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12-15-2009, 11:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
I've gone back and forth on Stewart many times. He has some undeniable strengths (two Hart trophies, incredible consistency & longevity for his era, toughness, and probably Bossy-level goal-scoring ability) but there are some major weaknesses on his resume:

- Although playoff scoring was quite low during his era, Stewart's 21 points in 50 games in a huge negative. He's T-24th in points per game, out of 51 forwards. Source.

- Most sources indicate that Stewart was poor defensively. One referree said "[Stewart] wouldn't backcheck and he'd just stand around the net waiting for the centering pass, then flip the puck in. That much he could do. We used to say that Nels stood in one spot all of the time." Source. Bure, another elite goal-scorer, gets justifiably criticized for the same thing. I believe he was named the worst defensive forward of the decade by "Ultimate Hockey", but don't quote me on that.

Let's compare Stewart to Dionne (who was ranked 50).

- Both have very weak playoff resumes for players of their calibre.
- Dionne was nothing special defensively, but Stewart was very likely worse.
- Dionne has a marginally better Hart voting record (2-3-3-5 versus 1-1-5). When Dionne finished, it was to Gretzky at his absolute peak.
- Offensively, Dionne had the better peak (7 - 3 top five finishes), though Stewart actually has more top-ten placements (9 - 8).

We had Dionne 50th and he was definitely better than Stewart, though it's hard to say if 10 or 20 or 30 spots is "right".
One point to add to this:

Nels Stewart was not a great playmaker at all. And using point total placements to compare two players from these eras doesn't work very well because assists were still rare in Stewart's time. (in other words, it made it easier for him to be higher in points because goals were a larger percentage of points)

Comparing these two offensively in the regular season should be done by breaking it down:

Top-2, 5, 10, 15, 20

Stewart: 3-8-13-14-14 in goals, 0-0-1-6-8 in assists
Dionne: 2-6-9-10-11 in goals, 2-6-9-11-13 in assists (might be the most perfectly balanced star player of all-time)*

So, Stewart has a marginal edge in goalscoring; Dionne is one player who nearly matches his remarkable goalscoring longevity and excellent peak. However, Dionne's massive edge in playmaking (top-5 as many times as Stewart was top-15) seals the deal.

* on a side note, I decided to take my "top-x" spreadsheet and do a quick formula. the sum of all the absolute values of top-2 in goals minus top-2 in assists, and so on, then all divided by total top-2s, 5s, 10s, 15s, and 20s. Basically you'd get a low score if you were very well balanced between playmaking and goalscoring, and a high score if imbalanced. I ran the top-100 names, the guys with 30 or more top-x seasons in total. Here are the 15-most balanced:

1. Lafleur 0.037
2. Dionne 0.038
3. Fredrickson 0.042
4. Beliveau 0.054
5. Jagr 0.062
6. Morris 0.067
7. Moore 0.070
8. Mosienko 0.075
9. Howe 0.080
10. Lemieux 0.083
11. Gilbert 0.087
12. Ullman 0.092
13. Keats 0.093
14. MacKay 0.094
15. Nighbor 0.102

Here are the 15 least-balanced:

1. Francis 0.98
2. Oates 0.94
3. Bourque 0.91
4. Br. Hull 0.89
5. Federko 0.80
6. Thornton 0.77
7. Coffey 0.77
8. Dye 0.77
9. Clarke 0.75
10. Gilmour 0.68
11. Robitaille 0.66
12. Olmstead 0.65
13. Stewart 0.63
14. Boucher 0.59
15. Conacher 0.56

note that the highest guys on the "less-balanced" list are all modern guys, while two pre-merger guys score highly as most-balanced. I think that this is because when there are fewer players there is less specialization, i.e. if you're one of the best goalscorers, chances are you'll also be one of the best playmakers and vice versa, whereas today you get Francises and Robitailles who specialize in one or the other.

Stewart's even less balanced than this list indicates because of this, and he's the second highest after Babe Dye, among 1930-and-earlier players. On the other hand, Dionne is even more balanced than this list indicates, if that is even possible, because he played in the age of specialization.

Anyway, just a fun little exercize that shows that Dionne is indeed a very balanced superstar (and Stewart is not)

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