NHL Records Most Likely to Fall in the 2014-15 Season
Every season in the NHL, old records are threatened and new benchmarks are set.
As Sidney Crosby and Jakub Voracek sit at the top of the scoring race with 33 points and Tyler Seguin has 18 goals, it doesn't look like any single-season scoring records will be shattered in 2014-15.
But a few teams are doing better than ever before. Meanwhile, one has never been this bad, while another has never been so ignored.
Finally, a couple of the league's legendary vets are making their mark on the all-time record book.
Here's a look at a few of the marks that could be poised to fall this year.
Upstarts Tracking for Franchise-Best Seasons
Coming into the 2014-15 NHL season, the Nashville Predators had broken the 100-point barrier three times. Their best season was in 2006-07, when they tallied 110 regular-season points before being ousted by the San Jose Sharks in the first round for the second straight year.
This season, under new coach Peter Laviolette, the Predators are tracking on a 116-point pace as they sit atop the Central Division. The Preds also tied their single-game goal-scoring record with their 9-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 18.
Though the Tampa Bay Lightning won a Stanley Cup in 2004, they're also on pace for their best-ever season. Sitting first in the NHL with 37 points through 26 games, the Lightning are also set to hit 116 points, which would annihilate their previous franchise best of 106 points from their Cup-winning year.
Even the New York Islanders, who won four straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, are enjoying an unprecedented early run. They got off to their best start in franchise history with a 15-6-0 record, per Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. The Islanders are now 18-7-0.
Along the way, goaltender Jaroslav Halak has tied four-time Stanley Cup winner Billy Smith for the franchise record of 10 straight wins by a goaltender (from The Associated Press via The New York Times). He can claim the record for himself when he makes his next start.
The Islanders' best seasons came long before the "loser point" was introduced in the NHL, making their previous best of 118 points in 1981-82 a real achievement. To their credit, this year's team has made hay out of games that used to end in ties. Thanks to a perfect record of 3-of-3 in overtime and 5-of-5 in the shootout, the 2014-15 Islanders are tracking to beat those dynasty teams of the '80s with 118 points this season.
Likelihood of Breaking Franchise Records: Barring injuries, good. At least two of the three teams will hit new highs this season.
Edmonton Oilers Hitting Rock Bottom
On December 3, the Edmonton Oilers went winless for their 11th straight game when they fell 3-2 in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets.
Thanks to the single point for the overtime loss, the Oilers moved past the idle Columbus Blue Jackets into 29th place in the NHL standings with a record of 6-15-5. It's a sad state of affairs for a franchise that was the best in the NHL during the 1980s but has struggled to live up to its legacy for the better part of the last decade.
The Oilers thought they'd hit rock bottom when they recorded 62 points in 82 games in both 2009-10 and 2010-11, picking up just 37.8 percent of the points that were made available to them. This year, they're tracking even lower, at a cringeworthy 32.7 percent., and find themselves back in the discussion as potential draft lottery favorites.
Though the team is trying to stay the course to get through this rough patch, the pressure for change increases with every loss. How long can the Oilers wait before they clean house and try to start fresh?
Likelihood of Breaking Franchise Record: High. Unless the Oilers wipe the slate clean very soon, this could become the worst year ever for Edmonton's long-suffering fanbase.
Pittsburgh Penguins Go After Power-Play Efficiency Record
Since the 1956-57 season, when NHL teams became limited to no more than one power-play goal on a single minor penalty, the most effective power-play squad in history has been the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens. They clicked at a rate of 31.88 percent, scoring 73 goals on 229 chances, according to Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated.
The Pittsburgh Penguins hold the record for most power-play goals in a season. In the heart of the Mario Lemieux era, the team potted 119 markers on 491 opportunities in 1988-89, a success rate of "just" 24.2 percent.
This year, Pittsburgh is once again leading the NHL in power-play efficiency. Four games into the season, they had amassed a stunning eight goals on 18 opportunities for 47.1 percent, but the team has now come back to earth—relatively speaking.
Through games on December 3, the Penguins have 24 goals in 78 opportunities for a 30.8 efficiency rate—within spitting distance of that Canadiens' record.
Likelihood of Breaking Record: Moderate at best. Despite their strong start and outstanding talent pool, the Penguins are struggling, as usual, with injuries. The power play remains a potent tool, but it hasn't taken long to drop below that record-setting mark.
The Penguins will continue to make opponents pay for taking penalties but won't finish the season as the best of all time.
Florida Panthers Hitting Record Lows in Attendance
On October 13, the Florida Panthers made headlines with announced attendance of just 7,311 for their game against the Ottawa Senators. The game was not an outlier—the team's biggest crowd of the season so far was 11,419 for the home opener against the New Jersey Devils.
Florida's average attendance has been a shocking 8,981 through 11 home games, per ESPN.com.
The October 13 game was the smallest crowd in Panthers' franchise history but did not set a league record—it was just the lowest since before the last lockout, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com. Back on October 10, 2011, attendance was announced at just 6,306 when the then-Phoenix Coyotes visited the then-troubled Dallas Stars.
Before this season, the Panthers' lowest average attendance in their current 19,250-seat arena was 14,679 in 2000-01, according to the Panthers' website. Burnside explains that the change is due to a shift in philosophy by new owner Vincent Viola, who is no longer offering deeply discounted tickets into the marketplace.
Still, the drag on the league's overall numbers is hard to ignore and puts a big question mark on the franchise's long-term viability in South Florida.
On the bright side, the Panthers can take heart in knowing that their humble numbers look strong compared to one game. Though 11,247 tickets were sold, on January 22, 1987, the New Jersey Devils beat the Calgary Flames 7-5 in front of just 334 fans due to a snowstorm surrounding the Meadowlands Arena, according to NHL.com. That's something that'll never happen in Sunrise.
Likelihood of Breaking Record: For the Florida Panthers franchise, it's virtually assured. Attendance typically picks up through the later months of the season as the Canadian snowbirds descend on South Florida, but they may be in for a rude awakening when their cheap tickets are no longer available.
Brace yourself for an average attendance of less than 10,000 for the Panthers this season.
Jaromir Jagr Could Climb to Fourth in Overall Points
It was strange to see Jaromir Jagr knocked to the ice by a late hit from Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo on December 2. Jagr's so big and strong—he's supposed to be unbreakable.
Though the legendary star did not return to the ice on Tuesday, the NHL's Department of Player Safety acknowledged that the Czech winger is not expected to miss any more action when it announced Bortuzzo's two-game suspension for the hit on Wednesday.
Good thing. Jagr has records to conquer!
With four goals and 11 assists in 25 games, the 42-year-old leads his New Jersey Devils in scoring. With 1,770 career points, he's now one point behind Marcel Dionne for fifth place all-time in NHL points and 28 points back of his old teammate Ron Francis in fourth. That's within reach this year, as long as he stays healthy.
Jagr's NHL.com profile page lists a litany of his other achievements. Imagine the records he could have broken if he hadn't spent those three years in the KHL.
Jagr had 67 points for the Devils in 2013-14. He needs another 80 to catch Gordie Howe for third overall and vault himself into the rarefied air occupied only by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
Likelihood of Reaching Fourth Place on the All-Time List: Solid for this season. If Jagr can finish the season strong and squeeze out one more year, he has a legitimate chance to pass Gordie Howe and end his career in the No. 3 spot.
Martin Brodeur Reaches 700 Career Wins
Already the winningest goalie in NHL history, Martin Brodeur has a chance to add to his career numbers now that he has signed a one-year contract with the St. Louis Blues.
Brodeur backed up Jake Allen as the Blues fell 4-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks on December 3. He's expected to get his first start of 2014-15 on Thursday when St. Louis visits the Nashville Predators.
At the end of last season, Brodeur wrapped up his career with the New Jersey Devils as the No. 1 goalie in NHL history in games played (1,259), wins (688), shutouts (124), even goals (2).
Brodeur has been brought into St. Louis as an emergency backup while Brian Elliot recovers from a knee injury, per Louie Korac of NHL.com. It seems unlikely that he'll even get to play 12 games—let alone get those 12 wins he needs to get to 700. But you never know—it'll all depend on his play once he settles between the pipes for the first time for a team other than the Devils.
Likelihood of Setting New Record: Every win's a new record for Brodeur, but his odds of reaching 700 remain pretty low. His tenure in St. Louis is almost certainly short-term, and he'll be playing in a backup role. It'll be tough for Brodeur to get enough starts to secure another 12 wins.