Big 4: 2 Questions

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by MIAtoBKLYN, Mar 26, 2018.

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  1. quoipourquoi

    quoipourquoi Goaltender

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    Bobby Hull
    Doug Harvey
    Howie Morenz
    Jean Beliveau
    Maurice Richard
    Patrick Roy

    Maybe
    Eddie Shore
    Frank Nighbor
    Jacques Plante
    Jaromir Jagr
    Mark Messier
    Ray Bourque
    Terry Sawchuk


    What unique mixture is that?

    Hey, this guy has scoring titles AND Stanley Cups! So unique!

    Crosby has two scoring titles. Roy has four save percentage titles. Crosby finished top-10 in 10 seasons. Roy finished top-10 in 15 seasons.

    Crosby has two Conn Smythe Trophies in three Championships and four Finals. Roy has three with another Cup and Final.

    Crosby's teams have never won the league title/President's Trophy - which used to be considered a much bigger accomplishment than it is now. The Penguins have only won the division title on four occasions. Roy's teams won two President's Trophies and 11 division titles.

    Crosby has two MVPs. Roy took a 1st Team selection over a Hart winner in 2001-02 (deemed better, but not more valuable) and had maybe his best season in 1988-89 (33-5, undefeated at home, save percentage title by a touchdown), so I don't know that he's necessarily lacking in terms of top-end performance even though he's not Terry Sawchuk.

    But I would take a few of Roy's seasons over 2006-07 Roberto Luongo and 2013-14 Ryan Getzlaf, even if I wouldn't necessarily take them over 1988-89 Mario Lemieux or 1989-90 and 1991-92 Mark Messier. I don't know that Crosby would necessarily beat out those three seasons either.

    It's four 1st Team selections and three 2nd Team selections against four 1st Team selections, two 2nd Team selections, and two more Vezina nominations.


    If it's the perfect career, why are there no fewer than three forwards with better ones, and why are we talking about things being taken from him? Wouldn't not suffering a major issue four times in six seasons be more perfect?


    Um... no. If I need to draft a Center after the big names, I'm giving Beliveau and Messier as much of a look as Crosby. They're not just Captains; they're Generals. Or Admirals, because they're kind of on water.

    But realistically, I'm taking Harvey, Bourque, Plante, or Roy on the unicorn theory. Crosby's one of the best in a bucket of all-offensive forwards. But a player like Patrick Roy? He shaped the way his position is played. Literally. Goaltending equipment is shaped differently to allow for repetitive butterfly movement.

    Crosby is really good, but let's not inflate his relevance just because he's a current player. Hockey history is long. Lot of Centers before 1980. Lot of positions besides Center. Lot of players who were healthier.

    Telling me who is number five and saying "think about it" is less effective than explaining why.
     
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  2. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    Howe scored 8 points in a 4-0 sweep in his non-finals games, Detroit holding Toronto to just 6 goals scored. What more should he have done? I'm not suggesting Crosby would have to go 12-0 with 24 points to match that, but I'm not sure how you figure he was better.

    You seem to have gone off on a tangent from the original premise, which was your suggestion that Howe's best playoff was not at Gretzky/Orr/Lemieux level, which I contested. A forensic audit of the first 13 years of Howe's playoff career as it relates to Crosby's career may be a perfectly fine discussion topic, but I'm not sure how it is intended to rebut my assertion that Howe's 1955 playoffs is right up there with the best of all time.

    First bold: This seems to imply that I have suggested a player's expected offensive output is always directly proportional to opponent defensive strength. This was certainly not my intention. The amount of goals surrendered over the course of a 70+ game regular season is, in my estimation, a reasonable proxy of a team's defensive strength unless compelling evidence is provided that suggests it was misleading. I'm not sure how you can quantify a team's playoff-only defensive performance against a specific opponent when that opponent comprises 100% of the sample size. Theoretically every playoff GF Detroit scored against Toronto devalued all the other ones because it increased Toronto's playoff GA. That is completely illogical.

    Second bold: Perhaps they do. I acknowledged this in my previous post. Why are Gretzky/Lemieux/Orr being treated as sacred cows who's best playoff runs could never be approached by any other player?

    Your reasonable consideration seems quite reluctant to factor in schedule/opponent strength imbalances, which can be hugely different from year to year. Don't feel bad though, this has been a largely overlooked factor by most people on this board for quite some time. I'm likely guilty of it myself if you were to go back years into the archive. "Letting the numbers speak for themselves" without digging any deeper provides little insight.

    You have yet to present a case as to why the best playoff run of 99/66/4 is definitively better than Howe's best. All your efforts have been put towards comparing Howe to Crosby, Beliveau, Geoffrion, and others. If Gretzky and company's top run was so much better than Howe's top run, it should be an easy case to make.
     
  3. daver

    daver Registered User

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    Mario and Wayne's best runs were clearly offensively superior compared to their teammates/era peers where Howe's was is not. They both had runs that were befitting their regular season dominance, Howe's less so. I think that is statistically inarguable.

    That being said, I am not unopen to a discussion about how to statistically compare a four series playoff run in a 21 team league vs. a two series playoff run in a six team league.

    I know you like to point out the relative defensive strengths of teams. IMO, the overall strength of a team is more important. Asking if Wayne and Mario's point totals were inflated relative to Howe's based on playing teams that would be #5 seeds and not make the playoffs in Howe's era is reasonable.

    Giving priority to the SCF is not unreasonable but I think there needs to be some consideration for the fact that eliminates three series for Wayne and Mario and only one for Howe. Perhaps inclusion of the SFs to Wayne and Mario's #'s makes sense in a 21 team league (as opposed to the 2nd and 3rd round in a 30 team league). In theory, the SF's is the best four teams (the top 20%) out of a 21 team league vs. the SCF being the best two teams (the top 33%) out of a six team league.

    Here are Wayne's two best SF/SCF runs by points and PPG:

    NHL.com - Stats

    25 points in 10 games, 2.50 PPG. The next non-teammate is Brian Propp at 8 points (0.80 PPG). You can argue that the gap between him and the next best scorers on the Oilers is similar to the gap between Howe and the next best scorers on the Wings.

    NHL.com - Stats

    21 points in 8 games, 2.63 PPG. The next non-teammate is Ken Linseman at 12 points (1.20 PPG). There is a significantly higher gap between him and the next best scorers on the Oilers.


    And Mario's: NHL.com - Stats

    27 points in 11 games, 2.45 PPG. The next non-teammate is Dave Gagner at 13 points (1.30 PPG), the same as Howe. The gap between him and the next best scorers on the Pens is arguably the biggest gap of the three.

    So Mario has the highest point total, Wayne has the highest PPG and biggest gap on a non-teammate, and Wayne and Mario both have similar gaps on their teammates.


    I would say both Mario and Wayne's best were better than Howe's best as expected.
     
  4. HawkNut

    HawkNut Registered User

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    I really think Shore needs to be mentioned more when talking about top five or coming close to it.
     
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  5. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    That Wayne and Mario have higher raw point outputs than Howe is not the least bit surprising. Howe being tasked with scoring against Jacques Plante and three Hall of Fame defensemen, including Doug Harvey, in the majority of his playoff GP seems to have been given little consideration. Nor the fact that Howe was required to play responsible defensive hockey rather than all-out offense. Gretzky anihilating Murray Bannerman for 18 points is fantastic, but also necessary seeing as Chicago scored a ridiculous 25 goals themselves in the 6-game semi final. Lemieux having a 3-point night against Minnesota doesn't reveal that the Penguins were scored on shorthanded twice. The raw numbers without any context only offer a limited view. Gretzky's and Lemieux's best runs may well be better than Howe's, but it is not nearly the walkover you are trying to imply with the offensive totals.
     
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  6. daver

    daver Registered User

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    It wasn't about raw point totals, I was using the same metrics you used to highlight Howe's playoff run: PPG/point totals vs. the best non teammates' PPG/point total, and points/ppg vs. other notable runs of the same era. I also mentioned the point totals of teammates/linemates too as I think that is relevant but that has never been acknowledged by you. Neither Wayne or Mario had the quality of linemate that Lindsay was. Not sure the relevance of the Hawks' point totals other than to reinforce Wayne's performance.

    And being tasked with "scoring against Jacques Plante and three Hall of Fame defensemen, including Doug Harvey" seems like an empty claim given the Habs were a distant 3rd in GA that season. You would expect better of a defense laden with HOF players wouldn't you? I find it a bit strange how that claim is all of sudden relevant when you seem to be pretty strict about evaluating defensive strength on GAs. Narrative like this seems to always come up after a statistical claim has been shown to be weak.

    In '85, Wayne faced the the 9th best GA and 3rd best in the Flyers (only four goals from #1). In terms of the defensive strength of their respective opponents, that seems to be a wash (Hawks = Habs, Flyers = Leafs). Actually Howe played a higher % of his games against the weaker defensive team than Wayne did.

    As for the relative defensive abilities/contributions of all three players, I view this generally as a way to differentiate forwards with similar offensive resumes and abilities. That is not the case here, especially when we are talking about two players whose mere presence tilted the ice. And I don't think Wayne had the rep of cheating like Mario did in the regular season, let alone the playoffs.

    At the end of the day, it's about who separated themselves from their peers more using offensive production, the primary role of a top 6 forward, as the primary metric. Wayne and Mario clearly have better runs even under the strict conditions you have set in which to evaluate the best playoff run:

    Cup winning
    Considering defensive strength
    PPG Vs. non teammates
    In the most crucial series

    The eye test that Wayne and Mario clearly stood out as one would have expected based on their regular season performances passes here.

    The eye test that Howe would arguably have the best playoff run of his era as one would have expected based on his regular season passes too. He has the best peak season of his era, and multiple other seasons that were close to the very best individual seasons of Hull, Mikita and Belliveau, so it should be no surprise that while his best individual run was clearly among the best, it should be no surprise that a Belliveau and a Mikita were able to match that performance themselves.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  7. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    "25 points in 10 games, 2.50 ppg"

    "27 points in 11 games, 2.45 ppg"

    These seem like raw point totals to me. You seem to be implying that the scoring environment in 1955 was comparable to that in 1985 or 1991. The degree to which Gretzky and Lemieux outscored their teammates/opponents is a relevant point. Howe fares well by that metric as well.

    The relevance of Chicago scoring 25 goals in a series should be clear. The Oilers' offensive explosion in this series came at a cost of allowing a huge amount of goals the other way. A player who scores 2 points in a 2-1 win should not be considered to have contributed less than a player who scored 3 points in an 8-6 loss, but that is what the raw point totals would have us believe.

    The fact that Montreal, with those HOF personnel, was 3rd in GA should reinforce that it was a lot tougher to score goals in the 1955 NHL. The defensive strength of these opponents may well be a wash in comparison to average league conditions, but in absolute terms it was way easier to score against the 1985 Hawks and Flyers. And since you are using raw point totals/per game metrics, this hugely advantages Gretzky in a comparison to Howe.

    That you only view non-offensive contributions as a "tie-breaker" between elite offensive players is short-sighted IMO. Defense is 50% of the game, regardless of how good or bad a player is offensively. The idea that Gretzky and Lemieux scored so many points that "defense didn't matter" is a popular notion, so you're not alone in that regard. I would re-phrase it as "Gretzky and Lemieux scored so many points that even with their defensive shortcomings, they were still among the most very valuable overall contributors in history". [Gretzky moreso than Lemieux, who was just plain lousy defensively for much of his career.] Gordie Howe did not need to score as much as they did to have the same impact.

    The object of the game is to win, not achieve certain offensive benchmarks. The primary role of a top line forward is to produce more than they give up the other way. 1-0 or 10-9, the result is similar. The guy who is part of the 10-9 game will look way better on the back of a hockey card though.

    Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe all won the Cup in their best run. Howe and Gretzky's teams both went 8-3 in the final two rounds, Lemieux also 8-3 with one game missed injured. Gretzky and Lemieux scored more than Howe, which was necessary because they gave up more goals. The only place you can find apparent separation is in the offensive counting stats. Which leads us right back to my original premise that Howe's best playoff simply appears to be way below Gretzky/Lemieux/Orr because of the raw offensive numbers.
     
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  8. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I was not implying anything. Those are needed in order to compare to teammates/opponents.

    They are a starting point though. As in, who else had those types of numbers during Wayne and Mario's era? Noone.

    Who else had those types of numbers during Howe's era? A couple to a handful.
     
  9. daver

    daver Registered User

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    It appears to be below because no other players were close to Wayne and Mario's best runs during their era, while there were players close to Howe.

    And that is the fairest way to compare them given to eliminate differences in scoring environments.
     
  10. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    To use the two-round SF/Final example, Paul Coffey - a defenseman - had 25 points in 11 games (same as Gretzky), while Jari Kurri had 22 in 11 in 1985. Mike Bossy had 11 goals/15 points while his team went 8-0 in the SF/Final in 1982.

    Didn't reach the final, but Rick Middleton had 27 points in 13 games (Adams Final, Wales Final) in 1983. Barry Pederson had 25 in those same games.

    So it would seem that indeed a couple of players besides 99/66 could put up those types numbers in isolated spurts.
     
  11. daver

    daver Registered User

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    So Coffey and Kurri are not influenced by Wayne?

    Bossy's 15 points in 8 games is clearly below Wayne's and Mario's PPG so no, that is not close.

    As for the Bruins, since you now want to change the parameters that you have established to look at the 2nd and 3rd rounds, can I do the same for Wayne and Mario? And does this mean that the SCF is now not as important let alone winning it? If so,

    Stan Mikita has the better run than Howe since you are now OK with changing your parameters.

    Wayne had 13 points in four games in the '85 QF to go with his 18 in six games, a 3.10 PPG that blows away Middleton and Pederson.
     
  12. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    Never said they weren't. Was Wayne not aided by them? You seem to have taken my statement of Howe exceeding the point totals of his nearest non-linemates from pages back as some sort of iron-clad observation that is pertinent to any and all other situations. Establishing a highly rigid criteria by which playoff performances are to be judged was not and is not my intention. If the logical conclusion to this is trying to get me to concede that Howe had help from Lindsay...yes, yes he did. Why should anyone suspect otherwise?

    Bossy's point total was very goal-heavy; generally more value is assigned to a goal than an assist, so I gave it mention. Make of it what you will.

    I established parameters for what I would consider a potential "best playoffs of all time", and yes for me that requires winning a Stanley Cup. Pointing out that other players had two-series offensive explosions equal or close to the Gretzky example you cited doesn't contravene anything. You asked the question, I answered.

    Stan Mikita in 62 falls slightly short of Howe in 55, using my parameters. That he exceeds Howe using yours is not surprising, considering the heavy value you assign to offensive stats. Neither position is indefensible, both had fantastic playoff runs.
     
  13. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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  14. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I guess all of this starts with comparing Crosby to Howe. In terms of playoff resumes through their first 13 years, and overall for that matter, I don't see where Crosby has any real weaknesses in comparison to Howe in terms of great series, great runs, and great SCFs other than longevity. I don't think that position is indefensible. At the end of the day, both players really separated themselves from everyone else (save for Malkin) with the quantity of the elite playoff runs moreso than the quality, at least from an offensive production perspective.

    In terms of the OP, Howe's playoff legacy is gettable for Crosby. You look at Howe's playoff prime, '51 to '64, and it's not that much above Crosby's playoff prime, '07 to current, in terms of points, goals, and PPG vs. their respective peers. The Wings were likely the 2nd best team over that time frame (RS and POs) although the Leafs won four Cups to Wings three. The Pens are the top team during Crosby's playoff prime and close to becoming a dynasty moreso than Howe's Wings.

    But that doesn't necessarily mean it puts him in the Big Four conversation unless he does something that puts him above everyone else except for Wayne (maybe Wayne is gettable too based on our discussions).

    But that, plus a longer period of being at the top of league than Howe and Wayne were, or more concretely, more seasons that challenge Howe's top end seasons could force a conversation about a Big 5.

    In terms of peak, Howe has the 4th best regular season of all-time, that is indefensible. His four season "peak" is 3rd best but Mario's best four years also has a case. But when we look at seasons individually, I don't think his other best seasons were that much better than the other best seasons of his era from Belliveau, Hull and Mikita, and seasons from Jagr, Yzerman, Malkin, and Espositio. I don't think that is an indefensible position.

    Crosby's peak season (s) were not complete so his name is missing from that list. That his peak level of performance should be mentioned with the other 2nd tier players is not an indefensible position, or to put another way, Crosby not having a full season at his peak should not preclude him from being in the tier of those who do. But even if Crosby had one or two seasons at his peak, that doesn't really change the gap between him and Howe or what Crosby would need to do in order to surpass Howe in longevity of prime (i.e. being at the top of the league).

    One metric, PPG dominance vs. their peers, puts Crosby's first 13 seasons in a place that is arguably only surpassed by Wayne, Mario and Howe.
     
  15. Kyle McMahon

    Kyle McMahon Registered User

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    I think at this point we've probably stated our case on all the talking points.

    The only thing I'll point out is that the 1950-55 Red Wings are pretty much universally considered a dynasty, so I'm not sure why the Penguins are "close to becoming a dynasty moreso than Howe's Wings".
     
  16. daver

    daver Registered User

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    I meant the Wing's teams that Howe was a major part of. He did not play a role in their '50 Cup run. So that leaves three Cups in four years from 52 to 55 that hardly stands out in Howe's era as a dynasty. Both the Leafs and Habs bettered that twice in between 46 and 71.

    Pound for pound, I would say it's pretty close between the two in comparing their contributions to their three Cups, and perhaps an edge to Crosby if we include 2008 and the fact that the Wings won the Cup in 1950 without Howe.
     

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