Best playoff performer to not win the Conn Smythe?
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11-17-2012, 04:17 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
i'm going to stray from the OP's directions, because it seems like an arbitrary way to disqualify pronger. s i'm disregarding the retired and won a cup designations, even thought most of the players i'll discuss fall into one or both of those categories.
i think among guys that were/are stars, the best answers are potvin and brodeur. i'm looking at their full bodies of work, not just peak (though they both peaked high) but the consistent playoff excellence through their careers. tough not to put fedorov up there with them, but i think his body of playoff work is a step below, particularly when you factor in dominance from the very beginning of his career.
potvin slowed down after 30 (perhaps not coincidentally, also the end of the isles dynasty), but from his very first trip to the playoffs in his second season, he was great. in his third year, he made the third round and put up more than an assist per game. that was four years before he'd win the cup. and obviously he was incredible during the four cup years, and was arguably the most important islander and probably could have won the smythe in any year with the possible exception of bossy's ridiculous '82 run.
brodeur was an OT goal away from the finals his first year, and two wins from a cup at 39. in between are three cups, one of which i wouldn't have blinked if he'd won the smythe ('03-- though for my liking both niedermayer and giguere were a bit ahead of him that year). no worse than the third best player of the playoffs in any of his championship years (yes, i'm counting marty ahead of fedorov in '95, and the A line in '00). consider that after playing 18 years on some excellent, and some not so excellent, teams, he has a career playoff GAA of just over 2.00. era has something to do with this, but it ties him with hasek, puts him ahead of every other one of his contemporaries (including osgood, who played behind some nifty defenses and systems himself), with the anomalous exception of patrick lalime, who played 1/5 of the games brodeur did and retired with less than 1/5 of the wins brodeur had.
among non-superstars, i'd say carbonneau is a pretty good answer. others include: linseman, tikkanen, and a few guys from the isles dynasty: tonelli and bourne. if you think about claude lemieux's (well-deserved) reputation as one of the great playoff performers and a guy who raised his game well beyond his regular season standards, it applies just as much to all of those guys. carbonneau i would say had a better playoff resume overall than claude without thinking about it too much. i think claude is a little ahead of the other guys (over linseman because he won more, over tikkanen because he has a larger body of work, over tonelli and bourne because he was more important to his teams at his peak) but they are in the conversation.
bure i'd say definitely doesn't belong in this conversation. he was usually good-to-very good in the playoffs, and once was great. but '94, as great as it was, isn't even close to the shortlist of greatest individual runs that didn't end up with a conn smythe.
then there are the "timing" guys, where their best runs weren't the years they won. they simply peaked at the wrong time to win a smythe. forsberg, gilmour, jagr, fleury (who obviously had little team success when he was a playoff boss). but it's more interesting to me guys like potvin and brodeur, who were always in the running for the smythe and won multiple cups at their best, but just sort of happened not to walk away with a smythe in any of those years.
a perhaps more interesting question: worst career playoff performer to win the smythe?
discounting guys with thinner playoff resumes (ward, e.g.), the first name that comes to mind is nieuwendyk.
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