Connor McDavid ≃ Babe Ruth

The NHL regular season is now over and we can officially start talking about how insanely dominant a performance Edmonton Oiler Connor McDavid put on during this shortened season. Everybody knows about his 100 points achievement which he managed with a week left in the season, but it hasn't been always obvious how amazing this milestone was.

When Martok sent me this picture last week, the first thing I thought of was Babe Ruth.

For those who don't already know, in 1920 The Bambino hit 54 home runs. That's pretty impressive to put it mildly. You could argue his 59 dingers the next season were more impressive, but in 1920 54 home runs exceeded every team in the Major Leagues except for two: his own (obviously) and the National League's Philadelphia Phillies with 64. The bottom three teams (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Boston) combined to hit 56 home runs, only exceeding one guy by two.

With apologies to Connor McDavid, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan (who the Sportsnet team compared McDavid to during Game 1), and other dominant sports heroes, you'll never top that. That 1921 season is less impressive because the 59 home runs was the league average (for teams, in fairness, not individuals) and six teams beat him (Brooklyn Robins tied him, eight teams were behind him, and obviously his own Damn Yankees can't count).

But let's look at the final standings for the (shortened, it's the law to call it that) 2020-2021 NHL regular season.

The blacked out name in #2 was, of course, Edmonton Oiler Leon Draisaitl. Why blacked out? Well much like how you can't give the Yankees credit for their home runs when they had Babe Ruth, Draisaitl's points are largely a function of playing with McDavid. You could, of course, argue that other Canadian teams facing McDavid so often are punished for it, and that we don't strip other players like Marner/Matthews for the success of their linemates, but stick with me here.

Boston's Brad Marchand finished third in the scoring race with 69 points. That means that McDavid scored 52.17% more points than Marchand. That would be like Babe Ruth scoring 54 home runs in a season where second place only scored 35 and...oh, second place only hit 19 homers that year. Sorry, bad example.

Let's stick to baseball though. In the 2019 season Cincinnati Reds 3B/SS Eugenio Suárez was second place in the home run race with 49 home runs. To be a Connor McDavid performance, home run champ Pete Alonso would have needed to hit 75 home runs (he actually hit 53). Rafael Devers was second in hits that year with 201, first place Whit Merrifield would have needed 306 hits to be a Connor McDavid performance...he hit 206.

In the 2019 NBA season, Damian Lillard got 1978 points. A Connor McDavid would have blown him away with 3010 points. James Harden did have a dominant performance that year...but had to settle for 2335. In the 2019 ATP season John Isner hit 1032 aces, narrowly beating out Reilly Opelka. Opelka had 1014 aces that year, if Isner's 1032 were McDavid-level he would have only scored 678 (which was the 7th place finishing for aces that year).

Let's look, as you inevitably have to do with McDavid, against the Great Wayne Gretzky. McDavid's career points per game is already in the NHL's Top Five (no decline though, note), and remember he's in a relatively dead puck era. Which, of course, is the whole reason to compare season to season. Everyone knows that Gretzky hit an incredible 2.77 points-per-game in the 1983-1984 campaign. McDavid's recent season was a "mere" 1.875 (32nd all-time). And Wayne was an unbeatable machine, especially in those days.

In 1983/1984, to have a "McDavid" season with his 205 points, Gretzky would need the second-place (ie. highest non-Oiler) to hit 134 points. Even fellow teammate Paul Coffey only got 126 that season, with Queerbec Nordique Michel Goulet in 3rd place with 122.

So sorry, Connor, you still aren't as dominant as Gretzky. Nobody could be as dominant as Ruth. But hey, Gene Principe talked up Michael Jordan...well, McDavid has him beat. In the 1987-1988 NBA season Dominique Wilkins was second place with 2397 points. To be a McDavid, Jordon would have had to score his 2868 points and then score another 780 (basically an entire Jeff Hornacek) to reach a whopping 3648 points.