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Best player in the world - not in NHL?

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Old
01-02-2013, 02:55 PM
  #1
jigglysquishy
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Best player in the world - not in NHL?

I think its a given that in any year the best player in the world is an NHL player. But is there a year where that was not the case?

I think its fair to say that from at least the mid 20s until the mid 70s the best player was an NHL player unquestionably.

From there on out it gets a little more interesting.

Is there a year in the late 70s where a Russian (Fetisov, Tretiak, Kharlamov) could be considered the best player?

How about earlier with Howe and Hull in the WHA?

From 1980 onwards its pretty much a Gretzky, Jagr, Lemieux and Hasek show until at least 2002.

2004-05 is certainly a year due to lockout. St. Louis? Jagr? Thornton?

Can an argument be made that Lemieux was the best player in the world in 98 even though he wasn't in the NHL?

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01-02-2013, 03:42 PM
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Mario was almost certainly the best player in the world in the years of his retirement. I mean he came back older and slower and HUGELY overweight and put up the best PPG in the NHL for half a season and almost had a GPG average.. after 4.5 years off. I think the entire time of his retirement he was likely the best player in the world.

Was Hasek the best goalie in the world in his early to mid 20's as he was behind the iron curtain?

Not that Selanne was the best player in the world.. but he did not come over right after being drafted and exploded to 76 goals as a rookie in the NHL as soon as he did come over to the NHL.

None of the great Russians of the 80's could have been better then Gretzky. In the mid to late 70's it is possible a Soviet player could have been the best in the world?!?!?

Jean Beliveau quickly emerged as a star after the Habs bought out his contract from the Qubec Aces. Not sure if he would be better then Howe and others in his late teens early 20's.. but he was almost certanly the best player in the world not in the NHL back then.

Eric Lindros at 18 on the Canadian National Team was close to the best player around. Mario at 17 in Junior? Orr at 17 in Junior? Gretzky in the WHA as a Junior? Hull in the WHA in the early to mid-70's? Could Hull have still led the NHL in goals at that point or come close? Ovechkin in the lockout season that would have seen him 18 years old and in the NHL... Crosby at 17 and a junior would have done a number in the NHL if he was eligible.. and if there was a season!!!!

Potvin's last year in junior he could have been among the best defencemen in the NHL likely... since he was as a rookie. Bossy was subject to the 20 year old draft years and immediately got 50 goals in the NHL as a rookie... his junior career is 4 seasons at pretty much the same pace... seems to me he could have been an 18 and 19 year old 50 goal scorer possibly in the NHL.

Paul Kariya held out at the peak of his game.

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01-02-2013, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
I think its a given that in any year the best player in the world is an NHL player. But is there a year where that was not the case?

I think its fair to say that from at least the mid 20s until the mid 70s the best player was an NHL player unquestionably.

From there on out it gets a little more interesting.

Is there a year in the late 70s where a Russian (Fetisov, Tretiak, Kharlamov) could be considered the best player?

How about earlier with Howe and Hull in the WHA?

From 1980 onwards its pretty much a Gretzky, Jagr, Lemieux and Hasek show until at least 2002.

2004-05 is certainly a year due to lockout. St. Louis? Jagr? Thornton?

Can an argument be made that Lemieux was the best player in the world in 98 even though he wasn't in the NHL?


I know a lot of people considered Tretiak the best goalie in the world leading up to the Miracle on Ice and shortly thereafter.

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01-02-2013, 04:31 PM
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Czech Your Math
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Obviously when there was/is no NHL, such as in '04-5 and this season so far, then the best players were not in the NHL. Otherwise, it's difficult to believe that the best player was not in the NHL. The closest might be Gretzky in '79 or Lemieux in '98.

Gretzky was only 3rd in points in the WHA in '79, 19 behind the leader, and 5th in assists... in the WHA! So it's tough to say he was the best player in hockey that year. Trottier, Dionne, Lafleur, and Bossy all had great years, and in fact each had more points in the NHL than Gretzky did in the WHA. I think that pretty much seals the deal righ there.

Lemieux was still one of, if not the best players in hockey before he again retired after '97, but it was close between he and Jagr, and I just wonder how much longer he could have played near full seasons. One has to realize that in '96 & '97, he played more total games (including playoffs) than in any two seasons in his career. However, remember that was following a Crosby-esque vacation of sorts, where he played 28 games in two years. At 32, following two long seasons (for Lemieux, that is) and during the depths of the DPE, it might have been too much to ask. Now if you mean "best player when healthy," that's a different question than "best, as in creating the most value" (much of which depends on remaining relatively healthy). You could still argue that Lemieux would have been the best in '98, but I highly doubt he can stay healthy much more than that one extra season. I also don't think it's really fair to say a player is "the best" when he isn't even playing a substantial number of games. I wouldn't call Crosby "the best" this year, because he hasn't played.

There may have been players outside the NHL who were the best at their positions (meaning G/D/F) and we know how difficult it can be to compare entirely different positions. Some of the more likely possibilities:

- Kharlamov: Espo's overall game appears to really fall off after '72, which probably leaves Clarke as the best forward. Yet Clarke had to break Kharlamov's ankle to best him, which is sort of a de facto argument right there that Clarke was not better. If he was better, then why, as a two way forward known so much for defense, did he have to resort to such a cheap tactic? (or why did his coach have to suggest this to him?)

- Tretiak: Depends on how great you think he was compared to Parent, Dryden, etc.

- Hasek: Goalie was sorta thin in the decade before Hasek emerged as an NHL starter, but Roy was still around. There may have been years when Hasek would be considered the best goalie, but I don't think that's proven, nor do we know which years... and even then, it's doubtful that during that decade many would pick the less-proven Hasek over Roy looking at any point going forward.

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01-02-2013, 04:33 PM
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Probably Cyclone Taylor during his prime in the PCHA.

There's that very small window of 4-5 years between when Orr's knee problems became too much to overcome, and when Gretzky solidified himself as the games best player, where you could make an argument fore Tretiak or Kharlamov. But there's lots of players (both Canadian and European) who would be in that conversation.

I don't count Lemieux as the best during his off years. I think in order to be considered best in the world, you have to be actively playing somewhere.

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01-02-2013, 04:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Czech Your Math View Post
There may have been players outside the NHL who were the best at their positions (meaning G/D/F) and we know how difficult it can be to compare entirely different positions. Some of the more likely possibilities:

- Kharlamov: Espo's overall game appears to really fall off after '72, which probably leaves Clarke as the best forward. Yet Clarke had to break Kharlamov's ankle to best him, which is sort of a de facto argument right there that Clarke was not better. If he was better, then why, as a two way forward known so much for defense, did he have to resort to such a cheap tactic? (or why did his coach have to suggest this to him?)

- Tretiak: Depends on how great you think he was compared to Parent, Dryden, etc.
Many felt that Fetisov was the world's best defenceman in the mid-to-late 80s.

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01-02-2013, 04:44 PM
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Czech Your Math
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Many felt that Fetisov was the world's best defenceman in the mid-to-late 80s.
There's your Russian trifecta then. Pretty tough going up against Bourque, but then Parent/Dryden and Espo/Clarke/Lafleur/etc. are no picnics either.

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01-02-2013, 09:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jigglysquishy View Post
I think its a given that in any year the best player in the world is an NHL player. But is there a year where that was not the case?

I think its fair to say that from at least the mid 20s until the mid 70s the best player was an NHL player unquestionably.
Yes, i'd agree with that

Quote:
From there on out it gets a little more interesting.

Is there a year in the late 70s where a Russian (Fetisov, Tretiak, Kharlamov) could be considered the best player?
I doubt it, Lafleur then Trottier and Potvin were all peaking

Quote:
How about earlier with Howe and Hull in the WHA?
Unlikely unless you thought they were better than Orr, maybe 76 is the one year window but who was better than Clarke and his 2 way play?

Quote:
From 1980 onwards its pretty much a Gretzky, Jagr, Lemieux and Hasek show until at least 2002.

2004-05 is certainly a year due to lockout. St. Louis? Jagr? Thornton?
Even in the lockout year it was an NHL player who was locked out.

Quote:
Can an argument be made that Lemieux was the best player in the world in 98 even though he wasn't in the NHL?

Well 2 things here, first you can be the best player in the world if you are injured or can't play due to illness. 2nd Lemieux might have still been the best scoring forward in the world but in 97 when he played pretty much a full season the Pens were 10th in the NHL, in 98 without him they were 5th.

Hasek won the Hart, deservedly so but I'm not a big fan of goalies getting harts, or even Dmen really, as they have separate trophies and Forsberg would have been my choice for his 2 way play and finishing 2nd in scoring 9 points behind Jagr.

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