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Monday, September 24
Updated: September 25, 7:22 PM ET
 
Greatness by the numbers

ESPN.com

No one has rewritten a history book quite like Wayne Gretzky revised the NHL annals. However, as the 2001-02 NHL season approaches, several sure-fire Hall of Famers are jockeying for position among the footnotes.

Goals
Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman enter the season neck-neck-neck-and-neck in the goal-scoring race, as only six goals separate the quartet. If Lemieux was playing a full season, he'd be a safe bet to pull away from the pack and surpass Mike Gartner (708) and Phil Esposito (717).

All-Time Goal-Scoring Leaders
Rk. Player Seasons Games Goals Goals per game
1. Wayne Gretzky 20 1487 894 .601
2. Gordie Howe 26 1767 801 .453
3. Marcel Dionne 18 1348 731 .542
4. Phil Esposito 18 1282 717 .559
5. Mike Gartner 19 1432 708 .494
6. Mark Messier 22 1561 651 .417
7. Brett Hull 16 1019 649 .637
8. Mario Lemieux 13 788 648 .822
9. Steve Yzerman 18 1310 645 .492
10. Bobby Hull 16 1063 610 .574
Other active leaders
13. Luc Robitaille 15 1124 590 .525
15. Dave Andreychuk 19 1361 572 .420
24. Pat Verbeek 19 1360 515 .379
32. Ron Francis 20 1489 487 .327

Assists
Carolina's Ron Francis, dubbed "the most underrated player of all time" by ESPN's Barry Melrose, will surely surpass Raymond Bourque and move into second place this season. How long he stays there depends on how long he -- and those active players who trail him -- plays. If Adam Oates spends the next season or two (or three, or four) on a line with Jaromir Jagr, he could slingshot past Yzerman and Messier. But right now, it's a pretty big if.

All-Time Assist Leaders
Rk. Player Seasons Games Assists Assts. per game
1. Wayne Gretzky 20 1487 1963 1.320
2. Raymond Bourque 22 1612 1169 .725
3. Ron Francis 20 1489 1137 .764
4. Paul Coffey 21 1409 1135 .806
5. Mark Messier 22 1561 1130 .724
6. Gordie Howe 26 1767 1049 .594
7. Marcel Dionne 18 1348 1040 .772
8. Steve Yzerman 18 1310 969 .740
9. Adam Oates 16 1130 963 .852
10. Larry Murphy 16 1615 929 .575
Other active leaders
12. Mario Lemieux 13 788 922 1.170
19. Phil Housley 19 1357 847 .624
20. Al MacInnis 20 1262 845 .670
33. Joe Sakic 13 934 721 .772

Points
Sit down for this one. With 70 more points, Messier will move into second place among the NHL's all-time point leaders. Granted, he spent 12 seasons with the offensively-gifted Edmonton Oilers, but his three seasons with the Canucks from 1997-98 to 1999-2000 could be considered payback (60 points in 82 games, 48 in 59 and 54 in 66). If Messier retired after this year, Francis and Yzerman would each have to play at least three more seasons and maintain their current paces, to surpass him -- which is testament to their accomplishments, as well. If Lemieux was playing a full 82-game schedule, he'd surpass Messier in two seasons.

All-Time Point Leaders
Rk. Player Seasons Games Points Points per game
1. Wayne Gretzky 20 1487 2857 1.921
2. Gordie Howe 26 1767 1850 1.047
3. Mark Messier 22 1561 1781 1.141
4. Marcel Dionne 18 1348 1771 1.314
5. Ron Francis 20 1489 1624 1.091
6. Steve Yzerman 18 1310 1614 1.232
7. Phil Esposito 18 1282 1590 1.240
8. Raymond Bourque 22 1612 1579 .980
9. Mario Lemieux 13 788 1570 1.992
10. Paul Coffey 21 1409 1531 1.087
Other active leaders
17. Doug Gilmour 18 1342 1343 1.001
22. Adam Oates 16 1130 1279 1.132
25. Luc Robitaille 15 1124 1238 1.101
28. Larry Murphy 21 1615 1216 .753





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