Era Adjusted: Why Paul Kariya is even better than you remember

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Paul Kariya.

Weeks such as this one are what era adjusted numbers are made for.

Generally speaking, by the time a player is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, the sport has somewhat changed. And that’s certainly true for the five players who are being inducted this year, four of whom played in the NHL.

These Era Adjusted articles often put into context the inflated offensive totals of the 1980s. This week however, let’s look at some of the true stars of the NHL’s “Dead Puck Era” in 1990s, namely Teemu Selanne, Paul Kariya, Mark Recchi, and the interesting case of Dave Andreychuk.

Let’s answer thing first: What exactly is the “Dead Puck Era?”

We’ve all heard the term before. My assumption was that it was basically the period during the late ’90s when scoring had fallen off. Most web sites I visited say the Dead Puck Era began around 1994 when teams were combining for about seven goals per game. After that, scoring started to decline all the way down to around five goals per game. The Dead Puck Era ended with the 2004-05 lockout. Basically, the Dead Puck Era was lockout-to-lockout.

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Now that’s out of the way…

Among this year’s class, Mark Recchi leads all inductees with 1,533 actual points. Adjusting for era bumps him up to 1,569. Recchi already sits 12th in all-time NHL scoring, but adjusting for era actually bumps him into the Top 10, in ninth. Funny enough, the guy who sits 10th all-time era adjusted is Teemu Selanne, just four era adjusted points behind. Selanne, by the way, is 15th in actual all-time points, so he jumps up even more than Recchi does.

Seeing what era adjusted numbers do for these four players tells us a lot about when they played.

Recchi’s career is enormous. It spans all the way from 1988 to 2011. Recchi had three 100+ point seasons before the 1994 lockout, played through the entire Dead Puck Era, and then some. Because of this neat little mixture, Recchi’s era adjusted numbers only jump up about 2.3 per cent from what his actual stats. So not much. He played through goal feast and goal famine so it makes sense.

Selanne is another story. His beastly 76-goal rookie season in 1992-93 was at the tail end of the high-flying pre-94 lockout era, but most of his early career and prime were during the heart of the Dead Puck Era. In fact, out of the four seasons between 1995-96 and 1998-99, Selanne scored 100+ points in three of them. Not bad for an era with supposedly no scoring. And because Selanne did so much damage while the league was hurting for scoring, his 1,457 points jump up to 1,565 when adjusted for era. That’s a big increase of 7.4 percent.

But do you know who’s increase is even bigger, however? Paul Kariya.

While Selanne got a taste of the rodeo that was the pre-94 NHL, Kariya got none of that. Kariya’s rookie season was 1994-95 and his entire early career and prime was during the Dead Puck Era. Kariya still managed to bang out two 100+ point seasons during that time, and if it weren’t for injuries, he might have done it four or five times, maybe even more. In just 22 games in 1997-98 for example, Kariya had 17 goals and 14 assists for 31 points. That’s bananas back then.

Era adjusted stats bump Kariya’s 989 career points up to 1,078, or an increase of about 8.9 per cent. That’s nuts and a prime example of why these stats exist, why they’re useful for arguments with your friends, and why I’ll forever love HockeyReference.com. For reference, Wayne Gretzky’s era adjusted numbers knock his numbers down about 13.3 per cent. The ’80s, man. The ’80s.

So take that one to the bar with you, Kariya lovers!

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Then there’s Dave Andreychuk.

First of all, it took him like 75 years to get into the Hall and I think that’s crap. Yes, his numbers are kind of propped up because he played forever but the fact of the matter is before his induction, every single retired NHL player with at least 600 goals was in the Hockey Hall of Fame except for him. Now that he is where he should be, 600 goals is basically your golden ticket to the Hall.

As for Andreychuk’s era-adjusted numbers, his career spanned all the way from 1982 to 2006. Despite the fact that both Recchi and Andreychuk played almost the same amount of games, and despite the fact that they both played throughout the entirety of the Dead Puck Era, Recchi’s era-adjusted numbers go up while Andreychuk’s go down.

Andreychuk’s 1,338 career points bump down to 1,250 era adjusted points, a change of – 6.5 per cent. The explanation is pretty simple: He played through more of the high-scoring 1980s than Recchi did.

That shouldn’t diminish anything Andreychuk achieved, however. He’s 29th in all-time NHL scoring and still 34th in era adjusted points. Fun fact: He was 32nd until both Patrick Marleau and Alex Ovechkin passed him this past month.

Some more era adjusted tidbits on the NHL alumni in this year’s Hockey Hall of Fame Class…

• Teemu Selanne is fourth in all-time era-adjusted goals with 741. That’s just 17 behind Gretzky and three ahead of Brett Hull. Wanna start an argument? Say he’s a top-five goal scorer in NHL history.

• Joe Thornton passed Mark Recchi for 8th in all-time era-adjusted scoring last season. When it’s all said and done, Jumbo Joe might be fourth or 5th all-time. He’s that good. Not a Top 100 player though, apparently. Yes, I’m still bitter.

• Dave Andreychuk is 19th in all-time era-adjusted goal-scoring with 605. Mats Sundin is 21st with 599. Who just passed him this season? Patrick Marleau with 603.

Hopefully I’ve armed you with some things you can sound smart about for this Hockey Hall of Fame induction season. If you forget all this stuff mid-argument, just change the subject to how awesome the Mighty Ducks jerseys used to be.