Wayne Gretzky earned the nickname “The Great One” from the way he played hockey. The argument of who is the greatest player of all-time is null as Gretzky’s assists alone are total more than anyone’s points. While this is no contest, we can still try to determine who the second greatest NHL player of all-time is behind the most dominant athlete in history.
Sometimes seen as Gretzky’s sidekick, Messier does have that one extra Stanley Cup he won without him while with the New York Rangers. Messier is second all-time in points behind Gretzky, still nearly 1,000 away. Messier cannot simply be put as the second greatest as he never eclipsed the 700-goal mark, finishing at 694 for his career. We also will never know how much of his success could be credited to playing on an already talented Edmonton Oilers team.
Had Mario Lemieux not come out of retirement to play again in 2000 the argument for him might be greater, although his determination should give him some bonus points. Before returning to the NHL Lemieux had averaged over 2 points per game, an NHL record. Still, coming back to play helped move him up the all-time points list and up to 690 career goals. His 1.88 points per game is only outmatched by Gretzky.
Old-timer Gordie Howe was the best player of his era and up until Gretzky, the best of all-time. Second in career goals with 801, the argument for Howe as the second greatest NHL player in history is favorable. It’s not so easy though as his lengthy career spanning over 20 seasons decreases his points per game average. This raises the question, how much of his statistics were fantastic and how much had to do with playing in parts of five decades?
The incredibly underrated Marcel Dionne needs to be mentioned more often among the greats. Dionne is fifth all-time in points, third in points per game. Unfortunately Dionne’s career may forever be marked as the best among players to have never won a Stanley Cup. As for second greatest of all-time, it looks like he would fall short.
It can be difficult to measure statistics from different eras as well as by position. As a defenseman, we can expect Bobby Orr to have fewer points than many of the top forwards in NHL history. Even more difficult for Orr, he had his career cut short due to injuries. Those two factors against him, Orr managed to score 270 goals as a defenseman along with 910 points. His points per game are the highest among all defenseman too. Since it can be difficult to measure a player’s defensive skills by number, we have to rely heavily on people who actually saw Orr play. Luckily the classic image of him diving through the air helps immortalize him further.
Could the second greatest player in the NHL be a goalie? Well, if it’s Martin Brodeur then maybe. Brodeur is first in wins and shutouts to go along with multiple Stanley Cup wins. A lifelong member of the New Jersey Devils’ organization, Brodeur’s accomplishments might be overlooked playing so close to New York yet succeeding elsewhere. Brodeur’s only competition as the greatest goaltender of all-time is Patrick Roy, but after surpassing many of Roy’s records Brodeur looks to at least have that honor locked up.
The only current player available for the honor, Sidney Crosby could be well on his way to living up to the hype. Crosby is already fourth in points per game all-time. While he is not a straight goal-scorer, he continues to rack up points via the assist. Crosby has only reached 40 goals once in a season when he scored 51 in the 2009-2010 campaign. It should, however, be noted that he has missed a lot of time due to injuries. At only 26-years-old though, Crosby will only get better. Is he the second best player of all-time? Not yet, but he could be.