Monday, December 25, 2006

Top 50 Hockey Players of All-Time

***Click here for UPDATED "Top 100" version***


Anonymous said...

Pavel Bure doesn't get at least an honorable mention? The only reason Fedorov was the first Russian to reach 1000 career points was because of Bure's proneness to injury. He could have been a top ten if not for the knee.

Anonymous said...

fantastic list. as I read the title, I said to myself "there's no way he wrote about all 50 players". And yet, you did.

Anonymous said...

I have to retract my first post and acknowledge Alex Mogilny as being the first Russian born player who would have reached 1000 career points.

Anonymous said...

Various musings:

I'm in that 5% of people who view Orr as the best player in NHL history, along with the CBC. Gretzky's achievements can only be dismissed by fools, but there were plenty of prolific scorers before and since. Orr revolutionized the game with his skill at both ends of the ice and required new strategies to be devised.

Roy ahead of any goalie, Sawchuk included, is the correct choice. He was THE money goaltender for a decade plus.

Biases aside, I have a hard time ranking Jagr ahead of Yzerman, or anyone in the top 25 for that matter. Yzerman showed the ability to be a force at both ends of the ice. Not so much with Jagr, who never showed any willingness to play defense.

Lidstrom, Chelios, Bourque are how I'd rank them. Must be nice to get traded to a loaded team that goes on to win a Cup and you don't add anything to the mix.

Good to see Mike Gartner getting at least an honorable mention. 700+ goals and one of the fastest and purest skaters I ever saw.

Jake said...

Thanks to all for the comments. I really enjoyed reading them. I’ll address some of the comments to give you an indication as to where I am coming from.


Bure was one of my favorite players growing up. He had some remarkable seasons considering the league-wide offensive drought that he had to play through in the mid to late 90’s. However, he fell quite a bit short of the top 50. I suppose he “could” have made the top 30 or so if it weren’t for injuries but the top 10 is pushing it. Let’s compare him to Fedorov for a second just to see how close Bure is to a player that shows up in the 40’s on my list……

C=Stanley Cups
PP=Playoff Points
30=30-goal seasons


Fedorov has played the equivalent of five more seasons. That adds up to more than 150% of the games that Bure played. That is a huge difference. Bure, albeit exciting, was a one-dimensional player. He scored goals ala Brett Hull. When motivated (which is why Fedorov wasn’t a top 10 player) Fedorov was the perfect player in the mid-90’s. He was as good on defense as he was on offense. Even Hull only chimed in at #33 and he was pretty much a slower version of what Bure would have been if he didn’t have his injuries. The ceiling is fairly low for one-dimensional players in terms of their place in history.

I do have one more thing to say about Bure. I have read in a few different venues that Bure was “the most exciting player in NHL history” and Bure “would have been the best ever if it weren’t for his injuries” (I know that’s not what you’re saying). Let’s say that Bure never suffered an injury. In his five best seasons, he scored over 100 points only twice (110 and 107). He is one of the few players in NHL history to have considerably more goals than assists (which isn’t necessarily something to be proud of). His game was not well-rounded or even close to it. So, although Bure was a great goal scorer and had awful luck with injuries, the best Bure could have ever been is probably the top 30. Also, even if I made the list solely on the best three-year stretches or the best “peaks” in NHL history, I don’t think Bure would be on that list either. I think you could probably compare Bure to Bernard King in the NBA. Both were supremely talented but injuries hampered their careers.

A player that I neglected to put on “Honorable Mention” ahead of Bure is Peter Forsberg. He was in my initial top 50. He just hasn’t played long enough and, like Bure, has had many injury issues.


This list is a fluid entity so you can expect there to be some movement over time. I'll likely give Jagr another look at some point. The problem is that leading the league in scoring five times is something you can’t ignore. Also, despite playing his entire career in an era of offensive futility (Yzerman played 10+ seasons in the “old” NHL) Jagr’s career points per game is ahead of Yzerman’s. Stevie Y was unquestionably a better two-way player. There is also no question that Yzerman had the good fortune of playing for a dynasty. Other than his first two or three seasons, Jagr has been on terrible rosters. I doubt Yzerman’s reputation as a leader would have been close to what it was with Detroit had he played on Jagr’s teams. Jagr had a plus/minus of 257. Yzerman had a plus/minus of 185. Considering Jagr wasn’t playing for stellar teams, that plus/minus rating has to be pretty impressive.

As far as Bourque goes, this is why I cannot rate Bourque below Lidstrom and Chelios:

Chelios 932 points 1510 games three Norris Trophies +335

Bourque 1579 points 1612 games five Norris Trophies +528

Lidstrom 837 points 1131 games three Norris Trophies +320

Bourque played longer, scored more points, won more Norris Trophies, and had a considerably better plus/minus than both Chelios and Lidstrom despite playing for a Boston Bruins franchise that only played in 36 playoff games in Bourque’s 22 seasons. To maintain that kind of point production and plus/minus rating for a stagnant franchise is a tribute to how good Bourque was.

Anonymous said...

Whoa Whoa Whoa.
I’m just going to critique your comments of Jagr and Yzerman for the time being (I think Yzerman belongs in the Top 10 at number 10, but in the top 20 is a fair assessment).
But lets look at the facts here. Jagr’s PPG right now may be higher than Yzerman’s yes, but that is because of three reasons:
1) Yzerman’s changed game circa 1994.
2) Injuries that plagued him, especially in the last 6-7 years.
3) Father time.
Yzerman was certainly a better offensive player than Jagr in his prime. For example, Yzerman reached 1000 points in 737 games (the only ones faster were Gretzky [424], Lemieux [513], Bossy [656], Peter Stastny [682], Kurri [716], Lafluer [720], Trottier [726], and Denis Savard [727]) and after him were Dionne [740] and Jagr [763]. Keep in mind that for his first 4 seasons, Yzerman averaged only 1.06 points per game. Yzerman could do it all in his offensive prime. He put 50 goals in 55 games, had a point streak of 28 games which got him 29 goals and 36 assists, and was one of the handful to put up 6 consecutive 100 point seasons and 2 consecutive 60 goal seasons.
Also, Jagr played on teams much better than Yzerman in his prime. Yzerman, in his 155 point season (1988-1989), had linemates of Gerard Gallant and Paul MaClean, who put up 90 and 70 points respectively. Jagr in his 149 point season (1995-1996) played on a line with Mario Lemieux (‘nuff said) and Ron Francis (you know how great a passer he is). Lemieux put up 161 points (70 games) that year and Francis had 119 (77 games) (It was Lemieux, Jagr, Sakic (120 in 82 GP), and Francis leading the league in scoring).
In the early 90’s the Pens were the most dominant team with Lemieux, Francis, Murphy, Mullen, Recchi, Stevens, and Ulf Samuelsson. That’s quite a roster for Jagr to grow on. And it’s not like the ’96 after Pens had a bad supporting cast for Jagr, with Lang, Straka, Kovelev, Morozov and Nedved. When Jagr did start playing on a bad team (in Washington with only Lang by his side), his point totals declined. When he went to the Rangers, he exploded again, due to the New NHL and a better supporting cast.
The Red Wings became the juggernauts they were after 93-94, when Federov and Lidstrom started entering their primes, and the free agents (Ciccarelli, Sheppard, Shanahan, Murphy, Coffey) jumped on. By this time, Yzerman was already turning into a defensive player (he was a finalist for the Selke in 96). Federov centered another line as well, and did not usually play with Yzerman. I don’t really consider the star studded rosters of early 2000 to be all that it’s made out to be, as most of those guys were 35+ and beyond their prime.
My last point is this: Jagr has played 1109 games (not counting this season) and has 1432 points. That is counting his explosion last year (this year, he started with a bang, but has slowed down to where he may just crack the 100 point barrier). When Yzerman had played 1097 games (after the ’97 season), he had put up 1419 points. That’s almost exactly the same offensively (Yzerman would need 13 points in 12 games to tie it) at the same point.
In his prime, Yzerman was better offensively than Jagr. He put up better numbers than Jagr with much less help. There wasn’t a big gap, but there certainly was a gap. Yzerman by his 1100th game was around where Jagr was offensively, but by this time, he had already changed his game.
As Jagr grows older, I expect his point totals to decline. I don’t know if he will suffer the injuries Yzerman did. He may retire with a slightly better PPG average, and thus may be considered a better offensively throughout his whole career.
However, Steve Yzerman is much more than flashy numbers. I tried by best not to talk about his other game in the comparisons, and I’ll only briefly list them here:
Yzerman had received votes for the Selke for over half of his career, but it was after ‘94 when he started to become a major contender, and took it all in 2000. He did all the intangibles right, blocking shots, winning faceoffs, making plays, breaking up plays, etc. His leadership is, well…

Jake said...


Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure if I’ve rated Jagr too high or Yzerman too low. I don’t think there is any doubt that given a choice of having Jagr or Yzerman’s career, that a majority of GM’s would probably take Yzerman. I would too. So, I do think there is a legitimate argument for Yzerman being ranked ahead of Jagr.

However, I do have to disagree with you about your contention that Yzerman was better offensively. Just like you can’t compare pitching wins in baseball from 1920 to 2000, you can’t compare scoring in hockey from completely different eras. Yzerman was in his prime offensively during the high-scoring 80’s while Jagr has been in his prime offensively in the bogged down 90’s and later. PPG means very little in comparing the two. In fact, I would bet that if you looked at Jagr’s scoring compared to the league average, it would be significantly higher than Yzerman’s scoring compared to the league average. That is what matters—not a straight up comparison of PPG. Without the bogged down offensive era of the 90’s, their PPG averages wouldn’t even be close—and they are barely close now.

Jagr won the Art Ross Trophy five times which I’m sure you know goes to the leading scorer. Yzerman won zero. In fact, the closest Yzerman ever came to winning an Art Ross Tropy was 15 points. In every other season, he was 30 points or more behind the league scoring leader. If you went solely on PPG to judge how good players were offensively, then every player from the 80’s would rate higher than every player from the 90’s. That’s just not possible.

I agree that Yzerman has Jagr beat in most of the intangible categories. I just can’t agree that Yzerman was a better player offensively. In fact, I don’t even think it is close.

It’s also important to remember that Jagr’s reputation (malcontent etc.) has probably disguised just how good he has been. He has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy six times. In those six seasons, Lemieux played a grand total of 69 games. Clearly, Lemieux had nothing to do with him being a finalist for the Hart Trophy five times and winning it once. The fact that Jagr accomplished even more individually with Lemieux out of the lineup shows that Jagr wasn’t reliant on Lemieux as you contend.

Considering Jagr’s reputation (or lack there of) defensively, he certainly wasn’t a finalist six times for defense. In fact, it could be argued that the sole reason that Jagr was even nominated for the Hart Trophy was because of his offense. Now if Yzerman was better than Jagr offensively AND defensively like you contend, then Yzerman surely would have been nominated more than once in 22 seasons. As it turns out, Yzerman was a finalist for the Hart Trophy once. That means there was one season of his 22 year career when Yzerman was one of the top three players in the league. Jagr has had six seasons of his 15 year career in which he was one of the top three players in the league. That is more than a significant difference. Jagr has also been voted the league’s MVP three times by the players. In Yzerman’s great career, he won one single Lester B. Person award (MVP judged by players) and zero Hart and Art Ross Trophies.

Yzerman is my all-time favorite hockey player. I am not a big fan of Jagr. I would love to say that Yzerman was better than Jagr offensively but I can’t. I don’t believe it to be true. As far as ranking the two on the all-time list, defense and leadership etc. mean something. I’m just not sure how much it means. If I read a list with Yzerman ranked ahead of Jagr, I wouldn’t even think twice about it. Jagr has been the premier scorer of the last 15 years. To me, that is too impressive to overlook.

Anonymous said...

(I know this is long, feel free to format it as you wish)

Thanks for the quick reply Jake. :)

First of all, I understand that every hockey fan is going to have a different Top *whatever* list. I just think there is good debate to be had. I don’t want to come off too contentious, and I apologize if I did earlier or if I am in this post. Written communication is a poor gauge of attitude…

Now, I’m still going to stand by my assertion that Yzerman was a better offensive player in his prime than Jagr in his prime.

A couple of things I may have missed/need to clarify/am going to reply to:

I didn’t mean to imply that Mario made Jagr; far from it (Mario benefited from Jagr by his side as well as vice versa). I was simply replying to you saying that Jagr played on bad teams, which isn’t true, because he played on one of the best lines in history for a while (Jagr, Lemieux, Francis) on the loaded Pens in the early 90’s. It is true that Jagr had brilliant seasons after Mario waned/retired, as he was now the go-to-guy. But he still had a fine supporting cast (see first post). Except for maybe his brief stint in Washington, I don’t think Jagr ever played on a team worse than Yzerman for his offensive era (just look at the rosters of the Red Wings from 83-89) (90-92 get better, but still bad) (93+ is the Superwings).

On the Art Ross/Hart issue. Jagr was in his prime when the best players in the League (along with him) were Lindros and Forsberg (there are other notables too, but these two jump out). Yzerman was in his prime where he was playing with Gretzky and Lemuiex in their primes (not to mention a host of other great players). There really is quite a difference there. I really hold that the talent in the 80’s outmatched (by a bit) the talent in the 90’s. Kurris, Statsnys, and Savards playing their primes in the 90’s would hold up to the best that decade had to offer.

On the PPG thing. I know what you are saying, that it isn’t the best gauge (the question I always pose is: is Gordie Howe worse than Messier even though Moose put up slightly more points in slightly less games?) I really only brought it up as it was brought up by you in one of your points earlier. Jagr played half of his career in a very high scoring period (91-96) which saw more scoring than the late 80’s and about as much as the early 80’s. He was great in his prime during the first half of dead puck era (97-01) but didn’t match his career high in 96 during those years. The second half of the dead puck era (02-04) saw Jagr stop to a point per game, as he was in Washington and New York. The post lockout year saw a resurgence, and this year saw him very strong in the first third of the season, but since then Jagr has slowed considerably. Jagr’s current PPG isn’t much higher than Yzerman’s (1.3 to 1.16), and Jagr hasn’t yet hit the goat years, nor did he sacrifice any offensive power for defense, nor has he played through serious injury. I’ve shown that Yzerman had reached 1000 points a bit faster than Jagr and that they had the same points per game after 1100 games each.

Now, on the issue of the 80’s and 90’s. The dead puck era is usually held to start around 97-98 and go all the way to the lockout. I don’t know the exact numbers and stats year by year, but it is my contention that the “high scoring 80’s” is usually an overrated thing, and people fail to realize that the early/mid 90’s saw just as much if not more scoring than the 80’s. Just look at these stats from the 80’s and 90’s into 2000:


1 Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles.......137
1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........137
3 Guy Lafleur, Mtl. Canadiens......125
4 Gilbert Perreault, Buffalo.......106
5 Mike Rogers, Hartford............105
6 Bryan Trottier, NY Islanders.....104
7 Charlie Simmer, Los Angeles......101
8 Blaine Stoughton, Hartford.......100
9 Darryl Sittler, Toronto.......... 97
10 Blair MacDonald, Edmonton........ 94
10 Bernie Federko, St. Louis........ 94


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........164
2 Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles.......135
3 Kent Nilsson, Calgary............131
4 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........119
5 Dave Taylor, Los Angeles.........112
6 Peter Stastny, Quebec............109
7 Mike Rogers, Hartford............105
7 Charlie Simmer, Los Angeles......105
9 Bernie Federko, St. Louis........104
10 Rick Middleton, Boston...........103
10 Jacques Richard, Quebec..........103
10 Bryan Trottier, NY Islanders.....103


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........212
2 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........147
3 Peter Stastny, Quebec............139
4 Dennis Maruk, Washington.........136
5 Bryan Trottier, NY Islanders.....129
6 Denis Savard, Chicago............119
7 Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles.......117
8 Bobby Smith, Minnesota...........114
9 Dino Ciccarelli, Minnesota.......106
9 Dave Taylor, Los Angeles.........106


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........196
2 Peter Stastny, Quebec............124
3 Denis Savard, Chicago............121
4 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........118
5 Barry Pederson, Boston...........107
5 Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles.......107
7 Mark Messier, Edmonton...........106
8 Michel Goulet, Quebec............105
9 Glenn Anderson, Edmonton.........104
9 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............104
9 Kent Nilsson, Calgary............104


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........205
2 Paul Coffey, Edmonton............126
3 Michel Goulet, Quebec............121
4 Peter Stastny, Quebec............119
5 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........118
6 Barry Pederson, Boston...........116
7 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............113
8 Bryan Trottier, NY Islanders.....111
9 Bernie Federko, St. Louis........107
10 Rick Middleton, Boston...........105


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........208
2 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............135
3 Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg.........130
4 Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles.......126
5 Paul Coffey, Edmonton............121
6 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........117
7 John Ogrodnick, Detroit..........105
7 Denis Savard, Chicago............105
9 Bernie Federko, St. Louis........103
10 Mike Gartner, Washington.........102
10 Brent Sutter, NY Islanders.......102


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........215
2 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........141
3 Paul Coffey, Edmonton............138
4 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............131
5 Mike Bossy, NY Islanders.........123
6 Peter Stastny, Quebec............122
7 Denis Savard, Chicago............116
8 Mats Naslund, Mtl. Canadiens.....110
9 Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg.........105
9 Neal Broten, Minnesota...........105


1 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........183
2 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............108
3 Mark Messier, Edmonton...........107
3 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........107
5 Doug Gilmour, St. Louis..........105
6 Dino Ciccarelli, Minnesota.......103
7 Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg.........100
8 Michel Goulet, Quebec............ 96
9 Tim Kerr, Philadelphia........... 95
9 Ray Bourque, Boston.............. 95


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........168
2 Wayne Gretzky, Edmonton..........149
3 Denis Savard, Chicago............131
4 Dale Hawerchuk, Winnipeg.........121
5 Peter Stastny, Quebec............111
5 Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles......111
5 Mark Messier, Edmonton...........111
8 Jimmy Carson, Los Angeles........107
9 Michel Goulet, Quebec............106
9 Hakan Loob, Calgary..............106


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........199
2 Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles.......168
3 Steve Yzerman, Detroit...........155
4 Bernie Nicholls, Los Angeles.....150
5 Rob Brown, Pittsburgh............115
6 Paul Coffey, Pittsburgh..........113
7 Joe Mullen, Calgary..............110
8 Jari Kurri, Edmonton.............102
9 Jimmy Carson, Edmonton...........100
10 Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles...... 98


1 Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles.......142
2 Mark Messier, Edmonton...........129
3 Steve Yzerman, Detroit...........127
4 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........123
5 Brett Hull, St. Louis............113
6 Bernie Nicholls, 2 teams.........112
7 Pierre Turgeon, Buffalo..........106
8 Pat LaFontaine, NY Islanders.....105
9 Paul Coffey, Pittsburgh..........103
10 Joe Sakic, Quebec................102
10 Adam Oates, St. Louis............102


1 Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles.......163
2 Brett Hull, St. Louis............131
3 Adam Oates, St. Louis............115
4 Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh..........113
5 John Cullen, 2 teams.............110
6 Joe Sakic, Quebec................109
7 Steve Yzerman, Detroit...........108
8 Theoren Fleury, Calgary..........104
9 Al MacInnis, Calgary.............103
10 Steve Larmer, Chicago............101


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........131
2 Kevin Stevens, Pittsburgh........123
3 Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles.......121
4 Brett Hull, St. Louis............109
5 Mark Messier, NY Rangers.........107
5 Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles......107
7 Steve Yzerman, Detroit...........103
7 Jeremy Roenick, Chicago..........103
9 Brian Leetch, NY Rangers.........102
10 Adam Oates, 2 teams.............. 99


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........160
2 Pat LaFontaine, Buffalo..........148
3 Adam Oates, Boston...............142
4 Steve Yzerman, Detroit...........137
5 Teemu Selanne, Winnipeg..........132
5 Pierre Turgeon, NY Islanders.....132
7 Alexander Mogilny, Buffalo.......127
7 Doug Gilmour, Toronto............127
9 Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles......125
10 Mark Recchi, Philadelphia........123


1 Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles.......130
2 Sergei Fedorov, Detroit..........120
3 Adam Oates, Boston...............112
4 Doug Gilmour, Toronto............111
5 Pavel Bure, Vancouver............107
5 Jeremy Roenick, Chicago..........107
5 Mark Recchi, Philadelphia........107
8 Brendan Shanahan, St. Louis......102
9 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh......... 99
9 Dave Andreychuk, Toronto......... 99


1 Eric Lindros, Philadelphia....... 70
1 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh......... 70
3 Alexei Zhamnov, Winnipeg......... 65
4 Joe Sakic, Quebec................ 62
5 Ron Francis, Pittsburgh.......... 59
6 Paul Coffey, Detroit............. 58
6 Theoren Fleury, Calgary.......... 58
8 Mikael Renberg, Philadelphia..... 57
9 John LeClair, 2 teams............ 54
10 Adam Oates, Boston............... 53
10 Mark Messier, NY Rangers......... 53


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........161
2 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh.........149
3 Joe Sakic, Colorado..............120
4 Ron Francis, Pittsburgh..........119
5 Peter Forsberg, Colorado.........116
6 Eric Lindros, Philadelphia.......115
7 Paul Kariya, Anaheim.............108
7 Teemu Selanne, 2 teams...........108
9 Alexander Mogilny, Vancouver.....107
9 Sergei Fedorov, Detroit..........107


1 Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh........122
2 Teemu Selanne, Anaheim...........109
3 Paul Kariya, Anaheim............. 99
4 John LeClair, Philadelphia....... 97
4 Wayne Gretzky, NY Rangers........ 97
6 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh......... 95
7 Mats Sundin, Toronto............. 94
8 Zigmund Palffy, NY Islanders..... 90
8 Ron Francis, Pittsburgh.......... 90
10 Brendan Shanahan, 2 teams........ 88


1 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh.........102
2 Peter Forsberg, Colorado......... 91
3 Pavel Bure, Vancouver............ 90
3 Wayne Gretzky, NY Rangers........ 90
5 Zigmund Palffy, NY Islanders..... 87
5 John LeClair, Philadelphia....... 87
5 Ron Francis, Pittsburgh.......... 87
8 Teemu Selanne, Anaheim........... 86
9 Jason Allison, Boston............ 83
10 Jozef Stumpel, Los Angeles....... 79


1 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh.........127
2 Teemu Selanne, Anaheim...........107
3 Paul Kariya, Anaheim.............101
4 Peter Forsberg, Colorado......... 97
5 Joe Sakic, Colorado.............. 96
6 Alexei Yashin, Ottawa............ 94
7 Theoren Fleury, 2 teams.......... 93
7 Eric Lindros, Philadelphia....... 93
9 John LeClair, Philadelphia....... 90
10 Pavol Demitra, St. Louis......... 89


1 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh......... 96
2 Pavel Bure, Florida.............. 94
3 Mark Recchi, Philadelphia........ 91
4 Paul Kariya, Anaheim............. 86
5 Teemu Selanne, Anaheim........... 85
6 Tony Amonte, Chicago............. 84
6 Owen Nolan, San Jose............. 84
8 Mike Modano, Dallas.............. 81
8 Joe Sakic, Colorado.............. 81
10 Steve Yzerman, Detroit........... 79


1 Jaromir Jagr, Pittsburgh.........121
2 Joe Sakic, Colorado..............118
3 Patrik Elias, New Jersey......... 96
4 Martin Straka, Pittsburgh........ 95
4 Alexei Kovalev, Pittsburgh....... 95
4 Jason Allison, Boston............ 95
7 Pavel Bure, Florida.............. 92
8 Doug Weight, Edmonton............ 90
9 Zigmund Palffy, Los Angeles...... 89
9 Peter Forsberg, Colorado......... 89

In the 2001-2002 season, there was no 100 point man. In 2002-2003, there were 3. In 2003-2004, there were none again.

There is a clear change in scoring trends, but it occurs late in the 90’s (97). Also, during most of the 80’s, it was basically one man (Gretzky/Lemieux) who led the pack by a significant margin, sometimes followed by a couple of 120-130 men, or just in the 110’s/100’s which rounded it off (the biggest anomaly season was 92-93).

By 1997 and onward, the highest scorer was usually a 120 point man, with guys in the 80’s rounding it off (with 2 anomaly seasons where no man eclipsed the 100 point mark). A decline is there, yes, but it’s not as distinct as some say. It is clear that only a few select players were putting numbers in the high 100’s, and most years rounded the top scorers off at 100.

A couple of things to note, however:

Lemieux and Gretzky’s stats in the dead puck era. They were quite high, considering that both of them were in there mid/late 30’s, and both had injuries (Gretzky doesn’t get credit for playing hurt near the end of his career).

1996-97 76 50 72 122
1997-98 Did Not Play
1998-99 Did Not Play
1999-00 Did Not Play
2000-01 43 35 41 76
2001-02 24 6 25 31
2002-03 67 28 63 91
2003-04 10 1 8 9

Lemieux has quite impressive stats in the dead puck era. In 2000-01 he averaged 1.767 PPG (playing a full season, that would be projected to [I know the problems with projections, and am keeping them in mind, but just for a comparison] 145 points). In what is probably a much better indicator, in 2002-2003, he averaged 1.358 PPG (111 points projected). Now, the first result is close to his career average, and the second result is lower, but more expected from a guy in his mid-30’s who has had to battle injuries, cancer, and father time. His numbers don’t seem to have gone down much at all, and I think it more rational to attribute them to age and injuries (he had his worst numbers his last season in the post lockout/post dead puck era) than to the era. I know Lemiuex was head and shoulders above all but Gretzky in the 80’s, but to say that the 100 point men of the 80’s wouldn’t be as successful in the dead puck era if they were at their primes is just wrong. I can easily see the guys who scored 100-110 points in the 80’s putting up 90-100 points in the dead puck era at their primes. I can see the more distinguishable guys like Kurri, Stastny, and Savard pacing with Jagr (who led the scoring in the dead-puck era) for scoring if they played their primes in his era. And I would include Steve Yzerman among those guys as well as he was just as potent offensively in his prime.

Yzerman played in the dead puck era when he was in his mid-late thirties, when he had already become a defensive player, sacrificing his offensive game, and he still put up a point per game in the years from 97-02. Keep in mind that he had nagging injuries the whole time, and never really played long stretches at 100%, and played (very) hurt for the last 6 seasons of his career. I really have no doubt that if Yzerman was in his prime during the dead puck era, he would be able to put together at least 5 100 point seasons, and challenge Jagr for offensive hardware.

I also want to go back to the fact on who Yzerman played with in his prime. It is very clear that Jagr had the better supporting cast, from Lemieux early, Francis early and middle, and then guys like Straka, Kovalev, Lang, etc…

Just look at the Penguins team stats from 97-00. They had some of the best offensive machines, and were one the best offensive teams. When Jagr went to Washington, and really only had Robert Lang on hand, his points suffered big time. While it is true that any player who plays with Jagr will get better, Jagr also had good players playing with him that helped pad his stats.

Let’s compare the top 5 scorers on the Red Wings from 88-93 (Yzerman’s prime) and Pittsburgh from 96-01 (Jagr’s prime).

First Yzerman, who regulary played with Gallant through this period, and another winger:

DET 87-88:
Steve Yzerman 64 50 52 102
Gerard Gallant 73 34 39 73
Petr Klima 78 37 25 62
Bob Probert 74 29 33 62
John Chabot 78 13 44 57

DET 88-89 (Oates centered line 2):
Steve Yzerman 80 65 90 155
Gerard Gallant 76 39 54 93
Adam Oates 69 16 62 78
Paul MacLean 76 36 35 71
Dave Barr 73 27 32 59

DET 89-90:
Steve Yzerman 79 62 65 127
Gerard Gallant 69 36 44 80
Bernie Federko. 73 17 40 57
Shawn Burr 76 24 32 56
John Chabot 69 9 40 49

DET 90-91 (Federov did not play on Yzerman’s line):
Steve Yzerman 80 51 57 108
Sergei Fedorov 77 31 48 79
Kevin Miller 74 22 29 51
Shawn Burr 80 20 30 50
Yves Racine 62 7 40 47

DET 91-92 (Federov did not play on Yzerman’s line):
Steve Yzerman 79 45 58 103
Sergei Fedorov 80 32 54 86
Paul Ysebaert 79 35 40 75
Jimmy Carson 80 34 35 69
Ray Sheppard 74 36 26 62

DET 92-93 (Federov did not play on Yzerman’s line Ciccarelli was on/off between the two centers):
Steve Yzerman 84 58 79 137
Dino Ciccarelli 82 41 56 97
Sergei Fedorov 73 34 53 87
Paul Coffey 80 12 75 87
Ray Sheppard 70 32 34 66

Now look at Jagr’s teams when he was in his prime (this is post-Lemieux for the most part); Francis and then Kovelev and Straka were consistent linemates, Lang was off/on:

PIT 96-97 (Lemieux/Jagr/Francis for the last real time):
Mario Lemieux 76 50 72 122
Jaromir Jagr 63 47 48 95
Ron Francis 81 27 63 90
Petr Nedved 74 33 38 71
Ed Olczyk 79 25 30 55

PIT 97-98:
Jaromir Jagr 77 35 67 102
Ron Francis 81 25 62 87
Stu Barnes 78 30 35 65
Kevin Hatcher 74 19 29 48
Martin Straka 75 19 23 42

PIT 98-99:
Jaromir Jagr 81 44 83 127
Martin Straka 80 35 48 83
German Titov 72 11 45 56
Alexei Kovalev 77 23 30 53
Robert Lang 72 21 23 44

PIT 99-00:
Jaromir Jagr 63 42 54 96
Alexei Kovalev 82 26 40 66
Robert Lang 78 23 42 65
Martin Straka 71 20 39 59
Jan Hrdina 70 13 33 46

PIT 00-01 (Jagr and Lemieux did not play together as often as before):
Jaromir Jagr 81 52 69 121
Alexei Kovalev 79 44 51 95
Martin Straka 82 27 68 95
Robert Lang 82 32 48 80
Mario Lemieux 43 35 41 76

The last two things (I know this has been very long :P):

Again on Yzerman’s lack of hardware, it is really because of who he played with. If Mario were playing full seasons with the Pens in the dead puck era, he would have outdone Jagr quite easily (this is not prime Mario Lemieux).

Yzerman’s career trophy voting is quite misleading as well. He was certainly considered as my numbers will show soon, but he just played in an era where there was just great competition:

(These numbers show the top 15 spots in voting. I will note where Yzerman received votes but was not in the top 15, though I do not have all the info on those so it is incomplete)

1983-84: 2nd in Calder voting (runner up).
1986-87: 7th in Hart voting.
1987-88: 4th in Hart voting; 7th in Lady Byng voting; received votes for Selke.
1988-89: 3rd in Hart voting (finalist); 12th in Selke voting; 8th in Lady Byng voting.
1989-90: 7th in Hart voting; 14th in Lady Byng voting.
1990-91: 7th in Lady Byng voting.
1991-92: 7th in Hart voting; 10th in Lady Byng voting.
1992-93: 8th in Hart voting; 6th in Lady Byng voting.
1995-96: 3rd in Selke voting (finalist); received votes for Hart and Lady Byng.
1996-97: 15th in Selke voting.
1997-98: 9th in Selke voting; received votes for Hart.
1998-99: 13th in Hart voting; 4th in Selke voting.
1999-00: 8th in Hart voting; 1st in Selke voting (winner); 10th in Lady Byng voting.
2000-01: 5th in Selke voting; 10th in Lady Byng voting; received votes for Hart.
2003-04: Received votes for Selke and Lady Byng.

Jagr’s voting totals:

1990-91: 6th place in Calder voting.
1994-95: 2nd place in Hart voting (runner up).
1995-96: 4th place in Hart voting.
1996-97: 13th place in Hart voting.
1997-98: 2nd place in Hart voting (runner up).
1998-99: 1st place in Hart voting (winner)
1999-00: 2nd place in Hart voting (runner up); received votes for Lady Byng.
2000-01: 3rd place in Hart voting (finalist).
2005-06: 2nd place in Hart voting (finalist). (I only have info on votes to the 2003-04 season, so I don’t have his voting record for the post lockout season, though I know he was 2nd place for Hart in 2005-06).

Finally (yes this is it :P), you seem to be a bit skeptical of how much the intangibles mean. Well, that is a valid concern, as you can’t measure them, but Steve Yzerman seemed to be running on intangibles for most stretches of the last 5 years of his career. I do know that coaches place quite a bit of importance on intangibles.

Finally, thanks for reading and replying. It’s always great to talk about hockey! Cheers! :)

Jake said...

Thanks for the clarifications. Written communication certainly makes it difficult to convey the intended tone but I took no issue. I enjoyed reading your comments. This is pretty long. It’s a lot longer than I thought it was going to be so be forewarned! I also apologize for clumping everything into large paragraphs. In all honesty, you probably picked the only two players that I would be willing to spend this much time discussing. I do think it's a fascinating comparison.

I do want to clarify something that may have been lost in my reply. I don’t take intangibles lightly. I have no problem admitting that I would probably take Stevie Y’s career over Jagr’s. I’ll be the first to admit that is biased and the fact that Stevie Y was integral in three Stanley Cups also has something to do with it. But, considering that I think Jagr was better offensively and I have Jagr rated ahead of Stevie Y on the list, the fact that I would probably take Stevie Y over Jagr speaks a bit to how I view intangibles. It’s just very difficult to put a value on them. You might ask how I could take Stevie Y’s career over Jagr’s and yet rank Jagr ahead of Stevie Y. That is a question that I don’t have a great answer to except that Stevie Y played his entire career in my hometown and won three Cups. He is an icon. Jagr has played in three cities and I don’t think he’s an icon in any of them. So on a personal level, I prefer Stevie Y but I tried very hard to keep my personal biases out of the rankings.

OK, on to the more important stuff….Two of the things you argued are very difficult for me to agree with. Both actually tie into the same thing. One of your points is that Jagr was a finalist for the Hart Trophy so many times because of the overall lack of talent in the league at the time. Now I have no problem admitting that Gretzky and Lemieux were just freaks. Yzerman certainly did not benefit from playing with those two. However, I think it’s wrong to suggest that Lindros and Forsberg in their primes were worse than the best players of other eras. Both Lindros and Forsberg suffered through numerous injuries but when healthy, they were every bit as good as the non-Gretzky/Lemieux players from the 80’s. There is just no logical reason for players 3rd-10th from the 80’s to be better than the top three players in the 90’s. Gretzky and Lemieux, yes. Everyone else, I just don’t think so. Gretzky has said numerous times that Lindros and Forsberg were the types of players that drove him out of the league. He said he could skate with anybody but there was just no way he could play their physical style. Among many other factors, point totals went downhill because of the new breed of hockey player. Forsberg and Lindros would have pounded on the great players from the ‘80s. Jagr is also a big boy who thrives with contact. Jagr’s talents allowed him to thrive when many of the other “skilled” players had a difficult time scoring. One thing that has to be taken into consideration when rating any player is how that player performed compared to the players of his time. Jagr has probably been the best offensive player in the NHL since 1995. I would also say that the most difficult time period in NHL history to perform in has been from 1996-2005. You have to be careful not to discount the change in the game that took place. If I had to narrow it down to one paragraph as to why Jagr got the nod over Yzerman (I’m not sure why I didn’t just do that, it would’ve saved both of us a ton of time) it is for that reason. Jagr’s dominance of the league in his prime was way more significant than Yzerman’s dominance of the league in his time.

The other point is your contention that the top scorers of the 80’s would have certainly been as successful in the dead-puck era. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. I know you cited some PPG averages of Lemieux and I know you admitted that projecting point totals is a dangerous game. But, we’re talking about a one player sample size over three half seasons. The significant point declines of Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Doug Gilmour, Ron Francis, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny, Adam Oates, and Jeremy Roenick just to name a few are more compelling arguments for the other side. The best players of the pre-dead puck era were eaten alive by the dead puck era. Jagr was not. Many of those guys were 110 point guys before 1996-97 and they all were 60-point guys after that. Jagr played five years before the dead puck era. He just hit his prime two seasons before the dead-puck era began. After the dead puck era hit, all of the players that used to be the top scorers were behind Jagr in the scoring leaders. The year before the dead puck era hit, Jagr put up 149 points at the age of 23-24. He was exploding offensively in the same way Lemieux had done. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jagr thrived with 149 points in the last season before the dead-puck era and then proceeded to thrive throughout the dead-puck era. Regardless of the era, Jagr has dominated. In 22 seasons, Yzerman put up more than 149 points one time and never came close to that total again (137, 127, and 108 were his next best seasons). Jagr did it when he was 23 and had what seemed at the time a long career of duplicating or beating that point total. Little did he or any of us know, the dead-puck era was upon us. Kurri, Stastny, and Savard would have seen their point totals shrink just like Roenick, Hull, Messier, Robitaille and everyone else. It’s just that they weren’t around to have that happen to them.

In my opinion, the only way one can compare players from different eras is to look at their performances compared to the rest of the league. Jagr has been second to none. He has been the premier scorer in the NHL during his prime. Yzerman, albeit a very good offensive player, never came close to dominating the league in the way Jagr has even if you take out Gretzky and Lemieux. I agree that Yzerman had bad luck in playing with Lemieux and Gretzky but that just means Yzerman should have came in third place in the Hart voting or scoring leaders many, many times. As far as I can see, he only finished in the top three in the Hart voting once in 22 seasons. Jagr has finished in the top three of the Hart voting seven times in 15 seasons. I have a very hard time believing that the talent in the 80’s and early 90’s (during Yzerman’s prime offensively) was just so much better than the talent of the late 90’s and beyond that a player who finished in the top three of the Hart voting once in 22 seasons could be better than a player that finished in the top three of the Hart voting seven times in 15 seasons. Additionally, Yzerman only finished in the stop six in scoring three times in 22 seasons. If it really was just because Yzerman played with Gretzky and Lemieux, he would have had a slew of finishes in the top five or six. Even if we extend it to the top ten in scoring, Yzerman only managed to do that six times in 22 seasons. Jagr has finished in the top ten in scoring 11 of 15 seasons and even more amazing, seven of 15 seasons he has finished in the top two. In order for Yzerman to be a better offensive player than Jagr, it would have to be true that the talent in the 80’s outside of Gretzky/Lemieux was monumentally better than the talent in the 90’s. Considering the countless players that thrived in the 80s and early 90s only to see their point totals dashed in the dead-puck era (something Jagr had no problem with), I don’t think that could ever be true. If the players from the 80s and early 90s were better than the players from Jagr’s era, then Jagr, Forsberg, Lindros, Selanne etc. would not have crushed those players (Hull, Roenick, Messier, Robitaille, Gilmour etc.) in scoring.

One final thing. I don’t feel that comfortable ragging on Jagr about his defense. I know he doesn’t have a great reputation for his defense but I think he is unfairly criticized. For his career, Jagr has a plus/minus of + 253. Jagr has only had five seasons of less than +10. He has never had a worse season than -4. Yzerman has a plus/minus of 185. Yzerman has had 12 seasons of less than +10. How can Yzerman be considered a brilliant defensive player while Jagr is considered a below average defensive player? You can’t attain a plus/minus as high as Jagr’s without being good defensively. Offense and defense are equally important in a plus/minus rating. It doesn’t matter if a team is a defense oriented team or an offensive oriented team. To get a career plus/minus rating that high, one has to be able to score goals and prevent goals or else there would be no gap. Considering Jagr’s teams have never, ever been considered defense powerhouses, his stellar plus/minus cannot be attributed to the players around him. Even Lemieux only had a +115 for his career. In Gretzky’s last 12 seasons (88 and later), he was a -33. And it’s not like he was old during that time. He was 27 in ’88. If Jagr is a bad defender, then he must be an extraordinary (better than Yzerman) offensive player to be so much better than Yzerman in plus/minus. If he’s not as good as Yzerman offensively, then he must be an extraordinary defender to be so much better than Yzerman in plus/minus. I don’t think it’s either of them. I think Jagr has been hands down better than Yzerman offensively and I think Jagr is a pretty good defender in his own right.

I appreciate the comments. I enjoy this stuff as I’m sure you do.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply Jake. My reply is much shorter than last time, but still lengthy, so thanks for bearing with me. I’m really enjoying this conversation. :)

I understand one of your main points to be that Jagr dominated offensively in his prime where Yzerman did not. It is a completely valid point, and I fully agree that domination in an era is of utmost importance.

I will discuss it and respond to it mainly in this post.

I just want to clarify three things:

1) I really like Jagr as a player. Honestly, the guy is simply amazing. There are some who think he shouldn’t be on a Top 50 list, but I strongly disagree. He was arguably the best player in the late nineties (Joe Sakic is my pick though, more on that later), and has been among the best from ‘94-present. I’ve watched hockey from 86-onwards, but I was 5 years old then, and I remember the 90’s the most. Like Barry Melrose, I truly believe that Jagr is one of the most talented players ever to play the game. In terms of raw talent, he is in the Top 10 easily, and perhaps the Top 5 (Lemieux of course, tops the list). However, like Barry Melrose, I do not think he is one of the greatest ever (and I think Yzerman belongs in the “one of the greatest ever” group).

2) Don’t for one second think that I take anything away from Jagr because he is not good defensively. I don’t believe players like Jagr should be criticized for this. Heck, Gretzky and especially Lemieux were criticized for there lack of concern in their own end. When I am rating a forward, I will not subtract for lack of defensive play. Of course, it will be added as a plus for those who have it. Jagr is not really a good player at all defensively (you disagree, and I’ll address that), but he doesn’t have to be. Jagr is a forward, and he’s simply amazing doing what he is supposed to do.

3) I never meant to say that Forsberg and Lindros were worse than other top players in their eras, or that top ten players in the league circa mid 1990 were worse than top ten players in the league circa mid 1980 (although it’s very impressive to see Gretzky, Bossy, Lafluer, and Dionne to mention a few in the late 70’s/early 80’s together - that may be the most talented period ever). I think Lindros might have even outdone Jagr if he stayed healthy (it would have been a hell of a competition, that’s for sure). He was a complete package, strong, and could both score and dish it out. Forsberg is up with them; he wasn’t a big goal scorer like Jagr/Lindros, but he was solid defensively, and a much better playmaker/passer than the two. Jagr is the one that was able to outshine them both though, as he basically stayed healthy. He didn’t really have a “tough-guy” reputation like Lindros (though he used his size better than Lemieux), wasn’t the playmaker Forsberg was, but he was more talented than Lindros or Forsberg.


What I do completely believe is that, taken as a whole, the class of players that were tops in the late 90’s to now cannot compare with the guys in the 80’s (in somewhat chronological order): Dionne, Lafluer, Gretzky, Bossy, Goulet, Stastny, Trottier, Nilsson, Messier, Hawerchuck, Federko, Savard, Gartner, Naslund (Mats), Kurri, Yzerman, Lemieux to name the best.

I’m omitting guys like Hull, Robitaille, Sakic (more on him later), Francis, Oates, and Lafontaine as they belong more in the early 90’s along with Gilmour, Shanahan, Bure, Selanne, and Lindros.

There’s a reason that Nilsson, Hawerchuk, Stastny, Federko, Gartner, and Savard are considered some of the most underrated players ever. They were simply great players who played in the league when it was loaded. All of those guys belong in a Top 100 list, some could be in the Top 50 (Stastny the most notable).

Stastny had the unbelievable misfortune to play behind Gretzky at his prime. He only finished second behind Gretzky once, and that doesn’t show the fact that he was the most prolific scorer behind Gretzky from ’80 – ’86 (he scored more points in that stretch than anyone but Gretzky) and remained a premier force until the early ‘90’s.

I have no doubt that Stastny in his prime could have racked up six 100 point seasons in the dead puck era. I have no doubt that the guy would have given Jagr a run for his money on the hardware. He would probably be scoring 130-100 points instead of 140-110, but that’s really the most I can subtract. He was an incredibly talented player. Better than Jagr? That’s tough, and I would say no, but he’s very close.

Hawerchuk is another big point getter that’s so overlooked. He would have been in the top 5 in points during the dead puck era getting 90-95 points, with a couple of seasons where he passed the 100 point mark. Why he’s underrated is because he is a guy that did all the intangibles. Around 1985, GM’s were asked who they would start a franchise with. Hawerchuk was third after Gretzky and Coffey. He was a great team player. Better than Jagr? No, not offensively at all, but he is better than many of Jagr’s competition.

What of Denis Savard? Boy is he underrated. From 1981-1990, the guy was an offensive powerhouse, putting up 5 100 point seasons, and on pace for 4 more if he had played a full season. A massively talented player, whose “spin-o-rama” was simply the greatest move :D. I grew up in Chicago before coming to college here, and he was my favorite player :D. All personal stuff behind, he would have done great in the dead puck era, maybe a bit below Jagr, but certainly stiff competition. Jagr wouldn’t have those 20-30 point leads in the scoring race with him around.

Kurri is a guy who is hard to gauge, because of the Gretzky case (Hawerchuk, Savard, and even Stastny who didn’t regularly play with Goulet unless on power plays didn’t have that advantage) but he is also a skilled player in his own right.

Like I say, Gretzky may have a lot to do with Bernie Nicholls putting up 150 points one year, but he was already a 90-100 point man before him…

I could go on and on with other players. Now, you’ll see that I’m not saying that even a guy like Stastny would outdo Jagr every season, but what I want to point out is how good these players are, and how little attention they receive.

These guys began their point decline much before the dead puck era, and so it will be impossible for a truly accurate comparison.

We can try with the top guys in the early 90’s, and you already alluded to the fact that guys like Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Doug Gilmour, Ron Francis, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny, Adam Oates, and Jeremy Roenick, all slowed down by the dead puck era.

Now, I am going to have to reject this argument for the simple fact that these boys were all in decline, whether due to age like Shanahan, Francis, Gilmour, Robitaille, Hull, and Oates, or other factors (explained below).

It did strike me as odd, how Jagr sorta emerged as the only one from the potential greats to lead the league in his prime

Guys like Selanne and Federov seemed to pass their primes very early, and were already in slow down mode by the mid 90’s.

Bure was a guy who hit his prime early as well, but still seemed to have a long strech of brilliant play. Knee injuries really slowed him down much before the onset of the dead puck era. In fact, after his tearing up the league in the early 90’s, he slowed considerably in the years from 94-97, actually putting up a little less than a point per game. At the onset of the dead puck era, he found a bit (though not all) of his step again, but got injured again, this time for good.

Lindros was arguably the greatest player in the mid-90’s (though Lemieux is hard to beat), but again injuries really ruined his shot at Jagr. Lindros’s PPG average stays nearly the same from 92-96 (pre dead puck era) and 97-99 (first half of it) before hitting sharp decline. It seems as if injuries more than dead puck era were the cause.

Bure and Lindros (Selanne maybe, though he was already past his prime and 30 by 99) had the best shots of (offensive-I’m ignoring guys like Forsberg for this point) domination in the league in the late 90’s, but circumstances didn’t allow it.

I think Jagr was a little lucky with that in mind.

Don’t think I’m discounting the dead puck era, I’m not. I am just saying that attributing the high numbers in the 80’s is usually exaggerated quite a bit. I don’t think Jagr could have done any better than 149 points if he was playing in the 80’s (remember, he was playing in the very high scoring ‘96 year [basically no different from ‘86 with Francis and Lemieux when he put that total up). I also without a doubt think that guys who put up 100-110 points in the 80’s would be putting up 85-100 points in the dead puck era at their primes.

Aside from that, I have one more argument. You remember how I brought up the fact that Lemiuex was scoring at a rate not much lower than his prime in the late 80’s early 60’s coming after 3 years of no play, battling cancer, and injuries, at age 34-35? Of course, that’s problematic because of who Lemiuex is himself, but I have another player to compare:

Joe Sakic.

I have said before that many of the top guys in the late 80’s/early 90’s were already in decline by the time of the dead puck era and that the early 80’s guys had already declined in the early 90’s and retired. That makes it very difficult to compare players from both eras.

Thankfully there is Sakic. Joe Sakic is my pick for the best player in the late 90’s even over Jagr. He was one of the top 5 offensively, and then there was the rest of the package that pushed him a bit above Jagr. His leadership, his two-way play, the intangibles, and also his Stanley Cups namely make up for the fact that he wasn’t as prolific a scorer as Jagr.

Sakic is different from the average player who peaks around 24-28. I think it’s more accurate to describe Sakic’s career as a plateau.

Here are his stats for reference:

1988-89 70 23 39 62
1989-90 80 39 63 102
1990-91 80 48 61 109
1991-92 69 29 65 94
1992-93 78 48 57 105
1993-94 84 28 64 92
1994-95 47 19 43 62
1995-96 82 51 69 120
1996-97 65 22 52 74
1997-98 64 27 36 63
1998-99 73 41 55 96
1999-00 60 28 53 81
2000-01 82 54 64 118
2001-02 82 26 53 79
2002-03 58 26 32 58
2003-04 81 33 54 87
2005-06 82 32 55 87
2006-07 47 20 32 52

As you can see, he was one of the better players in the early-mid 90’s, putting up paces for 100-120 point seasons (cashing in on 4 of them). Come dead puck era, and he starts off with a bit of decline with 63 points in 64 games, but then afterwards becomes one of best offensive forces, putting up very nice paces through 1998-2000 and explodes in the ‘01 season, basically matching his best season pre dead puck era. He does begin to slow down to a point per game after that, but the guy was in his 30’s by then.

The offensive numbers he has are very impressive. They are just barely under Jagr’s production. Now granted, by this time, Sakic had a better supporting cast than Jagr (though Straka, Kovelev, Lang is still very nice), but then again, Peter Forsberg centered another line (though they did play together at times).

I find that the fact Sakic matched his early 90’s numbers in the first half of the dead puck era quite convincing proof that someone from the 80’s could produce points like that then. Also, Sakic joined the fad of being a good two way player in this period, making it all the more impressive.

I know it’s still 1 player, but I think it a very strong example. The others were already slowing down before dead puck era arrived.

Now, what’s the point of all of this? Well, it is to support my point that Steve Yzerman could have put up the great numbers in the dead puck era if he was at his prime as well. Like I have stated before, I do believe he would have topped Jagr if they played together like that. Not by much, but still top Jagr.

In fact, Yzerman put up very respectable numbers during the first two thirds of the dead puck era, at around .96 PPG from 97-02. Keep in mind that he had changed his role, his ice time was reduced, he was no longer in his prime, rather he was in his mid-late thirties, and he suffered nagging knee problems, which became really bad by the ‘01 season. If he could put up point per game seasons with all that, I have no doubt that he could top the 1.5 point per game seasons of Jagr if he was in his prime. Remember, Steve still led the team in scoring from 97-00 (by 10/11/1 point(s) respectively).

As for Steve in his prime, you brought up the point that if he was really third behind Gretzky and Lemieux, he would have placed 3rd in scoring more than twice. I dispute this by bringing up the Stastny example. Stastny only placed 2nd behind Gretzky once, but the numbers he put up in ’80 – ’86 were more than anyone not named Gretzky. Similarly, Yzerman scored more than anyone in the late 80’s early 90’s except Gretzky and Lemiuex. From 87-93, he put up 732 points in 466 games. Extend that one season and you get 814 points in 524 games. Nobody in those stretches came closer to Gretzky and Lemieux (Lemieux - 826 points in 362 games; Gretzky - 808 points in 412 games). Stastny, Kurri, and Savard may have reached 1000 points before Yzerman, but that can be attributed to the fact that they came out of the gate (Stastny and Kurri had already played in European leagues and weren’t exactly true “rookies” while Savard spent another year in the QMJHL to hone his skills) while Yzerman took 4 years to grow in the league. None of those guys could match Yzerman in their primes (Stastny had 713 points in 463 games; Savard had 779 points in 542 games [7 seasons]; Kurri had 789 points in 530 games). Yzerman was clearly the best offensive player not named Lemieux or Gretzky in the late 80’s early 90’s, and only a handful players can exceed what he did in his prime. I do not think Jagr is one of them.

Yzerman’s big years are all the more impressive for another key reason: his teammates.

Steve played on terrible teams until 1990. Just like Lemieux didn’t start overtaking Gretzky until after he got some better teammates (and Gretzky left the loaded Oilers), Yzerman couldn’t score so easily until he had better teammates. But still, Yzerman’s supporting case could never match up to Gretzky’s or Lemiuex’s. Gallant was primarily his winger, even after 1990 when they got some new guys. And while playing with Yzerman certainly helped Gallant, and Yzerman made Gallant a better player, I’m sure Yzerman’s numbers would have been higher if he centered a Jari Kurri, Glen Anderson, Kevin Stevens, Ron Francis, Jaromir Jagr (imagine that :D). In fact, when the Wings did bring new talent on, it wasn’t the kind that would exactly help Yzerman. Federov and Oates centered different lines, and it’s no wonder that Steve’s points trail in 91-93 as Federov picks up some of the burden.

By the time when Yzerman could center wingers like Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Brenden Shanahan, he was already in his mid thirties and had changed his game. Can you imagine a Robitaille-Yzerman-Hull line in the early 90’s? I tell you what, they would give the Jagr-Lemieux-Stevens and later Jagr-Lemieux-Francis (interestingly, though Francis is a center, he and Lemieux along with Jagr played consistently for almost 2 years) lines. Lemiuex trumps Yzerman, but Hull and Robitaille (in their primes) would trump Jagr and Stevens/Francis. All three guys would have seen their numbers rise.

Now, I remember watching Yzerman come off his 137 point season, but losing early in the playoffs and thinking, this guy is going to be another Marcel Dionne. But he changed his game then. Yzerman had 2-3 more 100 point seasons in him if he was going to continue the way he was playing. He would be different from Dionne in the fact that he was a great leader (Don Cherry in ’93 “This guy doesn’t get enough credit for what he does, even from Detroit fans”) and that he actually did play a lick of defense (the two way player actually began with Demers, Scotty finished that and made him into a defensive specialist), but otherwise, he would put up a bunch of high scoring seasons, probably near Gordie Howe in scoring, and retire with no cup. Or so I thought…

I remember Yzerman in the 95-96 season, where Yzerman played second fiddle to Federov (he had also done so in 93-94, but was injured for the first third of the season and again in the shortened season in 94-95 [Steve always does bad in shortened seasons as he is a late player. For example: in 85-86, he put up 42 points in the first 51 games before going down, but in 93-94, he came back after missing the first 24 games and put up 82 points in 58 games. Even in his last year, he had a 12 game point streak scoring 14 of his 34 points before it ended in the second last game where he left hurt.]). He looked really good out there, though Federov got to play more and with the better wingers. He looked as good as Federov defensively, and while Federov deserved the Selke that year, I knew Yzerman would eventually get it. He could have spent more trying to score, and he could have had his 100 point year if he wanted (he got 95 that season), but the Wings would usually just protect a small lead instead of trying to add to it. That was when I realized that Steve had changed his game completely.

The last thing I will write about is your point about Jagr-Yzerman defensively. You brought up plus-minus, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to dispute that that is the best stat for judging defensive or offensive play. As you’ve seen, Yzerman has been considered for the Selke quite a few times in his career, even a couple of times before ’93 brought the new Steve Yzerman. Jagr has never been considered for that award.

To me it’s quite obvious why. Yzerman from a very young age was expected to do everything for the Wings. Demer’s put him on the penalty kill, not to score opportune goals like Gretzky, but because he really had no better player for the job. In simply watching Yzerman play, you can see where he gets considered as a great two way player while Jagr doesn’t. Yzerman blocks shots, wins faceoffs, neutralizes his man, forechecks and backchecks very nicely, intercepts passes, clears pucks, etc.

His plus minus stat actually took a huge hit his first 3 seasons, where he was a -58 already. Even when Yzerman scored 155 points, he was only a plus 17. He has actually been a minus in 2 of his 100 point seasons.

But then again, what could Steve do? He played on a team that let in more goals than it scored. When he was at his offensive prime, his team was one of the worst defensively, and they had to struggle to make the playoffs.

Contrast with Jagr’s situation. He comes on to a loaded team that is a perennial contender. His team has a goalie called Tom Barrasso, strong defenseman (defensively) in Larry Murphy/Ulf Samuelsson. The Penguins were not as weak defensively as the Red Wings when Jagr was at his prime. They were a high scoring team, and they didn’t let in goals to take away from the plusses the players got.

You’re right that Steve’s +/- wasn’t too high late either, but that has more to do with the fact that he had offensively slowed down. If the Red Wings in 1988 had defenseman like Fetisov, Lidstrom, Murphy, Konstantinov, and the goaltender was Vernon/Osgood, I do think that Yzerman could have been a plus 40 instead of a plus 17.

To end, I think Steve Yzerman, had he not changed his game, could have put up Marcel Dionne numbers. He was that good offensively.

Dionne was overshadowed by Esposito in the early 70’s, Lafluer in the late 70’s, and Gretzky in the early 80’s, (he still won an Art Ross) but the fact that he scored so much through all those eras is still amazing.

If Jagr puts up a couple more of 100 point seasons (which he very well may do), I will think him a better offensive player than Yzerman in terms of offensive longevity (I would still have Yzerman being more potent at his prime than Jagr). What makes Yzerman greater than both Jagr and Dionne is the fact that Yzerman could have had a Dionne-like career, but rather he changed his game to be one of the best two way forwards ever.

His defensive game and intangibles put him over Dionne’s offensive longevity, and if Yzerman is above Dionne on my list, he is above Jagr.

One last thing: Why Messier in front of Jagr if not Yzerman. :P

I want to thank you for reading/replying Jake. It’s been great talking about this, and we covered a lot more than just Jagr/Yzerman in our discussion.

I’m not going to be posting much more on this, so you can get back to blogging… :P :)


Jake said...

Thanks for the interest! I enjoyed the back and forth as well. That was probably two or three posts worth of writing. It was more enjoyable than my average post so I'll take that any day.

As for Messier/Jagr, we could have a conversation just as long so I won't say a single word about my rationale with the intent on avoiding another five day post-less streak.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Nice to see Eddie the Eagle make the list- Belfour's numbers stack up with nearly every other goaltender (minus Hasek and Roy) of the last 20 years. Also, good to see Roenick get an honorable mention. For about 10 years, he was maybe the best all-around talented player in the league. And he played every game like it was his last. Great player- one of the best American-born players ever.

Lucifer Jones said...

excuse me but you dont seem to think that NHL hockey= everything! where's kharlamov who pulverised canada in the series against USSR. Tretiak?bilaletdinov?semak? bykov? there are tens of other players who i cant be bothered to mention maltsev, makarov many more. the soviet hockey league was superior to the NHL, this is proven by the fact that CSKA beat NHL teams most of the times they played together. The soviet union also pretty much dominated the olympics and world championships. fedorov deserves a higher spot due to his all round skills which none of the players in your list could match. also orr was better than gretzky!

Jake said...

Thanks for your interest,

Your comment is precisely why I included my criterion for the list. I didn’t want to have to respond to stuff like this. Had you read my criterion like I pleaded for readers to do in the second sentence of the post, you would have known that only NHL players were eligible. Below is what you missed by not following my advice:

“I didn't limit any list to one specific league. Participants in the AFL, USFL, ABA, and WHA were eligible as long as they played in the major leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL).”

As for Fedorov, I defy you to find more than one list that even has Fedorov in the top 50 at all other than mine. So I think you’re barking up the wrong tree there. His skill-set that you mentioned is the reason why he even made the list. Just from looking at his career stats, he doesn’t belong anywhere near the top 50. He has a huge reputation as an underachiever. For a guy as talented as he was/is, there is no reason for his career numbers to be where they are right now. That said, he is one of the 50 best players that have ever played.

Lucifer Jones said...

well using stats to judge a player's stats isn't completely correct. And the Russian Hockey League and perhaps Swedish Higher League are as good as the North American leagues!

Jake said...

That is precisely why I put Fedorov in the top 50. Stats aren't the only thing to consider. Like I said, you're barking up the wrong tree about Fedorov. I am one of the only people you will find that even mentions Fedorov in the discussion of top 50 players.

The other leagues might be great, but I don't know anyting about them so I'm not going to waste anyone's time by pretending to.

Anonymous said...

How do u leave out one of the greatest goalies of all-time even from the honorable mentions. They call him #1, Eddie Giacomin. whats the deal with that.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, I think Borje Salming belongs on that list. He played at a very high level for a very long time, logging an incredible amount of minutes and enduring some horrific abuse. The man carried on the legacy of Orr as a puckhandling rugged defenceman.

Anonymous said...

Are you Guys Kidding ME? Although I agree with some of the top players. I just Can't give it any credit as I don't see Hobey Baker mentioned anywhere.

This guy was MR. Hockey and the list says greates hockey players of all time not NHL players.

Even though there wasn't NHL pre WWI Hobey Baker still managed to be inducted into the HALL OF FAME.

Jake said...

GW--good name but Baker wasn't eligible per my criterion. You can read it near the top of the post by clicking the link. Most relevant to your comment is the fact that I only included players that played in the NHL for a good portion of their career. I could make a completely different list using completely different rules but I chose to use the criterion that I wanted to use. Feel free to create your own with your own rules. I'd love to see it. There are a lot of Russians and Swedes that many people have never heard of that you'll need to include. That sort of list will require a lot of research--even more than this one did--and a lot of guessing.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great list! I agree completely with the top three, would probably have put Lemiux as better that Roy but I completely understand the reason for ranking Roy as high as you do.

Just one small error I spotted. Lidström has won four Norris trophies (and maybe five after this season). I think he might climb this list after his career is summarized, especially if he goes on to win another Conne Smyhe this season (which of course is way to early to say). The fact that he has been nominated for the Norris trophy eight times in the last nine seasons says a lot.

Jake said...

Thanks for reading. I definitely agree about Lidstrom finishing higher on the list when it's all said and done. The error is fixed as well. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Yzerman should be way higher, at least in the top 15. he, in my opinion, is better than messier for the following reasons:
-he had a knee injury which put him out in his prime for a while, and, during this time he was getting 100+ points a season. Messier on the other hand, had a injury free career and finished his career with 2 more goals and about 100 more points, which Yzerman would have made up for had it not been for his knee injuries.
-Messier played on the Edmonton dynasty team. When you have Wayne Gretzky on your team, some one who has more assists than anyone else does points, your bound to get a lot more points. Yzerman's best season was 1989, 155 points and it was all him.

Using career length to judge a player isn't necessarily fair to judge as you did with Gretzky. Bobby Orr was better than Gretzky for the following reason:
- he was the best 2 way player ever. He would stop a 4 on 1 on defense, than take it coast to coast, deek out the whole team, and score a goal. Gretzky, though when it came to offense, was by far the best ever, had about as much skill on defense as Trent Green on QB.

Anonymous said...

One glaring error appears near the top. Don't forget that Bernie Parent was a two-time, in fact back-to-back, Conn Smythe Trophy winner. I by no means am implying that he be included on your list, but he deserves to be credited in the Roy write-up. Also, in recent years, looking at the ridiculous statistics (although his Colorado-era equipment was insanely huge, mind you), I have come to appreciate arguments ranking Roy as the best goalie ever, even if I'm not sure about it. However, while I agree that he was on great teams, I would feel comfortable in arguing that Ken Dryden be ranked higher on your list. Not necessarily higher than Roy or even Sawchuck and Plante, but higher nonetheless. If you watch film, do more research, and talk to those who know, Dryden was truly the real deal, intimidating, unflappable, and wearing much smaller equipment than the goalies of today. While lists like these are purely subjective, I appreciate that yours is well researched, that your choices are methodically explained, and that you never become blatantly argumentative.

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments, Brian. I am definitely open to Dryden being rated higher. He was easily one of the five most difficult players to rate because of a variety of reasons that I listed in his write-up. Also, thanks for pointing out Parent. I'm not sure how I could miss a back to back winner. That is fixed, now.

Take care,


Blue Water said...

I always hated Jaromir Jagr, and I'm not one to hate people. He always struck me as a deceitful jerk, and I think that quality is what has allowed him to get his goals. He has talent, yes, but one of the fifty best..? Frankly, I think you place way too much faith into who is awarded what by the NHL. If you had looked at the stats instead I doubt you would have placed him on the list.

Jake said...


First, to suggest Jagr isn't one of the 50 best players of all-time is ludicrous. If I simply looked at his points as you suggested, I would have to rate Jagr even higher. He has led the league in scoring five times. No active player has even done it twice. You're saying that Jagr scored a lot of points because he is selfish which insinuates that his points came as a detriment to his teams. How do you explain Jagr's career +/- rating of 268? He's never had a season with a rating worse than -4. Try to find another player that can boast that. I'm not a big fan of Jagr either, but I'm also not a big fan of downgrading a player's legacy simply because I'm not a big fan.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Hi! Great list you made there! I'd just like to comment on what you said about the difficulty of comparing the greatest goaltenders prior to 1982 because of the different Vezina Trophy criteria. Therefore, perhaps the best way to look at who really were the greatest goalies back then is to look at the First team all-star selections. Glenn Hall had seven first team selections, Dryden five, Plante and Sawchuk had three. With that said, you've done a tremendous job a creating this list!

Anonymous said...

I think your list is well done. Is it the same as mine would be, no, but whose would be.

Jagr is my favourite player and I would have put him higher. Like I've read before, he possesses more talent in 1 finger than most players could ever dream of, but his attitude isn't the best. Thats what keeps him from being higher on many lists.

I'm glad to see that you did put Gretzky #1.

Anonymous said...

I think you are forgetting a couple of things about The Rocket. He was a hero and a champion to the francophones of Canada in a way that is difficult to understand today. Does that equal greatness? By itself, of ocurse not. BUT, in judging his career and lack of awards, remember, he WAS a francophone in an era dominated by les anglais. I'm nearly 50, and never saw the Rocket play, but I have heard and read that the referees used to look the other way a lot when other players would slash, hack or drape themselves over him. It was sometimes the only way you could stop him from scoring. He was a leader, an inspiration, much the way that Gretsky and Lemieux were to their teams. He's probably the only player whose fans rioted after he was suspended.

And as for Dryden playing on a tough defensive team, take a look at the statistics for no. of shots per game. I remember the '71 Cup against the Bruins. Dryden was stopping 40 shots a nite--like Roy two decades later.

Jim Turner--an obvious Habs fan.

Jake said...

Thanks for the comments, Jim. I appreciate the history on Richard. I do think it is entirely possible that I have underrated Dryden.

Take care!


Anonymous said...

Gretzky always had protection and would have died early without it. His defensive efforts involved a lot of hooking from behind which is not allowed anymore. Orr excelled at all aspects of the game and completely dominated the ice when he wasn't defending himself. Orr even covered for his goaltender many times. No comparison.

axeman said...

What a great list ! Definitely thoroughly thought out and researched ! I, obviously would love to debate a few placements, and exclusions...but you have certainly impressed me with your unbiased approach !!



Anonymous said...

lidstrom is the best european hockey player, not flashiest, other than orr

Anonymous said...

How is Ron Francis not on the list.4th all time in points
2nd all-time in assists
I'd put him 20th

Anonymous said...

my heart almost stopped beating when I saw where you placed rocket richard....shame on you..I think you should go back and research a little seem to base your facts on nominations and trophys.1)some trophys did not exist yet.2)HE WAS THE FIRST TO SCORE 50 GOALS BUT HE DID IT IN A 50 GAMES SEASON and held the record for 40 years until mike bossy tied it hummm let me see who never came close gordie howe,bobby hull(scored 54 goals but in 70 games) jean beliveau,guy lafleur
marcel dionne,esposito,yserman jagr,messier...there is also the fact that his 2 first years the league had only 46 game seasons,then it moved to 50 for the next2and then 60 games the next 3 to finaly 70 games in 49-50 season which brings me to my next argument in his 7 first seasons which are arguably his best years his stats would have been even better,also did you know that during that period french canadians where discriminized upon
and considered the white negros of america with the same racism,furthermore if you check yours stats you will see that he never hardly was nominated although he was more deserving than those who won..did you know that the nhl was having financial trouble and he filled those arenas and became the biggest atraction and they never protected him they never penalized players who hit him constantly to try and slow him down and i could continue on and on..also to even consider that he be fourth or fifth among montreal canadiens players is a great injustice HE HIS THE GREATEST HABS OF ALL TIME no disrespect to the great beliveau and lafleur and you even placed roy before him based on playoff stats.did you know that the rocket held the record for playoff goals even now check gretzky's stats percentage and the rocket beats him hands down in fact the only one to beat him is bossy (another injustice since he his the greatest pure goal scorer of all time)plus check the amount of winning goals,overtime goals (6 goals only equaled last year by sakick but in so many more games...take howes 978 first games(the amount of maurice's game played)and you will see he is close to 100 goals behind the rocket wich by the way took howe 15 seasons versus 18 seasons to maurice again due to shorter seasons arguably 70 -75 goals more plus the fact that in the early days only one assist was counted plus the fact that lafleur and beliveau did not even beat him in goals with more games played should prove to you the worth of this great player.I live in montreal and work as a cameraman for the french sports channel up here and was fortunate to meet him and witness the ovations that he received especially when they moved to the bell centre the longest ovation anybody ever received,when he died the coffin was exposed in the bell centre 50000 people a day payed their respects, the funeral was aired coast to coast live and it was comparable to lady di's funeral..they don't do state funerals for any hockey ithink it is unfair to juge him on stats and trophys since he was the best underpressure scorer here's what i think lemieux is to gretzky what the rocket is to howe with of course bobby orr either first or second i personally think he was a more dominant player than gretzky but due to people counting stats before talent i won't argue the bobby orr 2nd place but mario has got to be third ahead of howe and then the rocket the rest is a toss up CHEERS...PS HOPE MY ENGLISH IS OKAY

Jake said...

Thanks for the post. Your English was great. I appreciate the information and background on Richard. Much of what you say can't be found on a stat-sheet so thanks for that. I'm not sure how much being an icon for a group like African-Americans or French-Canadiens should influence a player's standing on a list like this. I guess that has to be defined by the list maker. If we strip away all of the extracurriculars and judge Richard on his on-ice performance only, where does he rate? How much of Richard's legend is meshed with being a hero for his people? I don't know the answer. Carrying the mantle for an entire ethnic group is an awesome accomplishment but I don't necessarily think that should play a big factor in rating his on-ice performance. I assume that there was a lot of pressure on him like you mentioned which would inevitably increase the degree of difficulty for him. That can't be overlooked. I will definitely re-evaluate his placement the next time I do the list.

Thanks and take care!

Anonymous said...

hi the truth is the rocket was the greatest player of his time and it is hard to compare but his on ice accomplishments are what made in a iconic figure he is still viewed as the best forward from the blue line in, as much as beliveau was great he did not dominate like richard he was just so determined one time after being knocked out by a vicious slash to the head and bleeding intensely, when dragged to the infermary the doctor suggested that he should go to the hospital and not play the rest of the playoffs he refused and went back to play blood all over his jersey and dripping from the stiches on his face and carried the end to end to score the winning goal stuff that legends to literally carry a defensemen on his back and still manage to get to the puck and score.he was also called the babe ruth of hockey and without being unfair to morenz was more suited for the title because like for ruth the league was on the brink of folding and his exploits brought alot of visibility to the game much like gretzky did in the states and the league prospered to eventually expand but study his stats carefully and you will see what i mean prior to his 50 goal in 50 games season he wscored 32 goals in a 46 game season wich still by todays standards is hard to do,then another time 45 goals in 59 games.these are great acomplishments for the times and it raised the bar for players today like ruth did in baseball.he was the first to score 500 goals too. howe is called mr. hockey but i encourage you to name a few things that he did that where amazing exept longevity.ask anybody who knows if it wasn't for the fact that nobody hit him he could not have played that long or manage such stats. look at lemieux the way they slashed him and hooked him and look at gretzky the way he was protected by the league(they even changed rules to acomodate him)like i already said in a previous post rocket is to howe what lemieux is to gretzky...99 got the points but can you really swear that he was better than lemieux and like for the rocket time will be his worst enemy because in 40 years what people will base themselves to compare lemieux will be stats and those who know better will be too few to make a difference like for the rocket happy holidays ....PS THERE IS A MOVIE THAT CAME OUT LAST YEAR CALLED THE ROCKET WICH SHOULD GIVE YOU SOME INSIGHT ON THE PERSONA IF NOT AY LEAST BE A ENTERTAINING MOMENT

Ham said...

So many Red Wings' players! I'm loving it! Although I think Yzerman's leadership skills and talent should place him in the top ten.

Anonymous said...

Your list is great and well thought out. The argument the Gretzky is the greatest is somewhat diminished when you consider 2 things. Over Gretzky's last 12 years he had a overall plus minus record of - 33. He was never great at both ends of the ice and Robert Gordon Orr dominated the NHL with only one good leg for the majority of his career. I ask you, did you ever actually see Orr Play??

Anonymous said...

The list looks good. I would disagree with some of the choices but then again so would everyone alse as no two lists are alike. The one beef I do have is that everytime I see one of these lists, people seem to forget that hockey does exist outside of North America. Where is the great Russian, Valery Kharlamov? Number 17 was as good as anyone who ever played in the NHL. His skills were electrifying. Also missing from the list is Vladislav Tretiak. One of the greatest goalies to ever play the game. He played every game with a mission. The 3rd Russian missing actually played for years in the NHL, but does not get the respect he deserves. Igor Larionov had a stellar if unspectacular NHL career. However, if anyone saw him play during his hey day as part of the KLM line, he was a joy to watch. Few could match his skill and intelligence as related to the game. He definitely diserves recognition as do the other two.
For the record, I'm not Russian, I'm Canadian but I'm not oblivious to the fact that we do not rule the game the way we thing we do.

Jake said...


Thanks for the comments. I only included NHL players on the list. I explained my eligibility requirements in my criterion. There is a link to it in the first paragraph of my list. I don't know enough about foreign leagues to accurately rate stars from those leagues against NHLers so I'm not going to waste my time or your time by pretending to. I understand your interest in a comprehensive list. I would love for someone with enough knowledge of all things hockey to put together a list like that. Surely there are many more great Russian stars than the ones you mentioned as well as a number of Swedish starts etc. To know where those players rate against other leagues is just simply impossible for me to know.

Take care and enjoy the playoffs!


Anonymous said...

Great list. I only wanted to mention that had Lemieux stayed in retirement (I'm glad he didn't if only for the half season of excellence we were rewarded with here in Pittsburgh upon his initial return) his points per game total (2.01) would have been higher than Gretzky's. I would place Lemieux ahead of Roy.

I would like to place him even higher (based on raw talent - to watch him play in his prime was sublime) but I agree that health and longevity must be taken into account.

Anonymous said...

Gretzky, Orr, and Lemieux are the three best. And they can really be placed in any order. As daunting as his numbers are, it's not a stretch to put even Gretzky third on this list. Orr could do more than the other two, Lemieux is probably more dominant than the other two when he wants to be.

The Yzerman/Jagr thing was a very interesting read for me. I'd like to put my two cents in. Both are dazzling offensive players that were actually fortunate to play in their own eras. Yzerman, with his speed and finesse game was more suited to be in his prime during the high-flying 80's. The clutch-and-grab game of the late 90's would have hurt his offensive output. Jagr, on the other hand, would have still scored well in the 80's, but because of his size, strength, and conditioning, the dead-puck era hurts him less.

I like both players very much, and as a GM, if I had a draft pick that could net either of those two, I wouldn't mind trading down one pick, and ending up with the other one.

I like Yzerman more as a person/player. He's a heart-and-soul guy that you would love to have as your team captain.

But, I fear Jagr more when he is motivated. I remember when Lemieux got hurt in the playoffs against the Rangers. Now the Penguins were a great team back then, but it was a young Jagr that put the team on his shoulders and started doing all the scoring until Mario got back in the line-up.

Both are great. You can, and will win with either one.

The top 50 is mostly good, but there is a glaring error in where Rocket Richard is placed; I'm sorry but there really is no nice way to put that. I think that I'm a little older than you at 38, so I'm certainly no old-timer, but the only way you can know how good someone was, is by talking to people who both know the game, and saw them play. Some stats are very misleading when taken at face value.

30 years from now, Gretzky will look much, much better than Lemieux because people will only remember the stats. But, those of us who watched them play know that it is a much closer deal between these two.

I have a strange advantage in rating hockey players. I have been a hockey card collector for over 30 years, and this wonderful hobby has brought me close to some of the knowledgeable old-timers that remember hockey long before I was born. Almost all of them to a man, say that Rocket Richard is head and shoulders above anyone in his era - Gordie Howe was not even close. They cite many of the reasons already noted above.

One thing that you mention as important is playoff performance. The Rocket, while playing for possibly the most dominant team in NHL history, was the most dominant player of that said team when it counted the most - consistently.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate Rocket Richard is with Michael Jordan in basketball. Jordan can't hold a candle to Wilt Chamberlain when you compare the stats of their best regular seasons. But, Jordan could score when it counted - consistently.

Jake said...


Thanks for your comments and the info on Richard. It was perfect timing. Tomorrow I will be posting an updated top-100 version of the best hockey players of all-time, in my opinion. There have been some changes. I’ve been working on it for quite some time now. Check it out if you get a chance. I'll be including a link on this page.

Based on what you’ve written, I think you’ll still disagree with Richard’s rating but I feel much better about the top 10 now than I did last time. I underrated Richard and overrated a few others like Beliveau. I moved Richard up to #8 from #13. I moved Lemieux up one spot ahead of Roy. I can’t rate either Richard or Lemieux ahead of Howe. I understand what you’re saying about players being better than their statistics but Howe’s career is hard to beat.

Richard and Howe played in the same era, here is a comparison of their careers…

Top five in points

Howe 20
Richard 9

First Team NHL-All Star

Howe 12
Richard 8

Second Team NHL All-Star

Howe 9
Richard 6

Top five in goals

Howe 14
Richard 12

Hart Trophies

Howe 6
Richard 1

Art Ross Trophies

Howe 6
Richard 0


Howe 4
Richard 8

Led Playoffs in scoring

Howe 5
Richard 2

It’s impossible for me to believe that—playing in the same era—a player could have such a monumental advantage in the above measures and still be the inferior player. I think Richard meant more to Montreal in terms of what he symbolized. He won more Cups which will undoubtedly increase a player’s profile. I don’t know the answer. I wasn’t able to see him play. I just know what they both accomplished. I appreciate your experience with talking to older-generation players. Their opinions are certainly important. However, I have listened to a lot of old-timers talk about things and some of them swear on the craziest things. That’s not to say they’re wrong. That’s just to say that they all have opinions like you and I do. You know, I think Howe actually stands up pretty well against both Gretzky and Orr. I have him third but just look at his career…

That might be the best sports resume I’ve ever seen.

As for the Jordan/Chamberlain comparison, I understand what you’re saying but Howe and Richard played in the same era so we don’t have to adjust or discount their measures like we do with Jordan/Chamberlain. I think a Chamberlain/Russell comparison is more appropriate with Chamberlain being Howe and Russell being Richard. I’ve got Chamberlain over Russell for much of the same reasons. But, both comparisons could go either way.

I appreciate the comments and I don’t think my insight on this is any more accurate than yours. I agree with everything you wrote about the Jagr/Yzerman comparison.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

How could u forget Henry Boucha. He didn't play in the NHL very long but still he was from Warroad Warriors. Seriously Warroad gets trampled on all over the place.

Jake said...

Sorry, I should've had Boucha ahead of Orr and Howe and just behind Gretzky. My bad!

Anonymous said...

My opinion is Pierre-Mark Bouchard should have at least got an honorable mention. I mean come on he's got fanstastic speed, stick handeling, and a good vision of the ice.

Jake said...

I'll make sure to put Bouchard just ahead of Steve Yzerman.

Anonymous said...

I must say I just wasted a whole afternoon reading the whole blog and comments. Great Blog!

Anonymous said...

First thing, great list... really good reading and i agree with most of what you say, but i do have a problem with one aspect. You do not take into account international hockey, for example when joe sakic lit it up in the olympics. Or canada cup or many other tournaments over the years.

I think in many ways playing for your country, be it the usa, canada, russia. Should be considered when measuring greatness

Thanks for the good read


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