Jaromir Jagr missed nearly two entire NHL seasons due to labor lockouts. If not for the interruptions, he’d be within striking distance of third place all-time in goals, and maybe even second.
Jaromir Jagr’s legacy is cemented. He’s won Stanley Cups, Olympic gold, the Hart Trophy and Art Ross. He’ll enter the Hockey Hall of Fame three years after he retires, a first-year eligible inductee hands-down. At 41, he’s growing his already enormous legend, leading the Devils in scoring and continuing to work as hard and as passionately as any player in the game. Yet, there remains a lingering “what if”. In Jagr’s case, it’s a double-whammy: his decision to play three seasons in the KHL and, more relevant to this analysis, the hat trick of lockouts he has endured. (He also was in the NHL for the 10-day 1991 strike, the only player to be “active” through all four work interruptions).
With that in mind, we crunched the numbers of the all-time leading goal-scorers to see just how differently history could have been written had labor pains not taken chunks of games from careers. We based our calculations on the players’ trends in the seasons leading up to, during and after the lockout seasons in question. We understand our math skews “rudimentary” and doesn’t take into account all the variables – hey, the lockouts may have helped prolong some careers – but we believe they present good ballpark data and, at the least, create a fun “what if”. The conclusion? That Jagr would have scored an additional 75 goals, vaulting him from 10th all-time to fourth, within 18 tallies of No. 3 Brett Hull and his adjusted total of 783. And it would place him 36 behind No. 2 Gordie Howe. Had Jagr not decided to play three years in Russia, his total swells by 66, putting him at 831. Of course, you’d also have to account for Howe’s WHA years, which by our count would move Mr. Hockey past Wayne Gretzky and back into first place all-time. It’s also interesting to note that Teemu Selanne, No. 11 on the all-time list as of today, would climb with Jagr to the No. 5 spot. Selanne has also endured all three lockouts. The player who gets bumped from the top 10? Jagr’s mentor, Mario Lemieux (who, it could be argued, would be at the top of the list if not for a string of health issues. But we won’t go there). Here are the numbers for your enjoyment and amusement.