Example to illustrate the importance of evaluating the relative competition.
Pavel Bure again. He led his team in scoring in '00-'01 with 59 goals and 92 points. Second place Viktor Kozlov had 37 points. Now, is this an utterly amazing feat by beating his nearest teammate by such a number or is it an indication of a lack of talent on his team?
I submit Wayne Gretzky's '82-'83 season. He led the Oilers in scoring with 71 goals and 196 points. Mark Messier was second with 106 points. That's a massive margin. Here comes the difference. Messier was 7th in league scoring that year (in fact two other Oilers finished in the top 10). Viktor Kozlov? 171st.
All second place finishes aren't created equal. Neither are 1st place finishes or any other place. Scott Pellerin was the leading Wild scorer in '00-'01 with a whopping 39 points.
This has nothing to do with evolution. Yes, the stars of today would be able to physically dominate and humiliate the stars of the late Teens. I'm talking about the level of competition their peers provide.
Steve Yzerman finishing 3rd in scoring to Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky in '88-'89 is, IMO, greater than Cy Denneny finishing 3rd to Newsy Lalonde and Odie Cleghorn in '18-'19. Remember that finishing 3rd just barely keeps Denneny in the top 10% of the league as there were only 32 skaters that year.
You make some interesting points, probably the most interesting of anyone on this issue.
My belief rests in the camp that a great player will score no matter the team, situation or linemates. When Bure scored 59 times and had 92 points on a crappy Florida team, that just tells me that Bure was great. He would have scored close to the same on any team that season.
Gretzky scored 137 points as a rookie and 164 in his second season. He played on a horrible team those two years. Is it unreasonable to think that he would have hit 200 points in his third year if the Oilers remained horrible? I think he would have. Teammates only carry you so far, IMO. A great scorer will put up the points no matter what. Team can affect it a little but, not a significant amount. Marcel Dionne would never have hit 200 points playing for the Oilers and neither would anyone else.
I understand your point about Yzerman finishing 3rd vs. Denneny finishing 3rd but, I maintain that the NHL in 1919, only having 32 skaters, still had dozens of skaters that wanted to be in the league that were not. There were not only 32 players in the world at the time, the NHL just featured the 32 best that were available. Given the entire population of players that wanted to be in the NHL at the time, Denneny could very well have been 3rd of 150. Just because those extra players were in the league in Yzerman's time that does not make it a more significant accomplishment than Denneny's IMO.
You make some good points, I just don't necessarily agree.
After this past weekend at the Royal Bank Cup in Weyburn, it's time to add a new name under the coach's category: Dwight McMillian. Dwight who, the ignorant person asks? Second all-time winningest coach in junior hockey history (behind Brian Kilrea, who's in the Hall), two national championships (in junior A, where there are more than twice as many teams as major junior), multiple league/Anavet Cup titles, a perennial threat in one of the three toughest junior leagues in the country. He was instrumental in Weyburn winning the RBC this year. He has won over 900 games, all with Weyburn. Kilrea is in the Hall, deserves to be there, as does McMillian. Mark Hartigan said McMillian is the best coach he ever played for, and that's coming from a guy who played for Bob Hartley.