Two of the most legendary players in the NHL have pretty much guaranteed that this will indeed be their final year in the NHL. Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne are both embarking on the last season of their sure-fire Hall-of-Fame careers.
Both will undoubtedly be first ballot entrants into the HOF, but what if you could only choose 1, who would you pick?
Since they entered the NHL (Jagr in 1990-91 and Selanne in 1992-93) they have been the two highest scoring players in the league. However, the two came in to very different situations and in different manners. Jagr came into the league as an 18 year old, instantly pairing up with Mario Lemieux to form one of the best 1-2 combos in entire NHL almost from the get-go. Selanne was drafted in 1998, but didn’t come to North America until he was 23 years old. When he did finally arrive, he took the league by storm and had one of the best rookie seasons in NHL history, setting a rookie record with 76 goals and his 132 points was second only to Wayne Gretzky‘s 137 set in 1979-80. The amazing thing about that season for Teemu was the fact that he almost doubled the production of the next highest scoring forward on the Jets, Alexei Zhamnov (79 points).
The both had their fair share of success over the years. Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer 5 times, the only player not named Gretzky or Lemieux to win the award between 1980-81 and 2000-01. Selanne was runner up for the Art Ross twice, and led the league in goals on 3 occasions. He was the inaugural winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy. Jagr never led the league in goals, but was 2nd in the league 4 times.
Jagr won back-to-back Stanley Cups early in his career, tasting success in his first two seasons. Selanne had to wait much longer for the ultimate team success, winning the title with the Ducks in 2007, his 18th season in the league.
In terms of goals, Jagr (681) and Selanne (675) sit 10th and 11th respectively in their career. It is conceivable that both players could get to the 700 mark, a number reached by only 6 other players. They are far and away the top active goal scorers, with Jarome Iginla sitting third at 530.
Jagr is also the active leader in assists, with 1007. He sits 12th all-time and could move into the top 10, passing former teammate Mario Lemieux with 27 assists. Selanne sits third among active players in assists, tied for 40th all-time.
Jagr sits 8th all-time in NHL scoring, and would need 46 points to pass Lemieux for 7th. Selanne is 15th all-time, and should pass Stan Mikita for 14th this season, trailing the former Blackhawk legend by 37 points. Selanne is more than 300 points ahead of the next highest scoring active players, as the trio of Joe Thornton, Daniel Alfredsson and Jarome Iginla are all well behind but within a dozen points of each other.
Both player also have extensive international resumes. Jagr is a two time Olympic medalist, winning gold in 1998 and bronze in 2006. He also won 4 medals at the World Championships (2 gold, 2 bronze). Selanne is a 5 time Olympian, capturing a Silver in 2006 and Bronze in 1998 and 2010. He is the highest scoring player in the history of the Olympics.
Both players are legends of the game, and the game will be worse off when they retire. Jagr had more of his prime seasons in the league, but it would be interesting to see what his numbers would be if he hadn’t spent 3 full seasons in the KHL late in his career. Likewise, It would be interesting to see what Selanne would have done if he had come to Winnipeg when he was drafted instead of waiting for 4 full seasons.
So, while Jagr seems to have the more decorated career, and his 35o or so assists and 5 scoring titles make the difference in the offensive output. By those measures, you would have to give him the edge, if only by a nose production-wise. Both moved around a lot over the years, but Selanne has shown immense loyalty to the Ducks over the past few years while Jagr has essentially been a mercenary for hire.