Lemieux vs. Orr: The two greatest injury-stunted careers

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by VanIslander, Oct 13, 2018.

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  1. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    I am sure that Gretzky and Howe have been the greatest in terms of combining peak and career accomplishments both in the regular season and playoffs. They did it. No what ifs needed.

    In contrast, Orr and Lemieux are arguably more talented, but certainly less accomplished due to injuries that were more crippling than Gretz's back.

    WHICH ONE WOULD BE GREATER WITHOUT INJURIES, LEMIEUX OR ORR?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
  2. rfournier103

    rfournier103 Registered User

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    Orr.
     
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  3. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    Thanks. I'm convinced now.
     
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  4. steve141

    steve141 Registered User

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    I think rfournier103 took your tag line "Don't waste my time" literally.

    For what it's worth, he's right. The answer is Orr.
     
  5. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    I can't decide, really. It's a toss-up.

    My guess is that we saw Orr at his best, from about 1968 to 1975, including two Cup championships. By nature of the way he played, Orr shortened his own career; on the other hand, the way he played meant that he wasn't holding anything back. Likewise, we also saw Lemieux at his best, from about 1987 to 1990, and then the '91/'92 playoffs, the 1992-93 and 1995-96 seasons. So as far as peak ability goes, neither lost anything to injury.

    Had Orr been healthy through the 70s, does Boston win one more Cup over Montreal? I think it's possible. And if Lemieux had been going full strength, would the Pens have been closer in 1993-94 and in 1995? Also possible. (It's even possible the Pens would have made the playoffs as early as '87 if Mario hadn't missed some games.) Each player might have lost one Stanley Cup due to their own missed games.
     
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  6. JackSlater

    JackSlater Registered User

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    Orr. We've already seen what an incredible offensive forward can do with a long, healthy career. We've never seen what a player like Orr could do. Healthy Orr also has a better chance than healthy Lemieux to change some Stanley Cup results.
     
  7. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Orr since he could influence a game offensively and defensively.
     
  8. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    Interesting point!
    I don't know which one totally healthy could have made a bigger difference. I'd need to look close specifically at that.
     
  9. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Thinking this over again, I'm gonna go with Orr also.

    The reason is that I'm not quite sure that Mario could bring it at 100% for the full grind of games, season after season, regardless of health. The stats kind of show that Mario was at his most dangerous after periods of rest, and that when the seasons got long and the grind got hard, he struggled a bit. He was such a physical freak of nature that he could eat donuts and play golf all summer and then score 38 points in the first 11 games of the season (fall 1988), but he tended to slow down as long seasons wore on. We do know that Orr could bring it full strength for the long haul, even if the way he played wore him down.
     
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  10. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    So, you're saying he had an inner Tkachuk.
     
  11. BigBadBruins7708

    BigBadBruins7708 Registered User

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    It's Orr.

    He never was fully healthy, playing on various knee issues through his career.

    Also don't forget Orr played his last real season at age 26.

    3x Hart
    2x Ross
    2x Cup
    2x Smythe
    8x Norris
    1.39 ppg, 915pts in 657 games

    All by age 26.

    If he has health and plays to 35 that means we get to see him in the high flying 80s next to Bourque.

    It's not out of the question to figure he missed out on

    1-3 Harts
    1-3 Ross
    2 Cups (74 and 79 for sure)
    5-8 Norris
    800-1000 points.

    If Orr had a full career the debate with Gretzky for GOAT is neck and neck
     
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  12. Dennis Bonvie

    Dennis Bonvie Registered User

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    Being a defenseman, its a lot more likely that Orr's game would have matured more so than Mario's.

    Orr was 26 in his last full season. Most defensemen are still learning the position at that point.
     
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  13. ChiTownPhilly

    ChiTownPhilly Not Too Soft

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    Here's the simplest reason why I'll go along with the conventional wisdom response- Orr:

    Orr was essentially finished as a productive NHLer after the age of 26. His résumé is basically frozen at that point.

    Tallying up all of the chunks taken out of Lemieux's career between the time he broke in and age 26 roughly equals 1½ seasons. Still managed two Smythes in two of the three seasons there that involved the most time-loss. By way of juxtaposition, Orr also lost a significant number of games from the time he broke in to playing age 26- about a season's worth. That didn't stop him from his Norris 8-peat, and two Smythes of his own.

    Everything Lemieux accomplished after the age of 26 (and it should be remembered that he had as many Rosses and Pearsons [Lindsays] on or after playing age 27 as he did before playing age 27) were accomplishments that Orr had no opportunity to match, owing to the fact that he was finished at that age.

    It might be a little too pointed to say that ultimately, we're all judged by what we did, rather than by what we could have done. [And I actually don't fully embrace that sentiment either- since we all have our own perspectives on player-culpability (or non-culpability) for various time-loss issues.] But that's a viewpoint best saved for another discussion.
     
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  14. rfournier103

    rfournier103 Registered User

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    My apologies, Vanislander. I was a little short on time earlier, but wanted to throw my two cents in. I can expand a little bit more now, although most of the points I would make have already been covered by other posters. I typically don't care for "what ifs," but I'm procrastinating on doing some much needed housekeeping (shows you how much I really don't want to do it).

    Both players have two Stanley Cup championships. Both have two Conn Smythe awards. Pretty even there. Lemieux has six Art Ross awards to Orr's two. However, since Orr is a defenseman, I think the fact he has even one Art Ross on his resume is more impressive since no other defenseman has had one. Has another defenseman even finished number two in scoring? If so, my money would be on Paul Coffey. I digress...

    I guess I'm going to make my stand based on one series. That would be the infamous 1979 "Too Many Men on the Ice" series against the Canadiens. I was four years old at the time, so I don't remember it. I had other priorities and it was on past my bedtime.

    Anyway, the Bruins battled the mighty dynastic Canadiens to an absolute standstill and it took a colossal Bruins blunder and the greatest goal ever scored by Guy Lafleur for Montreal to win the series. As it stands, it is in my opinion the greatest series in NHL history. I despise the result, but for drama, I can't think of a better series ever.

    So what happens if a healthy Bobby Orr (still playing for Boston) plays in that series in an alternate timeline?
    I have to believe that a healthy Orr would have been the difference in Game 7.

    Lets assume that Coach Cherry still replaces Cheevers with Gilbert after Game Two.

    In our universe, Games One; Two; and Five were decided by two; three; and four goals respectively. In the alternate universe, I'll assume that Montreal still wins those games - but with the addition of Bobby Orr, the scores are much closer.

    I'll also assume that the Bruins win Games Three, Four, and Six at home just as they did in our timeline. In our universe, Games Three and Four were decided by one goal. Game Six was decided by three goals. The Bruins were gaining momentum.

    Which brings us to Game Seven. History as we know it has the Bruins losing 5-4 in overtime.

    But with Orr and Park on defense together, once the Bruins built their lead, they would more likely than not add to it, or at least maintain it. But how would Orr do offensively? There really IS no way of knowing. What I did was take Orr's career playoff stats and average them out like he was in a bowling league. In 74 career playoff games, Orr averaged .351 goals per game; .891 assists per game; and 1.243 points per game. So, over this seven game series, lets say he had a line of 3-6-9. I did a little rounding up to make some of the numbers work. I don't think that's a bad line for this series. It puts Orr behind Guy Lafleur's 12 points and ties Jean Ratelle's 9 points for the series. Very good for a defenseman, I think.

    I believe that Orr sets up at least one more Boston goal in regulation and the Bruins survive the Montreal onslaught in the third period. The too many men on the ice penalty becomes a footnote as the Bruins hold on for a 5-4 win in regulation and easily dispose of the Rangers in the Finals.

    So, what's my point? My point is that Orr earns a signature playoff triumph against a dragon he was never able to slay in our timeline. What is or would be Mario's? This wasn't trouncing the expansion St. Louis Blues in a four game sweep. This was a hockey donnybrook that resulted in a 15 round knockout. Yes, Orr still has his iconic 1970 Cup-clincher, but he never had a series like this one. Only the 2004 ALCS triumph of the Red Sox over the Yankees could compare to the '79 Semi-Final had it gone the Bruins' way. It paves the way for a THIRD Stanley Cup championship for Orr; possibly a third Conn Smythe (however, I think Gilles Gilbert gets it); and makes Orr a hero in a bitterly contested series for the ages. Orr's Bruins even take a nice big bite out of the Montreal dynasty to boot. Even had Mario Lemieux remained healthy, would he EVER have faced anyone as fearsome as the 1979 Canadiens? No. No way in hell.

    This one game in this one series changes so much for Bobby Orr. Leaving 1979 aside for a moment - could there have been other Stanley Cup championships? Maybe. More scoring and bigger stats? Absolutely. The whole structure of the NHL changes with a healthy Orr skating for the Boston Bruins.

    My two cents.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
  15. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    Nice. Now apply the same analysis to a healthy Lemieux: What difference would a fully functioning Mario & Jagr Pens have made in the latter half of the nineties?

    Do the Americans still win the 1996 World Cup? Do the Czechs still win the 1998 Olympics? Does Washington or Buffalo even get to the Stanley Cup Finals?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
  16. rfournier103

    rfournier103 Registered User

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    Any Penguins fans want to pick up the ball and run with it?
     
  17. Thenameless

    Thenameless Registered User

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    I don't like rfournier103's revised version of history, as the Lafleur slapshot late in the third period is my favourite moment in all of sports, but it's certainly plausible in an alternate universe.:)

    I'm more of a Lemieux fan, though I have the ultimate respect for Bobby Orr. I think if both play out healthy careers, Bobby Orr would come out with a bit of an edge. With healthy knees to the end of his career, Orr might have won around 15 Norris trophies and relegated Bourque to Seabrook status versus Keith. Orr would have probably retired as the highest scoring defenseman of all time, even with Bourque and Coffey playing through he 80's. He's already universally considered the best defenseman of all time, so another healthy decade-plus would just add to and further cement that legacy into possibly being the greatest player of all time period.

    With Lemieux, playing a full, healthy career, there are quite a few upsides as well. He would almost definitely have two 200+ point seasons (with one of them possibly challenging Gretzky's 215 point season record) and possibly even a third. Even though he didn't start as well as Gretzky from his draft year, he did seem to age a bit better when it comes to just pure goal scoring. I still see Gretzky with a big edge in career point totals, but it's very possible that Lemieux dethrones him for career goals (especially having the advantage of knowing what total he has to reach if Gretzky still retires in 99).

    In short, Bobby Orr likely plays out as the greatest hockey player of all time because of the uniqueness of his accomplishments - an endless string of Norris Trophies, only defenseman to ever win the Art Ross (twice for good measure), over the top all-around game. Gretzky and Lemieux would end up "hurting" each other had Lemieux been able to play out a full, healthy career because now you'd have two super-dominant multiple Art Ross/Hart/Pearson winners that broke the 200 point barrier.
     
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  18. rfournier103

    rfournier103 Registered User

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    No takers? Ok. I'll bite.

    I think Lemieux would have had an advantage for one simple reason - lesser competition.

    Had Orr remained healthy past 1976, and continued playing throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, he and the Bruins would have had the Montreal Canadiens (Stanley Cup champions in 1976; '77; '78; and '79), and the New York Islanders (Stanley Cup champions in 1980; '81; 82; and '83) to contend with. As I said before - tough dragons to slay. If we give Orr a full 20 seasons in the league, then he gets the treat of meeting Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers (Stanley Cup champions in 1984 and 1985). Orr retires in 1986 with Montreal getting another bite at the apple. In Orr's 20 seasons from 1966-'67 to 1985-'86, 6 teams win the Cup. The Maple Leafs; the Canadiens; the Bruins; the Flyers; the Islanders; and the Oilers. ALL of these teams were great. Not good - GREAT. Loaded with Hall of Famers all of them.

    Had Mario remained healthy, these are/were the championship teams he would have faced. Yes, he played some of these seasons, but they would still have been roadblocks (1993 to 2006) for a healthy Mario to overcome: The Canadiens (1993); the Rangers (1994); the Devils (1995; 2000; and '03), the Avalanche (1996; and 2001), the Red Wings (1997; '98; and 2002), the Stars (1999), the Lightning (2004), and the Hurricanes (2006). NONE of these teams are even close to being as good as the teams that won the Cup in the 'Orr Era' (1966-1986). Not a "dragon" among them. Except for Pittsburgh.

    I'd say that a fully healthy Mario erases one or more of these champions. Who it would be is very hard to say. I don't know who would have had the better career had BOTH Lemieux and Orr been 100% healthy, but I do know that Lemieux would have had the easier row to hoe.
     
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  19. rfournier103

    rfournier103 Registered User

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    I worked very hard on that 'alternate history.' I hope you were entertained! Thankfully for you, I do not have the power to go back and actually alter the past ;)

    An amazing series, and like I said - I think the best ever.

    PS: Great post.
     
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  20. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Didn't matter at all in the 1993, 1996, 1997 playoffs.
     
  21. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    LOL.

    Like a healthy Orr didn't matter in the 1971, 1973, 1974 and 1975 playoffs.
     
  22. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Issue you raised touched Jagr and Lemieux.
     
  23. Thenameless

    Thenameless Registered User

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    Well, if he didn't have a bad back, and had never gotten Hodgkins he might have actually been an even slightly better player.
     
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  24. Canadiens1958

    Canadiens1958 Registered User

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    Interesting but there is one dragon that Bobby Orr could not slay, namely the small ice surface at the Boston Garden the produced rosters of at best average skaters who could not skate well enough on a regulation rink to compete.

    Mario Lemieux no chance as long as Mario dictated the choice of coach, style of play and team roster. When Bowman left after 1993 he took the possibility of future SCs with him.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
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  25. ImporterExporter

    ImporterExporter I troll harder than Poppy

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    Orr.

    And I'm a diehard Pens fan who got into hockey because of 66.

    Orr simply owned the ice whenever he was on it. And he owned every square inch, in both capacities. As amazing as Mario was (most naturally gifted played I've personally seen in my lifetime) he simply didn't impact the game in a complete fashion as Orr did.
     

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