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08-04-2009, 04:46 PM
nik jr
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Originally Posted by Weztex View Post
It is pretty much agreed that Kelly and Lidstrom both played very sound positional defense. Both of them didn't tend toward physical play to contain the opposition. Given the acknowledged similarities in play and limited first hand accounts of Kelly's game, it become hard to separate the two in term of actual play. What separates one of the other to my eyes is the impact both gave to championship teams. I'll try to explain the best I can.

Given that the next input of d-men will likely include the likes of Chelios, Park, Pilote, Coffey, etc, I tend to separate high-end defensemen in two tier. Tier 1 comprise defensemen that appears to me as cornerstones of dynasty teams or perennial powerhouses. Guys like Orr, Shore, Bourque, Harvey, Potvin have many times in their career be the ''guy to go'' among very powerful teams. Those can been seen as locomotives of great teams for an extended period of time. I tend to add Lidstrom to that select group given the central point he held during the Wings tenure over the last 12 years. While guys like Yzerman, Federov or Zetterberg all shared their tremendous contribution to the team, I've always seen Lidstrom as, like the other greats mentioned above, the guy you got to contain to derail the whole train.

This is where I draw the line. Tier 2 appears to me like a group of tremendous d-men who, while being among the best of all-time, almost never acted as the cornerstone of their respective teams. Guys like Chelios, Park or Pilote. Players who while being intrinsic parts of powerhouses, never defined them or weren't the ones seen as gamebreakers. Some like Leetch or MacInnis reached a very limited tier 1 peak, not nearly long enough to put them over the top. This is where I draw the line between Lidstrom and Kelly. You got to be an incredibly great defenseman to act year in and year out as the focal point of a winning team. While Lidstrom seems like this focal point in a more or less dynasty team I fail to see that in Kelly, whose teams success were led (Howe aside) by a hot as hell goaltender and a heart and soul forward who played like his life was on the line. Kelly, while essential, don't seem to me like the guy you had to stop to pass through the Wings. Maybe my knowledge of Kelly isn't up to par but that's the first difference I see in those two greats. Don't hesitate to correct me or add other points.

By the way, comparing +/- between era without adjustment is like saying Dennis Maruk was better than Kovalchuk because he put up better numbers. It is looking to an already irrelevant stat with an irrelevant point of view : Useless to the debate.

Glad to finally enter the debate.
i have never been able to see games from the '50s DRW dynasty, so i can't add much about how crucial kelly was, but it is worth pointing out that DRW did not win again after he was traded.

it is also possible that the main reasons for that are the '50s habs dynasty and the decline of sawchuk. lindsay was also getting older in that period.
and the unlon movement was probably a very large source of conflict within the team.

DRW declined offensively and defensively in the later '50s. they were around .500 from '58 to the post-howe dead things period.
they were 1st in '65, based on great seasons by crozier and ullman, but DRW were back to 4th in '66.

making judgements by looking at hart voting may not be a good idea, since hart voting was so different than it is today, but kelly was usually 2nd to howe and sometimes ahead of howe (in the early '50s) in hart voting. it is also notable that sawchuk and lindsay were usually not ahead of kelly in hart voting.

1. Milt Schmidt, Bos C 40 (10-4-2)
2. Maurice Richard, Mtl LW 28 (5-4-5)
T3. Red Kelly, Det D 11 (1-2-4)
T3. Gordie Howe, Det RW 11 (0-5-1)

1. Gordie Howe, Det RW 58 (9-4-1)
2. Al Rollins, Chi G 25 (3-3-1)
3. Red Kelly, Det D 25 (2-3-6)

1. Al Rollins, Chi G 80 (50-30)
2. Red Kelly, Det D 74 (40-34)
3. Maurice Richard, Mtl LW 44 (20-24)
4. Gordie Howe, Det RW 33 (22-11)

1. Jean Beliveau, Mtl C 94 (53-41)
2. Tod Sloan, Tor C 86 (14-72)
3. Lorne Worsley, NYR G 72 (55-17)
4. Red Kelly, Det D 25 (14-11)
5. Doug Harvey, Mtl D 11 (6-5)
6. Johnny Wilson, Chi LW 10
7. Gordie Howe, Det RW 8
T8. Andy Bathgate, NYR RW 6
T8. Maurice Richard, Mtl RW 6
10. T. Lindsay, Det LW 3

i think '54 is especially interesting, b/c rollins probably should not have won. he was not an all star, and played for the worst team in the NHL.
so kelly could be considered the rightful winner.

i don't know if frank boucher was still with NYR in the early or mid-'50s, but i remember reading that he said something like kelly was the MVP of DRW.

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