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Maurice Richard's Defensive Play

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Old
02-10-2011, 09:48 AM
  #26
TheDevilMadeMe
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Doing a little thread necromancy here. And yes, this is totally self-serving since I have Maurice Richard in the current ATD.

But with recent discussion of Bobby Hull's defensive ability, I figure it could be an interesting topic of conversation.

There has been a lot of talk here in the past couple of years or so about Maurice Richard's supposed terrible defensive play, including this post from 70slord on the leafs chat board:

http://leafscentral.co.uk/forum/show...as-most-people

It gotten to the point where I've seen more than one young poster talk about Richard like he was some Bure-level liability without the puck.

I think the original idea is that since Richard "is the best from the blue line in," it somehow means he is terrible at everything else, when the original context is a comparison to Gordie Howe, specifically: "Richard was the best from the blue line in, Howe was better rounded and better overall." Well, it's not exactly an insult to be a step or two below Howe in terms of "completeness."

Anyway, overpass recently found this article by the great sportswriter Jim Coleman from 1979, listing his top 10 players of all-time. Here's what he said about Richard:

Quote:
The most thrilling performer of his particular era and he could be described as a latter-day Morenz. No one ever matched his ferocious assaults on the opposition net or his ability to score goals while being hogtied by desperate defensemen. His defensive ability has long been unjustly ignored by hockey historians. The left wings who played against him, seldom scored goals.
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...1177%2C1036622

Add it to the Michael Ulmer quote posted by BM67 above that specifically lists Bobby Hull, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux as players worse than Richard defensively. (It's obvious he's talking about Bobby, not Brett, right?) And I start to wonder, why Maurice Richard seems alone as the only player of his era "picked on" for being disinterested in the defensive side of things.

I remember in the discussion for the last HOH Top 100, Richard's lack of defense was specifically cited. And yet, I see no reason whatsoever to consider him worse defensively than Bobby Hull (not to keep picking on Hull, but he is the closest comparable among Top 10 players). Bobby Hull was physically stronger and had a robust physical game at times, and the Ulmer quote above specifically indicates that Richard didn't like to initiate physical contact (though he sure fought through it more than perhaps any other player in history). Bobby Hull very well may have been a better player than Maurice Richard (his regular season offensive record is definitely better). But I can't consider him a better defensive player than the Rocket. And yet, I've seen enough evidence to consider Hull "not bad, even if not great" without the puck.

What is it that makes Richard worse without the puck than your average superstar goal scoring winger?

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02-10-2011, 10:51 AM
  #27
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I think the second quote I gave is possibly more important than the first. The second basically says that hanging high was a team strategy based on confidence in Harvey and the rest of the D to get the puck and get it up to the forwards. Richard wasn't the only one hanging high, and it wasn't totally against the coaches wishes.

Certainly hanging high isn't a perfect strategy, and is not recommended for teams with a weak D corps, but more often than not an offensive threat hanging high and causing the D to back off the blueline is better than having a so-so defender just taking up space in the defensive zone.

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02-10-2011, 12:18 PM
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Doing a little thread necromancy here. And yes, this is totally self-serving since I have Maurice Richard in the current ATD.

But with recent discussion of Bobby Hull's defensive ability, I figure it could be an interesting topic of conversation.

There has been a lot of talk here in the past couple of years or so about Maurice Richard's supposed terrible defensive play, including this post from 70slord on the leafs chat board:

http://leafscentral.co.uk/forum/show...as-most-people
You realize what you just did to me, don't you?

Quote:
I think the original idea is that since Richard "is the best from the blue line in," it somehow means he is terrible at everything else, when the original context is a comparison to Gordie Howe, specifically: "Richard was the best from the blue line in, Howe was better rounded and better overall." Well, it's not exactly an insult to be a step or two below Howe in terms of "completeness."
the line has been repeated in many contexts by many ex-players; It's not always a reference to his inferiority to Howe.

Quote:
Anyway, overpass recently found this article by the great sportswriter Jim Coleman from 1979, listing his top 10 players of all-time. Here's what he said about Richard:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...1177%2C1036622
Who checked Richard? I can think of a few, like Leswick and Pavelich. They didn't score very much anyway. Richard may have done a good job defending against them, or he may have been so dangerous that they focused on him harder than they would other players and therefore scored less... or maybe they were just mediocre scorers themselves.

Quote:
Add it to the Michael Ulmer quote posted by BM67 above that specifically lists Bobby Hull, Wayne Gretzky, and Mario Lemieux as players worse than Richard defensively. (It's obvious he's talking about Bobby, not Brett, right?) And I start to wonder, why Maurice Richard seems alone as the only player of his era "picked on" for being disinterested in the defensive side of things.
He shouldn't be the only one. He's just one of a few for whom extensive research has recently been done.

As for whether it's Brett or Bobby, considering when the book was written, there's a chance it could be about Brett (which then would mean it isn't aying much) but I doubt it.

Quote:
I remember in the discussion for the last HOH Top 100, Richard's lack of defense was specifically cited. And yet, I see no reason whatsoever to consider him worse defensively than Bobby Hull (not to keep picking on Hull, but he is the closest comparable among Top 10 players). Bobby Hull was physically stronger and had a robust physical game at times, and the Ulmer quote above specifically indicates that Richard didn't like to initiate physical contact (though he sure fought through it more than perhaps any other player in history). Bobby Hull very well may have been a better player than Maurice Richard (his regular season offensive record is definitely better). But I can't consider him a better defensive player than the Rocket. And yet, I've seen enough evidence to consider Hull "not bad, even if not great" without the puck.

What is it that makes Richard worse without the puck than your average superstar goal scoring winger?
I can buy him and Hull being on the same level defensively. Based on what has been dug up lately, we might have overrated Bobby Hull's defensive game (from a career-long perspective, that is) in the past.

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Originally Posted by BM67 View Post
I think the second quote I gave is possibly more important than the first. The second basically says that hanging high was a team strategy based on confidence in Harvey and the rest of the D to get the puck and get it up to the forwards. Richard wasn't the only one hanging high, and it wasn't totally against the coaches wishes.

Certainly hanging high isn't a perfect strategy, and is not recommended for teams with a weak D corps, but more often than not an offensive threat hanging high and causing the D to back off the blueline is better than having a so-so defender just taking up space in the defensive zone.
Good points.

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02-11-2011, 01:04 PM
  #29
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Originally Posted by seventieslord View Post
You realize what you just did to me, don't you?
Yes, sorry about that. Feel free not to respond to everything here. I do think you did a great job of basically shattering any notion that Richard was comparable to Howe. But I think the pendulum has swung too far in the "anti-Richard" direction now, as nobody has done a comparable project about any other top 100 player.

Quote:
the line has been repeated in many contexts by many ex-players; It's not always a reference to his inferiority to Howe.



Who checked Richard? I can think of a few, like Leswick and Pavelich. They didn't score very much anyway. Richard may have done a good job defending against them, or he may have been so dangerous that they focused on him harder than they would other players and therefore scored less... or maybe they were just mediocre scorers themselves.
In 1951, when the stat was recorded, it probably was those guys with no offense (I don't think that Richard wasn't used on the Hab's "checking line" until his brother came to town in the late 50s and the Moore-Richard-Richard line was put together).

Still, outscoring the opponent's checkers like that shows he wasn't exactly a liability on the ice, playing the way he did.

Quote:
He shouldn't be the only one. He's just one of a few for whom extensive research has recently been done.
He seems the only one, to be honest. I mean, I get focusing on Richard, since he's such a powerful historical figure, and you did nothing wrong in doing so. But it seems the consequence is that a lot of people who didn't do the original research themselves seem to view Richard as unique from his era in his lack of attention to defense, which seems like a dubious assumption at this point.

Canadiens1958 said Maurice was better defensively than Geoffrion or Rousseau. I wouldn't take his word (or the word of any one poster) as to whether he was actually better than them, but what makes him worse?

Quote:
As for whether it's Brett or Bobby, considering when the book was written, there's a chance it could be about Brett (which then would mean it isn't aying much) but I doubt it.

I can buy him and Hull being on the same level defensively. Based on what has been dug up lately, we might have overrated Bobby Hull's defensive game (from a career-long perspective, that is) in the past.
I think it's obviously Bobby. He talks about guys "coming after Richard," so it only makes sense that he was listing them chronologically. Also, I can't see a serious hockey historian considering Brett in the same breath as Rocket, Wayne, or Mario.

I mean, I wouldn't say Maurice was better defensively than Bobby just from one quote, but I certainly think that Maurice shouldn't be considered an aberration from the era in terms of sacrificing defense sometimes to score goals.

Quote:
Good points.
Yup, I posted this here hoping to get comments from guys like BM67.


Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe: 02-11-2011 at 01:10 PM.
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02-11-2011, 01:14 PM
  #30
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Canadiens1958 said Maurice was better defensively than Geoffrion or Rousseau. I wouldn't take his word (or the word of any one poster) as to whether he was actually better than them, but what makes him worse?
I haven't seen a thing about Geoffrion's defense in the past, which means the above constitutes a massive percentage of what I know about it.

As for Rousseau, he's always an ATD 3rd liner and everyone seems to agree he was a very good defensive player.

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02-11-2011, 01:16 PM
  #31
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Originally Posted by seventieslord View Post

As for Rousseau, he's always an ATD 3rd liner and everyone seems to agree he was a very good defensive player.
He is the only 3 time winner of the ATD.

And yes, his legends profile talks about his two-way play, so it's certainly solidly supported. (For a bit there, I thought maybe he was an offensive player who was a good PKer and his defense was wrongly extrapolated from that, but 2 seconds of actual research showed me up. It wouldn't be the first time ATD canon was wrong, though it is usually right, as it is in this case).

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02-11-2011, 06:04 PM
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Maurice:

..Richard could hold His own as a Defensive Checking Forward, as did the vast majority of Offensive minded Stars of the Original 6, given the tight positional nature of the era and the way youngsters learned to play the game..Of course it did not hurt that Montreal had such a strong Defense & checking specialists... Toe Blake would say:``The best Defense is a strong Offense``..Always irked me that Billy Reay tried to turn such a freewhelling, high cylinder offensive outfit as the Blackhawks into a team with defensive priorities...

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02-11-2011, 06:49 PM
  #33
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For what it's worth , having a big family in Montreal and living here since I'm born and listening to grandparents and such who were all Richard fans , Richard's defensive play was non-existant and the fact he was waiting for the Harvey feed should be notorious but is not.

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02-11-2011, 06:50 PM
  #34
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Originally Posted by Axxellien View Post
..Richard could hold His own as a Defensive Checking Forward, as did the vast majority of Offensive minded Stars of the Original 6, given the tight positional nature of the era and the way youngsters learned to play the game..Of course it did not hurt that Montreal had such a strong Defense & checking specialists... Toe Blake would say:``The best Defense is a strong Offense``..Always irked me that Billy Reay tried to turn such a freewhelling, high cylinder offensive outfit as the Blackhawks into a team with defensive priorities...
Can you think of any guys who played in the Original 6 era who didn't really hold their own defensively? Just curious.

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02-11-2011, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ReenMachine View Post
For what it's worth , having a big family in Montreal and living here since I'm born and listening to grandparents and such who were all Richard fans , Richard's defensive play was non-existant and the fact he was waiting for the Harvey feed should be notorious but is not.
Sorry, I don't quite understand what you said. Are you saying that his defensive play was non-existent and it should be notorious? Or are you saying that if his defensive play was non-existent, it would be notorious?

Thanks.

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02-11-2011, 07:05 PM
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..Well, not so much attacking forwards as team systems..The New York Rangers of the late 1950s come to mind..Magnificient offense, but a little suspect coming back on the other side..I have tapes of opposing teams staging end to end rushes with nary a Ranger forward around..And this during the playoffs...New York had that odd ``collapsing`` style of Defense & Gump would always get blamed of course....


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02-11-2011, 07:30 PM
  #37
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Originally Posted by Dark Shadows View Post
All this talk about Hull's speed while on the PK had me thinking of this video I uploaded awhile back of Hull intercepting a pass and just how fast he could get going. I uploaded this clip of him when someone was asking me if he really was that fast.



I would not go comparing Hull to Bure though. Bure was an immense pain to any coach defensively, while Hull was very much better defensively, willing to backcheck and go deep into his own end to retrieve a puck. Bure was more of a blueline hanger.
Hull was very fast but many players in the 06 weren't the quickest of skaters, shift length or not.

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02-11-2011, 07:35 PM
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I think that we have to take many of the written accounts of the 06 era and before and for some time afterwords with a grain of salt as the people who wrote about hockey were not encouraged to write a complete picture and in fact many who said anything critical about players or teams would get blacklisted as well.

For the most part hockey writers knew this and self censored their remarks accordingly.

For better or worse we have more information and analysis of the 2010 player than at any time and the farther we go back the less information we have and the less reliable, or less complete to be more precise, it is as well.

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02-19-2011, 04:44 PM
  #39
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"Another thing I'd like to stress about the Punch Line is the way they all backchecked. Some people seem to think that Richard isn't much of a backchecker. Well, we have records that show the Punch Line was scored on only 14 times in 60 games. That's certainly not a bad showing... and Richard helped make it."
The Montreal Gazette - Oct 2, 1948

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02-24-2011, 06:53 PM
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I have seen quotes from other websites that say Richard was very one dimensional, if its true, then i'm probably going to rank him below esposito and mikita in my next top 100.

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02-24-2011, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by ushvinder View Post
I have seen quotes from other websites that say Richard was very one dimensional, if its true, then i'm probably going to rank him below esposito and mikita in my next top 100.
Can you provide those quotes?

And ranking Maurice below Esposito because Maurice is "one dimensional" is strange to say the least.

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02-24-2011, 07:04 PM
  #42
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Maurice Richard IS a top-10 forward in NHL history, no doubt about it. But he was insanely one-dimensional. Maybe the best player from the blueline-in to EVER play the game, but didn't know his own zone from a hole in the ground. Had an explosive, violent temper that not only cost his team hockey games, but once cost his team the Stanley Cup. Again, one of the greatest goal scorers in history, but still overrated due to his legend.

this is a quote from a chat on the vancouver canucks website

The rocket is not esposito's equal on offense and mikita was a great back checker and face-off man, both of them seem like they are just better than the rocket.

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02-24-2011, 07:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ushvinder View Post
Maurice Richard IS a top-10 forward in NHL history, no doubt about it. But he was insanely one-dimensional. Maybe the best player from the blueline-in to EVER play the game, but didn't know his own zone from a hole in the ground. Had an explosive, violent temper that not only cost his team hockey games, but once cost his team the Stanley Cup. Again, one of the greatest goal scorers in history, but still overrated due to his legend.

this is a quote from a chat on the vancouver canucks website

The rocket is not esposito's equal on offense and mikita was a great back checker and face-off man, both of them seem like they are just better than the rocket.
A chat room on the Canucks website? Sounds much more credible than the articles posted in this thread...

I don't think RIchard was any more "one dimenstional" than Bobby Hull, for example.

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02-24-2011, 07:25 PM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
A chat room on the Canucks website? Sounds much more credible than the articles posted in this thread...

I don't think RIchard was any more "one dimenstional" than Bobby Hull, for example.
Well, i am just posting what other people say and there is a poster from montreal in this thread that also says pretty much the same thing. Maybe they are wrong, but if he was a two way player, there wouldnt be people trying to dispute it.

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02-25-2011, 12:11 AM
  #45
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
And ranking Maurice below Esposito because Maurice is "one dimensional" is strange to say the least.
Agree.

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02-25-2011, 01:09 PM
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ushvinder View Post
Well, i am just posting what other people say and there is a poster from montreal in this thread that also says pretty much the same thing. Maybe they are wrong, but if he was a two way player, there wouldnt be people trying to dispute it.
Maurice Richard was without a doubt not a two-way player. Neither were Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Jaromir Jagr, Bernard Geoffrion, Charlie Conacher, etc, etc, etc.

From what I have read, he did the minimum expected of a high scoring winger. Nothing more nothing less. He appears far from unique in that regards. In fact, there are accounts of Richard (and Bobby Hull) doing more defensively than some other stars, both in that era, and especially present.

When you're a scoring winger, when it comes to defense, just showing up is half the battle, and it appears Richard did that (at least when he wasn't sprawled on his face in the offensive zone with multiple defensemen piled on top of him).

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