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Round 2, Vote 5 (HOH Top Defensemen)

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Old
12-09-2011, 01:18 AM
  #76
Hawkey Town 18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
- I was surprised to see that Lapointe was used more on the penalty kill than Savard (who generally has the reputation of being better defensively). What do others think?

The first thing that came to my mind was maybe Robinson and Savard were just so good on the 1st PK unit that Lapointe looks like he played more because he was on for more GA, when he actually played fewer minutes. Obviously he still would have had to of logged a good amount of PK time, just saying it may not be more than Savard. Of course, the simple solution is just to ask some of our older posters that watched the Habs regularly.

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12-09-2011, 02:22 AM
  #77
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Originally Posted by Der Kaiser View Post
Oh and in the case of Vasiliev, he only played with the rest of the Soviet stars on the national team. In the Soviet league, Vasiliev didn't play for the army team CSKA, he played for Dynamo (Maltsev did aswell), another of the Moscow clubs. During Vasiliev's time there they didn't win a single championship (it was virtually impossible due to CSKA's dominance and army connections). Despite this he was an all-star every year from 1973-1979 + 1981.
Expanding on this, I looked at the chidlovski website to see how Vasiliev's Dynamo teams ranked in GA for the Soviet League...

Stats were available for 11 seasons: 69'-70' to 79'-80'

Dynamo had the following finishes in GA: 1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 4


Notes:
- 3 out of the 4 second place finishes they were runner-up to the mighty CSKA Red Army Team who won the league championship 9 out of the 11 seasons finishing runner-up in the two they did not win.

- CSKA led the league in GA only 3 times during this period, but were consistently in the top 3

- Dynamo finished runner-up for the Championship 6 times during this stretch (lost to CSKA every time) and finished 3rd twice (they played a Bronze Medal game).

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12-09-2011, 02:52 AM
  #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overpass View Post
PP%: The percentage of the team’s power play goals for which the player was on the ice.
SH%: The percentage of the team’s power play goals against for which the player was on the ice.
Seventieslord probably will be annoyed now, but I just want to mention again that I think the above mentioned stats should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, you mention how Washington's PK stats changed dramatically when Langway wasn't on the team.
Quote:
Washington's power play goals against in the two seasons before Langway - 83, 67.
Washington's power play goals against in Langway's first two seasons - 53, 39.
There is a risk that players that are good at preventing GA, ends up with too low SH time estimations (and vice versa).
In cases where a player have missed games during the season in question, I think you make a projection (at least I think you did before) that may also be risky. I think for example Bobby Orr ended up being on ice for more than 100 % of the PP GF, which of course is impossible. That probably happened because when Orr didn't play, his team scored fewer PP goals per game. Better would be to only look at the games Orr actually played, but I understand that may be difficult. You may have spent time looking at newer seasons, where one can compare the estimations with real times/percentages, and come to the conclusion that even for the best players, the estimations are considered good enough.
(Interpret all the above as an interest in the numbers you present.)

Quote:
Borje Salming played on a weak team, but had excellent plus-minus numbers relative to his team. I wonder to what degree he and Ian Turnbull played the tough assignments, or if they were in more of an offensive role. Salming played a lot of minutes in all situations during his prime. His team results were below-average on both special teams, but it's hard to penalize him too much for that.
From what I remember, Salming played very much in defensive situations, being famous for his self-sacrificing style of play where here for example blocked shots with no concern at all of being hit in the face or whereever the puck might have ended up. He was a real fan favourite. I would be surprised if he didn't play in all important situations and against the best opponents, as he is reported to have had very high ice times.

No matter who in particular was the one to try to shutdown the best opponent, I would think both defencemen being on the ice against him would have their +/- affected the same way.

It would be interesting to compare Toronto's stats in games when Salming played, to their stats in games he missed. (I realize it is difficult and something probably no one, including I, will do.)


Quote:
Savard and Salming's numbers both dropped off around 1980. This is more understandable for Savard, as he was 33 years old, had played a lot of playoff games, and had major knee injuries during his career. What about Salming? Other posters here have suggested it was an accumulation of injuries, which is very possible.
It would be interesting to know. You probably saw Der Kaiser's post about Salming's injuries. He is pretty "famous" for being some kind of "iron man" who sort of never complained. I've heard his body today is pretty damaged, causing him pain, etc. But on the other hand, many/most former (or even current) players might experience similar things.


Quote:
Salming ended up playing until the age of 38, which was unusual at the time and is to his credit.
He played longer than that, and scored 4+3 pts in 8 GP as a 40 year old in the 1992 Olympics. "Retiring" from the NHL is not the same as retire, as there is a professional hockey world outside the NHL too. Most European players "retire" from the NHL at younger age than North American, as they for example want to end their career in their domestic league. (Edit: They often wants to do it while still being good enough to really help their club get a championship, or as in Salming's case help keeping them in the elite league).
This is not directed at you in particular. It just seems it needs to be mentioned every now and then.

Quote:
Note on Salming's prime years: I left out 1974 and 1975 because he played fewer minutes in those seasons (EV% of 39%, PP% of 46%, SH% of 57%.) But he was voted a second-team all-star in 1975, and was +38 in 1974, so you might choose to include those seasons in his prime.
I think so.


Last edited by plusandminus: 12-09-2011 at 09:47 AM.
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Old
12-09-2011, 03:48 AM
  #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plusandminus View Post
It would be interesting to know. You probably saw Der Kaiser's post about Salming's injuries. He is pretty "famous" for being some kind of "iron man" who sort of never complained. I've heard his body today is pretty damaged, causing him pain, etc. But on the other hand, many/most former (or even current) players might experience similar things.
Well he's from a miner's family in Kiruna (Sweden's northernmost city, roughly on the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska), I'd be surprised if he ever complained about any pain. His dad died in a mining accident when he was just 5 years old. He stayed with his grandparents outside of Boden for a while before his mother found a job. I guess that during his hockey career he'd always know that there were folks back home who would be suffering far more than he ever did without the spotlight to complain. His older brother Stig Salming was exactly the same; tough as nails (he was more of a hardhat on the ice though, very penalized in the SEL) and never complaining. Börje himself claims that Stig was hard on him as a kid, but that he taught him well to never take anything for granted.

It is not merely coincidence that Börje Salming was the first European to excel in the tough NHL climate. If anyone was up for the task, Börje was.

Considering his health nowadays, I've read that he actually holds up quite well, working out at least 3 days a week for 2 hours. Cycling, rowing, weight lifting and boxing. Not bad for a 60 year old man who's taken more knocks than most.


Last edited by Pear Juice: 12-09-2011 at 03:53 AM.
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12-09-2011, 11:04 AM
  #80
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
Great analysis as always. The biggest surprises were:

- Howe played the least amount of time on the penalty kill (in terms of his prime). I would have assumed that Howe played more on the PK than Niedermayer and Leetch (though in the latter's case, he likely earned a lot of PK ice time in order to generated shorthanded offense, and also because the Rangers generally lacked depth).
Howe's special teams usage is a bit lower than one would expect, based on his reputation. I guess he was just more of a skating/transition/even-strength player.

Howe was listed at 5'11", 185 lbs. Every great penalty killing defenceman (post-expansion) has been bigger. Most have been 6'2 or taller. Among the shorter ones were Ray Bourque (5'11, 220 lbs) and Chris Chelios (6'0, 191 lbs).

Howe was also a much better offensive player at even strength than on the power play. His skating would have been more of an advantage at even strength. He used his great wrist shot more than a slap shot, but maybe this wasn't as good a fit for the power play?

Here are the year-by-year special teams numbers for Howe, as well as his rank among defenceman on his team and who he was behind, if anyone. Keeping in mind that single season numbers are imprecise...

Year Player PP% Rk Behind
1980 Mark Howe 82% 1
1981 Mark Howe 80% 1
1982 Mark Howe 63% 1
1983 Mark Howe 70% 1
1984 Mark Howe 49% 1
1985 Mark Howe 47% 3 Eriksson
1986 Mark Howe 53% 2 Crossman
1987 Mark Howe 72% 1
1988 Mark Howe 60% 1
1989 Mark Howe 69% 1
1990 Mark Howe 49% 3 Murphy, Huffman
1991 Mark Howe 56% 2 Murphy
1992 Mark Howe 56% 2 Duchesne
1993 Mark Howe 36% 4 Coffey, Chiasson, etc
1994 Mark Howe 20% 4 Coffey, Lidstrom, etc
1995 Mark Howe 31% 4 Coffey, Lidstrom, etc

Year Player SH% Rk Behind
1980 Mark Howe 49% 3 Sims, Ley
1981 Mark Howe 46% 3 Sims, Barnes
1982 Mark Howe 34% 3 Wesley, Kotsopoulous
1983 Mark Howe 29% 4 Marsh, Dvorak, McCrimmon*
1984 Mark Howe 35% 4 McCrimmon, Marsh, Dvorak
1985 Mark Howe 53% 1
1986 Mark Howe 53% 1
1987 Mark Howe 47% 2 Crossman
1988 Mark Howe 49% 2 Crossman
1989 Mark Howe 52% 2 Samuelsson
1990 Mark Howe 47% 3 Samuelsson, Carkner
1991 Mark Howe 70% 3 Samuelsson, Carkner
1992 Mark Howe 33% 5 Samuelsson, Carkner, etc
1993 Mark Howe 27% 5 Chiasson, Konstantinov, etc
1994 Mark Howe 18% 6 Chiasson, Konstantinov, etc
1995 Mark Howe 19% 6 Rouse, Coffey, etc
*Howe played forward on the PK this season.

Edit: Another factor, at least during the Mike Keenan years of 84/85 to 87/88, might have been the fact that Keenan preferred to go with four defencemen as much as possible in Philadelphia. So he wouldn't want to play one defenceman on special teams too much, to avoid messing up the rotation.

Here's an indication of what Keenan thought about Mark Howe. I ran across it while reading up on Pronger.
Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun, Dec 11, 1997:
Quote:
Keenan has always believed a dominant, Norris Trophy-calibre defenceman is essential. Keenan traded for Chris Chelios when he was in Chicago and for Chris Pronger when he coached and managed in St. Louis. He had Brian Leetch when New York won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

Keenan said the only exception to his rule may have been in Philadelphia, where he surrounded superior, but not outstanding, defenceman Mark Howe with a strong supporting cast.
So, as long as the reporter isn't putting words in Keenan's mouth, this suggests that Keenan thought Chelios, Leetch, and Pronger were on another level as compared to Howe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
- I was surprised to see that Lapointe was used more on the penalty kill than Savard (who generally has the reputation of being better defensively). What do others think?
That's in part because of the years I chose to show.

Lapointe played on Montreal's first PK unit from 1973-74 to 1978/79. During those years, Savard was also on the top penalty kill unit. Savard's SH% was 70%, as compared to 72% for Lapointe. I don't think that's a significant difference.

Savard played a larger PK role outside of those years, which is a tiebreaker in his favour. After JC Tremblay left, Savard was the one who replaced him on the first PK unit. Lapointe joined him a year later, replacing Laperriere. And when Robinson was promoted to the first unit, he bumped Lapointe to the second unit. Savard remained on the first unit with Robinson.


Quote:
Originally Posted by plusandminus View Post
Seventieslord probably will be annoyed now, but I just want to mention again that I think the above mentioned stats should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, you mention how Washington's PK stats changed dramatically when Langway wasn't on the team.

There is a risk that players that are good at preventing GA, ends up with too low SH time estimations (and vice versa).
In cases where a player have missed games during the season in question, I think you make a projection (at least I think you did before) that may also be risky. I think for example Bobby Orr ended up being on ice for more than 100 % of the PP GF, which of course is impossible. That probably happened because when Orr didn't play, his team scored fewer PP goals per game. Better would be to only look at the games Orr actually played, but I understand that may be difficult. You may have spent time looking at newer seasons, where one can compare the estimations with real times/percentages, and come to the conclusion that even for the best players, the estimations are considered good enough.
(Interpret all the above as an interest in the numbers you present.)
Yes, that's true. Especially for players who miss some games.

I think this is less of a factor for the SH numbers than the PP numbers. The best penalty killers usually end up matched up against the opponent's first unit power play, and they defend the 5-on-3 situations. So they play in situation where they have a higher chance of getting scored against. This is why I show the team numbers. A great defensive defenceman may end up with a lot of PPGA because of the situation he plays in, but if his team numbers are good, he's probably doing something right.

Scott Stevens is a good example of this. I looked at his actual TOI numbers, and his team allowed PP goals at a higher rate when he was on the ice than when he was off the ice. But that's almost certainly because he matched up against the opponents' first power play units every time, and defended against the 5-on-3's.

(You gave the example of Bobby Orr. A more relevant example to this round is Brian Leetch in 1992-93. He was on the ice for 40 PPGF in 36 games. In the 48 games he missed, the Rangers only scored 37 PP goals.)


Last edited by overpass: 12-09-2011 at 11:22 AM.
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Old
12-09-2011, 11:12 AM
  #81
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
Since Vasiliev is up this round and has his peak in this time period I wonder where he might slot on these 3 teams from year to year?

I fully understand that he was the best Dman in Russia during this time period but exactly how would his game have translated to the NHL, would it have been any better than Savard for instance?

Most of our exposure to him in through limited international competition and not always with the best on best competition and their is always the question of how the "system" might be greater than the sum of the parts.

I'm really not sure where to slot him but am doubtful that he is going to make my top 5 this round.
I don't think the "system" argument should used against Vasiliev, who played with a revolving door of mediocre coaches in the late 70s - Tikhonov wouldn't be on the scene until Vasiliev's career was almost over. Especially not when comparing him to Savard and Lapointe, both of whom played for Scottie Bowman in the Montreal system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Der Kaiser View Post
The sum is always greater than the parts. It's supposed to be, and if it isn't, the coach is at fault. Either for not assembling a working group of players or for not inspiring them enough to utilize each other's strengths. For some reason this is always suggested when discussing Soviet players because they "played so much together". It's a great thing that they played much together, most of them have an individual trophy case as well. It's not a matter of just simply counting team achievements.

Oh and in the case of Vasiliev, he only played with the rest of the Soviet stars on the national team. In the Soviet league, Vasiliev didn't play for the army team CSKA, he played for Dynamo (Maltsev did aswell), another of the Moscow clubs. During Vasiliev's time there they didn't win a single championship (it was virtually impossible due to CSKA's dominance and army connections). Despite this he was an all-star every year from 1973-1979 + 1981.
Good point. Yet another reason the "system" argument that could be used against the Green Unit or even the "Army Line" of Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov is invalid when it comes to Vasiliev. Was his partner from the club team even on the National Team?

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12-09-2011, 11:17 AM
  #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overpass View Post
Brian Leetch was the best offensive defenceman available for voting (by a lot, at this point.) His plus-minus numbers weren't particularly good especially in the second half of his career. In his defence, he was probably asked to do more than he should have in New York, playing huge minutes in all situations without a lot of help on the back end. He's one of the group of players you could make a case for as the second best defenceman on the PP in history (behind Orr). Played big minutes on the penalty kill, with poor team results. Again, probably a case of being pushed into a bigger role than he was suited for, in my opinion. He entered an NHL that was a good fit for his game, but the Eastern conference in the dead puck era was a tough fit for an offensive defenceman.
I realize you mean just compared to post-expansion players, but just wanted to point out that Gadsby seems quite close to Leetch when it comes to offense from defensemen.

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12-09-2011, 01:07 PM
  #83
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Relevant newspaper articles about Gadsby:

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Calgary Herald 10/9/1946

GADSBY RATED HIGHLY BY HAWK CHIEFTAIN

Bill Gadsby of Calgary, former Edmonton Canadian junior and right winger with Kansas City Pla-Mors through their western tour, will stay with the farm club "but will be a Hawk before the winter is over," promises President Bill Tobin.
Looks like Gadsby is yet another who was coached through juniors at wing and converted to the blueline as a pro. He made the Hawks at age 18 after only 12 games in KC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chicago Daily Tribune 1/21/1951
I think you'll admit that [Jack] Stewart couldn't be omitted from any foursome of the best defense men in the league. Not only a great player, Jack was also the brain and spirit of the team. Gadsby, a hard checker who can also do his share of scoring, would qualify for any top eight in the league.
Bear in mind, of course, that Stewart was 34 and had only a season left in him. Gadsby was 24 and just entering his prime.

By the way, the speaker above is Hawks manager Ebbie Goodfellow talking about losing both players to injury. The Tribune articles around the Hawks at that time are brutal. They seemed to try hard to win games, but just didn't have the ammunition. A lot of their games degenerated into brawls and personal feuds, and Gadsby was usually right in the thick of the action. Fans would shower the ice with boos and garbage. Not a good place to develop young talent, though probably better than the Rangers organization.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Windsor Star 11/8/1960

[Eddie] Shack and the Ranger management never seemed to get along. The New Yorkers tried to peddle the 6-foot, 190-pound defenceman along with star Bill Gasby to Detroit Red Wings last season in exchange for Red Kelly and right-winger Billy McNeill. The trade fell through when Kelly refused to report to New York and McNeill quit hockey. Kelly later went to the Leafs.
This kind of sets a trade value on Gadsby, even though the circumstances of Kelly's trade might not have been conducive to gettings fair market value. The story also provides a bit of context as to just how bad things were in the Rangers organization at the time. Kelly didn't want to go there, intending to become a tool salesman instead, and Stanley was being sent out after being booed frequently at the Garden. Shack was quoted: "Well, I was in third place for 12 hours, anyway."

In point of fact, Gadsby was traded twice. Once with Pete Conacher for Rich Lamoureux, Nick Mickoski and Allan Stanley; then straight-up for Les Hunt and cash.

The first deal was largely based around shaking up last-place Chicago's lineup, as Mickoski was tied for 5th in scoring at the time. The trade was scarcely reported in the Chicago press, though interestingly enough Gadsby's first goal as a Ranger came in their first matchup with the Hawks. The shake-up didn't work, and soon the Hawks were playing "home" games in venues like St. Louis because of the tiny crowds at Chicago Stadium.

Meanwhile, in New York:

Quote:
Originally Posted by New York Times 3/14/1956
GADSBY IS MOST VALUABLE RANGER

Bill Gadsby, a star defenseman for the New York Rangers, yesterday was voted the team's most valuable player by a vote of the New York Hockey Writers Association. ... He hasn't missed a game this season and his all-round work has been an important factor in the Rangers' success. ... Gadsby, with 50 points, is the highest-scoring Ranger defenseman in history.
The latter trade was unfathomably awful for the Rangers, who apparently considered Gadsby "expendable" after signing Doug Harvey as player-coach. Harvey of course won one last Norris and then quit the Rangers. Les Hunt never made the NHL. Gadsby was the best defenseman on the Red Wings, led them to the Finals, and several articles mentioned that the Wings defense sagged noticeably after his retirement five years later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by New York Times 4/26/1966
"My worst moments [in Gadsby's career] came after I was traded from the Rangers. I had the feeling I wasn't washed up. So I proved it."
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Windsor Star 4/19/1966

[J.C.] Tremblay rates Detroit's Bill Gadsby and Toronto's Allan Stanley as the toughest opposing defencemen in the league.
Also, I found a decent number of articles in which Rangers coach Phil Watson called Gadsby out in the press as being "trade bait", for being overweight, etc. He usually included Gump Worsley in the conversation as well. I don't think it does any good to quote those articles here, given Watson's reputation for undermining his players, but I guess we should take Gadsby's later years with the Rangers in the context of being in a Keenan-esque doghouse situation.

It's interesting to imagine how the Rangers would have played with Harvey and Gadsby both on the team, and even a mediocre coach in charge. It strikes me that Gadsby was somewhat cheated out of an opportunity at the end of his career.

The following quotes are from a retrospective of his career, printed as he started his final season.

Quote:
Originally Posted by New York Times 4/26/1966
Bill Gadsby was on the Athenia when it was sunk by a German torpedo in 1939. He suffered an attack of polio when he was 25 and today, as he does every day, he soothed his battered body in a hot bath to ease the pain of 20 years of National Hockey League play.

"I've gotta soak my muscles, my elbows, my arms, my legs," he said through false teeth. There was a fresh cut with a trace of red across his flattened nose, and the tape of a bandage showed under the right sleeve of his sharkskin suit. There are, he said, more than 600 stitches over his 6-foot, 195-pound frame.

"If it weren't for the Stanley Cup," he acknowledged, "I probably wouldn't be playing."
Something that I haven't heard mentioned yet about Gadsby, but is very frequently brought up about Ted Lindsay, is that he was on the original board of the NHLPA. Gadsby served as the first treasurer when the players organized in 1957.

Also, I don't think it has been mentioned yet that upon his retirement Gadsby had played the most games in NHL history other than Gordie Howe, and that only Howe, Gadsby and Dit Clapper had played 20 seasons in the league at that point.

One last item of note: Gadsby never made noise about the bad situations in Chicago and New York, which were clearly the two worst places in the league to end up. After the botched trade to Detroit, he was quoted: "I liked the idea of going to Detroit; they got a good chance to be in the playoffs and it would mean more money. But I don't give a damn about where I play so long as it's in the NHL." Compare that to the reactions of Kelly (retirement) and Shack (the quote above). This was a guy who languished quietly on the worst teams in the league throughout his career despite wanting nothing more than to win a Cup. A guy who was traded, then had to go back to that locker room and rejoin the team that dealt him after the trade fell through, and never made a peep in the press beyond the not-complaining quote in this paragraph. I think we need to take that into account when talking about playoff performances and Cup counting.


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12-09-2011, 04:17 PM
  #84
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Brian Leetch 1988-89 to 1996-97

Brian Leetch is often criticized because his defensive play dropped dramatically after 1997 for a variety of factors - part of which is because he was asked to do too much with declining skills.

But from 1988-89 when he was on the 1st All-Rookie team to 1996-97, Leetch's peak was as good or better than anyone left for voting.

All-Star teams:

1990-91 NHL NHL All-Star Team (2nd)
1991-92 NHL NHL All-Star Team (1st)
1993-94 NHL NHL All-Star Team (2nd)
1995-96 NHL NHL All-Star Team (2nd)
1996-97 NHL NHL All-Star Team (1st)

Not bad. But consider the competition.

Norris Trophy winners over this period - I'm including 87 and 88 even though Leetch was not yet in the league to give a sense of the competition when he entered the league.

Quote:
1986-87 Raymond Bourque
1987-88 Raymond Bourque

1988-89 Chris Chelios
1989-90 Raymond Bourque
1990-91 Raymond Bourque
1991-92 Brian Leetch
1992-93 Chris Chelios
1993-94 Raymond Bourque
1994-95 Paul Coffey
1995-96 Chris Chelios
1996-97 Brian Leetch
1997-98 Rob Blake
Norris Trophy finishes 1988-89 to 1996-97:

Quote:
1988-89: Leetch was 11th in Norris voting with 6 points from 4 voters in his rookie season.
1989-90: Leetch got 1 3rd place vote (not significant). This is the only season during the period when Leetch was a minus player.
1990-91: Ray Bourque 257 (35-27-1); Al MacInnis 228 (27-28-9); Chris Chelios 56 (2-9-19); Brian Leetch 30 (2-0-20); Paul Coffey 8 (0-0-8);
1991-92: Brian Leetch 335 (65-3-1); Ray Bourque 112 (3-25-22); Phil Housley 82 (0-21-19); Scott Stevens 44 (1-9-12); Larry Murphy 37 (0-9-10);
1992-93: Leetch only played 36 games due to injury. This would be the only season between 1988-89 and 1996-97 that the Rangers would miss the playoffs.
1993-94: Ray Bourque 199 (26-21-6); Scott Stevens 195 (24-23-6); Al MacInnis 60 (4-6-22); Sergei Zubov 15 (0-2-9); Brian Leetch 10 (0-2-4)
1994-95: In the weird lockout voting, Leetch was 1 of 3 finalists from the Eastern conference but didn't get any votes in the final vote
1995-96: Chris Chelios 408 (22-19-9-3-1); Ray Bourque 403 (23-16-8-7-0); Brian Leetch 245 (6-6-23-7-7); Vladimir Konstantinov 131 (2-6-7-10-4); Paul Coffey 83 (0-4-2-12-9);
1996-97: Brian Leetch 494 (42-8-3-1-0); Vladimir Konstantinov 178 (2-10-13-6-5); Sandis Ozolinsh 176 (2-12-9-8-3); Chris Chelios 172 (0-7-18-9-6); Scott Stevens 171 (7-8-4-7-4)
Note the following:
  • Leetch was a factor in Norris voting every season from 1990-91 until 1996-97, except for 1992-93 when he missed more than half the season.
  • 1992-93 was the only season during the time frame that the Rangers missed the playoffs. Does this show Leetch's importance to the team?
  • Sergei Zubov led the 1993-94 President's Trophy winners in regular season scoring with 89 points. Leetch had 79 points, finished slightly behind Zubov for the Norris, but won the 2nd Team All Star over Zubov because Leetch was a better defensive player. (The Rangers would go on to win the Cup this year).
  • There is a good case that Leetch's 1991-92 Norris-winning season is the best season by an available defenseman
  • Leetch's 1996-97 Norris wasn't as strong - Bourque and Chelios weren't as good as they used to be (at least not until their 2001 and 2002 comeback years). But he dominated the competition he did have. This is the season where the NY Times reporter who covered both the Devils and Rangers thought that Stevens was playing better than Leetch, but wouldn't win the Norris because he didn't put up enough points (from an article I posted earlier).
  • In 1990-91 and 1995-96, Leetch finished behind only Bourque, Chelios, and MacInnis

Regular season offense

Rankings vs. all players (including forwards):
  • 9th in points in 1991-92 with 102.
  • Only 5 defensemen in history have broken 100 points in a season - Orr, Coffey, MacInnis, Leetch, and Potvin
  • 6th in assists in 1990-91
  • 3rd in assists in 1991-92 (behind only Gretzky and Lemieux and 1 assist ahead of Oates)
  • 7th in assists in 1995-96
  • 9th in assists in 1996-97
  • 8th in assists in 2000-01 (when he led all dmen in points but wasn't an all-star)
From 1989-90 to 1996-97:
Points among defensemen:
1. Paul Coffey 708
2. Raymond Bourque 668
3. Brian Leetch 636
4. Al MacInnis 612
5. Phil Housley 583 (includes some time at forward)
6. Larry Murphy 536

Points per game among defensemen:
1. Paul Coffey 1.12
2. Raymond Bourque 1.06
3. Brian Leetch 1.01
4. Al MacInnis 0.99
5. Phil Housley 0.95 (includes some time at forward)
6. Jeff Brown 0.84

Unlike Housley and Brown, Leetch got relatively tough defensive assignments at even strength and was usually on his team's top PK unit.

Playoffs

In 1994, Leetch won the Conn Smythe in a spectacular performance. 1994 was an iconic playoff run for Mark Messier, yet Leetch won the Smythe and nobody had a problem with it.

Most points scored in a playoff run by a defenseman:

1. Paul Coffey 37 in 18 GP (1985)
2. Brian Leetch 34 in 23 GP (1994)
3. Al MacInnis 31 in 22 GP (1989)
4. Denis Potvin 25 in 18 GP(1981)
5. Raymond Bourque 25 in 19 GP (1991)
6. Bobby Orr 24 in 15 GP (1972)
7. Raymond Bourque 23 in 17 GP (1983)
8. Larry Murphy 23 in 23 GP (1991)
9. Paul Coffey 22 in 19 GP (1984)

Leetch is one of only three defensmen in history with over a point per game in the playoffs (Min = 20 games):

1. Bobby Orr 1.24 over 74 games
2. Brian Leetch 1.02 over 95 games
3. Paul Coffey 1.01 over 194 games
4. Paul Reinhart 0.93 over 83 games
5. Al MacInnis 0.90 over 177 games
6. Denis Potvin 0.89 over 185 games
7. Raymond Bourque 0.84 over 214 games
8. Doug Wilson 0.84 over 94 games

Disclaimer: Leetch is helped tremendously in this stat by the fact that his team regularly missed the playoffs after 1997, largely due to his own decline in defensive play. So his "per game" rate doesn't include declining years. Still, very impressive company.

While Leetch was definitely better offensively than defensively, he was was not an offensive specialist in his prime. In the 1994 playoffs, he got the toughest defensive assignments at even strength and on the penalty kill (partnered with Jeff Beukeboom, who made up for Leetch's main weakness - lack of size) and was partnered with Sergei Zubov on the Ranger's devastating power play.

Summary: Leetch's prime as an overall defenseman might be shorter than many of the candidates this round, but there is a good case that he has the best prime of anyone left.

While Leetch became more of an offensive specialist after 1997, he still had his moments, such as getting an all-star nod for the 2002 Olympics.

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12-09-2011, 04:24 PM
  #85
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I don't want to nitpick, but....

Being better defensively than the "early" version of Sergei Zubov is certainly not a relevant accomplishment at this level...

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12-09-2011, 04:33 PM
  #86
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
1992-93 was the only season during the time frame that the Rangers missed the playoffs. Does this show Leetch's importance to the team?
1992-93:

Rangers record with Leetch: 20-13-3 (.597)
Rangers record without Leetch: 14-26-8 (.375)

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12-09-2011, 05:27 PM
  #87
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I don't want to nitpick, but....

Being better defensively than the "early" version of Sergei Zubov is certainly not a relevant accomplishment at this level...
Very true. Early Zubov was basically a Russian Phil Housley.

But being a first pairing guy in all situations (even strength, power play, and penalty kill) on a Stanley Cup winner is a relevant accomplishment. Leetch's defense was never as good as his offense, but he was good enough defensively to get big minutes in all situations for a Cup winner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
1992-93:

Rangers record with Leetch: 20-13-3 (.597)
Rangers record without Leetch: 14-26-8 (.375)
Wow.

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12-09-2011, 05:48 PM
  #88
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Originally Posted by reckoning View Post
1992-93:

Rangers record with Leetch: 20-13-3 (.597)
Rangers record without Leetch: 14-26-8 (.375)
Interesting. Please post more if you can and want to (for example on Salming).

I also want to point out what I said during the discussion about Sprague Cleghorn, where a similar (comparing with to without) study was done, that it would be wise to look at other players too. I don't remember Cleghorn's with and without numbers, but Leetch seem to clearly have helped his team too, turning it from bad (.375) to good (.597).

Leetch obviously contributed important things to his team. (And Overpass mentioned some posts ago how the much their PP suffered when he didn't play.) But again, it would be interesting to see stats like these for more players, as I think there are many cases where the presence of a star player helps his team by .20 or so.
(I realize the player needs to be injured more than say 10 games, but cases of "before and after being traded", as have been posted, are interesting too. Problem with trades may be that unless draft picks and/or significant money is involved, the guy(s) replacing the traded player are often supposed to be about equally valuable.)

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12-09-2011, 06:13 PM
  #89
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tarheelhockey View Post
Relevant newspaper articles about Gadsby:



Looks like Gadsby is yet another who was coached through juniors at wing and converted to the blueline as a pro. He made the Hawks at age 18 after only 12 games in KC.



Bear in mind, of course, that Stewart was 34 and had only a season left in him. Gadsby was 24 and just entering his prime.

By the way, the speaker above is Hawks manager Ebbie Goodfellow talking about losing both players to injury. The Tribune articles around the Hawks at that time are brutal. They seemed to try hard to win games, but just didn't have the ammunition. A lot of their games degenerated into brawls and personal feuds, and Gadsby was usually right in the thick of the action. Fans would shower the ice with boos and garbage. Not a good place to develop young talent, though probably better than the Rangers organization.



This kind of sets a trade value on Gadsby, even though the circumstances of Kelly's trade might not have been conducive to gettings fair market value. The story also provides a bit of context as to just how bad things were in the Rangers organization at the time. Kelly didn't want to go there, intending to become a tool salesman instead, and Stanley was being sent out after being booed frequently at the Garden. Shack was quoted: "Well, I was in third place for 12 hours, anyway."

In point of fact, Gadsby was traded twice. Once with Pete Conacher for Rich Lamoureux, Nick Mickoski and Allan Stanley; then straight-up for Les Hunt and cash.

The first deal was largely based around shaking up last-place Chicago's lineup, as Mickoski was tied for 5th in scoring at the time. The trade was scarcely reported in the Chicago press, though interestingly enough Gadsby's first goal as a Ranger came in their first matchup with the Hawks. The shake-up didn't work, and soon the Hawks were playing "home" games in venues like St. Louis because of the tiny crowds at Chicago Stadium.

Meanwhile, in New York:



The latter trade was unfathomably awful for the Rangers, who apparently considered Gadsby "expendable" after signing Doug Harvey as player-coach. Harvey of course won one last Norris and then quit the Rangers. Les Hunt never made the NHL. Gadsby was the best defenseman on the Red Wings, led them to the Finals, and several articles mentioned that the Wings defense sagged noticeably after his retirement five years later.





Also, I found a decent number of articles in which Rangers coach Phil Watson called Gadsby out in the press as being "trade bait", for being overweight, etc. He usually included Gump Worsley in the conversation as well. I don't think it does any good to quote those articles here, given Watson's reputation for undermining his players, but I guess we should take Gadsby's later years with the Rangers in the context of being in a Keenan-esque doghouse situation.

It's interesting to imagine how the Rangers would have played with Harvey and Gadsby both on the team, and even a mediocre coach in charge. It strikes me that Gadsby was somewhat cheated out of an opportunity at the end of his career.

The following quotes are from a retrospective of his career, printed as he started his final season.



Something that I haven't heard mentioned yet about Gadsby, but is very frequently brought up about Ted Lindsay, is that he was on the original board of the NHLPA. Gadsby served as the first treasurer when the players organized in 1957.

Also, I don't think it has been mentioned yet that upon his retirement Gadsby had played the most games in NHL history other than Gordie Howe, and that only Howe, Gadsby and Dit Clapper had played 20 seasons in the league at that point.

One last item of note: Gadsby never made noise about the bad situations in Chicago and New York, which were clearly the two worst places in the league to end up. After the botched trade to Detroit, he was quoted: "I liked the idea of going to Detroit; they got a good chance to be in the playoffs and it would mean more money. But I don't give a damn about where I play so long as it's in the NHL." Compare that to the reactions of Kelly (retirement) and Shack (the quote above). This was a guy who languished quietly on the worst teams in the league throughout his career despite wanting nothing more than to win a Cup. A guy who was traded, then had to go back to that locker room and rejoin the team that dealt him after the trade fell through, and never made a peep in the press beyond the not-complaining quote in this paragraph. I think we need to take that into account when talking about playoff performances and Cup counting.
Interesting stuff. Too bad it wasn't posted last round to offset some of the ridiculous negative stuff put out there.

Gadsby has been terribly under-rated

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12-09-2011, 06:57 PM
  #90
Dennis Bonvie
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Originally Posted by Hockey Outsider View Post
Great analysis as always. The biggest surprises were:

- Howe played the least amount of time on the penalty kill (in terms of his prime). I would have assumed that Howe played more on the PK than Niedermayer and Leetch (though in the latter's case, he likely earned a lot of PK ice time in order to generated shorthanded offense, and also because the Rangers generally lacked depth).

- the Canadiens fared better at even-strength when Lapointe was off the ice. As you mentioned, this is likely due to Lapointe generally being on the second pairing. Instead of being implicitly compared primarily to depth players like most of the other blueliners, Lapointe is effectively being compared against Lafleur, Robinson, Lemaire, etc. Thus, I wouldn't use the on/off statistic as an argument against Lapointe due to his unique circumstances.

- I was surprised to see that Lapointe was used more on the penalty kill than Savard (who generally has the reputation of being better defensively). What do others think?

- Langway is arguably the best defensive player in the tables above, but I'm surprised by how far behind he is everyone else offensively. Looking at the "prime" table, Langway scored only 22 even-strength points per season (Savard scored 28, and everyone else scored 37+). Langway barely played on the powerplay and contributed virtually nothing (4 points); everyone aside from Savard scored at least 22 points. Even if we assume that Langway is the best defensive player list in Overpass's table, I'm not sure if he should rank in the top five this round. What do others think?

- Salming looks incredibly strong based on these numbers (looking at prime, he's the only person in the top three in both PP and PK usage). His goals on/off ratio is 1.52 (prime), which puts him miles ahead of everyone except Howe. However, some (a lot?) of this is due to Salming being a great player on a team that often lacked depth, thus his off-ice comparables are quite poor (basically, this is the opposite of Lapointe's situation).
Langway is a good example of a player's numbers not telling the whole story.

His first year in Washington I saw a game in Boston in which the Caps beat the Bruins 2-1. Langway had no points but was the Number 1 star for the game. No one booed that decision, though it was rare for a visiting player (other than a goalie) to get that First Star Award in Boston.

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12-09-2011, 07:54 PM
  #91
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Quote:
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I don't think the "system" argument should used against Vasiliev, who played with a revolving door of mediocre coaches in the late 70s - Tikhonov wouldn't be on the scene until Vasiliev's career was almost over. Especially not when comparing him to Savard and Lapointe, both of whom played for Scottie Bowman in the Montreal system.



Good point. Yet another reason the "system" argument that could be used against the Green Unit or even the "Army Line" of Kharlamov-Petrov-Mikhailov is invalid when it comes to Vasiliev. Was his partner from the club team even on the National Team?
Hang on a second here, the "system argument" as you put it is a little strong. I don't have a horse in the race per say, not saying that you do but not so sure about some others.

The whole Russian system thing or argument as it has been put is an observation and acknowledgement of the team philosophy that the Russian teams took to international tournaments and the Canadians in 72 didn't play the same way in any sense of the term of a "system" to the same extent that the Russian side did.

Of course the extent of the Russian system and it's impact on making players look greater than the sum of their parts is subjective, it's my opinion that the Russian coaches and teams did a better job of this than the Canadian team or many NHL coaches until at least some time in the 80's.

If people think that there was little or no difference to how the Russian and NHL coaches and players played then it would be a moot point perhaps but I think there was quite a difference.

Since Vasiliev is being compared to other players in this round, I think it's a fair question to guess or approximate how he stands up against the Canadian (or NHL) competition at the time.

In the 3 team all star chart listed earlier I'm not sure that he would show up that often, if others think otherwise it would be help full to state why and which seasons and players he would bump.

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12-09-2011, 10:49 PM
  #92
Hawkey Town 18
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Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
Since Vasiliev is being compared to other players in this round, I think it's a fair question to guess or approximate how he stands up against the Canadian (or NHL) competition at the time.

In the 3 team all star chart listed earlier I'm not sure that he would show up that often, if others think otherwise it would be help full to state why and which seasons and players he would bump.
I don't think there's any way you could go season by season and say where Vasiliev would finish in NHL all star voting, that is way too specific. But here are some of the facts we know:

1. The Soviets proved that they could be competitive with NHL players.

2. Vasiliev was hands down the best Soviet defenseman of his generation (and not just in the eyes of the Europeans, North Americans agreed after seeing him play).

3. He proved this while not being on his league's dynasty team (kind of reminds me of Bourque).

4. Another European that was hands down the best defenseman of his generation in his country did very well in NHL All-Star voting (Salming).

5. Vasiliev's country routinely beat Salming's country during this time period.


EDIT: It should also be noted that a common knock on European players when trying to determine whether they would be able to play in the NHL (lack of toughness/physical play) was specifically known as one of Vasiliev's strengths.

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12-09-2011, 11:09 PM
  #93
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Langway is a good example of a player's numbers not telling the whole story.
That's right.

When you look at his all-star and norris voting results, they don't come with a disclaimer that exlains he was held to a completely different standard than all other defensemen before or since. Most valuable defenseman is not the same thing as best defenseman.

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12-09-2011, 11:49 PM
  #94
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Some newspaper quotes from Borje Salming's career.

The Windsor Star, Nov 7, 1973
Quote:
Borje Salming certainly doesn't exemplify the image of Swedish hockey players.

When the occasion demands, the 22-year-old defenceman is as bold a belter as you'll find anywhere in the National Hockey League.

His apparent physical delight at cracking the opposition certainly doesn't fit into the delicate image Sweden's hockey players had built for themselves in two decades of international competition - score on them in the first period or hit a couple of them, and they'd surrender meekly.

Then along comes Salming - possibly the best man game after game wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform.

Overlooking his eight assists in 12 games, most National Hockey League defencemen go through a whole season without getting as many solid hits as the native of Kiruna, Sweden, has delivered already.
Brodie Snyder, Montreal Gazette, Apr 10, 1974
Quote:
There has been, meanwhile, comparatively little drum-beating for perhaps the best first-year man of them all, Toronto's Swedish defenceman, Borje Salming.

"Of course, he should be rookie of the year," the Leafs' Paul Henderson was saying here last week. "Next to Bobby Orr, he's the best defenceman in the league.

"As a matter of fact, I'd make him the most valuable player, too. He's the reason we made the playoffs, in my opinion.

"What do you expect a defenceman to do? Protect his own zone? He does that thoroughly. Set up plays? He's got 30-plus assists. Shoot from the point? Hell of a shot. Block shots? There's nobody in the league better at it.

"And I can't remember him having a bad game all season."

Of course, the Leafs' improvement - from 27-41-10 and a distant fifth in 1972-73 to 35-27-16 and a strong fourth this season - is due to more than Salming. Doug Favell, Eddie Johnston and Dunc Wilson provided strong goaltending; Darryl Sittler, Norm Ullman and Henderson all had better years; and the Leafs' other rookies - Ian Turnbull, Lanny McDonald, Bob Neely, and the second Swede, Inge Hammarstrom, a 20-goal man - all played well.

But Salming was the leader. He won the Molson Cup - awarded on the basis of Leafs' three-star selections - easily, and his plus 40 (goals Toronto scored while he was on the ice compared to those by opponents) was by far the club's best.

Salming, himself, is pleased with his first NHL season at the age of 22.

The main problem, he says, was the adjustment to the smaller ice surfaces in North America. "There are bigger rinks in Sweden, and lots more room behind the net. At home, the defencemen don't work in the corners the way they do here."

One other major difference: "There's more hitting here. It's harder to play in this league, becuase there are more good hockey players here...so many good one.

"And then there's the travel. That's tiring."
Christie Blatchford, Globe and Mail, Apr 10, 1976
Quote:
Perhaps the most rewarding moment of the game, at least for purists, came when The Swede, the lean and dignified Borje Salming, scored his first goal of the playoffs.

Salming has labored for most of the series, as he has for most of the season, under cheap threats and cheap elbows and quick knees from hockey players who normally leap back from their own shadows. In the series against Pittsburgh, he had been harassed by Vic Hadfield and J. Bob Kelly. He had been speared and pushed in the face and generally abused.

Not once had he retaliated, except to keep on playin his superior brand of hockey.

Salming had been outstanding in the series, stopping almost as many shots with his body as Thomas did in the net, forever throwing himself in front of pucks, down on one knee to block and then up again, skating to guard the goal.
Quote:
For Salming, harassment and self-restraint are things he must live with, and for 81 games this year, live with them he did. Sometimes, his kind of courage is mistaken for a desire to avoid body contact.

But Salming, who elevates the pro game every time he steps on the ice, is courageous, and his courage is not false or fragile. Salming's kind of hockey is what Bill McMurtry meant a few years ago when he urged that the machismo be driven out of the game.

At that time, many of us thought McMurtry was wrong.

That, though, was before we had a season of Salming. Last night, for the 81st time this year, he taught us his valuable lesson again.
Scott Young, Globe and Mail, Mar 12, 1979
Quote:
You can take this any way you wish, mesdames et messieurs, but it is my opinion that Borje Salming is as good a defenceman as Guy Lafleur is a forward, and if anybody wants to argue, go ahead.

Take all the standard skills for granted, and a Salming-watcher always is being rewarded with something new. As games come and go, other players are stars for a night - Dan Maloney with his goal and five assists Saturday against Los Angeles Rockies; Rocky Saginuik last night against Pittsburgh, dancing in to score with an invisible sign on his back stating, I'm just in from New Brunswick and I'm staying, dammit. But all the time, there's Salming.

Sometimes it's just little things. Once last night in a Toronto power play near the end of the first period, he and Darryl Sittler in give-and-go passes went the length of the ice fast.

Salming had the puck last, steaming in from the right point with a defenceman hanging tight alongside on his left, the puck at the end of Salming's stick wide to the right. As he passed the goal post he simply pulled the puck in and lifted his left foot to let the puck go through, the pass going perfectly in front, leading to what would have been a goal if the period hadn't ended right then.

Try charting this some time (another of his common plays, which happened once last night): He is behind the net facing a pass that is coming to him, and whirls so that the puck comes between his legs and lands on his stick as he accelerates out of there.

Or this: In a battle along the boards his stick is tied up but the puck is free. He doesn't kick at it wildly, as some players do. He turns his left foot sideways so his skate blade acts like a push broom and makes an accurate foot-pass to the nearest team-mate, who takes off.

And this: Pittsburgh is two men short, and Leafs' five-on-three formation could hardly be done with a lesser player than Salming. Tiger Williams and Ian Turnbull are at the corners of the net and behind it. Sittler and Lanny McDonald are on the board-side edges of the face-off circles. Only Salming is on the blueline, playing both points and the middle and never out of position.

He scored one goal last night from the right point, but other times he showed one of his real specialties, something no one does as well - coming off the boards toward centre to shoot around the traffic, instead of into it.

When I search for someone comparable in inventiveness and skill, only Lafleur comes to mind among modern players. But Salming sometimes does it for 40 minutes ice-time a night. In one game about a month ago, he played 15 minutes in the first period alone.

As Bobby Orr had in the recent past, Salming has lots of little tricks that almost, but not quite, break the rules: to hook without hooking, interfere without interfering, but his skills are mostly clean.

Actually, in the ongoing argument about what we are doing wrong in hockey - the goon squads, the intimidation, board-crashing of the type that put Pete Mahovlich out, probably for the season, after a check by Ken Linseman of Philadelphia Flyers the other night - Salming could serve as Exhibit A for the prosecution. He plays a different kind of hockey than our kids are taught, and when you watch him, you wonder why.

Partly, of course, it is sheer talent. When he came here from Sweden, he had that, along with a tall, lean body and the reflexes to go with it. But thrown into the NHL, he changed in only one major respect: he learned to defend himself. The rest of his development has been in honing the skills he came with.
Allen Abel, Globe and Mail, Feb 21, 1983

Quote:
The chapter of the Toronto Maple Leaf handbook pertaining to inexperienced defenceman is concise: "Put the kid with Salming." In this town, coaches and managers come and go with the seasons, but the fall guys who do Harold Ballard's bidding all seem to agree on one thing. If a man can't play with Borje, he can't play.

Still wearing the antiquated tube- mounted skates that have gone out of big-league fashion, Salming was superb. Replacing a wandering goalie for one breathtaking instant, he caught a shot at the goal line and threw it to safety; knocking a puck out of mid-air, he line-drived it to centre ice in the manner of a Damaso Garcia or other aggrieved peons of the diamond.

They selected him the game's first star. When his name was called, he skated from one gate to the other, brushing the boards all the way, head down, not waving: noblesse oblige. Without him, this season, the Maple Leafs are 0-10.
William Houston, Globe and Mail, June 23, 1985

Quote:
In a general sense, Salming has been the Leafs' best and most consistent player during the past 12 years. Scouted by McNamara in Sweden during the 1972-73 season, he signed with the Leafs in the spring of 1973. In the years that followed, he was voted a first-team all star once and earned second-team honors five times. Wagnsson said his client was fishing yesterday outside of Stockholm and unavailable for comment.

The Salming story raises two essential questions: Why re-sign a 34- year-old, whose skills have deteriorated considerably, and, after signing him, why keep it a secret? A large part of the reason for Salming receiving a new contract is that the Leafs feel they need a veteran to stabilize a very young and inexperienced defence over the next three years. That Ballard holds Salming in such high esteem is another factor that undoubtedly weighed heavily in the decision.
Frank Orr, Toronto Star, Jan 26, 1986

Quote:
Brightest spot for the Leafs was the return to action of veteran defenceman Borje Salming, who had played in only 11 of 46 games this season because of back and throat problems, and his outstanding play.

Just as that other lively 34-year old, Canadiens' Larry Robinson, has stabilized a young defence in a remarkable season, the Leafs need the old Swede to bring some order to the defensive zone chaos that has plagued the Toronto club.

Salming did that. Playing his first game since Nov. 6, he was perhaps the best skater on the ice, picked as second star behind Leafs goalie Tim Bernhardt.

Salming took a regular shift, scored the goal that forced overtime and displayed surprising stamina, considering the length of his absence from game-action.
Rick Matsumoto, Toronto Star, Mar 24, 1987

Quote:
Borje Salming, who turns 36 next month, is on the downside of an excellent career. He can no longer play 25 or 30 minutes of a game and when he's asked to do so, his play suffers noticeably.

Leafs have no one to replace Salming except Iafrate. And Iafrate can be the answer only if he makes a drastic turnaround in his attitude and approach to his work.
Gary Loewen, Globe and Mail, Jan 2, 1988

Quote:
Salming's body was often covered with welts after games, said Leaf general manager Gerry McNamara, who discovered Salming in Sweden.

"I can't believe the beating he took his first few years here," McNamara said. "You couldn't believe the stick marks from spears and slashes.

"But he didn't give an inch. He always went into the corners - anywhere, to get the puck. He's a courageous player."
Quote:
Salming, an excellent shot-blocker, was essentially a defensive defenceman when he joined the Leafs, but he evolved into an offensive- minded player and had four consecutive 70-point seasons. He reached a high of 19 goals in 1979-80.

Now, as his career winds down, he's become a stay-at-home player again.

"I don't think I have the stamina to skate up and down the ice like I did before. When you're 36, it takes a little bit out of you," said Salming, who is still in excellent condition.
Red Fisher, Montreal Gazette, Apr 21, 1991
Quote:
Former NHL defenceman Borje Salming is cashing in on his hockey experience - off the ice.

Salming was selected for a gangster's role in a Swedish movie, now nearing completion. A big reason he was hired over a number of people who auditioned for the part was the ugly facial skate cut he suffered while with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

More than 100 stitches were needed to close the wound.

People who have seen some of the rushes say the role could vault Salming into star status. That's not surprising. He was always an excellent actor during his playing days at the NHL level.
Bob McKenzie, Toronto Star, Sep 22, 1993

Quote:
Twenty years after making his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Borje Salming's glorious hockey career is over.
Quote:
A six-time NHL all-star (one first-team berth and five second-team honors in consecutive years from 1975 to 1980), he is perhaps the finest defenceman to have ever worn the blue and white.

Including playoffs, he played in 1,229 NHL games with Toronto and Detroit, scoring 162 goals and 836 points.

The numbers, though, don't begin to tell the story of Salming's tremendous heart and courage. He was a pioneer, blazing a trail for Europeans, and especially Swedes, at a time when the Broad Street Bullies were in their heydey.

Salming was something special at a time when it looked as though the Leafs would be, too. Mike Palmateer in net, Ian Turnbull and the man they called King on defence, Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams up front.

"Those were the good years," Salming said, searching for a career highlight. "I'd have to say it was the year (1978) when we upset the New York Islanders in the playoffs."

But that Leaf team was torn apart by the second coming of Punch Imlach. Only Salming, a favorite of blustery owner Harold Ballard, survived that purge and all the others, too.

In the end, Salming played on more bad Leaf teams than good ones. That exposed his one shortcoming as a player - lack of off-ice leadership - but also explained his longevity in Leaf blue.
David Shoalts, Globe and Mail, Sep 17, 1996

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Salming adapted to the NHL faster than the few European players who preceded him, and by his second season with the Maple Leafs he was considered one of the best defencemen in the NHL. Long a favourite of the team's capricious owner, the late Harold Ballard, Salming spent 16 years with the Leafs before playing a final season with the Detroit Red Wings.

He was an NHL all-star six times, once on the first team and five times on the second, and had 150 goals and 787 points in the regular season. Salming also played in the 1976, 1984 and 1991 Canada Cups for Sweden.

There were many seasons during his career when Salming was considered the second-best offensive defenceman behind Bobby Orr. He was not only a great skater and stickhandler but his toughness helped dispel the notion Swedes lacked the courage to play in the NHL.
Mark Zwolinski, Toronto Star, Nov 26, 1996

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Ask Al Arbour what he thinks of Borje Salming today and he will respond in glowing terms.

Ask him to turn the clock back to 1978 and the flattery stops.

``Remember? Aggravation, that's what I remember,'' Arbour said, recalling Salming's contribution to an underdog Leafs team that upset his Islanders that spring in the Stanley Cup quarterfinals.

``I admired Borje, but not that year because he was such a factor in the series. That was the part that was aggravating.''

``I saw (Salming) at his best,'' Arbour added. ``This guy was a great athlete, good defensively, good offensively. For a guy good offensively to go down and block shots, it was unheard of then. I saw him for the first time at a tournament in Moscow in 1973, and I was impressed then. But all those things I didn't like when we were playing against him.''

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12-10-2011, 08:37 AM
  #95
Dennis Bonvie
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Originally Posted by Dreakmur View Post
That's right.

When you look at his all-star and norris voting results, they don't come with a disclaimer that exlains he was held to a completely different standard than all other defensemen before or since. Most valuable defenseman is not the same thing as best defenseman.
I'm curious to know if you saw Langway play.

And why, exactly, was he held to a different standard?

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12-10-2011, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
I'm curious to know if you saw Langway play.
Probably 30-40 games. I wasn't old enough to watch him live, but old school games on NHL and Leaf TV are sweet!

His style of play is pretty much identical to Luke Schenn's. Physical force, good positioning, mediocre skater, mediocre puck skills, and willing to fight, but not very good at it.

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And why, exactly, was he held to a different standard?
Already explained this one.

Langway received votes as if the Norris was for the "most valuable" defenseman. Every other defenseman was held to the "best defenseman" standard. Rod Langway was never the best defenseman in the league - he probably never even cracked the top-5.

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12-10-2011, 10:32 AM
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Only five defensemen have I been repeatedly AWED at their defensive ability: Robinson, Langway, Bourque, MacInnis, Pronger... in that order of experience.

Others have had sporadic impact, but not so regularly and intensely.

It's really hard to discount my experience in my deliberations, yet I do somewhat. I think Vasiliev is likely comparable to Salming and Langway defensively.

Again, I don't see Lapointe nor Stewart worthy of this level of competition. Am I missing something?

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12-10-2011, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Hawkey Town 18 View Post
I don't think there's any way you could go season by season and say where Vasiliev would finish in NHL all star voting, that is way too specific. But here are some of the facts we know:

1. The Soviets proved that they could be competitive with NHL players.

2. Vasiliev was hands down the best Soviet defenseman of his generation (and not just in the eyes of the Europeans, North Americans agreed after seeing him play).

3. He proved this while not being on his league's dynasty team (kind of reminds me of Bourque).

4. Another European that was hands down the best defenseman of his generation in his country did very well in NHL All-Star voting (Salming).

5. Vasiliev's country routinely beat Salming's country during this time period.


EDIT: It should also be noted that a common knock on European players when trying to determine whether they would be able to play in the NHL (lack of toughness/physical play) was specifically known as one of Vasiliev's strengths.
I agree with the edit point that his toughness would have transferred well to the NHL game compared say to a finesse Dman.

As to your 1st comment, I know it hypothetical but we are trying to rank him all time and that takes some guesswork but if we can't get a grip on how he would have fared those seasons does he really belong in this round?

Also points 1 and 5 specifically tell us about the National team and very little about Vasiliev specifically. I hesitate to rank him very high in this round due to just the present information that we have on him.

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12-10-2011, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by VanIslander View Post
Again, I don't see Lapointe nor Stewart worthy of this level of competition. Am I missing something?
Not sure if you're talking about the five guys you mentionned you were in awe of their defensive ability or about the very inclusion of Stewart and Lapointe in this round.

I'll do as if you were talking about the latter, as there's absolutely no point in arguing with somebody else about their memories and impressions (... an neither of us saw Stewart anyways...).

Lapointe? Every round has a weaker guy. Lapointe is very special in that he was actually the 3rd best D-Men on his team in his prime, while everybody else was a first-pairing guy at the very least. So, by SOME metrics, he doesn't look great : on the other hand, the guy had a lot of post-season recognition. Besides, the late '70ies Habs team is widely considered as one of the best teams to play the game for a reason (I actually have them second to the late '50ies Habs team -- another team who'll probably have two representatives in the present list), and Lapointe was one of them -- a great D playing on the 2nd pairing.

But, in this group? Well... I see him as clearly bottom-tier. Compares somewhat badly to Salming, which is probably is closest comparable, especially in regards to longevity (Salming was still a great D-Men, even if he wasn't elite; but at least, he was still playing at a very good level...). Lapointe didn't have much weaknesses in his game, but there's some sense in thinking was somewhat shielded from being exposed (much more than, let's say, Brian Leetch). I think his out-of-Montreal career hurts him, but to be fair, he was already in his mid-30ies, and, well, in that era, there weren't many mid-30ies players still effective in the league.

Stewart? I already expressed my views that having Stewart available for voting at this point doesn't make much sense in a comparative perspective, so... yeah. Don't know what to say about this one.


As a sidenote, there's at least one more former Red Wing that I'd have available for voting instead of Stewart (excluding Quackenbush).

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12-10-2011, 12:10 PM
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Speaking of Quackenbush...

How do you guys see his stint with the Bruins? I mean.. the Bruins clearly got worse when he came in (to be fair, they also lost Frank Brimsek and ended up having below-average goaltending for the first time since, ... Brimsek leaving for WWII : prior to that, the Bruins were pretty much what the Habs are since WWII, in that they never, ever had below-average goaltending league-wise), but they had also had a really bad blue-line.

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