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12-16-2012, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
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.
For Messier/Yzerman D i agree that Yzerman was most likely not elite defensively until 95. However i personally dont see how a conclusion can be made that Messier was clearly better than Yzerman in that regard pre 95 based on the evidence presented in this thread.

Selke votes: Yzerman had very few, Messier had slightly more but also very few spread across a larger time period. In the whole scheme of how many Selke votes there were both can be said to have almost nonexistent support for the Selke. Messier did have more raw votes but the number is so small that i doubt it is statistically significant to suggest any actual advantage.

Players/coaches polls: For the years you mentioned Yzerman had none in defensive characters but Messier only had 1 in two categories for 1 of the years, and 1 in one category in another poll. The amount of votes is less in this poll than the Selke but it still isnt highly suggestive of a clear advantage at all. Also i would speculate that if we had 88 or 89 poll data being Yzerman's best years in terms of media attention, he would at least get more support in some of these categories.

Anecdotes: Both Messier and Yzerman have nice things said about them defensively though as i noted the praise for Messier seems to be based a lot on his physical game where for Yzerman it is explicitly. But i honestly dont see how to judge quantitatively on degree of defensive superiority between these statements.

Playoff shutdown heroics: Messier has his job on Trottier in 84 but Yzerman has his job on Gretzky in 87. In this case i think a case can be made for Yzerman's superiority given the players in question (Gretzky vs Trottier), their scoring level in the playoffs (Trottier scored at a better pace against Edmonton, Gretzky much worse against Detroit) but we can also leave it at the statements themselves.

HOWEVER, i think it is fair to say Messier was more "complete". This is because of his physical play which i actually value a lot because it makes sense that a physical player can wear out D and intimidate the opposition and get them off their game. I dont think Messier's game would work against someone like Yzerman who was willing to take the body and wouldnt get fazed. He would just get chippy with the stickwork when the ref wasnt looking. But i do think Messier's game affects players in general. And while Yzerman was strong for his size and initiated contact he was like a Crosby. Scrappy but no Messier.

Fair enough on the article being based on the past that is probably correct (though it brings up a cross point that Yzerman was not just considered to be the 3rd best in a different stratosphere by some but right up their in the same tier with Gretzky and Lemieux). However, the point about that season's Hart voting not aligning with the best player stands. As you saw in the all star game clips, not only Yzerman, but also Gretzky and Lemieux had been replaced as Hart favorites for 90 by not only Messier but Bourque/Lafontaine. Lemieux wasnt even injured at that point and was on his insane point streak.

I agree that there can be a double standard against Messier in this thread. While i think if Messier played at LW on Gretzky's line that would cause him to benefit, playing behind a center who would get more offensive time than you would likely hurt your numbers. I dont think it is coincidence that no Oiler really got Hart consideration when Gretzky was there except Fuhr when Gretzky was hurt for a quarter of 88, although they had other players who could be said to be top 5/10 players in the world.

Was Messier's situation as bad as Yzerman in 91/92 and the first half of 93? I would lean towards no because it seems Messier had better wingers anyway. Either way i dont think it is coincidence that Yzerman's numbers drop when Bryan Murray comes in in 91 and plays a more team based style with Fedorov and Carson as centers. Yzerman through the first 50 games of 93 is scoring at the same pace as he did throughout 91/92. Then Carson is traded, and Coffey comes on as the first legit offensive defenseman. Yzerman's numbers explode at that moment (over 2 ppg for the rest of the year).

oh and thx for the kind words

Last edited by toob: 12-16-2012 at 03:27 AM.
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