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Whos Stats Chase is More Impressive: Connor McDavid’s 100 Assists or Auston Matthew’s 70 Goals?

One of these stats for Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews is almost sealed and one still has a lot of work to do. Currently, McDavid sits on 99 assists while Matthews  is at 64 red lights. But, no reason we cannot discuss which is more impressive in the interim. It seems once you figure it out, 100 assists is probably easier. However, figuring it out is the hard part. It’s like that first million dollars. So, what better way to kick off our discussion, on which feat is more impressive in an NHL regular season 70 goals or 100 assists. Let’s take a look and find out.

The Edmonton Oiler Legacy of Greats: Gretzky and McDavid

It is interesting to note, that like Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid was able to achieve a very high goal total at the beginning of a period of peak total point production. Gretzky had a six-year span where each season he was 183 points or above. That streak was kickstarted with his 1981-82, NHL record 92-goal season. It had also built on his previous season, which was his first that he topped 100 assists, with 109 in 1980-81. That began his incredible streak of 11 consecutive such seasons of hitting the century mark in apples. Moreover, McDavid’s point-per-game totals have always been impressive. However, last year he shot himself into another stratosphere with his 153-point season. But again, like Gretzky, with his jump, he elevated his goal total in the process, tallying 64. Maybe somehow the events are connected. Let’s take a look at another comparable player to see if we notice anything.

Enter Super Mario World

Mario Lemieux was perhaps the most talented player to ever play the game. A similar note can be added to his 100-assist season just like Gretzky and McDavid. It coincided with Mario’s career-best goal season as well. In his magical 1988-89 campaign, Le Magnifique had 85 goals and 114 assists for 199 points in 76 games. Of course, Lemieux’s statistics are hard to explain or quantify in some ways.

Besides his NHL rookie season, if he played 70 games in an NHL season, his assist totals were 93, 98, 114, 92, and 72. The takeaway is if Mario had been able to play 80 games consistently, he would’ve hit the 100-assist plateau multiple times. Also, the 70-goal mark wasn’t really a challenge for Lemieux again had he played 80 games. Besides his 85-goal season, he did have his only other 70-goal season the year prior. In contrast, he twice landed at 69 goals, once in 1992-93, only playing 60 games.

The Boston Bruin Great Dynamic Duo

There is a general theme we are arriving at, but first let’s think about the only other player to hit 100 assists, Bobby Orr. In 1970-71, Bobby Orr totaled 102 assists in 78 games played. Once again, there was crossover with another absolutely historic season, in terms of goals and total points. It was well documented last year with McDavid’s 150-point season, that he became only the sixth player in NHL history to hit that mark. So far we have mentioned three of the six, but another happened in 1970-71. It was Bobby Orr’s teammate, the man himself, Phil Esposito. Esposito’s 76 goal and 76 assist season will also go down as one of the greatest statistical seasons ever. Esposito is one of only eight players to ever enjoy a 70-goal NHL season. It has only been achieved 14 times in history. Funny that McDavid would make the 100 assist mark the 14th time it has been achieved too.

Is It the Individual or the Team

Therefore, with all this in mind, we kind of come up with what variables we should be considering. For one, it is about the stand-alone performance aspect. Lemieux’s 1988-89 included having an 84-point advantage over his nearest teammate. Who? Well, none other than 438 career NHL point man Rob Brown naturally. The point is, he never had a tremendous setup man feeding him to get his 85 tucks. If we think about the 1990-91 86 goal campaign by Brett Hull, his partner in crime was Adam Oates. The famous, non-musically inclined, hockey version of Hull and Oates had a 21-game span where they combined for 108 points that year. Essentially, we shouldn’t really reward players for not having a great assistant or punish those who did.

The variability in the numbers play a role too for who’s stats are better between Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. For example, when you look at goals, there are a lot of people with each of the different unique values. Players had either 68 or 69 six different times. One of those players is the late Mike Bossy. Yes, he fell short of ever attaining 70 but he was always able to hit that 50 mark, seemingly with ease as evidenced by the times he went well over it. Once the great players seem to figure out how to get to a certain mark, it just becomes like clockwork to them. But it is getting there that becomes the ultimate test.

Let’s Start by Targeting in on 70

So, when it really comes down to it, to judge which is more impressive you need to compare each performance individually. Let’s start with Auston Matthews’ chase for 70. 2023-24 for Matthews is his second-best PPG average at 1.33. Over an 82 games schedule that would work out to 109 points. Therefore, he definitely takes a shoot-first mentality, rather than looking for assists. This is impressive as he is shooting, even though the defenders would be expecting it. He has a great shot total on the year, currently at 331. Now, shooting a lot itself isn’t always impressive, but if you are doing so all the while maintaining a career-high shooting percentage, now we are on to something. His 19.3 S% is better than his previous career-high of 18.5 from 2020-21, in which he only played 52 games. Also, it is over three percentage points higher than his career 16.2%.

Matthews also has the luxury of a tremendous setup man, with Mitch Marner and his 52 assists. It is too bad Marner missed about a month with an injury down the stretch because it probably took away from both of their marvelous seasons. All-in-all, for Matthews the greatness of his bid for 70 campaign has a lot of desirable factors. He performs despite the predictability aspect. Also, is leading his team to another strong season and maintains a reputation as a great defensive centreman.

What Makes the 100 So Magical

Connor McDavid’s 2023-24 assist total is likewise to Matthews’ goal total is outstanding. Look back to last year, when McDavid won the Art Ross by an incredible 25 points over teammate Leon Draisaitl. Now again this year, despite a bit of a slow start, he is able to achieve nearly that level of dominance in his own game. Last year he had 89 assists, but this year with games remaining he is up to 99. McDavid has seemed to have found a way to control the game. His Corsi For % of 64.5 is a testament to that fact.

McDavid has the luxury of having a strong supporting cast. Linemate Zach Hyman is in the midst of a career year, already with 52 goals. Also, Draisaitl is McDavid’s linemate in tight situations or the power play. He’s already at 40 goals and over 100 points at 102. Therefore, like many of the other great performances, McDavid enjoys the luxury of having great performances to share it with.

The Decision on the Best Stats: Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid in 2023-24

Well, now we must decide, which is indeed more impressive, 70 goals or 100 assists in a single NHL season. The default answer goes with goals and the fact that for each goal there can be two assists. So, why is the total so low, not 140 to compare against 70 goals? But then again, when we look at assists, we need to think about primary assists, where McDavid is over 60. That means McDavid is making a pass that directly leads to a goal almost as much as Matthews is scoring. In terms of maintaining, Matthews has found himself becoming accustomed to this level of production. In three of his last four seasons, his GPG is 0.79 or above. Similarly, when you think of McDavid’s 153 points last year, scoring 100 assists just goes with the territory.

Well, the readers want a clear winner. But when we really compare the stats of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews in 2023-24 it is a tossup. McDavid’s sheer point totals suggest that his feat is more impressive. Conversely, how he does it and the fact that Matthews has shown to be consistently able to produce at such a high goal output, puts him in the lead. Basically, the fact that both players have seemed to “figure it out” how to produce at such incredible levels, makes it so even. All things together, we will have to call this one a draw.

Main photo: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports


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