Making the NHL is already hard enough, let alone trying to make your mark in the history books. For the first time in two seasons, we are returning to a regular, 82-game schedule and – fingers crossed – it gets to finish as intended. Throw in the prospect of the Olympics, and there’s plenty of career milestones to be achieved.
Here are some key team-based milestone chases to watch for the upcoming season.
Triple Gold Club
Sweden – Patric Hornqvist, Nicklas Backstrom, Victor Hedman
Canada – Brad Marchand, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Toffoli, Tyler Seguin, Brayden Schenn
Russia – Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Dmitry Orlov, Andrei Vasilevskiy
This is not an exhaustive list, but certainly a list of likely candidates who may join the Triple Gold Club – Stanley Cup, World Championship gold and Olympic gold – should they win gold at Beijing. The hunt is back on after the NHL took a hiatus in 2018, and unsurprisingly this list is dominated by players from traditional hockey powerhouse countries.
Marchand, a virtual lock for Team Canada, and O’Reilly are the most likely candidates to join the club, but don’t count out Team Sweden, who won gold in Turin in 2006 and silver in Sochi in 2014. Hedman and Backstrom will surely be on that team, with Hornqvist a wild-card candidate if he has another strong season with the Panthers.
While technically Russia is banned from international sport until 2023, Russian athletes will be allowed to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) banner. This could be Ovechkin and Malkin’s last chance to join the Triple Gold Club, potentially joining Pavel Datsyuk as the only Russians to join the club in the post-Soviet Union era since the 1992 Unified Team.
Joel Quenneville – 38 wins to 1,000 and Barry Trotz – 23 wins to 900
Both veteran coaches will likely reach these milestones in the midst of what may be a golden era of coaches. Quenneville and Trotz rank second and third all-time, respectively, on the wins list and they’re joined by Paul Maurice (6th), Lindy Ruff (7th), Alain Vigneault (8th), Peter Laviolette (12th), Darryl Sutter (16th) and Dave Tippett (18th) in the top 20. As a testament to how difficult it may be to win the Cup, these coaches have combined to win seven Stanley Cups, which is still two shy of Scotty Bowman’s nine rings and still the all-time wins leader with 1,244.
Vegas Golden Knights – historic road wins
The Knights’ history is short but storied, yet after setting a bunch of records for an expansion team, there are still three road locations where they’ve yet to win a game: Boston, Montreal and Toronto, where they’re a combined 0-6-3. It’s kind of absurd and a bit of a technicality because the Knights defeated the Habs in Montreal during the playoffs, but under the regular format they would’ve never met in the semifinals. The Knights have a chance to notch historic wins on Nov. 2 (Toronto), Nov. 6 (Montreal) and Dec. 14 (Boston).
Seattle Kraken – .500 points percentage
Be prepared for an onslaught of firsts, new highs and generally a pretty low bar for any milestone for the league’s newest team. But the important milestone the Kraken should be looking at is points percentage; should the Kraken finish at .500 or better, they would be the second-best expansion team in history. The 2017-18 Knights blew everyone away with a 48-21-7 (.768 P%), and the 1993-94 Panthers were just one win shy of getting to .500 at 33-34-17 (.494 P%).
Buffalo Sabres – fewest goals per game
During the 2013-14 season, the Sabres scored just 150 goals in 82 games, an average of 1.83 per game and the lowest ever in the cap era. That summer, they drafted Sam Reinhart second overall. The following season, the Sabres improved slightly but averaged just 1.87 goals per game, the second-lowest ever in the cap era. That summer, they drafted Jack Eichel second overall. Six years later, Reinhart is a Panther and Eichel may never play for the Sabres ever again; not only are the Sabres just one of three franchises to average fewer than two goals per season (min. 70-game schedule) in history, they’re the only team to do it twice, and may accomplish the ignominious feat a third time this season, ironically during a more free-wheeling era with no clutching and grabbing.