Messier vs. Esposito
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11-25-2012, 06:07 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Originally Posted by
Czech Your Math
He was generally the best scoring forward during most of his prime, but that doesn't mean he was every season. Also, one reason for that is that it was an historically weak period for scoring forwards. I mean, Ratelle and Clarke? I can see a lot of forwards winning multiple Rosses while playing with Orr & Co. in that league with that competition. That's the whole point.
You can rack up a ton of all-time greats and they wouldn't have been able to compete with Esposito at that time statistically. It matters little that his best competition post 1972 was Clarke. For starters, Clarke was a HHOFer and an all-time great. Secondly, perhaps the WHA did take a bit of talent away (although not as much as people tend to remember) but what about his dominance up until 1972 before the WHA came?
Top point getters in 1969 - Esposito (126), Hull (107), Howe (103), Mikita (97), Hodge (90), Cournoyer (87), Delvecchio (83), Berenson (82), Beliveau (82), Mahovlich (78)
1971 - Esposito (152), Orr (139), Bucyk (116), Hodge (105), Hull (96), Ullman (85)
1972 - Esposito (133), Orr (117), Ratelle (109), Hadfield (106), Gilbert (97), Mahovlich (96), Hull (93), Cournoyer (83), Bucyk (83), Clarke (81)
The next couple of years his next best competition was Clarke and then there was a burst in scoring in 1975 with top end talent (although not near Esposito's best). I look at that competition that Esposito faced and see a lot of Hall of Famers. So bascially the whole WHA idea gets thrown away because Esposito dominated pre and post-WHA, it didn't matter.
It's sort of similar to Kurri only being outscored by linemate Gretzky, teammate Coffey (once) and Lemieux (once) from '85-'87. Does that mean Kurri would have won even one Ross, let alone 3, in most eras (without Gretzky/Lemieux type players)?
Alright, well let's look at it this way. Kurri never won an Art Ross with Gretzky. Was never even close.
1984-'85 - Gretzky 208, Kurri 135, Hawerchuk 130
1985-'86 - Gretzky 215, Lemieux 141, Coffey 138, Kurri 131
1986-'87 - Gretzky 183, Kurri 108, Messier, 107, Lemieux 107
Anyway Esposito's case is nothing like Kurri's at all. Where does Kurri win an Art Ross if you take away Gretzky? I think he surely loses more than 2 points in 1987 without Gretzky. Almost certainly more than 5 in 1985 as well. The difference being is that Esposito was so far ahead of his competition that he still wins most (maybe all) of his Art Rosses without Orr. No one else was close.
As far as actually seeing Espo play, when I had the necessary bandwidth to do so, I did watch a couple games (one was vs. Tor. and one was vs. Phil. in SCF). Again, too small a sample to tell much, but I certainly don't recall Espo doing much carrying of the puck, stickhandling or skating circles around guys. He didn't seem to be controlling the action/pace of the game, but controlled his area of the ice and capitalized on opportunities. If anything, it confirmed by impressions of his strengths and weaknesses, not contradicted them.
You should watch more of him. Start with the Canada/Russia series in 1972. No Orr to save him there but no one was a more dominant force on the ice - on either team. Watch games in his prime Art Ross years. He was more or less an unstoppable force on the ice for quite some time.
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