With his retirement announcement last Thursday, Joe Sakic ensured one thing for 2012 – a first-ballot entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The greatest player in Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche history finished with the eighth-most points in NHL history (1,641), the 14th-most goals (625) and the 11th-most assists (1,016). During his 20-season career, Sakic played in 13 All-Star Games and led Colorado to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.
The 2000-01 season was Sakic’s best. His team won the Cup and he won the Hart and Lady Byng Trophies, the Lester Pearson Award and led the league in plus-minus (plus-45) while playing more than 23 minutes per game.
As an ode to Joe, this week the THN.com Top 10 looks back at his great career and highlights with 10 of the most interesting statistical numbers we could find.
Sakic captained the Nordiques/Avalanche for 16 straight seasons. One of the longest-tenured captains in NHL history, he was also one of the league’s modern gentlemen. Ask any player from his era who the most respected player in the league was and, more often than not, the name Joe Sakic came up.
Sakic’s single-season low for plus-minus was minus-40 in 1989-90. It was his sophomore NHL season and Sakic finished 10th in scoring with 102 points, but he played on by far the worst team in the league. The Nordiques won just 12 of 80 games in ’89-90; they burned through seven goalies; finished with a measly 31 points, 70 behind league-leading Boston; and were outscored by 167 goals, more than two per game. Only two Quebec players finished the season even or better and they played 19 total games and were plus-3.
Sakic was the 15th pick of the 1987 NHL draft, meaning 14 teams wish they had a do-over. Of the 14 players selected ahead of him, only two – Pierre Turgeon and Brendan Shanahan, who went first and second overall – can even hold a candle to Sakic’s career. Some other players of note from the 1987 draft: Theo Fleury 166th, John LeClair 33rd, Mathieu Schneider 44th, Eric Desjardins 38th and Glen Wesley 3rd.
Sakic appeared on the cover of The Hockey News 23 times during his career. The first came, fittingly, November 11, 1988 – Remembrance Day in Canada – the last just more than 20 years later, November 17, 2008, when we presented 19 Things You Should Know About Joe Sakic in honor of his great career.
No it’s not for the number on the back of his sweater, it’s for his post-season game-winning goals. Sakic’s 19 winners in the playoffs tie him for No. 3 all-time with super-pest Claude Lemieux, who always picked up his game in the playoffs. Only Wayne Gretzky and Brett Hull – with 24 apiece – have more springtime winners than Sakic and Lemieux.
During the 1990-91 season, Sakic finished 50 points ahead of his nearest Quebec teammate, Mats Sundin, in regular season scoring. Sakic’s 109 points were good for sixth in the NHL that season, as were his 48 goals. His 61 assists were more than any other Nordique had points and his 48 goals would have tied him for third in team scoring on another horrendous Nordiques squad, one that again finished last in the league.
Of Sakic’s 84 career playoff goals – the seventh most in NHL history – an amazing 18 came during one memorable post-season. In 1996, the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup; Sakic led the league in goals (18) and points (34), earning the Conn Smythe Trophy for his troubles. The 18 goals are the third-most ever in a single post-season. Only Reggie Leach in 1976 and Jari Kurri in 1985 tallied more – and their shared record is 19.
Sakic has four gold medals skating for Canada in international competitions. It all began in 1988 when the then-Swift Current Bronco led the Canadian junior team to gold in Moscow. Then in 1994, Sakic went to Italy and helped Canada win its 20th World Championship. In 2004, Canada claimed gold in the World Cup of Hockey; Sakic finished second in team scoring with three goals and six points in six games. Most gloriously, Sakic, an alternate captain, helped Canada to its first Olympic gold in 50 years in 2002. He was named tournament MVP after leading the team with four goals and seven points in six games, including two goals and four points during the gold medal game versus Team USA.
Sakic has the fifth-highest point total in NHL history with a single franchise, a testament to his longevity, skill and loyalty. Only Gordie Howe (1,809) and Steve Yzerman (1,755) with Detroit, Mario Lemieux with Pittsburgh (1,723) and Wayne Gretzky with Edmonton (1,669) have more points with one team than Sakic’s 1,641 with Quebec/Colorado.
Sakic holds one NHL record and it demonstrates just how much of a clutch player he was. Of Sakic’s 19 playoff game-winners a record eight came during overtime. A quick glance at the all-time list tells you his record won’t fall anytime soon – if ever.
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