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11-23-2012, 05:45 PM
  #86
Czech Your Math
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
As for the weakness of the era, well, I guess we tend to penalize Lidstrom for that very reason to an extent
It's less clear cut and more subjective with d-men, so I think Lidstrom tended to get the benefit of the doubt when they voted for the Norris. He faced very deep competition, but the similarity with Espo was that it seemed to mostly be lacking at the very top. The difference is that Lidstrom had such a long prime and his career spanned the end of the "golden era" in the early-mid 90s, the explosion in European/Russian players, the DPE, and the post-lockout NHL. During that time he also had variation in defensive pairing, teammates, etc. Meanwhile, Espo's value is mainly related to his Boston years, when he was just about always playing with Orr on a powerhouse team in an ever-expanding NHL, which had a large disparity between teams, no Euros/Russians, and became diluted by the WHA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
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
I would definitely say it was a perfect storm, not just in competition, but in regards to expansion, the resulting disparity and dilution, playing on a stacked Boston team with Orr & Co., etc.

Hull and Mikita were still very good players at the start of expansion, but they weren't really their old selves for most of that period (and Hull left for the WHA).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
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.
That's true, but they also weren't playing with Orr, although Lafleur certainly had a stacked team and Dionne mostly had very capable linemates. The NHL stabilized a bit starting in '76, as it stopped expanding and scoring actually dropped in each of the three seasons '76-'79. It was still a diluted league with very few Europeans, but it was a bit tougher for top players to score points than in Espo's peak years. I'm not saying Espo couldn't have hit similar heights in those years, esp. with Orr, but it wouldn't have been quite so easy IMO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
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.
The sample of Espo's games in Boston without Espo is very small, and nearly half of that is in '68 when Orr at least was not yet in peak form. Even including '68 is less than a full season's worth of games, yet we have multiple season of Espo w/o Orr on each side of Espo's career when he wasn't in Boston, and these suggest a very substantial difference from his years in Boston. How much of that was due to 1) Orr's presence/absence, 2) his other teammates in Boston, 3) being on a powerhouse in a league with great disparity, 4) the league being more difficult after '75 and esp. pre-expansion, and 5) Espo being "too young" or "too old" is debatable, but the massive difference in production is obvious.

You're probably right about "style vs. substance" and I agree Espo shouldn't be unnecessarily penalized for being simply effective. However, Espo is relatively unique in having produced at such a high level without having some of the elite level skills of other elite forwards. Of course scoring "ugly goals" can be done in any era, but how many such players have scored points at anywhere near the level of Espo? Again this speaks to his unique abilities, but it also speaks to the perfect storm in a number of ways which encompassed his peak/prime IMO. He's similar to Gretzky in that neither was always as flashy as you might expect from their numbers, but there was never any doubt that Gretzky was driving the bus from the start to the finish of his career, while that's part of the riddle we're trying to solve with Espo.

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