Here's another way to look at the data from this weekend's post on the careers of 50-goal scorers (from now on, "50GS"). I took those numbers and focused entirely on two things: (1) the most goals anyone has ever scored at a given age, and (2) the mean within the 50GS group, at a given age.Then I graphed the mean and the peak goal total for each year, plotting them against Kovalchuk's goal totals so far. I then made a very, very (very) rough estimation of a projection for Kovalchuk. I calculated the ratio of IK's totals to the average and to the peak in each year, and projected those numbers out to age 44. The numbers to date show Kovalchuk to be consistently above average among 50GS, but well below the best number for all 50GS at any given age. The projection simply (and somewhat primatively) carries this through. (I could just as easily have taken a sharpie and drawn a line more or less where I thought it would go, given the other lines. But I used the numbers instead. Scientific, I know!)
The dip to zero on the Kokvalchuk (green) line reflects the lock-out season, so ignore it. The purple line is the projection of Kovalchuk's goal totals through the next sixteen seasons. Since no 50GS has ever played at age 44, there is no data, so it's not reflected on the graph.
The chart under the graph shows the (past, present or future) 50GS who scored the most goals at any given age, the average for each age in the population of 50GS, and Kovalchuk's numbers.
[click on each chart/graph for a high-res version]
- The average output among 50GS peaks at age 26, with an average of 38 goals.
- The average retirement age among 50GS is 35.
- The average number of goals scored by a 50GS between age 27 and 35, is 225.
- If the player continues to 43, the total rises to 376.
- If one player were responsible for all the high totals in the second column, he would retire with 803 career goals. I will take this to be the "greatness" limit.
- Gretzky scored 894 goals in his career. As a goal-scorer, he was apparently better than my greatness limit. But let's look at what happened to him after age 27. New graph:
- (Gretzky didn't play in the NHL until he was four months shy of 19, which rounded him to 19 in my calculations. The stupid graph couldn't comprehend starting the Gretzky line at 19, just like it couldn't comprehend not making the dopey lock-out plummet in the Kovalchuk line. I find this annoying, but I hope it doesn't cause too much teeth-grinding.)
- The Gretzky numbers drop below the Kovalchuk (projection) numbers at age 27 and with two exceptions (age 28 and age 33) stay there. This makes me think the Kovalchuk projection is if anything too generous. Certainly, I would expect the real Kovalchuk line to have more peaks and valleys than my projection has it. I'm not sure if that makes his prospects better or worse. But I think expecting him to do any better than that purple line is wishful thinking.
- And given that Kovalchuk will only be getting $6MM in the last seven years of his contract, I would be shocked if he played an NHL after his 38th birthday.
- (I don't know why the key says the Gretzky line is blue. It's not. It's black.)