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11-11-2009, 06:53 PM
  #25
seventieslord
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Quote:
Originally Posted by God Bless Canada View Post
When a guy in the west coast leagues played a game in the 20s, what percentage of the players there were among "the best in the world." What percentage would have played in a consolidated league? Of course, it varied, but what percentage would it have been? And what percentage would it have been in, say, 1912? (I'll leave the war years out of it. While the game wasn't weakened like it was in the Second World War, there was an impact). Prior to the war, there were a lot more options out there, guys retained their amateur status longer. It really is hard to evaluate players. Looking at raw numbers is a fool's ploy, because the game had completely different rules. Even looking at top fives or top 10s is tough, because each player will react to different circumstances differently. A guy who was top two or three in points might not be after consolidation, because of the changes in the game caused by consolidation. Just like a guy who was top five in assists prior to 1929 might not be afterwards, because of how radically different the forward pass in the offensive zone made the game. (It also changed what teams were looking for in a player).

I view consolidation as one of the most significant events in hockey history. Right up there with the NHL/WHA merger, and behind the expansion in 67. Once consolidation happened, for the first time, you could look at a hockey league and say "the best players in the world are in one league." Before there were options. After consolidation, there wasn't.
There is plenty of evidence that the top-level PCHA teams and players were as good as the top-level NHA/NHL teams and players. Although the difference in Stanley Cup series victories looks large, it is only a small difference in games won, and the west actually had the GF/GA edge. Besides that, we have those yearly all-star series in New York that you didn't know about, and then the dominance of players such as Newsy Lalonde, Fred Taylor, Frank Nighbor, Didier Pitre, Eddie Oatman, Tom Dunderdale, Tom Phillips, Gord Roberts, and others who played both in the east and west and attained similar levels of dominance in each. The evidence is there that the best players were split, 50/50, give or take, between the east and the west. By the time the NHA was formed in 1910, there was a consolidation of talent like never before. You didn't have to look to 3/4 leagues to find all the best players. For years, they were in two - The NHA/NHL and the PCHA.

So with the relative equality between east and west well-established, why penalize a player for playing in a system like this? Was it his fault the leagues were split up? Was he playing inferior competition as a result? The answer is no. Simply, he was only playing against half of the best players. If the leagues combined and the number of teams remained the same, any player would still be playing the same percentage of "top" players. Once you start considering the west to be a "conference" and the east the other conference, and considering that the east and west teams met in the finals (like the world series, for example), then you can get over your irrational fear of pre-1926 players. Seriously, try it!

Two other corrections to your posts so far:

1. The end of the top-level amateurs happened well before the 1910 inagural NHA season so I have no idea why mentioning that was relevant.

2. Who did Tommy Smith score against? He played in this league called the NHA, it was the same league as the NHL but under a different name. His opponents were players like Frank Nighbor and Newsy Lalonde. In other words, the same place those players built the majority of their legacies. Did you think Smith was a turn-of-the-century player?

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