What if Gretzky didn’t retire in 1999?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by TheGuiminator, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. TheGuiminator

    TheGuiminator Registered User

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    Like I pointed out in my other thread, Lemieux was possibly the best offensive player during his second NHL run despite playing with a broken back. But what about Gretzky? What if he had kept playing until the 2004 lockout? Let’s say Gretzky doesn’t retire in 1999 and decide to extend his career for 5 more years with a top contender team, committed to reach 3000 points, 1000 goals and win another cup. How successful will he had been in a role where he doesn’t have to carry a team? If Gretzky had the choice to sign with any team at the time, which team would’ve been the most optimal for the rest of his career?

    In my opinion, I think Colorado would have been the best choice for Gretzky’s career : signing a 5 year deal, ~30-35 millions. This would’ve been a good fit for the Avs to add Gretzky as 2-3 line center and as a PP specialist. Surrounded with the right players and smartly used, I honestly think Gretzky could’ve remain an offensive threat until the end of his career. Players like Howe, Selanne, Jagr, Bucyk, Bourque, Lidstrom (…and many more) were able to put up interesting amount of points during their early 40’s and remain good. Great players have this ability to adapt their style despite getting older, but in Gretzky’s case, we’re talking about the greatest player to ever play the game. That’s why it’s interesting to wonder how good he could've been with a top contender team.

    Here’s how I picture Gretzky’s last 5 seasons if he had signed with Colorado in 99, assuming he wouldn’t get injured during that time.

    SeasonPTSLeague rankGAGPPPG
    1999-2000 (39 y/o)1061st2680821,29
    2000-01 (40 y/o)897th1871801,11
    2001-02 (41 y/o)786th1761800,98
    2002-03 (42 y/o)8710th2463821,06
    2003-04 (43 y/o)6219th1547800,78
    Career total 3279N/a994228518911,73
    · 1999-2000: In his first season with the Avs, I could had pictured Gretzky having a bounce back year and win one more Art Ross at 39 years old, making him the oldest player in history to win the trophy, adding more to his record’s book. With Sakic and Forsberg missing games, he would've benefited playing as a first/second line center more often.

    · 2000-01: 5th Stanley Cup win with the stacked Avs team, would've benefited playing 2nd line center with Forsberg being injured.

    · 2001-02: Low scoring season, which mean a little drop of his offensive production. Still, top 10 in scoring and he would've benefited once again playing 2nd line center because of Forsberg being out for the whole season.

    · 2002-03: With Sakic out for a big part of the season, he would again play as 2nd line center and benefit playing with a dynamic Forsberg on the PP.

    · 2003-04: At 43, his point production would significantly drop but still be able to pick up +60 points.

    That being said, five more years of Gretzky with a good team could've potentially been one more Art Ross win(including 4 seasons in top 10 scoring) and one more Stanley Cup win. I don’t think he could've reached 1000 goals but he’d be damn close.

    Let me know your thoughts, would Gretzky had remain among the best players in the league if he signed with a top contender team in 1999? If so, which team? If not, do you think sticking around longer would've hurt his legacy?
     
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  2. talitintti

    talitintti Registered User

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    His back was broken. He was done.
     
  3. iamjs

    iamjs Unregistered User

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    Missing six games in five seasons for a 39-43 year old player? Gretzky had back problems (as mentioned above) and probably would require some maintenance days during back to back days. I think a season of 65-70 games wouldn't be out of the question.

    Maybe there's a small chance he would hit 75 games, but would he play until 43 at an 80 point pace? I'm gonna say it's unlikely.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
  4. TheGuiminator

    TheGuiminator Registered User

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    Playing with the likes of Sakic, Forsberg, Tanguay, Hedjuk, Blake, Drury (etc) help. Lemieux had bad back problems too, he was still tearing the league. It’s unlikely I give you that, but we’re still talking about Gretzky
     
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  5. tony d

    tony d HFBoards Sponsor Sponsor

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    Gretzky as an Av would have been quite good. Got to think they get the job done in 2000 with him on the team.
     
  6. wetcoast

    wetcoast Registered User

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    It would have been ugly as Gretzky was having huge problems outscoring his deficiencies by that point.
     
  7. RandV

    RandV It's a wolf v2.0

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    Yeah this is giving Gretzky too much credit and not lining it up properly with Lemieux. Gretzky earned his title from his 20's, Gretzky from 30 onward you could make a case that 30+ Yzerman or Sakic were better. On Mario Lemieux's side, his first retirement came at age 30, so when he came back and showed he could still 'dominate' he was only 34. That stretch lasted for 3 seasons, and I don't recall specifically what injuries occurred but he started declining at age 37.

    It takes a unique trait to be able to play professionally into your 40's that few players have had: Howe, Chelios, Jagr, etc. Just because Gretzky was the "Great One" doesn't mean he had this. He probably retired just in time to finish on a relatively positive note. Not really relative here but remember Edmonton had the outdoor game a few years back, Gretzky played in the legends game and was just awful?
     
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  8. mrhockey193195

    mrhockey193195 Registered User

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    Gretz was physically done, and he didn't begin with the physical gifts that Mario that would help him overcome a back back and 40-year-old legs. Mario could still protect the puck when he slowed down, Gretz needed his agility and quick feet to evade checkers (if he hadn't found an outlet to pass to yet). Also, with the dead puck era getting "deader" and players getting bigger and faster, there was far less open ice to make plays. Gretz still would have been the best passer in the league, but he would have far less time to make a pass than ever before. Not having his escapability skills of his youth would (and did) make his life much harder.

    For argument's sake, had he played one more year and signed with Colorado, I could see him put up similar numbers to 98-99...around 10 goals and 50 assists.
     
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  9. mrhockey193195

    mrhockey193195 Registered User

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    As amazing as Gretz was, I find this almost impossible to believe. A rejuvenated and younger Gretzky scored just under 100 points in 96-97 with good offensive players by his side (Messier, Graves, Robitaille, Norris-winning Leetch, Kovalev for half-a-year, career-year Sundstrom). I don't see him improving on that 3 years later, albeit with a slightly better cast in Sakic & Forsberg.
     
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  10. Lukin1978

    Lukin1978 Registered User

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    Wayne was physically done when he retired he knew that was the end.
     
  11. Mike Farkas

    Mike Farkas Grace Personified

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    "What if Gretzky didn’t retire in 1999?"

    Well...he sure wouldn't have lasted until 2004, I'll tell ya that for free...
     
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  12. Asheville

    Asheville Registered User

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    He played a year too long as is. That final season was tough on the eyes.
     
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  13. SedintoHorvat

    SedintoHorvat Registered User

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    On the stacked Avs teams yes he would have put up points on PP especially if his back held out. However I doubt he physically would have lasted another season let alone 5.
     
  14. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    The hockey fan in me didn't want to see him retire in 1999, but I was a fan making a decision like that based on emotions. Who would have wanted him to retire? No one really. But looking back he did it at the right time. That last season he just looked slow. I hate to say "the game has passed you by" to someone like Gretzky but that's the way it was looking. I think he retired at the perfect time. In 1997 and 1998 he led the NHL in assists, was a 2nd team all-star both years and then in 1999 just didn't look the same.

    No one wants to see a season where Gretzky is getting 60 points a year. Seeing Messier and Coffey in their later years was painful at times too, but there is just something "off" about Gretzky having a 60 point year. Which is why he probably knew this too and left the second he knew he wasn't elite anymore.
     
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  15. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    I agree. That last season was tough (albeit he did have about a PPG up to early/mid-February). 1998 would have be been a better time to retire.

    That dude had a lot of mileage on him by 1988, let alone 1999...
     
  16. Hockey Outsider

    Hockey Outsider Registered User

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    Agreed. He kept on slowing down as the 1998-99 season progressed. As of December 19th (around one-third through the season), Gretzky was one assist behind Jagr for the league lead, and was tied for 7th in scoring.

    The rest of the way, he was tied for 123rd in scoring (and that included that completely unexpected five assist game against Nashville). Yes he missed some time, but he was pretty clearly done by the end of that season. His goal scoring, in particular, was finished - 2 goals in his last 30 games.

    It's not my place for tell anyone to retire, but I think Gretzky picked the right time to hang up his skates.
     
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  17. puckpilot

    puckpilot Registered User

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    If I'm remembering right, one of the things that happened in that last season was the unhittable Gretzky got hit and that agrivated his bad back. I don't think he had much left in the tank. Maybe one good season left if things went well. Seeing Gretzky on the third line would have been painful, and I bet something Gretzky didn't want others to see either.

    Didn't he say he didn't want to hang around too long?

    I think he got diagnosed with a irregular heart beat and was advised to stop playing, no?
     
  18. Asheville

    Asheville Registered User

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    Had he retired then, the history forum would be a very quiet place.
     
  19. Voight

    Voight #winning

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    199 was his 21st year playing professional hockey... plus 57 (3/4 of a regular season) games with Team Canada... plus all the charity games and all the other things that come with being the face of a league.
     
  20. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Gretzky was ready to go by that time. I think he could have held on a played at a higher level a bit longer had he been on a contending team, but certainly not to the degree discussed in the op.
     
  21. innitfam

    innitfam Registered User

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    Maybe he plays one more season, but he does not contend for the Art Ross, possibly 70ish points (probably less) on a stacked Avs team- who, if they still pick up Bourque at the 2000 deadline - probably wins the Cup that year.

    Best case scenario.
     
  22. streitz

    streitz Registered User

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    Wayne rhymes with wonderful.


    I'm sure he would of played another year or two on a decent team, can't see him playing till 2002, he looked beat toward the end of his kings tenure although he could still put up big numbers.
     
  23. Pominville Knows

    Pominville Knows Gameplanhockey(DOT)com, no pay-to-play!

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    We had no games on over here in Sweden then, only highlights and possibly some on cable which my mother did not have, but TV did show his last game when he was supposed to turn the torch over to Jagr. He did have a real Gretzky like assist in that game in that he opened the ice up for his two partners to seal the deal. It was very cozy with me being a Penguins fan, i believe Jagr got the game winner, and that it was Leetch who got the tally on the Gretz play when i brought the VHS with me to show one of my brothers who had him as his favourite.
    Horrible dead puck hockey though, although we could not know, and unfortunately those points had just started to evade 99 too often by that point.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
  24. ForsbergForever

    ForsbergForever Red Rocket

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    He's on record as saying he would have played another season if the Rangers had traded for Pavel Bure in 1998. So let's say they got Bure, he and Wayne develop great chemistry and so he extends his career for yet another season (2000-01). By this point 99 would be 40, which I think would be the absolute limit for him. It all hinges on how his back and arthritic joints hold up.

    Arthritis Causes Gretzky's Pain
     
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  25. Asheville

    Asheville Registered User

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    Gretzky says a lot of things. Bure was still a speed demon when he joined the Panthers. Gretzky was skating in quicksand at the end. He was done in '98.
     
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