Pittsburgh Penguins: Mario Lemieux should be considered the GOAT

Mario Lemieux (#66), Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
Mario Lemieux (#66), Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images) /

Wayne Gretzky is widely considered to be the greatest NHL player of all-time. However, Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux was better.

In my latest piece where I ranked the most recent first-overall draft picks, I learned more about Taylor Hall’s injury woes. Hall has missed 142 total games due to injuries in his career. This made me think about other players who have been riddled with injuries in their careers as well. How comparable Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby’s stats would be to other greats in history if it weren’t for his concussions?

Also, what about Mario Lemieux? Lemieux missed a ton of games due to injuries and, at one point, cancer. Where would he rank statistically had he played in those missed games and produced at relatively the same pace? Would he have been better than Wayne Gretzky?

More from Puck Prose

Then there’s Bobby Orr, who is considered the greatest defenseman of all-time. However, he dealt with lost time from injuries as well. Had he not missed those games, would he have been more than just the greatest defenseman of all-time? What about Pavel Bure and Chris Pronger?

Injuries have ravaged many careers, oftentimes ending them (Marc Savard, for example). There’s no way of going back and altering the past, unfortunately. Plus, injuries are a part of the game and there’s no true way to eradicate them from happening.

But that doesn’t mean we, as writers and fans, cannot go back and ask the question “what if…” In this piece, I will focus on the lost time that Lemieux faced and where he would be, compared to Gretzky, in statistical categories had he played in the games he missed.

Lemieux, also known as Super Mario, was and always will be a legendary Penguins player. It’s safe to argue why he can be considered the greatest player of all-time. That’s just how good he was. Lemieux is well-tenured, playing 17 seasons in the NHL. He also has plenty of hardware, so stick with me as I list them all out.

  • 2 Stanley Cups
  • 3 Hart Trophies
  • 1 Masterton Trophy
  • 4 Pearson Trophies
  • 6 Art Ross Trophies
  • 2 Conn Smythe Trophies
  • 1 Calder Trophy
  • 9 All-Star Teams
  • Enshrined in the Hockey Hall Of Fame

1980s All-Decade Team. light. Must Read

Super Mario recorded 690 goals and 1,033 assists for 1,723 points in 915 games played. Lemieux is 10th in goals all-time, playing the fewest games among the top 21 goal scorers. He ranks 12th all-time in assists, playing in the fewest games among the top 50 assist leaders. Finally, Lemieux ranks eighth all-time in points, playing in the fewest games among the top 50 points leaders.

To put this in perspective, here’s where he ranks in per-game statistics.

  • Goals per game: second
  • Assists per game: second
  • Points per game: second

It begs the question – what if Lemieux didn’t miss all those games due to injuries and cancer?

Lemieux missed 761 total games in his career, including three full 82-game seasons and one full 48-game season. Unfortunately, ice-time was not calculated until late into his career, so I could not use my previous use of goals per minute.

So, instead, I went season by season, looking at his goals, assists, and points per game stats and calculated those per game stats into the games he missed, assuming he kept the same pace through the games he missed. As for calculating the seasons in which he didn’t play a single game, I averaged the previous three seasons plus one season after the missed year to find an ideal per game stat to work with.

After all of the calculations, it has been determined that Lemieux missed out on a projected 485 goals, 764 assists and 1,249 points from games lost from injuries and cancer. If you add those lost points to his career totals, he would have played 1,676 games, recording 1,175 goals and 1,797 assists for 2,972 points.

Ultimately, Lemieux would have been the only player in NHL history to eclipse 1,000 career goals, with Gretzky in second place with 894 of his own. He also would have ranked second all-time in assists, about 200 assists behind Gretzky. Lemieux would have been the all-time leader in points ahead of Gretzky by around 100 total points.

Next. Every Team's Greatest Player Of All-Time. dark

With all my research, it’s safe to say that Lemieux deserves more attention as the greatest hockey player of all-time, as it is very apparent that had he played every possible game, he would lead Gretzky in almost every stat.