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10-20-2004, 09:46 AM
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Location: Depressed Yankee Land
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If Bobby Orr hadn't gotten hurt (which he did, so my point is purely hypothetical), he would get a great deal more discussion in this conversation. I grew up near Boston in the late 70's so I only saw the very end of the Orr era, but I never saw anything like him. My argurement for Orr is as follows;

1) He revolutionize the game. No one playing his position ever played the game the way he did. Defensman were stay-at-home, never cross the blue line, and were only an offensive threat on the PP. All of that changed with Orr and after him players like Coffey and Bourque benefitted greatly (as did lesser players like Gonchar, Ozolinsh, etc).

2) I'll accept (easily) that Gretzky was the greatest offensive player of all time (the record book speaks for itself, Mario wasn't within shouting distance IMO), but there's more to hockey than just offense. I think it's pretty clear cut who was better defensively, which leads me to;

3) Overall game. The point of the game for your team to score more goals than your opponents, so let's take a look at +/-. In 1970-71, Orr was an amazing +124 in 78 games, the close as Gretzky ever came was +98 in 84-85. Later in his career (while he still scoring near league leading numbers), he was consistently in -'s. In fact he was only "+" twice after 1991.

4) Physical Play. Again, no doubt offense goes to Gretzky (despite playing different positions), but Orr also controlled the game physically which is something Gretzky clearly never did. Although there is less emphasis on this today, back in Orr's day this was a major part of the game.

All this said, I begrudingly accept Wayne Douglas Gretzky as the greatest player with longevity being a deciding factor. Just don't undersell Orr.

Nifty=HHOF is offline