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Round 2, Vote 13 (HOH Top Centers)

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Old
02-05-2014, 06:35 PM
  #76
MXD
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
It may be useful/interesting to compare Zetterberg and Lemaire (both have fairly short careers - obviously Zetterberg's is still in progress), fairly similar offensive numbers, excellent defensive abilities, and strong playoff performances. The comparison could also include Primeau (short career, good defensively) and/or Lafontaine (another player with a short career, though his profile - higher peak, weaker defensive and weaker playoffs - is very different). Is anybody considering including some/all of these in their top eight this round? Would this comparison be useful?
Humm....

Out of that group, Primeau probably won'T end up in my Top-8. As much as Lafontaine was a great, skilled player... I'm not sure he's a top-60 at all, if things like results are important.

It's interesting to note that, out of those 4 players, Jacques Lemaire is the one with the most complete seasons. Henrik Zetterberg will eventually pass him in that regards... but at this point, he'S below. I'd say, however, that Zetterberg is already ahead of Lafontaine in terms of all-time relevant seasons. I'm actually totally convinced I'll rank Zetterberg ahead of Lafontaine, even if the eye test tells me otherwise.

Zetterberg I'm strongly considering. Lemaire ... well, I'm weakly considering.

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02-05-2014, 08:50 PM
  #77
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This round, the players can be divided into four categories:
  • Short career NHL players: Lafontaine, Lemaire, Primeau, Zetterberg
  • Full career NHL players: Savard, Sittler, Sundin
  • Europeans: Larionov, Nedomansky, Petrov
  • Early era players: Fredrickson, Keats, MacKay
I'm going to compare the four short career NHL players.

OFFENSE
All four are surprisingly close in their “Vs X” score, which is, in my opinion, the single best way to compare offense across eras (Lafontaine - 78.8, Zetterberg – 76.7, Primeau 76.0, Lemaire – 75.5). To differentiate them, we need to look at, among other factors, their contribution to their teams’ success:

Lafontaine. Unquestionably the most talented player, but had bad luck with injuries. Led his team in scoring six times (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1996) – five of those years by 20+ points (1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1996). Truly a one-man show. More of a goal-scorer than a playmaker, which is odd (but not necessarily undesirable) for a centre. Top twenty in scoring 5 times, including runner-up to Lemieux in 1993 (which would have been an Art Ross most other years).

Zetterberg. Led his team in scoring twice (2011, 2012) but was runner up six times. Normal balance between goals & assists. Top twenty in scoring 4 times.

Lemaire. Lemaire led his team in scoring only once (1973 – by a two point margin over Mahovlich) and was runner-up only twice more (1970 and 1978). I realize he was often used in defensive roles, but he also received a lot of ice time and had many chances to play with Lafleur and Shutt. Normal balance between goals & assists. Top twenty in scoring 4 times. All things considered, his output is disappointing.

Primeau. What jumps out is that Primeau never led his team in scoring and finished 2nd only twice. I realize that there were some close scoring finishes on “The Kid Line” with Conacher and Jackson, but Primeau looks like he was the worst of the three offensively. Primeau’s last year as an elite player was 1934 - Conacher won one of his two Art Ross trophies and had two of his five top-five scoring finishes after that. Jackson had three of his five years as a top ten scorer, and three of his six years as a top ten goal-scorer, after that. This, combined with the relative scoring placements, suggests that Primeau was not the main catalyst on these teams. Although he was a terrible goal-scorer (career high of just 14 goals), he gets credit for leading the NHL in assists three times. Top ten in scoring 3 times (I looked at top twenty for the other players who played in a much larger league).

DEFENSE
Lafontaine is clearly last; you can argue about the order of the other three, but it`s close.

Zetterberg. Excellent defensive forward. As detailed in the award section, placed in the top ten in Selke voting five times. Partially earned the 2008 Smythe thanks to containing Crosby in the Finals.

Primeau. The defensive conscience of the Kid Line. A strong two-way player at even strength and on the penalty kill. A small, clean player, but a hard worker with underrated grit.

Lemaire. An excellent two-way forward and strong penalty killer. Much like Primeau, was the defensive conscience of his line. Unfortunately the Selke wasn’t introduced until in 1978, his penultimate season.

Lafontaine. Not a good defensive forward. Still, played a bit on the penalty kill.

AWARDS
Zetterberg and Lafontaine are clearly the two leaders. Although Lafontaine has the higher peak (evidenced by his two top-five Hart trophy placements), I give Zetterberg the edge due to sustained high-level ability (five seasons with significant all-star votes compared to three) and his other awards (Conn Smythe, and many years of contending for the Selke). Primeau and Lemaire are well behind – I give Primeau the edge due to faring so well in Lady Byng voting back when it was an esteemed award.

Zetterberg. Conn Smythe in 2008. Top ten in Hart voting once (10th in 2008 – but only third among his teammates); received a smattering of votes a few other years. Top ten in Selke voting five times (3rd in 2008, 4th in 2009, 7th in 2007, 9th in 2006, 9th in 2010). Received serious all-star consideration five times (always at LW): 2nd in 2008 (Ovechkin), 3rd (Ovechkin, Sedin), 4th in 2006 (Ovechkin, Heatley, Kovalchuk), 4th in 2013 (Kunitz, Ovechkin (who wasn’t a LW), Hall), 5th in 2007 (Ovechkin, Vanek, Sedin, Heatley). Placed in the top five in Lady Byng voting once (5th in 2008) – but this is no longer a valuable, respected award. Was runner-up for the Calder but not sure how important that is.

Lafontaine. Serious Hart contender twice – 3rd in 1993 (Lemieux, Gilmour) and 5th in 1990 (Messier, Bourque, Hull, Gretzky). Earned significant votes for the all-star team three times, facing very tough competition: 2nd in 1993 (Lemieux), 5th in 1990 (Messier, Gretzky, Yzerman, Lemieux), 5th in 1992 (Messier, Lemieux, Gretzky, Roenick). Placed in the top three in Lady Byng voting in 1990 and 1993, and in the top ten several more times, but it was not a valued/respected award at the time.

Primeau. Never a contender for the Hart trophy. Was 2nd team all-star in 1933 and 3rd team in 1932. Finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in Lady Byng voting during an era when this was an important award.

Lemaire. Virtually no Hart recognition (2 voting points in 1973). Finished 4th in centre all-star voting twice (1973 and 1978). Was runner-up for the Calder but not sure how important that is. Top five for the Lady Byng twice (1973 and 1978) but it was not a valued/respected award at the time.

PLAYOFFS/INTERNATIONAL
Generally strong playoff performers. I have Lafontaine ranked last, but even he's a solid performer.

Lemaire. Won a staggering eight Stanley Cups. Top five in playoff scoring five times (1968, 1971, 1973, 1977, 1979) while also contributing defensively. A lot of this is due to the fact that he played on a dynasty, but deserves full credit for taking advantage of these opportunities. Offense is virtually even in the regular season (0.98 ppg) and playoffs (0.96 ppg) in an era where playoff scoring usually dropped around 10%.

Zetterberg. Won one Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe (both in 2008). Has placed first and third in playoff scoring (2008 and 2009) despite often being used in defensive roles. Offense is virtually even in the regular season (0.95 ppg) and playoffs (0.93 ppg) in an era where playoff scoring usually dropped around 10%. Played on three Olympics teams (tied for third in scoring on gold medal team in 2006).

Primeau. Won one Stanley Cup. Top ten in playoff scoring four times (but higher than third on his team just once – 1934). Scored 0.78 ppg during the regular season and 0.61 ppg during the playoffs – the drop of 22% is fairly average for his era.

Lafontaine. Large drop in playoff production (1.17 ppg down to 0.90 ppg). However, a disproportionate amount of his playoff games occurred early in his career, before he was an elite scorer. If we focus on 1987 to 1995, he scored 1.29 ppg in the regular season and 1.20 ppg in the playoffs – slightly better than expected given the era. Minor contributor to 1996 World Cup champion team.

OTHER FACTORS

Lemaire. Versatile; can play both LW and C. Exceptionally disciplined (21 PIM per 82 games) given his role and era. Strong on faceoffs.

Zetterberg. Versatile; can play both LW and C. Interestingly, virtually all of his all-star recognition has come at LW, even though he’s split his time fairly evenly between those two positions. Remarkably disciplined (33 PIM per 82 games) given his role.

Primeau. 28 PIM per 82 games.

Lafontaine. 52 PIM per 82 games; not a bad number, but mostly due to the frustrations of a small player lashing out with stupid penalties. Still, a bit scrappier than one would expect given his fairly small size.

LONGEVITY
Normally I wouldn’t specifically consider longevity, but these players are all lacking in that category and it may be interesting to see how they compare to each other. Primeau is clearly last, the others are close.

Lemaire. 853 games; played in seven seasons of 70+ games (and two more of 69 games, both of which would equate to 70+ games over an 82 game schedule).

Lafontaine. 865 games; played in seven seasons of 70+ games. These are surprisingly low numbers given that he played from 1984 to 1998 – had a lot of partial, injury-plagued seasons.

Zetterberg. As of today, played 757 games. Played in seven seasons of 70+ games, and virtually the entire lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. In another year and a half, Zetterberg could be first here, but we can’t speculate on future performance.

Primeau. Very short career. 310 games, which, adjusted for era, is roughly 550 games. Played six seasons where he was on track for 70+ games over an 82 game schedule. This wasn’t really a product of his era - when he retired (18 years after the NHL was formed), he was just 61st in games played.

OVERALL
If I had a vote (remember, I’m not a participant in this project), I’d have Zetterberg in my top four this round. I think that Lafontaine and Lemaire probably should be towards the bottom of the top sixty, and Primeau probably shouldn’t be included.

Zetterberg. A lower peak than Lafontaine, but has played at an all-star level for longer. Superb intangibles – an excellent playoff and international performer, excellent defensively, disciplined, gritty, and versatile.

Lafontaine. Two points in his favour. First, he has the best peak of these players (two years as Hart trophy contender). Second, he may have a similar “Vs X” score to all of these players, but given his role on his team, he was clearly the biggest offensive catalyst and a one-man scoring machine. Still, his intangibles (playoffs, defense) are the weakest of the four.

Lemaire. Similar intangibles to Zetterberg (an excellent playoff performer and defensive forward). Still, received very little award recognition and probably the weakest offensive player of the group (both statistically, and in terms of team context). I seriously considered putting him second but the disparity in Hart/all-star voting was a big obstacle, as was the fact that Lafontaine was so much more important to his team’s offense, even if the numbers are similar.

Primeau. He was a brilliant playmaker and a good defensive forward, but there are two major strikes against him. First, he appears to have been far more dependent upon his all-star teammates than they were on him (as detailed above). Second, he has incredibly little career value (only around 550 “adjusted” games). Not trying to be hard on him - by all accounts Primeau was a classy, likable player, but the lack of longevity and questions about his importance to the team keep him in fourth.


Last edited by Hockey Outsider: 02-06-2014 at 11:15 AM.
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Old
02-05-2014, 09:22 PM
  #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
This round, the players can be divided into four categories:
  • Short career NHL players: Lafontaine, Lemaire, Primeau, Zetterberg
  • Full career NHL players: Savard, Sittler, Sundin
  • Europeans: Larionov, Nedomansky, Petrov
  • Early era players: Fredrickson, Keats, MacKay
I'm going to compare the four short career NHL players.
I don't want to nitpick, and I'm not sure I'm bringing anything to the discussion...

Darryl Sittler indeed had a longer career than Jacques Lemaire. However, their numbers of relevant seasons is the same (12... by my definition of "relevant season", which is totally arbitrary by the way, but a quick perusal at any stat site will quickly give you a clue of what I mean).

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02-05-2014, 09:27 PM
  #79
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"Longevity" including playoff games:

Jacques Lemaire: 853+145=998
Pat LaFontaine: 865+69 =934
Henrik Zetterberg: 757+123 =880

Zetterberg makes up some ground (and he is still an active player) and Lemaire jumps ahead while the difference between Darryl Sittler (1171) and him is reduced to two seasons worth of games.

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02-05-2014, 10:52 PM
  #80
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Center Rotation

One of overlooked aspects when it comes to evaluating offense performance is the depth or extent of the positional rotation on a team. In this case it is centers.

In this round this oversight is impacting a number of players, some positively, some negatively.

Positively. Pat Lafontaine reaps the benefit of playing in a three man center rotation in Buffalo during the 1992-93 season, a high scoring expansion year. Dave Hannan, the fourth center, played all of 55 games, 5G, 15A.

http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/BUF/1993.html

Contrast to 1992-93 Denis Savard with the Canadiens playing thru a 6 center rotation where the 6th group transient Skrudland, Di Pietro, Belanger combined for 14 G and 18A.

Joe Primeau with the Leafs was part of a three line rotation sharing time with a 4th, C/Winger like Charlie Sands,

Jacques Lemaire was part of at least a five center rotation stretching upwards to seven. End of career he was the lead center, ahead of Pierre Larouche, Doug Risebrough, Doug Jarvis, Pierre Mondou, Rejean Houle.

Henrik Zetterberg was always part of a deep center group with Detroit, upwards of six.

Conversely Darryl Sittler benefited offensively after Keon and Ullman left, app 20% upwards bump. Likewise Mats Sundin with Toronto, basically a point a game player despite a TOI advantage. Contrast to Lemaire at .98 with about 15% less ice time per game.

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02-06-2014, 07:22 AM
  #81
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This doesn't undermine your point vis-á-vis the Czech and NHL teams, which I agree with, but I really don't think this particular narrative applies well to the Soviets.
No it doesn't, when you compare the rosters (more star players in the 1970s) and the results (they were beaten far less frequently in the 1980s).

Then again, USSR had very good runs in the 1970s too; 1973-75 (lost only 1 WC game out of 30, although it was a bad one; 2-7 to CSSR) and 1978-79, for example.

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02-06-2014, 09:41 AM
  #82
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post

LONGEVITY
Normally I wouldn’t specifically consider longevity, but these players are all lacking in that category and it may be interesting to see how they compare to each other. Primeau is clearly last, the others are close.

Lemaire. 853 games; played in seven seasons of 70+ games (and two more of 69 games, both of which would equate to 70+ games over an 82 game schedule).

Lafontaine. 865 games; played in seven seasons of 70+ games. These are surprisingly low numbers given that he played from 1984 to 1998 – had a lot of partial, injury-plagued seasons.

Zetterberg. As of today, played 757 games. Played in seven seasons of 70+ games, and virtually the entire lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. In another year and a half, Zetterberg could be first here, but we can’t speculate on future performance.

Primeau. Very short career. 310 games, which, adjusted for era, is roughly 550 games. Played six seasons where he was on track for 70+ games over an 82 game schedule. This wasn’t really a product of his era - when he retired (18 years after the NHL was formed), he was just 61st in games played.
Very good post. Just a short comment on the longevity; Zetterberg did play almost a full year and a half during the lockouts. Considering he was an established NHL player both in 2004-05 and 2013 this should make up most of the slight edge Lafontaine and Lemaire have here.

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02-06-2014, 10:58 AM
  #83
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
"Longevity" including playoff games:

Jacques Lemaire: 853+145=998
Pat LaFontaine: 865+69 =934
Henrik Zetterberg: 757+123 =880

Zetterberg makes up some ground (and he is still an active player) and Lemaire jumps ahead while the difference between Darryl Sittler (1171) and him is reduced to two seasons worth of games.
I agree with alot that overpass made in his comp and post on the 4 guys but why are people not giving Zetts "credit" for the missed lockout games?

It is very much a situation like WW2 in that players had no choice and couldn't play in the NHL at that time.


Last edited by Hardyvan123: 02-06-2014 at 11:01 AM. Reason: Sorry didn't read through to Edinson post which makes the same comment
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02-06-2014, 11:21 AM
  #84
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Very good post. Just a short comment on the longevity; Zetterberg did play almost a full year and a half during the lockouts. Considering he was an established NHL player both in 2004-05 and 2013 this should make up most of the slight edge Lafontaine and Lemaire have here.
Good point - I fully intended to comment on Zetterberg playing during the lockout but I must have forgotten (it took a while to write that post). Taking that into account Zetterberg is at least on even ground with Lemaire and Lafontaine.

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02-06-2014, 07:08 PM
  #85
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Humm....

Out of that group, Primeau probably won'T end up in my Top-8. As much as Lafontaine was a great, skilled player... I'm not sure he's a top-60 at all, if things like results are important.
I feel the same way.

The biggest thing Lafontaine has going for him right now is he is an excellent per-game goalscorer.

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02-06-2014, 10:44 PM
  #86
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I feel the same way.

The biggest thing Lafontaine has going for him right now is he is an excellent per-game goalscorer.
But I'm kinda torn on this -- Lafontaine does really well on eyetest, and HO did bring a good point in that he was often the lone threat. But it's sure that, on pure results, I don't think I can slot him in the Top-60 at all.

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02-06-2014, 10:53 PM
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But I'm kinda torn on this -- Lafontaine does really well on eyetest, and HO did bring a good point in that he was often the lone threat. But it's sure that, on pure results, I don't think I can slot him in the Top-60 at all.
What's that mean? Team results?

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02-06-2014, 11:02 PM
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What's that mean? Team results?
Nah, individual results/stats, obviously.

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02-06-2014, 11:16 PM
  #89
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Nah, individual results/stats, obviously.
Seems his individual results (putting the puck in the net) were pretty impressive.

5th best goals per game all-time for centers. Only Gretzky, Lemieux, Esposito and Dionne better.

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02-06-2014, 11:30 PM
  #90
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Seems his individual results (putting the puck in the net) were pretty impressive.

5th best goals per game all-time for centers. Only Gretzky, Lemieux, Esposito and Dionne better.
Yeah, but playing in the tail-end of the 80ies AND having his best season in 92-93 (which should TOTALLY be counted for a Art Ross, by the way) will tend to do that for a goalscoring center.

I'm just trying to be somewhat fair to every player. I've been somewhat critical of "spike" players so far and not doing the same for Lafontaine would be intellectually dishonest. Part of me want to put him in the Top-3 (at the very least) of this round right away. The other says "meh, maybe Top-60, not sure".

If anything, HO's wrap up of Primeau, Lemaire, Zetterberg and Lafontaine is extremely interesting -- possibly the most well-articulated post of the whole project, even if I do agree with some determinations in it. Now, I don't think Primeau has a case over Lafontaine. Lemaire has a bit of the Larionov syndrome (certainly won't lead his team in scoring while playing with Lafleur...).


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02-07-2014, 02:06 AM
  #91
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^ LaFontaine did have 93 points in 57 games in the 91–92 season, the year before his spike season. That's a PPG of 1.63 and would have given him about 133 points over a full season if he held that pace. That's only behind Lemieux & Gretzky for the season. It's not a 1.76 pace like he held in 92–93 but that season was anomaly for most everyone so I think it's fair to say it wasn't far from it.

I'm more interested in how his already very good numbers with the Islanders shot through the roof when he first came to Buffalo. I think playing with an elite winger like Mogilny probably had something to do with it, but does it explain everything? Mogilny paced for 103 and 139 points those seasons so he was a fair bit behind LaFontaine's numbers, at least in 91–92.

I've also read somewhere that Lemieux said LaFontaine's presence in the league and the "rivalry" he brought helped Lemieux motivate himself to raise his game, or something along that line. That's quite a compliment, coming from Lemieux.


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02-07-2014, 02:46 AM
  #92
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I'm more interested in how his already very good numbers with the Islanders shot through the roof when he first came to Buffalo. I think playing with an elite winger like Mogilny probably had something to do with it, but does it explain everything?
Not really, no. Fact is, Lafontaine was an absolutely brilliant hockey player. One of my favorites all time, be they Canadian, European, Russian or American born & reared as he was. Just an incredible talent laid low by concussions. Some beyond serious hockey IQ with that one. Just tragic that we as fans never got to see the best. Headed straight for the top. Written all over him. Stars fell from the Heavens. Very sad.

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02-07-2014, 12:37 PM
  #93
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I've also read somewhere that Lemieux said LaFontaine's presence in the league and the "rivalry" he brought helped Lemieux motivate himself to raise his game, or something along that line. That's quite a compliment, coming from Lemieux.
This may or may not be what you are talking about, and my memory may or may not be a little fuzzy on this. In other words, don't put too much stock in this unless others can verify . . .

I do remember a lot of friendly banter going around while Lemieux was out with cancer in '93 that Mario was just giving LaFontaine (and Turgeon, Yzerman, Oates, others toward the top of the scoring race) a chance to catch up. My vague recollections were that Lemieux was joking around that LaFontaine would be a good challenge for him, given that he was expecting to miss over a quarter of the season.

It's possible you're referencing other comments by Lemieux, and it's even possible the jokes I'm attributing to Lemieux were actually made by other players or reporters about Lemieux's absence.

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02-07-2014, 01:17 PM
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^ I don't think it was about the 92–93 season. I think it had more to do with the early to mid 80s and LaFontaine's season in the Q when he put up 234 points in 70 games. But then later on he had to plow three or four seasons with the Islanders before he even became a regular PPG player in the NHL, so I think it's fair to say that he never threatened Mario territory...

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02-07-2014, 04:38 PM
  #95
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A bit more detail on Joe Primeau, who had an unconventional career for a top-60 type center. I hope the following goes some way to help explain why he had such a short but noteworthy period of all-time significance.

Early career

Primeau was raised first in BC, which was not a source of hockey talent due to its mild climate. His family eventually moved to Toronto, and he only learned to skate at age 13.

His junior career was successful, especially given his late start, but the knock on young Primeau was a lack of stoutness and toughness. In his brief turn as Rangers GM, Conn Smythe recommended they sign Primeau, but was overruled on the grounds that Primeau was too soft for the NHL. It wasn't until Smythe went to the Leafs that he was finally able to get his man.

Primeau is credited with two GP in his first NHL season, but I can only find record of one -- a quiet tryout on 11/22/27, in which he apparently centered the second line but didn't make an impact on the (very detailed) game summary. The Leafs essentially had too many sub defensemen and not enough centers; they must have called Primeau up to see if he could help solve that problem. Smythe ended up trading for Jimmy Herbert a month later, giving the Leafs a full-time second center for the rest of the season.

The HHOF's website says Primeau got another tryout for the last six games of the following season, but that is incorrect -- it was actually the first six games. On opening night, Primeau skated on the "second or recruit" forward line with Andy Blair and one of Gerry Lowrey or George Horne. It appears he didn't even get into the game until halfway through, and immediately picked up an assist on a rush with Blair. Oddly, Primeau appears to have been benched for the following game, the Leafs rolling a second line of Horne-Blair-Lowrey in spite of that line's evident struggles. In the third game, he was promoted all the way up to starting wing, but the team was shut out and he didn't do anything noteworthy; and he found himself back on the bench again. Shortly thereafter, the Leafs replaced Primeau with Alex Gray, and sent Primeau back down to the Can-Pro league. The Leafs continued to churn through center options for the remainder of the season.

A couple of key changes to the Leafs lineup opened the window for Primeau: first, George "Shorty" Horne tragically drowned during the offseason, reducing the Leafs' second line depth. Second, the arrival of Charlie Conacher and Busher Jackson as teenage stars would cause Smythe to think of his center position in terms of who would work best with those wingers. A third, broader factor was the liberalization of offense which increased the speed of the game and demanded more frequent substitutions. Second-line players were getting chances that they hadn't before. The Leafs in particular suffered from poor conditioning and an inability to exploit the faster style of game.

The Leafs struggled badly to open the season and by the turn of 1930, Dick Irvin was trying different forward combinations to try and spark offense. Primeau and Andy Blair alternated as first-line centers for a brief time, and then Irvin hit the jackpot right around the New Year by putting Primeau, Conacher and Busher Jackson together. The Gazette's summary of 1/6/1930 notes that Smythe gambled and sent his "kid front line" out in the second period while trailing the Habs, only to see them rip off 4 goals before the end of the period. The rest of the story of the "Kid Line" is familiar history.

Late career

Skipping over Primeau's prime, which is pretty straightforward in terms of his being the center of a dominant line, I want to also look at the reasons behind the abrupt end of his career.

Going into '34-'35, Primeau had lead the league in assists in 3 of 4 seasons. He was first in assists and second in points only to his linemate, Conacher, during that timespan. The Kid Line was still together, having won a Cup together, and the Leafs were coming off a first-place finish.

In one of those frustrating twists of fate, Primeau had his thumb broken in a preseason game by a rookie, Pep Kelly. Primeau watched as the Leafs exploded out of the gate for 8 consecutive wins, and both Conacher and Jackson continued to pour pucks into the net. When he finally got back, Primeau was eased into the lineup with Blair and Thoms skating ahead of him at times. He still scored enough to be just outside the top-10 in PPG, but that would be expected from any center playing with Charlie Conacher at that point. Primeau was injured again in practice before the playoffs, and was very very quiet during the two-series playoff run. It's fair to say that the "magic" was gone from the Kid Line by the end of 1935, as it was more a matter of Conacher simply being a superstar and carrying his line.

The Kid Line played together early in the 35'-36 campaign, but Irvin broke them up when it became apparent that they were no longer producing. Bill Thoms took Primeau's spot with Conacher, and Jackson centered his own line. Primeau's and Jackson's points plummeted as they cyled through linemates, but Conacher continued to star as one of the league's top scorers. Also, Smythe reportedly had plans to shake-up the composition of the Leafs with a new set of "kids", particularly Syl Apps who on the horizon as a prospect.

The Leafs managed to make the Finals but were seriously outclassed by the Wings. In their final game together, Irvin reunited the Kid Line and Primeau played an outstanding game by all reports. He quietly put himself on the retired list in the offseason.


Summary

Primeau's late entry into the NHL had a lot to do with his slender frame and late beginning in organized hockey. He had a couple of tryouts with the Leafs while they were auditioning centers, but didn't show exceptional promise until paired with Conacher and Jackson.

Primeau's early retirement was preceded by at least two badly-timed injuries which took him out of action and magnified the appearance that he was riding shotgun to Conacher's stardom. His career never recovered from the interruption; Irvin saw enough of Conacher with other lines to ditch the Kid Line concept and Primeau never truly proved himself able to carry a line to great heights on his own. He played well in his final playoff and seemed to still be a serviceable NHL'er when he retired.


Last edited by tarheelhockey: 02-07-2014 at 04:44 PM.
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02-07-2014, 06:47 PM
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Kyle McMahon
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I remember reading that Conn Smythe gave most of the credit to the Kid Line's success to Primeau, considering both Jackson and Conacher to be lazy beneficiaries of their center. Of course, Smythe also kept Jackson out of the Hall of Fame until the 70's due to his disapproval of Jackson's high living, and perhaps he had a certain affinity for the classy "Gentleman Joe" that tainted his judgement in later years.

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02-07-2014, 10:48 PM
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I remember reading that Conn Smythe gave most of the credit to the Kid Line's success to Primeau, considering both Jackson and Conacher to be lazy beneficiaries of their center. Of course, Smythe also kept Jackson out of the Hall of Fame until the 70's due to his disapproval of Jackson's high living, and perhaps he had a certain affinity for the classy "Gentleman Joe" that tainted his judgement in later years.
Ya, pretty tragic tale really. Busher Jackson had Hollywood good looks & lived fast, total spendthrift. Party Animal. When his career ended he was broke, holding down various dead end jobs & living vicariously. His health started failing at a still relatively young age, dying in 1966. Both of his linemates from the Kid Line had been inducted but Smythe was having none of that. Finally in 71 the rest of the Induction Committee over-ruled Smythe, Jackson Inducted posthumously, his son Kim accepting on his behalf, Smythe resigning from the HHOF Induction Committee in protest.

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02-07-2014, 11:40 PM
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I remember reading that Conn Smythe gave most of the credit to the Kid Line's success to Primeau, considering both Jackson and Conacher to be lazy beneficiaries of their center. Of course, Smythe also kept Jackson out of the Hall of Fame until the 70's due to his disapproval of Jackson's high living, and perhaps he had a certain affinity for the classy "Gentleman Joe" that tainted his judgement in later years.
With all due respect to the architect of the line, and recognizing that he was closer to them than anyone but maybe Irvin, the media reports of the day make it very very clear that Conacher was the driving offensive force. He showed the most promise before the line was put together, was the primary threat not just on that line but in the league at the time, and sustained his level of play after the line was broken up. Smythe's opinion is obviously founded in his experience, but I can't see a rational way to explain how Conacher was anything but the brightest star of the line.

None of that is meant to disparage Primeau, who was great in his own right.

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02-08-2014, 12:24 PM
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1935-36 Season Without

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Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
With all due respect to the architect of the line, and recognizing that he was closer to them than anyone but maybe Irvin, the media reports of the day make it very very clear that Conacher was the driving offensive force. He showed the most promise before the line was put together, was the primary threat not just on that line but in the league at the time, and sustained his level of play after the line was broken up. Smythe's opinion is obviously founded in his experience, but I can't see a rational way to explain how Conacher was anything but the brightest star of the line.

None of that is meant to disparage Primeau, who was great in his own right.
Still if we look at the performance of the three individual players when they were split at the start of the 1935-36 season we see that Primeau's performance declined by 13 points, Conacher's by 19 points and Jackson's by 22 points. Primeau retired. Conacher was injured and did not bounce back Jackson with Apps and Drillon the next season bounced back and had a few good years:

http://www.hockey-reference.com/teams/TOR/1936.html

Conacher may have been the brightest star but it seems that Conn Smythe recognized the straw that stirred the drink.

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02-08-2014, 01:37 PM
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Still if we look at the performance of the three individual players when they were split at the start of the 1935-36 season we see that Primeau's performance declined by 13 points, Conacher's by 19 points and Jackson's by 22 points.
The difference has largely to do with the fact that Primeau had a shorter distance to fall. In 1935, Conacher's 57 points were 4 more than anyone else would score in a decade long span. Even losing 19 points still left him as the league's leading goal scorer and 4th in points, and that was without two star linemates to boost his numbers.

Maybe the more telling thing is that both of Conacher's new linemates, Thoms and Boll, instantly had (non-WWII) career highs in points while skating with him. Conacher made his linemates that much better, regardless who they were. Primeau never really showed that quality; he was perfect for the Kid Line but didn't show much outside of that context.


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Conacher may have been the brightest star but it seems that Conn Smythe recognized the straw that stirred the drink.
I agree that Primeau had the "straw" role on that line. The tough thing is figuring out how much he would have been capable of in a different environment. His skill set was perfect for riding shotgun with Conacher, but he didn't really show any ability to carry a line as the primary scoring threat.

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