Messier vs. Esposito
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11-23-2012, 05:08 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Originally Posted by
Think about what you're saying here. No forward who wasn't in Orr's team could ouscore him. A forward on his team, benefitting from his unparalleled possession game, could. Nothing is guaranteed but the fact that Hull, Ratelle, Clarke, etc, did not outscore Orr when on other teams, does not in any way prove that they couldn't or wouldn't (like Esposito did) if they were on the same team as him.
We are just talking about some insane seperation here. Not 10 points year to year but we are talking about sometimes 50 points. Ratelle was relatively close in 1972 and Clarke was "sort of" close in 1973 and Hull in 1969. Other than that it's almost embarassing. That's a lot of separation there and from just an individual basis I can't see the argument that Clarke and Ratelle were close to Esposito offensively even just by watching them play on the ice.
Originally Posted by
Czech Your Math
I think he wins at least 2... maybe he wins 4, I can't say with certainty. Either way, he's still on a stacked Bruins team (even w/o Orr) in a weak/diluted league, and look at his competition: an early 30s Hull past his peak (and playing a bit more constrained?), an injured early 30s Ratelle, and Clarke. This wasn't just weak, I'd say it was historically weak. You'd have to go back to the early-mid 50s or perhaps the '02-'04 & '11-'12 seasons (although there was a lot of high end depth and opportunity in the latter two periods) to find competition that was nearly this weak IMO.
His '75 season and beginning of '76 with Boston aren't that far out of line with, for example, his '73 season. Sure, he had likely peaked and age was likely causing him to become slightly less productive, but many of his teammates (Hodge, Cashman, Bucyk, etc.) were becoming substantially less productive with age too.
I don't think the pieces fit neatly at all with Espo. I know players often started their careers later in the O6, but he was 22-25 in the '65-'67 seasons, and I don't see how he really separated himself from fellow Chicago forwards Wharram and Mohns. If Espo may have been a bit on the young side then, those two were definitely on the old side then, being in their early-mid 30s. It's not that his production increased in Boston... it went through the roof and stayed there for basically his complete tenure with the Bruins. Then he was traded to the Rangers and he didn't gradually decline with age, rather he immediately had a huge drop off and basically stayed around that level for his remaining full seasons in NY. His career curve has to be one of the most puzzling of any elite forward with a fairly long career. It wasn't so much of an arc, as a steady line at one level in Chicago, a discontinuous gap to a much a higher level in Boston which then was relatively steady from '69-75, and another very large gap lower upon reaching NY, where it was again steady back near his pre-Bruins level.
What's difficult is that there's evidence on both sides, but in many cases (OHA-Jrs., international play, games in Boston w/o Orr) the sample sizes are too small and/or mostly irrelevant to reach much of a conclusion. When combined with his extremely strange career "curve" (including a rather late peak), his mostly disadvantageous adjusted plus-minus data, historically weak competition, the Bruins being an offensive juggernaut with Orr, and a dynamic but diluted league full of disparity between teams, it makes fitting all the pieces together much more complex than for almost any other elite forward IMO. I respect your view, and hope you can understand mine as well, but I don't mean to mislead anyone to believing that that the puzzle is simple. I don't post such an unusual amount regarding Espo because I want to bash him or dislike him, but because it's such a tangled web that I find difficult to completely unravel, and I suspect many others may have the same difficulty.
No it's fine. I'm not on the history board so that we can re-enact an episode of "My Three Sons". We can disagree and in many cases it is almost better when people do with sports. That's the beauty of it.
As for the weakness of the era, well, I guess we tend to penalize Lidstrom for that very reason to an extent and it is true Esposito busted out at a time when Howe was winding down. Hull and Mikita weren't altogether old either though. Mikita wasn't 30 until 1970. Hull was 30 in 1969. That leaves the likes of Ratelle and Clarke as the next best competitors. Lafleur and Dionne didn't bust out until 1975, same with Perreault. You can say it was a perfect storm, but even Lafleur or Dionne didn't crack more than 136 points. Lafleur peaked at 136 while Dionne peaked at 135 overall. Both were elite goal scorers and elite overall offensive players.
In the other Esposito thread there was a well done sampling that showed just how Esposito did without Orr in Boston and there is still no shadow of a doubt that he's the best goal scorer in the NHL by a noticeable degree. So while we can't expect Hull and Mikita to rack up the points that Esposito did in the since they were playing in the lower scoring more conservative 1960s, I think we can point to the fact that Dionne, Lafleur, Bossy, Trottier, etc. didn't touch Esposito's totals and not until a kid named Gretzky came along did that become a reality.
So in that sense there is lots of evidence that suggests that Esposito was just as offensive as Lafleur. The thing is (and I think this always hurts Esposito) is that he wasn't as flashy as other players. He wouldn't skate end to end like Lafleur or Orr. But there are few players in hockey history that were as effective. That's the thing we should judge Esposito with, substance not necessarily style.
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