If a player as good as Gretzky existed in the first 100 years of the league, when can we reasonably expect another player of his caliber?

Mario was Gretzky's peer. They're only 5 years apart.

In 1985-1986, when Gretzky scored his career high 215 points, he was 25. A 20-year-old Mario scored 141 in the same season. The league average for scoring that season was 317 goals per team.

In 1980-1981, when Gretzky was 20 years old, he scored 164 points. The league average for scoring that season was 307 goals per team. Mario, obviously, wasn't in the league yet - but it gives us a very good comparable for 20-year-old seasons, with the league scoring being very similar.

Next we go to 1988-1989, which is Mario's best season with 199 points. He's 23 years old, and a 28-year-old Gretzky scores 168. Teams are scoring 299 goals per season, on average. Even adjusting for scoring differences (with a 1.06 multiplier), Mario comes out to 211. Round out Mario's season by compensating for the 4 games he missed, and he might have arguably hit 220 points, if he played a full 80 in a season where average team scoring was 317 goals. Also, Mario peaked his goal scoring the same season - 76 goals - while Gretzky's 215 point season was 52G, 163A. On the counter argument, there's a lot of "what-ifs" involved there.

They're very close. Would Mario have scored more over the length of his career if he was healthy? Maybe. Was Mario's best year better than Gretzky's? I'm one of the few who argues yes. But totals matter - when you're building a franchise, do you want a guy who's going to give you 2800 points over his career, or 1700? Do you want a player who scores 1.1 points per game over 60 games, or a guy who scores 1 per game over 82, and doesn't miss a game in the playoffs?

/r/hockey Thread Parent