From 1980-81 until 2000-2001, three players had a stranglehold on the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leader. During that 21-season period Wayne Gretzky won the scoring title ten times, Mario Lemieux won it six times and Jaromir Jagr won five times.
It wasn’t until 2001-02 when Jarome Iginla emerged as the scoring champion that the dominance by Gretzky, Lemieux and Jagr was broken.
Since Iginla’s Art Ross victory there have been no repeat winners. Peter Forsberg, Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton and Sidney Crosby have followed Iginla as NHL scoring champs.
At the All Star break, nine points separated tenth place from first place in the 2007-08 scoring race. Recent injuries will play a factor in the race. Defending scoring champion, Sidney Crosby, will be out until at least early March with an ankle injury. A shoulder injury will keep Dany Heatley on the sidelines until late February.
Here’s a look at some of the logical contenders for this year’s Art Ross Trophy with a look at how most of the performed “down the stretch” last season. (The first number in parenthesis is the player’s rank in last year’s scoring rance and the second is the player’s points as of Jan.26/08.)
DANIEL ALFREDSSON- (#16-67)- Ottawa- RW If history repeats itself, Alfredsson’s chances for the Art Ross bode well. He scored 54 points (18-36) in the last half of last season and the last two quarters were his best. Alfredsson has shown consistency by scoring 70 points or more six consecutive times and his recent seven-point game shows he can be an explosive scorer. The loss of Dany Heatley to injury should not faze him.
VINCENT LECAVALIER- (#3-66)- Tampa Bay- C Lecavalier is is picking up where he left off in 2006-07- his best season. His last two quarters of last season were his best.
ALEXANDER OVECHKIN- (#13-65)- Washington- LW Ovechkin’s points went down last year in his second NHL campaign and the third and fourth quarters of the season were his worst. He plays a rough and tumble style and I can’t help but wonder if he will wear down as the season goes on.
JAROME IGINLA- (#12-63)- Calgary- RW Won Art Ross Trophy in 2001-02. Missed 12 games last season but still scored 94 points. Will be near the top of the pack this season if he stays healthy.
SIDNEY CROSBY- (#1-63)- Pittsburgh- C A high ankle sprain virtually killed his chances of repeating his Art Ross win.
ILYA KOVALCHUK- (#34-63)- Atlanta- LW Was leading NHL in scoring last season with 26 points in 19 games before cooling off. Kovalchuk scored 1.30 points-per-game in the first quarter of least season, then had quarters of 0.81, 0.86 and 0.75 points-per-game. He’ll have to keep up his second half numbers this season if he wants the Art Ross.
HENRIK ZETTERBERG- (#53-61)- Detroit- C/LW Missed final 19 games of 2006-07 due to a back injury. Had a productive February in 2007 winning NHL Player of the Month honours and scoring 25 points in 11 games.
JOE THORNTON- (#2-60)- San Jose- C Won scoring title in 2005-06 and finished second - 6 points behind Sidney Crosby last season. His points-per-game increased over every quarter last year.
MARTIN ST. LOUIS- (#5-59)- Tampa Bay- RW Art Ross Trophy winner in 2003-04. After scoring only one point in the first six games, St. Louis rang up a 102-point season last year.
RYAN GETZLAF- (#87-58)- Anaheim- C A star on the rise, Getlaf’s production increased in his second second season in 2006-7 and is doing the same in 2007-08. The recent return of Teemu Selanne to the Ducks should help his cause.
PAVEL DATSYUK- (#15-58)- Detroit- C Got off to a slow start in 2006-7 but turned on the heat in the second half with 56 points in 41 games. The last two quarters of 2006-07 were his most productive.
JASON SPEZZA- (#15-58)- Ottawa- C Missed 15 games last season but still managed to score 97 points. His points-per-game went up each quarter of last season. The playmaker may miss Dany Heatley down the stretch but he still has Daniel Alfredsson and other talented Ottawa teammates around to feed his passes to.
EVGENI MALKIN- (#18-57)- Pittsburgh- C Cooled off at end of 2006-07 but still wound up with 85 points.
MARC SAVARD- (#9-56)- Boston- C Hot for first three quarters of 2006-07 with 82 points in 62 games. Cooled down and “slumped” to 14 points in last 20 games.
DANY HEATLEY- (#4-56)- Ottawa- LW/RW Out until late February with shoulder injury. The last two quarters of 2006-07 were his best.
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