1987:  Center Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers looks on during a game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. Mandatory Credit: Mike Powell  /Allsport

It’s a question that has been asked since before Sidney Crosby was drafted: will he be to the modern game what Wayne Gretzky was to his era a quarter century earlier?  Gretzky himself suggested that Crosby might be able to beat his records, but so far that hasn’t come close to happening.  Of course the game is different now, too; scoring in the NHL is far less than it was in Gretzky’s heyday.

 

As a result, it seems highly unlikely that Crosby will break Gretzky’s seemingly insurmountable scoring records.

 

But if Crosby had played when Gretzky did, starting his career in the early 1980’s, would he have had a chance?  One way to estimate is to adjust Crosby’s scoring by the NHL’s goals per game.  What follows are Crosby’s numbers vs. Gretzky’s numbers, each projected over a full 82-game slate (in Gretzky’s time, seasons were 80 games long) and adjusted upward to reflect goal totals during Gretzky’s career.

 

Season Wayne Gretzky Sidney Crosby
First 53G – 89A – 142PTS 45G – 72A – 117PTS
Second 56G – 112A – 168PTS 49G – 113A – 162PTS
Third 94G – 123A – 217PTS 54G – 107A – 161PTS
Fourth 73G – 128A – 201PTS 47G – 99A – 146PTS
Fifth 96G – 131A – 227PTS 72G – 82A – 154PTS

 

One thing the chart doesn’t take into account is that Crosby is seven months younger than Gretzky in each of the seasons for this sort of comparison. 

 

That said, the difference between the two seems clear to me.  Crosby would have been a phenomenal player in the 1980’s, and probably would have challenged Gretzky for the scoring title in certain seasons, but even adjusting for era he doesn’t have the same incredibly prolific level of offensive production.