This article was originally published in November, 2009.
Everyone has a sports record locked in their mind that will live with them forever. Somebody asks a question regarding it; you automatically yell out the player, year, stats and what they accomplished that was so incredible.
For myself, it’s Teemu Selanne’s rookie campaign with the Winnipeg Jets in 1992/1993 which stands on top. Maybe the finest Finn to ever step foot on the ice, Selanne has been as classy a person as his scoring pedigree.
Selanne – Dominant Like No NHL Rookie Before Him
Rookies aren’t presumed or really meant to dominate however he used determination, speed and an appetite for scoring to guide Winnipeg to a playoff berth. As Teemu blossomed, so did the Jets with No.13 leading the attack.
Murphy’s law reads as: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In contrast, it was reversed for Selanne with everything occurring marvellously as if he couldn’t make a mistake with the puck.
That season, the Finnish Flash burned out the red lights with 76 goals, 56 assists for 132 points in 84 games. Previously, Mike Bossy held the accomplishment in tallies, 53, and Peter Stastny’s 109 points were cancelled out as well. Selanne incredibly demolished both by 23 points and describes the experience as you’d expect a 76-goal scorer to; tons of chances.
“I remember every goal that year,” he said. “I remember getting, like, two, three breakaways every game. Nowadays, you get three, four the whole season? That’s pretty good.”
Having set the rookie record for both goals and points convincingly, he became an instant legend to not only Winnipeg’s faithful but the hockey universe capturing the Calder Trophy.
How Secure Was Selanne’s Legacy?
And Selanne did it before the lock-out when grabbing, obstructing and slowing players down was as legal as a stick-check. Which brings us to this question: with the game as opportunistic for forwards to score as it is currently, how secure are Teemu’s numbers? Is a young hot shot waiting for his time to come and capable of eclipsing that total?
I think not. Alexander Ovechkin is the elite goal-scorer of our decade and possibly the best of the best once his career ends. The Russian fired in 52 goals, 54 assists and 106 points while shooting the puck 425 times in 2006; most ever by a rookie and fourth-best among everyone who’s played.
That’s the closest a freshman has flirted with Selanne’s feat and Ovechkin’s 65 goals in 2008 ranks best since 2005 altogether. As for points, Joe Thornton’s 125 four years ago have been the most we’ve seen post lock-out.
If someone is to tackle the record, look for it to be a first-round draft pick somewhere near the middle of the pack because that’s how Selanne did it as the tenth overall choice in 1988. Joining a club that was decent and could make the postseason with another key ingredient, he was put into the perfect position.
Selanne’s Rookie Season Helped by Great Teammates
While his numbers were incredible, he had some great teammates like Phil Housley, Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhamnov and Thomas Steen feeding him the puck. Then, the likes of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby were thrown onto the scene as rookies to basically shoulder the load automatically.
Yes, they are both superstars but they could’ve used a lot of help in 2006 just as Selanne received. Crosby finished with 44 more points than the remaining Penguins and Ovechkin was 49 points ahead of all Capitals skaters.
With many terrific seasons produced by Teemu, it’s that first one where he was unstoppable that still gathers the most accolade. Until any player reaches 70 goals or 130 points, Selanne doesn’t have to worry about a rookie erasing his historic achievement.
As if he ever did or will. There are no guarantees in life but Selanne hanging onto this piece of history seems like the exception to the rule. By announcing 2010 as his final NHL schedule, we inevitably find ourselves witnessing the conclusion of a legendary career.
There’s another record possibly ahead of him and that’s Jari Kurri’s 601 career goals; the most ever compiled by a Finnish-born player. With 588 markers, he is just 14 shy of becoming the highest scoring player to come out of Finland and has 67 games to do it. (Jumping ahead a few years, Selanne has smashed that Finnish record, now with 684 goals, 8th highest of all NHL Players.)
It appears as though Teemu Selanne will exit the game of hockey the same way he entered it: on top.