Trophy winner retires.
If Crosby can’t get the job done, there’s plenty of competition behind him. Anze Kopitar has 11,824 faceoff wins, and Jonathan Toews has 11,912. Ryan O’Reilly, Claude Giroux, Paul Stastny, and Jordan and Eric Staal round out the top 10. Only Mikko Koivu (fifth, 10,386) has retired from the top 10 list. Of course, the NHL only started tracking faceoff wins in the 2005-06 season, so it is hard to know where Bergeron and his competitors compare all time. But a record is still a record. And Crosby might take this one before it’s all said and done.
4) Blocked Shots: Mark Giordano (And Others)
Another record that has only been tracked since the 2005-06 season, we’re likely to see the career title for blocked shots change hands this season! Kris Russell is currently the career leader, with 2,225. But Mark Giordano is immediately behind him, with 2,039.
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Giordano has blocked just over two shots a game on average this season, so all he needs to do is stay healthy to break the record. Behind him, Marc-Edouard Vlasic sits at 1,969. One of those two will undoubtedly break Russell’s record, probably both. The only questions are, who will win the race between them and how long will he hold the title?
3) Game-Winning Goals: Alexander Ovechkin
There’s no question that Alex Ovechkin has a bigger goal-scoring prize in mind (one we will discuss in just a bit), but before he catches “The Great One,” he will likely catch Jaromír Jágr’s career lead on game-winning goals. Right now, Ovechkin has 124, chasing Jagr at 135.
Because of their situational nature, game-winning goals are a bit harder to predict than outright scoring. But Ovechkin has 14 in his last three seasons, and two of those were severely shortened. If he can repeat that in his next three seasons, he will catch Jágr before his career is over.
2) Games Coached: Barry Trotz
Whereas Wayne Gretzky is unparalleled in scoring categories, Scotty Bowman is an unsurpassable legend behind the bench. His 1,244 wins as a head coach will probably never be touched, nor will his nine Stanley Cup victories. But Barry Trotz has a chance to knock Bowman off the top of the mountain in all-time games coached when he gets back behind the bench.
Coaching is not a young man’s game, and all Trotz needs is the endurance to keep coaching and the faith of one NHL franchise to keep them employed. Neither seems to be in trouble in the latter category. Trotz is just 60 and has 1,812 games under his belt. He needs almost exactly four full seasons to catch Bowman’s 2,141 games coached. Most are surprised that he isn’t already coaching this season, but assuming he isn’t done with the league, he should break this record in time.
1) Goals Scored: Alex Ovechkin
We have been reticent to put this remarkable accomplishment in this article before because even as it seemed more and more possible, it still seemed so improbable. But as the newest member of the 800-goal club, who shows no signs of slowing down, it is becoming clear that Ovechkin will become the all-time leading goal scorer in the NHL before his illustrious career is through.
For ages, Gretzky’s 894 goals were among his many “unbreakable” records. But Ovechkin is a truly mold-breaking player and already inarguably the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history. To accomplish what he has, in this era, and to still be doing it at such a high level is extraordinary. For years, analysts have prognosticated a massive drop off in his production, but he still scored 50 goals last season. if he does that again in 2022-23, he’ll be 64 away. Missing Niklas Bäckström for much or all of this season may hurt him, but it’s increasingly clear that nothing will stop him. He only needs to average 29 goals a season for the remaining four seasons on his contract. And if anyone doubts that he can do that, they haven’t been watching closely.
Why Records Matter
Some of these records may not seem as significant as many of those that Gretzky holds, but we should not write them off. Records help us gain perspective and connect us to the game’s past. While some of these records are a byproduct of changing rules (an 82-game season, for example) they should not be ignored. An incredible mixture of skill, commitment, endurance, and a little bit of luck is needed to break any career record. These are some of the game’s greatest players, and if they break these records, we should pause to consider what an incredible accomplishment it is.