The Forgotten Alexander Mogilny
This article is primarily of local interest, but I find it interesting in a larger sense how great players are sometimes forgotten. What distinguishes those who are remembered from those who are lost? I can’t say. Nonetheless, I want to highlight one example from the world of hockey, Alexander Mogilny. Given that all of my readers have just gone, who?, consider my point made.
Alexander Mogilny is first of all important historically. He was one of the earliest young Russian players to come to the NHL, defecting in 1989 and joining the Buffalo Sabres. Before that, he had been a critical part of dominant Russian Juniors teams and the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, with linemates Sergei Federov and Pavel Bure. From there, he would become the first European to lead the NHL is scoring. The game as we know it today follows in Mogilny’s footsteps.
Second, Mogilny is the greatest pure scorer ever to play for the Buffalo Sabres. In the 1992-93 season, Mogilny put up 76 goals in 77 games, primarily because he cooled off after scoring 50 in his first 46 games. This is the fifth highest single season total in NHL history. The next highest total in Sabres history? 56. Yet when the local sports radio station unveiled their “Buffalo Brackets” to honor, among other things, the greatest players in Sabres history, Mogilny couldn’t crack the top 16. Why? What happened to the memory of Alexander Mogilny?
Third, Mogilny was painfully inconsistent. This, I think, became his great legacy. Mogilny put up 76 goals in a season but never again scored more than 55. He had only one great playoff run, when he put up 7 goals in 7 games after the 1992-93 season. He won a single Stanley Cup, with the 2000 New Jersey Devils, yet he finished tied for 10th on the team in playoff scoring on a Cup won on the back of Martin Brodeur. Despite that inconsistency, he still has the 49th most goals in NHL history, surrounded by players like Federov, his former Sabres teammate Pat Lafontaine, and Doug Gilmour. He is the one already forgotten. He ranks 36th all-time in goals per game and 65th in career points, yet he is lost to the sands of times a mere four seasons after his last game.
What happened? Mogilny was always a bit of a disappointment. His ridiculous 76-goal season set the bar for his future impossibly high. The baseball comparison I think of is Eddie Mathews. In his first four seasons, Matthews hit 153 home runs with an OPS+ of 157. He never again approached such lofty heights, which proves that he was not Babe Ruth. He remained an outstanding player, and he should be in the argument for best to ever play third base. Yet Mathews is largely forgotten. Similarly, Mogilny was not Wayne Gretzky. Oh well. He was a remarkable scorer anyway. Why has he disappeared from the collective imagination? I don’t know.
Who are other great players that are surprisingly forgotten? I don’t mean old players. It is no surprise that few people remember Eddie Collins, since he retired 80 years ago. It is surprising how quickly Eddie Murray (just to give a series of Eddie’s) has been forgotten in less than 20. Who has struck you as tragically forgotten?