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10-29-2012, 04:25 PM
vadim sharifijanov
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
Here is an analogy that I always like. Gretzky was by far the best player in the game in his prime. By far. Orr was the best player in the game during his time as well by a noticeable margin. The second best players respectively from that era were Trottier/Bossy (pick one) and Phil Esposito from Orr's era. Was the gap bigger between Orr and Esposito than Gretzky and Bossy? I don't think it was. I think the gap between Gretzky and the rest of the pack was larger than anyone else in NHL history. Plus he did it for a long time and no one challenged him until Mario arrived. Gretzky also did not play his last significant game/season at 28 years old. Orr did. Gretzky accomplished a ton after the age of 28 (post 1989). For reasons like this I can never see how anyone puts Orr ahead of him.
i can buy the longevity argument for gretzky. i still go with orr, but i understand it. i can even respect howe over orr, though again i disagree.

but re: the gap between orr and the next guys (esposito and clarke) relative to gretzky's gap, from what i've seen from the handful of those bruins games, and from what i saw of gretzky, orr impacted the game more than gretzky did. gretzky had a larger offensive margin over the next guy, obviously. but from what i saw, and anecdotal evidence, orr's all-round game destroyed clarke's all round game (both what orr did on the defensive end that was far beyond what a forward-- even arguably the greatest defensive forward of all time-- could possibly do, and that orr outscored clarke in all but one of their prime years). orr vs. esposito, from '70 to '75, which was orr's offensive peak, espo only outscores him by 52 points in 18 more games (this cuts off two elite esposito years immediately before orr peaked offensively, though). being that orr was a defenseman, and that those two teammates shared the art ross trophy for eight straight years so it's difficult to determine how much credit each should get for the other's success, i'd say the gap is very large. without getting into who helped whose numbers, i'll compromise by saying orr and esposito were equals offensively. defensively, it's not even a conversation.

now breaking up what orr did as vulgarly as offensive performance and defensive performance neglects the true genius of orr, which was how he controlled the game in transition. something he did better than anyone else, ever.

gretzky controlled the game too, and was also one of the all-time great transition players. and like orr, he was one of a kind at his peak. he was at a level where even measuring the margin by which he was greater than the next guy doesn't make sense. you can't say "trottier and bossy each get you 60% of gretzky's points, so having him and bossy would be better than having one gretzky." gretzky was an anomaly and totally incomparable. you measure him by a completely different mathematical language than everybody else. but i submit that orr was even more incomparable relative to his peers.

and that's my argument for orr. most players you can measure by some metric that involves stats, accomplishments, and intangibles. howe transcends that. then a quantum leap to gretzky, who transcends even what you would measure howe by. and orr, in my opinion, was the greatest ever because what he did was even beyond what gretzky did. you can't say orr was some combination of coffey, harvey, potvin, bourque, or whomever else you'd want to jumble together to make the perfect defenseman. you could add up every individual thing you'd want from a hockey player and orr would be more than that. this is getting really long-winded, but the three greats, they all are in leagues of their own. by gretzky's league is higher than howe's, and orr's higher than gretzky's.

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