Ranking the Top 10 Milestones of the 2015-16 Season so Far

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2016

Ranking the Top 10 Milestones of the 2015-16 Season so Far

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    Joe Skipper/Associated Press

    The 2015-16 NHL season has already seen some exceptional movement among the most exclusive and most respected rankings in the game. There are years when no movement at all occurs on these lists, and yet this year milestones are falling fast and furiously.

    Jaromir Jagr has been edging closer to the top four overall in goals for years and finally made it this year. Have other records and rankings fallen? Yes, and they are spectacular.

    Here are the top 10 milestones reached so far in the 2015-16 NHL season.

10. Shane Doan Plays 1,400 Games

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Shane Doan of the Arizona Coyotes has enjoyed a quality career, although he has always played in smaller hockey markets—Winnipeg and the Phoenix area. Earlier this season, he passed 1,400 career games and moved into the top 30 all-time in the category.

    Can He Go Higher? Doan is on pace for his first 30-goal season since 2008-09, and he has been durable throughout his career. There is every chance he can extend his total of career games played much higher than 1,400.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Doan is 39 and has been mostly healthy for the last 20 seasons. He does not play a perimeter style, so injuries in his late 30s should have been expected but have not arrived yet. He will need several more years to reach the upper levels of this category. It is reasonable to expect him to play another season or two before retiring.

9. Nicklas Backstrom Passes 450 Assists

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals is one of the NHL's overlooked impact players. Earlier this season, he passed 450 assists—in only his ninth year. 

    Can He Go Higher? When you post 60-assist seasons, it is fairly easy to pass a bunch of players every year on the all-time list, and that is exactly what Backstrom is doing. He should—barring injury—post one of the greatest assist totals in NHL history before he is done.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? It is easy to disregard Backstrom's success when considering Alex Ovechkin is his teammate, but the marriage has been splendid for both men. Ovechkin's breathtaking goals often develop after a brilliant pass from Backstrom, who is an outstanding playmaker.

8. Patrick Marleau Scores 1,000 NHL Points

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    Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

    The Milestone: Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks is No. 83 on the list of men who have passed 1,000 NHL points. His successful season has seen him climb to No. 79 all-time since joining the club.

    Can He Go Higher? Marleau is 36 and having another productive season, so could finish the year inside the top 70 all-time in total points.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Reaching the 1,000-point club does not guarantee Hall of Fame status, but it does represent longevity and excellence. If Marleau can hang around a few more seasons, the point total may become a big part of his resume for the Hall.

7. Marian Hossa Scores 490 Career Goals

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks has now scored 491 career goals, passing legend Norm Ullman and tying the great Jean Ratelle on his way to No. 500.

    Can He Go Higher? Hossa is 36 and wildly effective all over the ice. It is reasonable to expect more goals and more seasons from this complete winger.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Hossa does everything well, so focusing on one aspect of his accomplishments seems counterproductive. That said, he is a supreme two-way forward who is about to score 500 goals, and that is a rare feat.

6. Roberto Luongo Records Career Shutout No. 70

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    Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Roberto Luongo has three shutouts for the Florida Panthers this season, placing him at 71 for his career. That total is good for No. 11 on the all-time list, tying him with legendary names Lorne Chabot and Harry Lumley.

    Can He Go Higher? It may take another year or so, but he could eclipse names such as Tony Esposito (76), Ed Belfour (76) and even Dominik Hasek (81).

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Luongo has never played for a powerhouse NHL team, so he sometimes gets overlooked as a journeyman or average goalie. His career numbers—including a .920 save percentage—suggest those who gloss over the quality play Luongo has provided are missing the point.

5. Sidney Crosby Maintains Outstanding Points-Per-Game Pace

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Sidney Crosby has established himself as one of the best point-per-game players in the sport's history. Despite having an uneven first half this year, he has been able to maintain a torrid career pace

    Can He Go Higher? Crosby's Penguins are struggling, and that has across-the-board impact on the offense. He is young enough (28) to have monster seasons over the next several campaigns. If he can maintain his current level—No. 5 in the history of the NHL—that should be considered an outstanding achievement.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Two things stand out: Crosby pushed his total to elite level early and has been able to stay there despite injury and roster issues. This is a statistic that sees only the truly elite emerge at or near the top, and that is a good description of Crosby to this point in his career.

4. Alexander Ovechkin Passes Sergei Fedorov in Career Goals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the best goal scorer of his generation. Earlier this season, he became the No. 1 Russian-born NHL scorer when he passed Sergei Fedorov in the category. Katie Brown of NHL.com wrote an interesting piece at the time, including a connection between the two all-time greats involving Nicklas Backstrom.

    Can He Go Higher? Ovechkin is a lock for 500 goals, as he is just shy of the landmark. At age 30, the math suggests we are looking at a legitimate threat for the upper reaches of career goals. Can he pass Gordie Howe? It is possible.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Scoring 500 goals—especially in this era of fewer tallies—is a career achievement. To accomplish this at age 30 is incredible and one of the phenomenal stories of this season.

3. Jarome Iginla Scores 600

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Milestone: Jarome Iginla became only the 19th man to score 600 goals in league history recently. It represents a spectacular achievement and marks him as an all-time great.

    Can He Go Higher? Iginla should pass Jari Kurri (601), Dino Ciccarelli (608) and Bobby Hull (610) on the scoring list this season. Next season, he may finish inside the top 15 on the list of top scorers.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? It signifies him as an all-time great. Iginla has not played on a Stanley Cup-winning team, so this accomplishment will be central to his Hall of Fame resume.

2. Joe Thornton Continues Assault on All-Time Assists List

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Milestone: Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks is one of the best playmakers of his generation. He began the year tied with Bryan Trottier for all-time assists at 901, and he is now closing in on Stan Mikita (926), Larry Murphy (929) and Al MacInnis (934). 

    Can He Go Higher? Thornton is 36 and remains productive. He should be expected to reach and pass 1,000 career assists in the next two seasons...and could keep on going.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Thornton has been an amazing passer since he arrived in the NHL and has made 50-goal scorers out of average—or below-average—wingers. He is young enough to reach the top 10 in all-time assists, and that should make him Hall of Fame-worthy.

1. Jaromir Jagr Chases Goal-Scoring History

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    The Milestone: Jaromir Jagr of the Florida Panthers passed Marcel Dionne to become the No. 4 all-time goal scorer in league history with 736 goals. He is the first player since Brett Hull in the early part of this century to reach this peak.

    Can He Go Higher? Jagr is likely to pass Hull (741) later this season, as he is only five goals behind in all-time goals. Although the veteran has offered no indication that retirement is imminent, it is likely Jagr will finish his career as the No. 3 goal scorer.

    How Impressive Is the Achievement? Of all records in hockey history, all-time goals scored may be the most cherished. Considering the era and games lost to lockouts and peak seasons in the KHL, this milestone confirms Jagr as a bona fide, inner-circle Hall of Famer.