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09-12-2009, 09:52 PM
Student Of The Game
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Here is a quick list of Perreault's accomplishments:

- Stanley Cup Finalist (1975)
- Top-10 goals finishes: 6th, 7th, 7th, 9th (was also top-15 once and top-20 once more)
- Top-10 assists finishes: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th (was also top-15 three more times and top-20 once more)
- Top-10 points finishes: 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th
- All-Star voting results: 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 5th, 5th, 6th, 7th
- Hart Voting results: 5th, 7th, 7th, 10th, 13th

Also of note:

- Strong playoff production. His 1.14 playoff points-per-game average is better than his 1.11 regular season average. Not many players did this.

- He had style, flash and dash!

The negatives:

- Although his playoff production was there, just one SCF for a team that was 1st or 2nd in its division 8 times in his 17 seasons, with 6 100-point seasons, is not good. With that type of regular season team, having one cup and two more finals appearances would be closer to par for the course.

- He was not known as a physical player at all. This is the type of attribute that isn't hugely important with elite all-time players like this, but it certainly helps to break close ties between guys with similar offensive credentials.

- He had no two-way game. Punch Imlach says so in his book that I just finished, "Heaven & Hell In the NHL", even though he is clearly a huge fan of his talents, mentioning that it was a privilege to watch him play every night.

- His career adjusted +/- is -6. In other words, 0 over the course of his career. At even strength, his team had the same goal differential with him on the ice, as it did when he was off the ice. Looking at the career NHL point leaders, the other players with similar extremely low adjusted +/- figures are Messier (-10, his off-ice comparable was Gretzky), Hull (+16, known to be bad defensively most of his career), Federko (+18, not a great two-way guy), Brind'Amour (0, generally went against top lines and kept up with them), Bobby Smith (+19, see Federko), and Bellows (-12, known to be one-dimensional). This is the company Perreault is in. The only two players anywhere near the top-100 there are Messier, who has a legitimate excuse, and Hull, who was so good at scoring goals that his defense gets forgiven. Granted, Perreault has a huge scoring edge on the likes of Federko, Smith, Bellows, and Brind'Amour.

- There is a lot of evidence that the straw that really stirred the Sabres drink was their 2nd line - Craig Ramsay, Don Luce, Danny Gare. This line was matched up nightly against the opposition's top scorers, and outscored them more often than they didn't. This line was also almost as proficient offensively at even strength - From 1975-1980, the six seasons in which Gare, Ramsay, Luce, Perreault, Martin, and Robert were all on the same team, The French Connection, known as the greatest line in hockey, outscored Ramsay's line 459-419 with PP goals removed. That's 40 goals total, or 8 per year, or about 2-3 per player per year. This line was getting the job done offensively and defensively, while Perreault's line was giving up nearly as many as they scored. Ramsay's line averaged +198 over these six years, Perreault's line averaged +71; in other words, Ramsay's line outscored top lines by 33 goals per season, while Perreault's line outscored the checkers and second lines they were up against, by 12 goals per season. Note that during these six seasons that the Ramsay line was intact, the Sabres averaged 104 points per season. Five of these six seasons were the five finest seasons in Sabres history from a win% perspective (2006 and 2007 need OTL removed for a fair comparison, of course) There is solid numerical evidence that Perreault was not the key to his team's success.

But I'm not here to trash Perreault, an excellent player in his own right. I'm here to explain why I don't think he is a top-100 player. I ranked him 108th on my last submission for the 2009 list that we're currently working on. If I could do it again, I wouldn't put him on my top-120 at all. That is not due to his shortcomings, but due to the fact that a hell of a lot of centers have better accomplishments than him.

There are 34 centers on the top-100 list from last year if you include Messier, Abel, and Delvecchio. So let's assume that's about the "correct" proportion of all-time greats who were centers. I just have to show you that 34 centers were better than Perreault in an all-time context.

The obvious: The dominance that these players showed within their own era is well beyond that of Perreault and don't need to be discussed in detail. there are 21 of them, and if you disagree on any of them, speak up.

Wayne Gretzky
Mario Lemieux
Jean Beliveau
Howie Morenz
Stan Mikita
Mark Messier
Bobby Clarke
Phil Esposito
Bryan Trottier
Newsy Lalonde
Joe Sakic
Steve Yzerman
Milt Schmidt
Syl Apps
Joe Malone
Frank Boucher
Marcel Dionne
Henri Richard
Max Bentley
Nels Stewart
Frank Nighbor

Players who also don't have much of a two-way game but were offensively superior:

Peter Stastny
Bill Cowley

Stastny's accomplishments are as follows:

Top-10 in goals: none (was 11th three times, top-15 four times, top-20 twice more)
Top-10 in assists: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 6th, 6th, 9th (once more top-15)
Top-10 in points: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 6th
All-Star voting: 3rd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th
Hart voting: 4th, 7th, 7th, 11th, 11th

Now, keep in mind that Stastny had to compete with a generational talent for his entire prime, and another one later on in his prime. Without Mario and Wayne, Stastny's goals finishes look more impressive as he breaks into the top-10 three times, he has an assists title (in total, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 6th, 7th), and a points title (in total, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 6th). His hart voting record becomes 3rd, 5th, 6th, 10th, 10th, and his all-star voting results become 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 5th.

Based on offensive accomplishments and awards, these two look fairly close until you look at the impact generational talents had on them. Then, it's not even close.

Cowley's accomplishments are as follows:

Top-10 in goals: 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 10th (top-15 another time)
Top-10 in assists: 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th (top-15 two more times)
Top-10 in points: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th.

All-star voting: 1st, 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 5th (deeper results not known for most years)
Hart voting: 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd (deeper results not known for most years)

with Cowley, another adjustment must be made, and that is that he did very well in the war-weakened seasons 1943, 1944, and 1945. They should not be completely discounted, but let's do that anyway:

Top-10 in goals: 10th, 10th (top-15 another time)
Top-10 in assists: 1st, 1st, 3rd, 7th (top-15 two more times)
Top-10 in points: 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th.
All-star voting: 1st, 1st, 5th (deeper results not known for most years)
Hart voting: 1st (deeper results not known for most years)

Still looks better than Perreault. And neither has a two-way or physical game to bridge the gap.

Similar offensively, but other attributes place them ahead of Perreault:

Ted Kennedy
Peter Forsberg
Sergei Fedorov
Elmer Lach
Dave Keon
Doug Gilmour
Syd Howe
Ron Francis
Norm Ullman
Alex Delvecchio
Sid Abel
Mickey MacKay

These 11 names bring the total to 34 ahead of Perreault. Some of them keep up with him offensively, some don't - But they are all at least close offensively, and have many other aspects to their game that made them much more valuable than Perreault was overall.

I'll briefly go over these 11 names now. unfortunately I can't get into such intense detail as I did with Cowley and Stastny. But here are a couple of charts to get you started:

Leaderboard finishes in goalscoring, then playmaking: This is to show that perreault does not hold a significant offensive edge on any of these players.

Name Top-2 Top-5 Top-10 Top-15 Top-20 Top-2 Top-5 Top-10 Top-15 Top-20
Ullman 1 3 9 12 13 0 2 9 12 15
Delvecchio 0 1 5 7 10 2 5 10 14 18
MacKay 2 3 5 7 10 1 4 6 6 9
Lach 1 1 3 4 5 4 7 7 9 9
Francis 0 0 0 0 0 2 6 12 13 15
S.Howe 0 2 6 8 9 0 2 5 7 8
Abel 1 2 3 4 4 0 6 8 8 8
Kennedy 0 2 3 5 8 1 3 5 6 9
Perreault 0 0 4 5 6 0 3 5 8 9
Keon 0 0 3 7 9 0 0 0 5 8
Gilmour 0 0 1 1 1 2 3 5 9 9
Forsberg 0 0 0 0 0 2 4 7 8 8
Fedorov 0 1 1 2 4 0 0 1 2 3


- Ullman was a hugely dominant offensive player compared to Perreault. He was top-5 in goals three times, and though he and Perreault have similar elite assists placements, his longevity overtakes Perreault (nine top-10s to five) - this is before we go into his excellent two-way game and corner work. (He was an adjusted +63 post-expansion, which covers his career from age 32-29)

- Delvecchio, Similarly to Ullman, was a very dominant offensive player with great longevity. He matches or exceeds Perreault in all offensive categories above. He was also a good, clean, checker and a well-rounded player. (He was an adjusted +82 post-expansion, which covers his career from age 35-41)

- MacKay, a forgotten PCHA star, was also a much more dominant offensive player than perreault - possibly the 4th-best offensive player of his generation after Lalonde, Taylor, and Malone. Keep in mind that the PCHA was more of a "half-league" and his placements on the leaderboard are adjusted to not over-reward him. He outdoes Perreault in almost every single category above. He was also possibly the third-best defensive forward of his time after Nighbor and Jack Walker.

- Lach is just a touch below Perreault in goal-scoring but is a vastly superior playmaker. He was noted for being a very determined defensive player and scrappy along the boards. Milt Schmidt said that he hated playing against Lach's line because they outscored them often.

- Francis is a poor goal-scorer in an all-time context, but is one of the best playmakers of all-time, finishing in the top-10 in assists more time than perreault was even in the top-20. Francis was, of course, an excellent defensive player, faceoff man, and leader. His career adjusted +/- is +263, sometimes helped by playing with Jagr, sometimes hurt by not playing with Lemieux.

- Syd Howe also has superior offensive credentials to Perreault, though ultimately similar. they are neck-in-neck in playmaking with Howe having the goal-scoring edge. Howe did have some fun in the war years, but his goals placements were 6th, 16th, and out of the top-20 in those three seasons. If you assume 4 players come back and outscore him, his 6th and 16th would be 10th and 20th, and his 0-2-6-8-9 score remains unchanged. Howe also was the league's leading playoff scorer over the course of his career and finished top-5 in playoff scoring three times, twice as a winner and once as a finalist. Howe was a very aggressive player and had a good two-way game. he filled in on defense occasionally, once being a major factor in a playoff shutout. He broke Cowley's jaw with a clean check.

- Abel has a playmaking edge and Perreault has a goalscoring edge on him. They are approximately even offensively. Abel, however, was a tough, gritty player who was good at both ends of the ice. Ol' Bootnose was his nickname because it had been broken so often that it resembled a boot, a testament to his willingness to play in the dirty areas. He simply brought more to the table than perreault.

- Ted Kennedy is roughly as good as Perreault in both goalscoring and playmaking. Kennedy is pretty much The King Of Intangibles around here. He was gritty, tough, very good defensively, excellent on faceoffs, and possibly the best leader ever. Most importantly, though, his clutch scoring is the stuff of legend. He led the Leafs to 5 Stanley Cups and the HHOF named him the retroactive Smythe winner in three of those, thanks to the determination he showed, and his part in scoring and setting up an alarming number of game winning, game tying, and crucial first goals (I have seen the list before but don't have it handy) - if they are even offensively, Teeder easily gets the overall nod over Perreault.

- Keon is similar to Perreault offensively, but not as good. They were very similar in goalscoring, but Perreault was a better playmaker. Keon, however, was a frequent playoff hero who won a Conn Smythe trophy, and for a long time regarded as the game's best defensive forward - and he did it all cleanly. Easily a superior player to Perreault with all-around game considered. (He is a career adjusted -3; however, he was always matched up against top lines and his NHL career post-expansion was from age 28-41)

- Gilmour is not quite as good as Perreault offensively. Although he made the top-10 in goals once, he was never top-20 again. Perreault was the better goalscorer. Gilmour has a very, very similar playmaking record to Perreault, except for two things: he made the top-2 twice and Perreault didn't, and he had Gretzky and Lemieux to contend with. Regardless, Gilmour doesn't match up offensively. His intangibles make up the gap, though. This is Ted Kennedy, part 2! He played excellent defense his entire career, was always present in Selke voting, won the award once, was hart Runner-up to Mario Lemieux (in Lemieux's most dominant year), and had the two best playoffs of the 1990s by a player not in the top-14 on our list. He was a legendary clutch scorer, particularly in 1993 and 1994, but also in 1989, when he scored the cup-winning goal for Calgary, and 1986, when he led the playoffs in scoring even though he was only a semifinalist. He's one of a handful of players with 3 or more playoff OT goals. Gilmour's production in the playoffs went up 7% from the regular season, which is rare, but unlike Perreault, he made those numbers stand up - he really led his team somewhere! The guy was a beast with team-carrying capabilities and his worth ethic was contagious. Gilmour was an excellent adjusted +164 playing mostly against the opposition's top line.

-Forsberg's year-by-year finishes don't look as impressive as Perreault's. Although he was a far superior playmaker, he was not much of a goal-scorer. Fordberg's point placements of 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th (a better record than perreault) are deceptive because he frequently missed time with injuries. He was actually top-6 in points per game 7 times. He was an excellent defensive player, although many disagree about just how excellent. He was also outstanding in the playoffs, once leading the league in scoring despite not playing in the finals. He was also a legendary playoff producer throughout his career, with 171 points in 151 games. Forsberg finished his career with an excellent adjusted +363, helped by not always facing top checkers, but hurt because his off-ice comparable was usually Sakic. Forsberg easily bridges the small offensive gap with his other elements.

- Sergei Fedorov doesn't compare offensively, in either goal-scoring or playmaking when talking about elite finishes. He was no slouch offensively, though. he only had 4 seasons as a top-20 offensive player, but actually had 11 seasons with 70+ adjusted points, compared to 9 for Perreault. But Fedorov bridges the gap with his outstanding defensive play, and playoff production. Fedorov, like Gilmour, was always present in selke voting his whole career, and won the award twice. He is on a very small list of players with four straight 20-point playoffs. He was arguably the best all-around forward for three cup winners and a finalist, and if not best, then second-best for sure.

That is 35 names that should definitely be ahead of Perreault on an all-time list. There are some more debatable names, though:

The debatables:

Igor Larionov
Vladimir Petrov
Eric Lindros
Marty Barry
Jean Ratelle
Adam Oates
Dale Hawerchuk
Darryl Sittler
Hooley Smith
Joe Primeau

This is where it gets muddy. There are some excellent scorers and two-way players in this list, too. Perreault is better than these players in one or two respects, and not as good in some others. Assume he fits in somewhere in the middle of this group. That's about 40 centers ahead of him; therefore, he should not be a top-100 player unless your top-100 list includes 40 centers.

Since I've gone this far, I may as well present their offensive records for comparison to Perreault:

Leaderboard finishes in goalscoring, then playmaking:

Name Top-2 Top-5 Top-10 Top-15 Top-20 Top-2 Top-5 Top-10 Top-15 Top-20
Oates 0 0 0 0 1 5 10 12 13 13
Ratelle 0 1 3 5 7 0 3 6 10 11
Ho.Smith 0 1 3 5 6 1 3 7 9 10
Barry 1 3 7 7 8 1 2 3 5 6
Hawerchuk 0 0 3 5 6 0 3 5 8 10
Sittler 0 0 3 6 9 1 1 2 6 7
Lindros 0 0 4 5 6 0 1 3 3 3
J.Primeau 0 0 0 0 1 3 3 5 5 6
Perreault 0 0 4 5 6 0 3 5 8 9

My work in showing that 35 centers are better than Perreault is done, but let me just say that Ratelle and Smith have vastly superior offensive records and need no further discussion. Oates, I would wager the same thing, based solely on his playmaking abilities. He was a top-5 playmaker more often than Perreault was in the top-20. He was also good defensively and valuable on faceoffs. Lindros, like Forsberg, was crippled often but was a much better per-game player with an excellent physical and defensive game (however he did it, he outscored his opponents massively), and Primeau was one of the game's two best playmakers during his short career, and was outstanding defensively. Larionov and Petrov don't show up here, for obvious reasons, but I bet you see them as being very close to Perreault. That leaves Barry, Hawerchuk and Sittler - three players who are quite similar to Perreault in offensive credentials and don't have much in the way of "auxiliary" skills. For what it's worth, Hawerchuk's career adjusted +/- was +72 and Sittler's was +48. Decent, but nothing special, yet ahead of Perreault. This is the company he's in - not top-100 company.

It doesn't matter how pretty he looked doing it; what matters is if he got the job done, and though he got the job done pretty well, 35-45 other centers in history got the job done even better.

Last edited by seventieslord: 09-14-2009 at 12:01 AM.
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