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12-16-2012, 01:26 AM
Hockey Outsider
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Toob - thank you for two objective and very well researched posts.

You've presented some good evidence showing that Yzerman was solid defensively early in his career. I tried to present some evidence for that as well (from Trottier and Yzerman himself) - one of the benefits of this forum is sharing the research. I also appreciate the fact that you had the integrity to mention some contradictory evidence too. Maybe the tone of my previous post was too harsh, I don't think that Yzerman was a bad defensive player in his prime, I think he was average while Messier was very good (but not elite). Based on what's been presented, I'm comfortable saying that Yzerman was a solid two-way/defensive player early in his career, but I still think he's behind Messier.

Yzerman not being present on the "best defensive forward" and "best penalty killing forward" polls is not proof that he was bad defensively, but it shows that he wasn't considered elite at that time.

I'll admit I miscalculated in my previous post. During the years I looked at (1988-1994), Yzerman outscored Messier by 17% per game (not 15%) and, since he was healthier, by 20% in total. I still think that this is largely mitigated by Messier's intangibles (defensive play, physical play and leadership) but I agree that Yzerman narrowly had the better prime.

The article suggesting that Gretzky, Lemieux and Yzerman comprised the holy trinity of centres was from December 1989 - since it was fairly early in the season, the author likely ascribed a lot of value to the results of the previous season, where Yzerman clearly was in the top three. Also, I think there's an important distinction between best player and the player with the best season. For example, in 2010, Henrik Sedin had a slightly better season than Crosby (and even that's arguable), and won the Hart, but I still think that most hockey fans would agree that Crosby was the better player.

I think there's a double standard in the sense that part of Yzerman's drop in production is explained by the Wings becoming a deeper, better team, particularly at centre. That's valid, but many people are quick to dismiss the first several year of Messier's career when he was in the same situation - playing with weaker linemates and getting less icetime than he otherwise would have received on virtually any other team. This isn't directed at you Toob, but some people want bump Yzerman's statistics up (because playing on a strong, deep team limited his icetime) while simultaneously bumping Messier's statistics down (because playing on a strong, deep team gave him the ability to leach off other players). As I've shown previously, Messier scored more with Gretzky and there are plenty of quotes showing that Messier was known as an excellent player in his own right; I think that many people are too quick to dismiss Messier's early years.

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