"Best" vs. "Most Valuable" in All-Time Rankings

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by TANK200, Apr 13, 2018.

  1. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    This post is inspired by the "Better Peak: Howe vs Lemieux" thread, but is applicable to various other scenarios and I feel that it warrants a thread of its own.

    I can't count how many time I have read in the HOH forum that a player like Lemieux or Malkin is lesser than a comparable player like Howe or Sakic because "you don't get credit for games that you didn't play". It seems that there needs to be a distinction between "better" and "more valuable" or "more accomplished". For a player to be "more valuable" or "more accomplished", clearly it is necessary for them to actually be playing. But a player can still be "better" than his contemporaries despite having the misfortune of being injured. In the cases of players like Lemieux and Malkin, we're talking about players who were consistently the best among the best players in the league throughout their entire careers. It is very easy to judge how "good" these players were, and in any given game in which they play and are healthy, they would be expected to perform better than mostly anyone else.

    Hypothetically, let's disregard defense and say that points are the absolute measure of offense. Consider the following scenario:
    - Player X plays 80 games and records 100 points
    - Player Y plays 60 games and records 100 points

    In this scenario, it would be reasonable to conclude that both players were equally valuable (at least if their teams recorded the same number of goals) and equally accomplished. However, Player Y is clearly the better player in this scenario. If you could take either player healthy for a single game, the obvious choice would be to take Player Y.

    But in many of the discussions on this board, I see the line between "better" and "more valuable" or "more accomplished" being blurred. I am unsure whether people are misunderstanding the difference between these descriptions, or whether they are intentionally being ignorant or dishonest to prop up their arguments for certain players. I am inclined to believe the latter, since their seems to be an inherent bias in the HOH forum towards the legends of the game from the past. I say this in part because Bobby Orr seems to be given a free pass for his injury problems in all-time rankings, while others such as Lemieux and Malkin are criticized as a result of their own injury issues.

    When putting together an all-time ranking list, I have always considered who were the "best" players in the league. As such, players like Orr, Lemieux, Crosby, Malkin, Forsberg and Lindros fare quite well in my lists. But what criteria do the rest of you consider when putting together your own all-time ranking lists. And does anyone else see the some pervasive bias towards the legends of old in these lists?
     
  2. daver

    daver Registered User

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    Orr and Mario fare quite well in most lists as only a small minority would have them out of their Top 4 all-time. Orr likely loses #1 or #2 to Wayne and/or Howe in most people's minds based on his career being cut short. Mario likely loses a possible #2 ranking behind Wayne based on having less full seasons than the other Big 4.
     
  3. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    Being durable enough to play hockey is part of being a better hockey player. Removing a player's resilience from the equation is no different than removing defensive acumen or shooting proficiency. You may give it less weight in your overall consideration than other areas, but it should still be part of the formula.

    And in the future, maybe don't throw in an offhanded comment about "bias towards the legends of old" on the history board.
     
  4. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    First bolded part:
    We'll have to agree to disagree on that then. It's tough to fault a guy like Crosby for an unlucky collision that caused him concussion problems at the peak of his career, or for a puck to the face that broke his jaw. He was playing the game the way that it was meant to be played and got unlucky. That doesn't make him a worse player.

    Second bolded part:
    Why not? Should I have said "bias against moderns players"? If such a bias is apparent, should it not be acknowledged?
     
  5. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Point is that injuries suffered by Gordie Howe - 1950 playoff skull fracture, or other old time players tend to be overlooked. Especially true for goaltenders.

    Qualified yes. Recognition of factors - one goalie system vs two goalie system is a statement of fact that has to be considered. Considering such a fact is not a bias against modern goalies.

    Denial of factors like you did disregarding defensive play completely in your opening post is a bias towards a pre-determined conclusion. Quite different.
     
  6. daver

    daver Registered User

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    Crosby is not going to be left behind players like Hull or Belliveau based solely on the fact that they have the better peak full season. He has already moved past many players with better peak seasons like Yzerman, Esposito, Mikita, Sakic, OV, Malkin ...
     
  7. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I think a bias arises when a statistical argument is shown to debunk a claim and all of sudden the "era", be it the modern one, the DPE, the high flying 80s and 90s, or the 06, becomes the focal point of one's argument.

    I don't think a feeling that the best players of a particular era are generally better than the best of another, or every other era, has any place in these discussions.
     
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  8. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    I'll say the same thing I said in the Centers project:

    To lose a part of one season is a misfortune; to lose large chunks of several looks like carelessness.

    I do not find it tough to fault players with multiple major injuries at all. If someone is that unlucky in the attacking zone, they can get better at ducking or they can play on the perimeter and be less effective.

    Now if these guys were defensemen who were getting hurt by putting their body between a slapshot and their own goaltender each night, I'd have more sympathy.
     
  9. klabob

    klabob Registered User

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    No one is faulting them, but they are all playing the same game.
     
  10. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    You make a good point regarding injuries to old-timers being overlooked. Another point worth considering is that old-timers were probably more inclined to play through injuries, and concussions in particular.

    I haven't denied any facts in my post. I acknowledged that I gave a hypothetical scenario which did not take defense into account. Believe me, I do not have a bias towards Player Y, who is a fictional player that does not exist. What prompted this scenario was the ongoing discussion in the "Better Peak: Howe vs Lemieux", wherein some posters have implied that Howe was the better offensive player on the basis that he played more complete seasons. I rank Lemieux as #3 and Howe as #4 all-time, but I can accept an argument for Howe over Lemieux based on all-around play, or even on the basis that Howe had a better peak in the early 1950s (although I don't agree with the latter). What I cannot accept is an argument that Lemieux was more injury prone; therefore, he was a worse offensive player. To me, that shows either ignorance, bias or dishonesty.
     
  11. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    Or like others who were more fortunate, they could have played the same style and just gotten lucky. Can you point out to me how guys like Crosby and Malkin were more reckless than many other players? I could see the rationale for this argument in the case of a player like Lindros who played on the edge, but not for players who took normal risks and just got unlucky. On another note, I don't see why this argument should be any different for defensemen who block shots. They have more choice in sustaining those injuries than a guy like Crosby or Malkin, who have just gotten unlucky.
     
  12. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    Because they're sacrificing their body to protect the net. Sidney Crosby got hit in the face trying to score a deflection goal. I'd be happy to point out where he was being reckless: he lost sight of a hockey puck while parked in a dangerous area, and it hit him in the face.
     
  13. Ageless

    Ageless Registered User

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    Lemieux was a better player than Howe. Howe had a better career. At no point in time was Howe on the level of 89-93 Lemieux.
     
  14. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Concussions were recognized as part of hockey and other contact sports as far back as the 1930s. However it is only recently, within the last generation that medical science has been able to identify the long term consequences and the need for caution when treating concussions.

    Not accounting for defence is simply anti-hockey. The roots of hockey are based on defence. Originally games were either won or lost 1-0.First to win X games was the winner. Consequences of allowing a goal were greater.

    Complete seasons. Reliability is a key quality when evaluating hockey players. Comes down to the weight and tolerance given the reason for missing games. Point about Lemieux is that he had various drawbacks -health,injuries,attitude that detracted from his offensive reliability.
     
  15. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Technique is a factor. Lindros tended to play with his head down. Major flaw. Deployment, physical condition and on ice awareness or the ability to create a safety perimeter are other factors.
     
  16. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    Interesting to hear more about concussion awareness in the history of sport.

    I totally agree that not accounting for defense is anti-hockey. In another thread on this board, arguments were being made that Howe's peak offense was better than Lemieux's peak offense, and the basis was that Howe was playing more complete seasons. Howe was certainly a more well-rounded player than Lemieux, and that is obviously important. As I noted, while I believe that Lemieux was the better player, I can accept an argument for Howe. What I cannot accept is the basis for which Howe's offense is being argued to be better than Lemieux's offense.

    Reliability is certainly a key quality in assessing the value of a player, but what they do on the ice defines whether a player is better than another. Health and injury issues that keep players sidelined are therefore critical in assessing the value of a player, but not for judging whether a player is better in a game. Attitude is a different story because I believe that is reflected in one's play or their impact on their teammates while they are involved in the game.
     
  17. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    The shot that broke Crosby's jaw was deflected and going about 10 feet wide of the net. Whether he saw the puck or not, he wouldn't have had time to react with a 90 mph slapshot coming at his face. Why do you think that deflections go in on goalies unless they just happen to be in the right position to start? Hint: it's because the goalie doesn't have enough time to react in a lot of cases. Fact is that Crosby was making a regular hockey play that any forward in the league makes on a regular basis, and he had the misfortune of a puck deflecting into his face and breaking his jaw. Let me know how many other players had that happen to them in that season. It's bad luck... doesn't mean that he is a worse player. Why penalize a forward for making a regular hockey play, but not penalize a defenseman for making a regular hockey play?
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
  18. daver

    daver Registered User

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    So no sympathy for a borderline blind head shot, a hit from behind head shot; one or both of which lead to Crosby's most time off, and a deflected slap shot?

    Tough crowd.
     
  19. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    Because a defenseman is trying to get hit by the puck, knowing that it will hurt, because it serves the greater good of the team. A forward getting injured long-term in multiple seasons indicates either a lack of restraint or a lack of awareness. By Crosby's own admission, he lost sight of the puck while positioned in a dangerous area. Keeping track of ten skaters and a hockey puck simultaneously is an important skill in hockey. Lose sight of one of them, and the contact sport might live up to its name.
     
  20. daver

    daver Registered User

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    You have got to be kidding......
     
  21. TANK200

    TANK200 Registered User

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    Maybe he shouldn't have been so reckless...
     
  22. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Well, not quite.Old school.

    Goalies wear a full facemask offering full protection. Forwards and defencemen have a choice - half or full visor. Same applies to their choice of hockey gloves, full or partial. Other equipment as well comes with minimum or maximum protection.

    Crosby opted for a half visor.
     
  23. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    You see how the puck hits him in the face? The trick is to not let this happen. Knowing where the puck is at any given time is key to this.

    Now as an isolated incident, not a big deal. Costs you a quarter-season, but things like this happen when you're not aware of the puck. However, if you've just spent half of the previous season out from having accidentally run into another player you weren't aware of, a half season and the playoffs out the year before that from getting hit by a player you weren't aware of, and ~30 games out a few seasons before that from sliding into the boards you weren't aware of feet first, maybe you should be more aware of the things happening around you in order to be a better hockey player.

    Or just ignore the importance of situational awareness in a contact sport and say it's all bad luck while being the best player dressed in a suit and tie.
     
  24. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Defencemen from youth hockey onwards spend hours learning how to properly block shots,how to wear proper equipment, how to make necessary adjustments given the flow of the game. Forwards rarely do.

    Toe Blake when coaching Montreal, on the PK, unless it was impossible, insisted on the spare defenceman filling the 2nd forward role opposite the opposition's shooter on the point. He wanted the role filled by a skater who knew how to block shots.
     
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  25. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    There is no line.:nono:

    First of all, the most valuable player (MVP) by any definition will make reference to accomplishments, not just skillsets, unless one is projecting ahead to a future season or postseason.

    And - more to the point here - the 'best' player is INHERENTLY a matter of debate about the criteria to use. Is the best player the one with the best set of skills? best individual accomplishments? best performances in big games and/or team success? It really depends on where YOU are coming from, which you are arguing for. Any definition of what makes someone the 'best' player will be met by a different definition of 'best' by someone else.

    :teach2: The whole issue is about relative importance of different aspects. There is no universal definition of what makes a player 'better' or 'best'.

    Gordie Howe was the best player of his era for a different reason than Bobby Orr was the best of his era.
    And whether Gretzky or Lemieux was the best in the 1980's and 1990's depends a lot on what criteria you focus on, the issue forever contested because there are different considerations that compete for what makes one the 'best'.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
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