npv708 wrote: mikey287 wrote:
npv708 wrote:Would it make y'all happy if I said Gretzky is the 2nd greatest player in NHL history, imho?
Behind Orr or Howe?
It's a major stretch to call Gretzky anything but the best, I'd be happy to take to the defense of Gretzky if you'd like to go there...I love these type of debates because so much can be learned from them. And it's very, very rare that historical discussion is brought up here...
Sorry, I meant top 2.
I think the Lemieux/Gretzky debate is extremely similar to the Roy/Brodeur debate.
In the Roy/Brodeur debate, I always side with Roy, because although there were times when he had the support structure in place to succeed (96) the majority of his career was not spent in a system dedicated to insulating him from shots, with a tight system that sought to prevent offense.
The same thing goes for Gretzky/Lemieux, but in a different sense. Gretzky came into the league to a team that pretty much had all the parts in place and those that weren't in place, they went out and got them. Kurri, Messier, Coffey were basically better anything Mario had until the 90's, when Recchi, Jagr, Francis, and Coffey came around to the Pens. Also, the Early 80's Oilers played a game better suited to Gretzky's style, run and gun, score as many goals as possible and hope Fuhr could stop enough. Between 86-89, the Pens played a very different style that did not really emphasize offense, especially considering that in that time, Lemieux was pretty much the entire offense. Additionally, Gretzky had a huge advantage that Mario really never had until the 90's, which was physical protection. Gretzky always had an enforcer ready to defend him, whereas Mario was taken advantage of often by opposing teams.
If you look at 80-86 as the run and gun era, then you also have to look at 95 - 2004 as the clutch and grab era (thank you lou...). Mario spent 8 years playing in that era, while Gretzky only played 4 years.
When they were on more even playing ground, between 86 - 94, you saw Mario put up extremely close numbers to Gretzky, even though he was consistently battling through health problems.
The amazing thing about Lemieux is that even though he spent a good part of his career in a league that stifled offense (95-2004) he still has a 1.88 PPG in the regular season, while Gretkzy had a ridiculous amount of advantages and managed a 1.92 PPG. I think if you were to hypothetically move Lemieux's career 4 more years earlier, and put him on a team with the talent of the dynasty Oilers, there's no question in my mind who have been the all-time point leader in NHL history.
Alright, we got something (I haven't read it yet, I'm just gonna write as I see - so I may be disorganized).
First, there's really no debate to this unfortunately. There is a very big divide between the top-4 players of all time and the "rest"...the order of the four is debatable, but not the fact there's four. Gretzky, Orr, Howe and Lemieux have clearly seperated themselves from their peers on a (likely) historically untouchable level in every facet of the game. They dominated their competition like no other. Patrick Roy is as good of a guy to put there being the second best "money" player of all-time and he's in the debate for best goalie...but there's tangible evidence that would suggest that he's not best and whether it's true or not, the fact that reasonable evidence exists keeps him from that top-4.
There's nothing that's tangibly reasonable that allows any other player to penetrate the foursome of 99, 4, 9 and 66.
Getting into a Roy/Brodeur debate (assuming that we're leaving out the other candidates for best of all-time) is too far reaching to be encompassed in a Gretzky thread.
Gretzky did not come onto a team that had all its parts in place. Gretzky was the part. When the WHA merged with the NHL in 1979, the WHA teams were hosed. They were only allowed to protect 2 players, they had to pay millions in franchise fees and they picked last in the next entry draft (Oilers dead last). In addition, the Oilers signing of Anton Gustafsson (stand-out Swede) was rejected. I mean, who was on that '80 team that won with them in '83? Kevin Lowe?
Meanwhile, a rookie Gretzky (who led the league in points, tied with Marcel Dionne on the all-offense Kings) Robbie Brown'd Blair MacDonald...McDonald on Gretzky's line had 46 goals (of his career 91), 48 assists (of his career 100) and 94 points (of his career 191) that season...like Brown, he's quickly out of the league in short order after that...quicker than Brown in terms of sticking around North American hockey...
The pieces are later assembled, certainly and way better than what Lemieux has to deal with in the 90's...however, what Gretzky did to his peers is unspeakable...
This is Gretzky vs. 2nd place
in league scoring.
Gretzky - 164
Dionne - 135
Gretzky - 212
Bossy - 147
Gretzky - 196
Stastny - 124
Gretzky - 205
Coffey - 126*
Gretzky - 208
Kurri - 135*
Gretzky - 215
Lemieux - 141
Gretzky - 183
Kurri - 108*
Gretzky - 163
Hull - 131
* - indicates his own teammate
These are the two in their first 6 seasons, respectively:
1st Year: Tied for scoring lead
2nd: Scoring title by 21.5%
3rd: Scoring title by 44.2%
4th: Scoring title by 58.1%
5th: Scoring title by 62.7%
6th Scoring title by 54.1%
Lemieux (finish without Gretzky)
1st Year: 12th in scoring, behind leader by 35%
2nd: Scoring title by 2.2%
3rd: 2nd in scoring, behind leader by 0.9%
4th: Scoring title by 22.0%
5th: Scoring title by 28.4%
6th: 3rd in scoring, behind leader by 4.9%
While Gretzky certainly had a better supporting cast, there is no competition until a generational talent like Lemieux comes along...Gretzky gets his cast together and dominates, Lemieux gets his cast together and dominates...Gretzky does it better.
Also, the Early 80's Oilers played a game better suited to Gretzky's style, run and gun, score as many goals as possible and hope Fuhr could stop enough.
Replace 80's with 90's; Oilers with Penguins; Gretzky's with Lemieux's; Fuhr with Barrasso.
Additionally, Gretzky had a huge advantage that Mario really never had until the 90's, which was physical protection. Gretzky always had an enforcer ready to defend him, whereas Mario was taken advantage of often by opposing teams.
I don't agree with this. It's not like what it used to be, Gretzky was cheapshotted and hit plenty. It's just that the 80's didn't emphasize defense and didn't emphasize physical play. The 90's was faster-paced, harder-hitting and more defensive-minded as it went on. I'm not going to penalize Gretzky for playing in the era that he did, I'm just looking to see what he did against his peers. The physical protection thing is bogus and I have video to back it up if it's a concern...
92-93, for all intents and purposes was the last year of the 1980's, it had very similar GPG marks as the late 1980's had...and the big argument from Lemieux supporters is based on pro-ration and what-if's (ignoring Gretzky's back ailments that plagued him later in his career), but even pro-rated, Gretzky's best is still better than Lemieux's best - albeit slightly...
Lemieux's GPG average was 1.15 in 92-93.
Gretzky's GPG average was 1.18 in 83-84 (highest in NHL history).
Lemieux's PPG average in 92-93: 2.66
Gretzky's PPG average in 83-84: 2.77 (highest in NHL history)
Lemieux played on an offensive team through the 90's despite sliding scoring, he still had free reign and the pieces around him to do it...