Better peak: Howe vs Lemieux?

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by steve141, Apr 12, 2018.

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  1. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    It would be great if we had the plus/minus stats and goals-for and against stats of Gordie Howe for his entire career. (He was +45 at 40 years old in 1968-69, which is ridiculous.) We do now have the plus/minus of his playoffs from 1960 to 1970, which is underwhelming (he was +6 over 65 games), but then those are all seasons when he was past age 30 and when the Wings were no longer the top team.

    The thing with Mario is, he was dependent on power-plays for a lot of his points. That's sort of understandable from 1984 to 1989-ish, because the Pens simply didn't have a lot of teammates who could play at his level. But surprisingly he still scored the same (or more) of his points on the PP after the Pens were stacked with talented players. In 1995-96 he scored almost 50% of his points on the power-play. From 1995-96 to 1996-97, the Pens' team power-play opportunities dropped by about 90 or so, and accordingly Lemieux scored 40 fewer points overall as the Pens scored nearly a goal-per-game less than the preceding season.

    Before we conclude that Lemieux's offensive peak was clearly above Howe's (I suppose it was, but I could be convinced otherwise), I'd like to see how many PP opportunities Howe was getting per game. I mean, I've no idea how good/average Howe was on the power-play, but in seasons like 1987-88 and 1988-89 the Pens had 491 to 500 (!) power-play opportunities, which is insane.

    My suspicion is, in addition to far lower scoring in the early/mid-50s overall compared to Mario's prime, that 1950s' era top-scorers could depend less on PP for points.

    I'm not saying that Mario didn't have the higher offensive ceiling anyway, and you have to also assume Mario himself (being huge and physically unstoppable) drew a lot of the Pens' PP opportunities, but I wonder if the even-strength peak-scoring years of Howe and Lemieux were compared, relative to era and to contemporary peers, if Howe wouldn't narrow the purely offensive gap yet further.
     
  2. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Comparing league and team PIMs for the O6 seasons is a solid indicator.

    Also PP and PPO data is available for the league starting with the 1963-64 season:

    1963-64 NHL Summary | Hockey-Reference.com
     
  3. daver

    daver Registered User

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    His other peak season, 92/93, saw him score at a dominant ES pace. He had almost as many ES points in 60 games than he did he in 76 games in 88/89.

    It is undeniable he scored a ton of points on the PP. Whether we can say he was "dependent on the PP" or whether we should really care about that in the first place especially when it did not affect his peak playoff performance, should be tempered by his peak ES performance. Highlighting the season he retired from the league as proof he could not produce as well when PPs were down is not overly convincing.
     
  4. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    As you said, good for Lafleur for being back on defense. Got any video of Mario back on a two on one?

    Not trying to make The Flower look like Bob Gainey, just saying he was more responsible defensively than Mario. Or Gretzky.
     
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  5. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    I'm not criticizing Lemieux for doing well on the power-play. The reason I'm bringing it up is for purposes of comparison with Howe, who *probably* had far fewer opportunities to boost his stats, during his salad years, with extra-man opportunities. However, I'm not sure how significant a factor this would be unless someone runs the stats.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  6. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Not sure about that. Recall Lafleur's rather sad attempt at "defence" in the final game of the '81 Canada Cup, in a one-on-one situation...
     
  7. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Sad attempt is much better than no attempt.
     
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  8. Killion

    Killion Registered User

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    Yeah, not the greatest Defensively but then.... comes out of Jr scoring 130 Goals, average of 3.5 PT's per game in his last year with the Remparts... lands in Montreal where by his own admission he was "scared witless"... Jean Beliveau retiring, he expected to replace him and really an entirely different player so unreasonable expectations. He did however tow the line during the Playoffs' when it came to Defensive play, Bowman absolutely insisted on it despite his (and Shutt's) pedigree's, the way they thought & played the game. Thoroughbreds when it came to scoring goals & how. You dont put blinkers on that kind of talent. Lemaire however, Jacques the "defensive conscience" of that line. Complete player who had he wanted to could have been a total scoring machine himself. Most truly gifted 2 way forwards & some totally dedicated Defensive Forwards tremendous offensively but sacrificing that innate ability selflessly for team.

    One year Jacques Lemaire had put up some really decent numbers, with both Shutt & Lafluer topping 50 goals, Lemaire in the low to mid 40's & for the last 10 games or so of the regular season both Shutt & Guy Lafluer were feeding Jacques the puck as much as possible hoping he too would break the 50 Goal threshold however... it appeared Lemaire was deliberately nullifying his opportunities, shooting wide, shooting right at the Goalie etc, and when asked why by Lafluer Lemaire told him that if he scored 50, next year they'd expect him to score 55... then 60 & so on.... and that if he'd mentally made that leap, wouldnt be as effective defensively. He'd be putting pressure on himself to score, the line, the unit far less effective & then when the Playoffs began, be unable to readjust . Guy wasnt great one on one Defensively but as part of that troika, formidable, working in unison. Like Horton & Stanley, or Brewer & Baun, the whole greater than the individual parts. Lemaire the anchor & Field Captain to his Lieutenants in Shutt & Lafleur just as Stanley was to Horton, Baun to Brewer & so on. Some forwards & Centers making the switch from Goal Scoring Wunderkind to Defensive Specialists, Sanderson, Gainey, Carbonneau.... others of course. Depends on a lot of factors.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  9. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    Yes, one on one like a defenseman, against a World Class player while your Team is being humiliated by its biggest rival. Not exactly a great example. And again, at least he was in the defensive zone.
     
  10. daver

    daver Registered User

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    Didn't say you were critiquing Mario, just that you were doing exactly what the bolded says, implying that Mario would not have put up the same numbers with less PPs.

    It's the same thing we hear with McDavid vs. Crosby.
     
  11. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Er... yes, that is exactly what I'm saying.

    Isn't it sort of evident? If you get (a) 500 PP opportunities in a season (Pens 1987-1989), and/or (b) get almost 50% of your points on the PP (Mario in 1995-96), then the player in question is almost certainly not putting up the same numbers with less PPs.

    As a comparison, the Red Wings had 240 PP opportunities in 70 games in 1963-64. Now, what that number would have been c.1951-1955 I don't know.

    I brought this up in (someone else's) context of plus/minus. Lemieux was not particularly strong in five-on-five team dominance, even when the Pens were a strong team. His only truly impressive plus/minus season is 1992-93, not coincidentally (as you pointed out) a season when he got "only" 34% of his points on the PP. (To be fair, his plus/minus in 1996-97 also looks pretty good, esp. considering the Pens didn't have a great season.)

    So, what I'm saying is: If we knew how successful Howe was in his prime at five-on-five play, and we knew exactly how many PP opportunities the Red Wings were getting back then, we could thereby hazard a reasonable guess as to how much the offensive-production between Howe and Mario -- which is already not as big as some of you are suggesting -- would be further narrowed.

    Clear?
     
  12. daver

    daver Registered User

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    We have no idea how a peak Mario would do in Howe's era and vice versa. When you move away from assessing real stats to hypothetical scenarios, I feel an argument has taken a big tumble downwards in credibility.

    Tons of points on the PP =/= weaker at ES.
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Apr 16, 2018
  13. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    I'm not sure if you actually read my post. Nowhere did I suggest or state anything about "hypothetical scenarios". I am talking exclusively about Howe in Howe's era, and Lemieux in Lemieux's.
     
  14. daver

    daver Registered User

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    This hypothetically places one of the two in another scoring environment, one whereby PP opportunities are adjusted one way or the other. What I am saying is we have no idea as to how either player performs in that hypothetical scenario. It is all speculation.

    What you are implying is Mario needed the PP to produce moreso than Howe did explicitly by only believing the gap between them would be "narrowed".

    I can imply that having a former Art Ross winner on your line could have helped Mario as it did Howe and the gap could be widened.

    I suggest just letting the numbers speak for themselves rather than trying manipulate a player closer to another with speculation.
     
  15. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Okay, let me try explaining this [MOD]
    Imagine a scenario like this:

    Player A, for a five-year peak, averages 130 points per season, which is 1st in the NHL. During that same period, the second-best player averages 110 points per season.

    Player B, for a five-year peak in a different, lower-scoring era, averages 100 points per season. During the same period, the second-best player averages 87 points per season.

    So far, from "the raw numbers", we have Player A scoring an average of 20 points per year more than second-best, and we have Player B scoring an average of 13 points per year more than second-best. It appears that Player A is the slightly more dominant (we're just talking about scoring here, of course). But of course we might want to factor in the lower scoring environment as well, and by doing so the 7 points-per-year advantage of Player A might be slightly less -- this is very hard to calculate.

    Then, on top of that, we find that Player A had 30% more power-play opportunities than the second-best player he beat by 20 points per year. And Player A had 80% more power-play opportunities, in a higher-scoring era, than Player B (let's assume Players A & B each produce points on power-play-opportunities at around the same rates of frequency).

    If we knew all this, we could reasonably conclude that Player A's offensive peak is not as high over Player B as it first appeared from the raw numbers.
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Apr 16, 2018
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  16. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I understand the statistics behind it. The fact that Player A and Player B did not play at the same time limits the comparison to a performance vs. peers.

    I could care less about PP opportunities in relation to a the 2nd best player or to Player B. It brings in speculation pure and simple that the 2nd best player might produce more or Player B might produce more. Offensive production is offensive production no matter how it is generated.

    Mario's dominant ES scoring pace in 92/93 should put this to rest anyways, but you trying to highlight that he "only" had 34% of his points from the PP points to a bias on your part towards Howe. That Mario was able to obliterate the league in PP points should confirm his status as argubly the 2nd best offensive player of all-time rather than be viewed as a negative in relation to a peer. It can be viewed as a positive as it kept his production at a more elite level than Wayne's later in his career.

    If teams didn't want Mario killing them on the PP then they should have tried to not take as many penalties against him. That didn't seem to work out very well for the majority of his career did it?
     
  17. ImporterExporter

    ImporterExporter I troll harder than Poppy

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    Strictly offensively speaking Mario edges Howe in terms of pure peak IMO. We're talking about a guy who put up 199 points in a single season. Who put up 161 in 70 at age 30. 91 in 67 in the DPE at nearly 38 years of age.

    BUT, if we're taking the full scope of hockey and impact on the game overall, I have to say Howe. From 50-51 through 53-54 Howe won the Art Ross 4 straight times (over players like Richard, Lindsay, Geoffrion etc), won 3 Rocket Richards, 3 assist titles, etc, etc. Sure the pure offensive numbers aren't as grand as Mario but Howe also played a much more complete game and obviously in an era where scoring was nowhere near the roaring 80's and early 90's. And I say all this as a diehard Pens fan who got into hockey because of 66 in the very late 80's. I personally have never seen a more naturally gifted offensive player in my lifetime than Mario. And likely never will.
     
  18. bobholly39

    bobholly39 Registered User

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    The bolded is where you lose me.

    This should have 0 impact on peak. Whether all of their points or half of their points or none of their points are on PP vs ES.

    The only "worth" of looking at PP vs ES production is when trying to project what the player might do the next year. So you might project and say "Player B is more sustainable even if power plays go down - hence I choose player B moving forward". But that's the only worth it has imo.
    When you look at actual completed seasons from the past - it doesn't matter if one had more PP or less than the other. When looking at offense - points are points and count as much on the PP vs ES.
     
  19. daver

    daver Registered User

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    Good thing for Wayne that PPs didn't go up. He would have lost the ES edge in scoring he had over Mario.
     
  20. bobholly39

    bobholly39 Registered User

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    But that's the point though. It's great to talk about PP vs ES for a player like McDavid. "if he can dominate so much on ES just wait and see what he'll do next year with more PP to boost if pps go up!". But all those other guys are done, in the past.

    In the past - points are points, it doesn't matter if they were PP vs ES.


    Lemieux was very reliant on the power play. Maybe if powerplay went down a lot he'd score a lot less, and maybe if power plays went up a lot Gretzky would score a lot more. But it should have no bearing on looking back at their careers imo.
     
  21. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I was being facetious. I completely agree that hypothetical scenarios should have no bearing.
     
  22. Black Gold Extractor

    Black Gold Extractor Registered User

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    League-wide, penalties were being handed out more frequently in most of Lemieux's Art Ross-winning years (with the exception being 1996-97). With the exception of 87-88 and 88-89, the Penguins were penalized at roughly league average rates.

    RkSeasonNHL PPOPIT PPO
    12005-065.85
    21987-885.46 6.25
    31992-935.28 5.24
    41995-965.04 5.12
    51988-895.04 6.14
    61991-925.02 5.29
    72006-074.85
    192007-084.28
    232008-094.16
    251996-974.10 4.13
    342009-103.71
    372010-113.54
    432012-133.32
    452011-123.31
    492013-143.27
    512015-163.11
    522014-153.06
    532017-183.04
    542016-172.99

    Now, consider Lemieux's 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons:

    SeasonGPEVPTSPPPTSSHPTSEV/GPPP/GPSH/GP
    1995-9670737991.041.130.13
    1996-9776793761.040.490.08

    Now, some of Lemieux's drop in PP and SH scoring is due to the loss of PP and PK opportunities (a 20% drop between 95-96 and 96-97). The rest is probably due to deployment. Lemieux was on-ice for 102 PP goals out of Pittsburgh's 109 in 95-96, which probably meant that he was out for entire powerplays (considering that he also sat out 12 games, which probably accounts for the 7 PP goals that he wasn't out for). The following season, he was out for 54 of 77 of Pittsburgh's PP goals, so he was probably being deployed normally on the 1st PP unit. Ultimately, the difference between 161 and 122 points is basically opportunity.

    All that being said, there's no reason to believe that a healthy Lemieux wouldn't regularly defeat anyone outside of Gretzky in a scoring race regardless of circumstance. From the EV VsX thread, Lemieux's 7-year EV pace is 91.3 (his score with health issues is 74), as opposed to Howe's score of 85.1. (For comparison, Jagr has a score of 81, and Esposito has a score of 75.)
     
  23. Thenameless

    Thenameless Registered User

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    As a related aside (it's hard to prove without doing a vast amount of research), but from what I remember watching, I believe that Lemieux tended to draw a lot of penalties. Part of why he had a bad back was from receiving a lot of cross-checks in that area. Also, from a skill-set standpoint I believe he is better equipped to capitalize on power play opportunities than almost any other human that has ever played hockey. Being an offensive savant like Gretzky, while being dominant at even strength, the advantage goes up more in an exponential fashion when a guy like Gretzky of Lemieux plays with the man advantage mostly in the other team's zone.

    Please let me know if I'm seeing this incorrectly. Going to try speculating here. If we take the even strength scenario as the base, we can say players like Gordie Howe and Bobby Orr are "a little better, a little worse, or about the same" as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. On the power play, I would rather have Gretzky and Lemieux because of the strengths that they bring to the table. On the penalty kill, on the other hand, I would MUCH rather have Howe and Orr because of the strengths that they bring to the table.
     
  24. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I think the only reason there is a focus on ES vs. PP is that Wayne had such abnormally high ES point totals vs. his PP totals. Howe was equally strong on the PP and at ES but not more than other stars were at the time in terms of a ES to PP point ratio. I would say the same thing about Mario.

    If we are just looking at peak seasons, Mario has one where he was incredible at ES and outwardly on the PP in '89 and then one where he was outwordly at ES at 1.6 ESPPG (somewhat close to Wayne's best - 1.84) and incredible on the PP. In 92/93, the 2nd best ESPPG was Yzerman at 1.03.

    Howe's peak season saw him with a 0.95 ESPPG vs. 0.77 for Lindsay and .067 for Richard. Not quite as dominant on an ESPPG basis. Ironically, it was Howe's PP totals that really put him over the top that year in terms of PPG dominance.
     
  25. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Just to clarify something, I'm not arguing that power-play points are less important. All points are equal, of course, and I've already pointed out myself that a player like Mario drew a lot of penalties, which is to his credit.

    Rather, I'm using my own subjective impression (which some of you might disagree with -- that's fine) to suggest that dominating scoring by having more power-play opportunities than one's peers is somewhat less impressive than dominating scoring by having the same power-play opportunities as one's peers.

    I'm not biased towards, or even arguing for, Gordie Howe, as someone foolishly accused me of being. I generally consider Lemieux to have had the higher peak. I stated that we won't know about the point I raise until we have the numbers available, if we ever do.

    For the record, and assuming Wayne and Steve Y were Mario's biggest scoring 'competitors' from 1987 to 1990, here is the number of PP opportunities each player's teams had during those seasons:

    1987-88 / 1988-89 / 1989-90
    Mario
    500 / 491 / 403
    Total: 1394

    Wayne
    402 / 395 / 343
    Total: 1140

    Steve Y
    383 / 352 / 354
    Total: 1089

    In other words, Mario's teams had 300+ more power plays over the three seasons than Yzerman's. And we saw how, in 1988-89, Yzerman nearly matched Lemieux's greatest season in ES scoring. For me, this raises the possibility that Lemieux's scoring dominance in these three seasons is somewhat less "dominant" (subjectively speaking) than it first appears.

    Now, if we run the numbers on Howe c.1951 to 1955, it may turn out that the Red Wings had more PP opportunities than every other team (that's certainly possible), and the point I'm raising will be irrelevant. It would be interesting to find out.
     
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