Blog Entry

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: September 2, 2011 11:30 am
SelanneBy: Adam Gretz

Teemu Selanne has yet to decide whether or not he's going to return to the Anaheim Ducks this season, saying last weekend that he still wants to test his knee before making a final decision. If he returns he'll once again be one of the oldest players in the NHL, and be relied on to be a top-scoring threat for a playoff contender in the Western Conference.

Last season, at the age of 40, Selanne was the fourth oldest player in the NHL (trailing only Mark Recchi, Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano) and still managed to finish eighth in scoring and points per game. It was not only a fantastic season for any player, regardless of age, it was almost unheard of for a forward age 40-or-olrder.

Going back over every season dating back to 1979-80, there have been 34 cases of a forward playing in the NHL over the age of 40, and none of them came close to matching what Selanne produced for the Ducks last season. As a group, they appeared in an average of just 56 games and managed to score an average of 31 points.

Here's a look at the top-15 scoring seasons for forwards over the age of 40 dating back to 1979-80, a stretch of 31 seasons:

Top Scoring Seasons For 40-Year-Old Forwards Since 1979-80
Player Age Year Games Goals Points
Teemu Selanne 40 2010-11 73 31 80
Mark Messier 40 2000-01 82 24 67
Mark Recchi 40 2008-09 80 23 61
Mark Recchi 42 2010-11 81 14 48
Dave Keon 40 1980-81 80 13 47
Adam Oates 44 2002-03 67 9 45
Mark Messier 43 2003-04 76 18 43
Igor Larionov 42 2002-03 74 10 43
Igor Larionov 41 2001-01 70 11 43
Mark Recchi 41 2009-10 81 18 42
Gary Roberts 40 2006-07 69 20 42
Gordie Howe 51 1979-80 80 15 41
Ron Francis 40 2003-04 80 13 40
Mark Messier 42 2002-03 78 18 40
Igor Larionov 40 2000-01 65 9 40

Nobody was even close to Selanne, as he managed to score 13 more points than the No. 2 player on the list, Mark Messier, despite playing in nine fewer games. He's also shown no signs of slowing down in recent years, having his point-per-game number increase in each of the past three seasons.

Mark Recchi's multiple appearances on this list are remarkable as well, especially since his career looked like it was over early in the 2007-08 season at the age of 39 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was eventually placed on waivers and landed with the Atlanta Thrashers, a move that proved to turn his career around. After turning 40 he missed only four of a possible 246 regular season games, continued to provide some offensive depth for the Boston Bruins, and was also a solid contributor in the playoffs as they ended their Stanley Cup drought this past season, recording 14 points in 25 playoff games.

Still, there is perhaps no name more impressive on the above list than the presence of 51-year-old Gordie Howe with the Hartford Whalers back in 1979-80. That was the year the Whalers joined the NHL (Howe had played for the team during its WHA days) and ended up finishing the season as the seventh-leading scorer on the team, and 148th out of the 585 players that played in the NHL that season. Granted, that was during an era where the average NHL game featured seven goals (the average NHL game in 2010-11 had 5.59 goals, for example) so he may not have had that many points at that age in any other era, but again ... 51 years old. The fact he even played a single game is mind blowing.

We already knew Selanne is a special talent, and the only thing standing between him and the Hockey Hall of Fame is his retirement, but what he's done at this age is just another example as to how incredible his career has been.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: September 3, 2011 8:02 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

I would like to See Teemu  back. He'd be good to have around as he should be a coach to the younger players within the organisation and also give advice to the players how to stay healhy and enjoy long productive careers. He is a star both on and off the ice and deserves to be a HOFer. Long live King Teemu with the Ducks...........

Since: Mar 9, 2008
Posted on: September 3, 2011 7:22 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: September 3, 2011 5:12 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

I also realize Gartner only played til he was 38, but Selanne's style is like Gartners was.

Since: Apr 7, 2011
Posted on: September 3, 2011 5:06 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

Gordie Howe at the age of 40 scored 44 goals and had 103 pts in the 68-69 season for the Wings! now that is just crazy. Teemu still moves REAL well for a 40 year old, reminds me of a little better 40 year old Mike Gartner. I also have to disagree with the Larionov comments, he just wasn't able to log big minutes in his later years. He ran the pp real well though and that is where most his later points came from if I remember correctly.

Since: Aug 28, 2011
Posted on: September 3, 2011 3:54 am

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

Igor Larionov would top this list if he wasn't relegated to being a 3rd line center those years because he played with Yzerman and Fedorov in front of him. Toss in points being spread around by Brett Hull, Lidstrom, and Luc Robitaille, he wasn't in the position to do that. He took no more than 50 shots any of those seasons to Teemu's meager 213. He also average around 3 minutes less of ice time. It is what it is but without all those HOFs scoring 60+ each, Igor might top this list under other circumstances.

Since: Feb 1, 2007
Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:36 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

Im glad to see noone ripping into the Finnish Flash. The guy is and has been a phenom...and nice (<shrugs> he is) And if you didnt know, he's brilliant offensively. (emphasis on the . )  

Although not in my top 10 omen faves all time, Teemu is def in top 20...maybe even 15.

Play until you cant Teemu... 

Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: September 2, 2011 9:03 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

I didn't realize Larionov played all those seasons after age 40.   No wonder Holland has never worried about age.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: September 2, 2011 8:30 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

Kingston I agree with the Lemieux thoughts (and not only because I'm a lifelong Penguins fan).  I've heard people make that argument before, but others respond with "well Gretzky would have scored even more then."  To a degree they are correct.  But even in those days nobody touched Gretzky for fear of the consequences, and Gretzky did most of his damage from the base line and behind the net.  And it goes beyond the clutch and grab game; the elimination of the two-line pass would have substantially added to Lemieux's point totals.  I can remember some games where he would get called on 4-5 2-line pass calls.  He was always thinking  30 feet up ice.

And I think it goes beyond just Lemieux.  I would love to see guys like Hull, Pavel Bure, Luc Robitaille, and even guys like Theo Fleury and Pierre Turgeon, in today's NHL.  They were all speed guys and, with the exception of Hull, susceptible to being slowed down every time they passed through the neutral zone.

But overall, it might balance out because the goalies back in those days had pads that were barely wider than the other skaters.  Today's goalies look like armored cars between the pipes, and there is much less net to shoot for.  

The fact that Selanne has been able to produce big-time numbers in both eras is truly a testament to his immense talent, incredible work ethic, and frankly luck that he's been able to play at such a high level for so long. 

Since: Sep 16, 2007
Posted on: September 2, 2011 8:23 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

BTW, in that photo he reminds me of Stephane Richer.

Since: Sep 16, 2007
Posted on: September 2, 2011 8:22 pm

Top scoring seasons for 40-year-old forwards

One possible reason for Selanne's recent success could be the crackdown on holding, hooking, and interference in recent years. Maybe a fast-skating player like him was more affected by the old style of play, along with the all the neutral zone trapping a few years ago. And the two-line pass across centre ice can't hurt either. One wonders how Mario Lemieux would do in today's game; I'm guessing even better. He wasn't that fast a skater, but he'd be almost unstoppable without the clutch & grab that was allowed 10 years ago.

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