We all know that Sidney Crosby was having a fantastic season last year before he got his bell wrung at the Winter Classic. He missed the entire second half of 2010/11 and his prospects for returning anytime soon are still up in the air. Despite playing in exactly half of his team's games Crosby amazingly finished tied for 14th place in NHL goal scoring.
The question is, was that unprecedented? Has anyone ever finished that high in overall goal scoring while missing at least half of their games? Below is a list of players who missed a major part of a season yet still finished in at least the top 15 in goal scoring.
Having a fine season cut short by injury was a regular occurence for Mario Lemieux. In 2000/01 he managed to finish tied for 19th in goals despite playing only 43 of 82 games. Three times in four years he still finished in the top ten while playing between 59 and 64 games each year.
Probably the greatest recent season that was shortened by injury was by Cam Neely in 1993/94. That was the year he scored 50 goals in 49 games and finished tied for 8th in league scoring.
In 1966/67 Paul Henderson managed to finish in a tie for 14th in NHL goal scoring yet played in only 46 of 70 games. Still, well over half of the scheduled games. Bernie Geoffrion played 42 of 70 games in 1957/58 yet still finished 9th in goal scoring.
The most similar case to Crosby last season was Sweeney Schriner in 1944/45. He played 26 of 50 games and still placed 13th in scoring. Mind you the league was much smaller and there was only 117 players in the NHL that year, but 13th place in goals is still impressive while playing just over half the games.
We have to look all the way back to the dawn of the NHL to find a case like Crosby last season. In 1919/20 Thomas McCarthy of the Quebec Bulldogs played in exactly half of the 24 games and was still 14th in NHL goal scoring....exactly the same as Sid. In 1919/20 of course, there was only 40 players in the entire league. The same thing actually happened in each of the previous two seasons. Joe Malone actually played LESS than half of Quebec's games in 1918/19 yet still finished tied for 13 in goals.
Needless to say, Crosby's season was indeed one for the ages, even while missing half of it.