Round 2, Vote 2 (HFNYR Top Centers)
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05-23-2013, 06:20 AM
Cake or Death
Join Date: Mar 2006
I really want to take a second to make a bit of a case for both Tkaczuk and Laprade as I put immense value on defensive play, and also look a bit at some lost war time seasons for a couple of guys. Tkaczuk and Laprade are both considered excellent defensive players. Their long tenures in NY, coupled with top end defensive games and solid offensive production, has me placing them in the 6 and 7 spots.
I think many of us are quite familiar with Tkaczuk's excellent defensive game and long career in NY. But in reading up on Laprade from people who actually watched him play, I consistently see that he was considered one of the top defensive forwards in the league. Tens years back or so, I used to chat with a guy on another hockey board named Joe Pelletier, who is a hockey history fanatic and has published books on the game's history. In Joe's History of Hockey blog he had this to say about Laprade:
Laprade was known as a aggressive but very clean player. Twice he went the entire season without recording a single penalty minute, and only had 42 PIM in in his 500 NHL game career. He was also known as a play making center with great speed and athleticism. He was a tremendous defensive player as well, making him one of the greatest two way centers in NHL history. A strong back checker and prolific penalty killer.
That is very consistent with feedback on Laprade's defensive game from people who have actually seen him play. It's also noteworthy that not taking penalties at that time was a huge thing because a minor penalty did not end when a goal was scored. So guys who could play excellent defense, without taking penalties, were an obvious big bonus.
In the case of both Raleigh and Laprade, both career NY Rangers, I feel it is also important to consider that both guys did lose a portion of their prime careers to WWII war time military service. Raleigh entered the league at age 17, then served military and lost three seasons to that. Laprade, who had an excellent junior career, served military as well and did not enter the league till he was 26.
Take Laprade's excellent defense and lost prime seasons into account and you seem to have a strong case for him falling in the 7 spot behind Tkaczuk, if you have Walt at number 6 as I do. And if Raleigh doesn't lose those three seasons, he plays 13 seasons with us and probably has a very strong case for ranking above Gretz or O'Connor, who had excellent peaks but very short time in NY.
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