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Frank Nighbor

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Old
09-28-2013, 06:13 AM
  #1
the edler
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Frank Nighbor

Hey guys

a| I looked at Frank Nighbor and I wonder if this guy is a bit underrated? Yeah, I know, how can a guy who is a HOF:er, won multiple cups and a Hart be underrated, but I wonder how you guys would rank him against "contemporary" great players like Lalonde, Malone, Cyclone Taylor, Pitre? I'm talking mostly pre-NHL Nighbor. Him and the club lit up the 1915 Stanley Cup finals and then when he left Vancouver the club couldn't repeat with HOF:ers like Taylor, MacKay, Barney Stanley, Lehman, and Griffis still on the club, but always fell short either against the Metropolitans or the NHA clubs. Instead Nighbor's new team Ottawa became somewhat of a power house.

To me Nighbor seems to be the Sergei Fedorov of his time, a great two way centre forward who could lit up the league offensively "when he felt like it", like when he won the NHA scoring title in 1916–17, but who's numbers declined with two way responsibilities, and age. In Nighbor's case it may have had more to do with injuries than laziness though, but I don't know.

b| Also, does anyone know, preferably with a source, what colors the Berlin Dutchmen of the old OPHL "Trolley" League played in?

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09-28-2013, 10:32 AM
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DisgruntledGoat
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Well, he was better than Fedorov, no doubt.

The Top 60 centers thread has me re-considering him as well. Some great information there and, I have to admit, I didn't really look into him that closely before.

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09-28-2013, 10:37 AM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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You want to rank Nighbor's time in the NHA or in the NHL? Lalonde was probably better in the NHA, but Nighbor was better in the NHL. Their careers overlapped, but Lalonde was 5 years older, so their peaks weren't at exactly the same time.

Keep in mind that "a Hart" Trophy was the first Hart Trophy ever awarded; Nighbor was 31 years old and a bit past his offensive prime (finished 8th) and still won.

Nighbor was much more consistent offensively than Fedorov. More of a clean version of Bobby Clarke.

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09-28-2013, 11:01 AM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
You want to rank Nighbor's time in the NHA or in the NHL? Lalonde was probably better in the NHA, but Nighbor was better in the NHL. Their careers overlapped, but Lalonde was 5 years older, so their peaks weren't at exactly the same time.

Keep in mind that "a Hart" Trophy was the first Hart Trophy ever awarded; Nighbor was 31 years old and a bit past his offensive prime (finished 8th) and still won.

Nighbor was much more consistent offensively than Fedorov. More of a clean version of Bobby Clarke.
And 3rd on his own team. Cy Denneny (32 years old) led the league in goals and scoring.

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09-28-2013, 11:08 AM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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Anyway, no thread about Nighbor would be complete without the best profile ever made of him: http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...5&postcount=22

It's quite clear that he was the best player in the world before Howie Morenz took that title from him.

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09-28-2013, 11:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the edler View Post
...Also, does anyone know, preferably with a source, what colors the Berlin Dutchmen of the old OPHL "Trolley" League played in?
Only thing I can find on-line is a reference to a picture in the Ottawa Citizen dating back to about 1910 featuring Hugh Lehman in a Dutchmen jersey next to another member of the team by the name of Oren Frood. This article is entitled "Pembroke Hockey Stars who played for Berlin for Stanley Cup". You could search Newspaper Archives here (ask Canadiens58 for help perhaps) in the thread above. Possible as well the Kitchener-Waterloo Museum would have pictures, though for sure theyd be black & white.

As for Nighbor, and heading back up to Pembroke & the Ottawa Valley where many of the early games greatest players came from, Tommy Gorman in an address to the Pembroke Kiwanis Club in 1946 called Nighbor; "The greatest defensive Center Ive ever seen" and old TP Gorman was like a Hockey Genius so Id be inclined to take his word on that. As a GM (Ottawa, NY Americans, Chicago, the Maroons & Habs) he won 7 Stanley Cups with 4 different teams through the 20's & 30's, a record unbroken to this day in any sport. One of the founders of the NHL. Also went on to say that Howie Morenz was not only the fastest but by far the best two way center he'd ever seen; while Maurice Richard the best he'd seen from the Blue-Line in...

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09-28-2013, 11:25 AM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Anyway, no thread about Nighbor would be complete without the best profile ever made of him: http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...5&postcount=22

It's quite clear that he was the best player in the world before Howie Morenz took that title from him.
Lalonde only played in 99 NHL games but scored 125 goals.

Nighbor scored 139 in 349 NHL games.

Lalonde only had 5 NHL season but finished 1st in scoring twice, 2nd once and 4th once. In goal scoring, a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Nighbor finished 2nd in points once and 3rd once. In goal scoring 3rd twice.

Nighbor was considered the better defensive player and played 13 NHL seasons. But I wouldn't say he was clearly the best player in the game before Morenz.

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09-28-2013, 11:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
Lalonde only played in 99 NHL games but scored 125 goals.

Nighbor scored 139 in 349 NHL games.

Lalonde only had 5 NHL season but finished 1st in scoring twice, 2nd once and 4th once. In goal scoring, a 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Nighbor finished 2nd in points once and 3rd once. In goal scoring 3rd twice.

Nighbor was considered the better defensive player and played 13 NHL seasons. But I wouldn't say he was clearly the best player in the game before Morenz.
Why not actually compare the seasons when they were in the league together? This is all in the profile I linked.

Quote:
'13 (assists not recorded)
Lalonde: 25g
Nighbor: 25g

Nighbor played in the PCHA in '14 and '15. 3rd in scoring in '15 and on pace for 3rd in scoring in '14.

'16
Lalonde: 34p (1st)
Nighbor: 24p (7th)

'17
Lalonde: 35p (4th)
Nighbor: 51p (1st)

'18 (both players missed some games)
Lalonde: 30p (on pace for 3rd)
Nighbor: 19p (on pace for 5th)

'19
Lalonde: 32p (1st)
Nighbor: 28p (2nd)

'20
Lalonde: 46p (2nd)
Nighbor: 41p (3rd)

'21
Lalonde: 43p (1st)
Nighbor: 29p (5th)

total minus injured seasons
Lalonde: 215
Nighbor: 198

Lalonde was clearly the superior offensive player, but they were usually fairly close in scoring, and both won a scoring title (Nighbor in '17, Lalonde in '16, '19, '21).
This also doesn't take into account that Nighbor was a playmaker-first playing in an era when assists were recorded at less than half the modern rate.

Edit: It seems the NHA/NHL distinction I tried to make wasn't exactly accurate though.


Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe: 09-28-2013 at 12:08 PM.
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Old
09-28-2013, 11:43 AM
  #9
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I dug up Stuminator's old post comparing Nighbor with Bobby Clarke:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sturminator View Post
Here is Bobby Clarke's complete regular season top-20 scoring resume, with top-10 finishes bolded:

Points: 10th (71-72), 2nd (72-73), 5th (73-74), 6th (74-75), 2nd (75-76), 8th (76-77), 8th (77-78)

Goals: 13th (71-72), 16th (72-73), 12th (73-74)

Assists: 17th (71-72), 3rd (72-73), 10th (73-74), 1st (74-75), 1st (75-76), 6th (76-77), 4th (77-78), 9th (78-79), 8th (79-80), 5th (82-83)

...and now for Frank Nighbor, I'll be as uncharitable to his scoring finishes as possible, and simply multiply his actual placement by two for every season in which he finished in the top-10 in any category (completely ignoring finishes outside of the top-10). This means that in the cases in which Nighbor finished first, he'll have a 2nd place finish recorded on the following list. Here it is:

Points: 8th (12-13), 6th (14-15), 14th (15-16), 2nd (16-17), 18th (17-18), 4th (18-19), 6th (19-20), 10th (20-21), 16th (23-24), 16th (25-26)

Goals: 8th (12-13), 6th (14-15), 14th (15-16), 2nd (16-17), 6th (18-19), 6th (19-20), 10th (20-21), 20th (23-24)

Assists: 12th (14-15), 12th (17-18), 4th (18-19), 2nd (19-20), 4th (20-21), 16th (21-22), 6th (23-24), 2nd (25-26)

*the reader should note that no assist totals are available (to me, at least; I am not an SIHR member) other than PCHA totals (one season for Nighbor - 14-15) before the inaugural NHL season in 1917-18. Nighbor's "scoring" finishes before that time reflect only his goal-scoring. No adjustment has been made to reflect where he would have placed in a modern-style scoring table given that he was clearly the second greatest playmaker of his era behind Taylor.*

They come out quite nearly even. Clarke has one more top-10 scoring season, but Nighbor 4 more in the top-20, and this is using only goal-scoring to calculate Nighbor's points for the better part of his prime years. Nighbor kills Clarke in goals, and probably after correction for the missing data comes fairly close though short of Clarke in assists. This is using very stringent criteria for Nighbor - multiplying all of his finishes by 2 and not adjusting for how badly he was hurt in the points race by the lack of assist totals - and he still comes out with nearly identical offensive value to that of Bobby Clarke.

Now to address questions of competitive quality. The top peak forwards against whom Nighbor competed were:

Lalonde, Malone, Taylor, Foyston, MacKay, Broadbent, Denneny, Pitre, Noble, Darragh, Dye, Cleghorn and Hyland - leaving out the Joliat/Morenz generation against whom Nighbor competed towards the end of his career (including his last assists crown in 25-26). Now, not all of these players were active during every season of Nighbor's career, but most of them were active and at their peaks during Nighbor's prime scoring years. As we've discussed before through the course of ATD#11 (a discussion to which Spit was not a party, though he could have joined in), this is quite a big generation of talent - on an entirely different level from the pre-NHA generation. When discussing top-10 placements, this is in no way a thin universe of scoringline forwards, and I see no reason to devalue scoring achievements from this era once the two-league effect is accounted for (which I do quite brutally for Nighbor by multiplying his scoring finishes by two).

It's not like Bobby Clarke's era was so much stronger. The mid-70's were a lowpoint for the NHL between the O6 and 80's eras, and Bobby Clarke, himself, got outscored during his prime by names like Pete Mahovlich, Tim Young, Terry O'Reilly, Ken Hodge, Wayne Cashman, Vic Hadfield, etc. Does it make Bobby Clarke any less an offensive force because he sometimes fell short of guys who weren't all time greats? No, just like it doesn't make Nighbor any less a scorer because he occasionally got outscored by the Corb Dennenys of hockey. If these guys had been able to do it for as long as Nighbor and Clarke, they'd be all-time greats, as well.

Look at the top-end competition in Nighbor and Clarke's respective eras. Was Lafleur better than Lalonde? The biggest difference in their careers seems to be Lafleur's playoff performances, not his regular season numbers. Esposito vs. Taylor? I'd probably give it to Espo, but it's debatable. Perreault vs. Malone. Again, highly debatable, and I think Malone probably wins this one. Broadbent vs. Lemaire; Foyston vs. Martin; MacKay vs. Ratelle; Dye vs. Shutt; Denneny vs. Barber, etc. Compare the forward talent between the eras, and it doesn't look particularly different unless you're the kind of person who doesn't realize how great a scorer Mickey MacKay was. The high-end forward talent was probably a bit thicker in the 70's than it was in the teens and Bobby Orr was playing, but a non-biased comparison of eras does not show huge differences in the competitive level among the top scorers. There were a lot more players in the 70's, but the top layer of talent doesn't appear to have been particularly superior.

Only an extremely biased and unfair appraisal of Nighbor's scoring credentials can place him much below Clarke in this area, and there is certainly an argument that Nighbor was actually the better scorer (value of goal-scoring vs. playmaking, etc.). Clarke's goal-scoring credentials are quite weak. How would pure playmaker Bobby Clarke have looked in NHA scoring tables that only counted goals? Offensively, Nighbor and Clarke are on the same level, and defensively, they exist in their own special class, which includes only Bobby Clarke and Frank Nighbor. There simply are no other scoring forwards in hockey history whose defensive games approach this level of dominance.

(quote omitted)

And here we come to your problem. None of these players, including Milt Schmidt, have a defensive value even close to that of Bobby Clarke. Frank Nighbor does. Your unwillingness to even address the topic of Nighbor's defensive value is telling, because you know he's arguably the best of all time. The biggest thing holding Nighbor back from more recognition in the ATD was not his defensive value, on which there is virtually unanimous agreement. The biggest thing keeping Nighbor off of ATD 1st lines and out of the HOH top-50 was a lack of perspective on his scoring feats, due mostly to limited information on NHA scoring and postseason contests during the era. That blind spot has been corrected, and now we know why so many of Nighbor's contemporaries considered him the best player in hockey. Now it makes sense. Now we understand why he got more votes than Lalonde in the "Player of the Half-Century" poll, why he won the 1st Hart trophy in a season in which he placed 8th in points. Frank Nighbor was one of the titans of his era - qualitatively different, but on the same level as Taylor and Lalonde.
http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...7&postcount=32

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09-28-2013, 12:05 PM
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Anyway, Cyclone Taylor's last great season appears to have been 1918 and Lalonde's last great season was 1921.

Morenz's first season great season was 1924-25 and his first generational season was 1927-28. Nighbor seems to have been almost universally regarded as the best player in the world between Taylor/Lalonde and Morenz's emergence as a generational player.

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09-28-2013, 01:44 PM
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the edler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post

^ That's some heavy stuff. But I liked this quote.
Quote:
Nighbor was an effortless skater, a master at setting up smooth combination plays with his wingers
That sounds a bit like Fedorov. I'm not saying Nighbor's and Fedorov's career's were identical but their playing styles seems to have been a bit similar.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Killion View Post
Only thing I can find on-line is a reference to a picture in the Ottawa Citizen dating back to about 1910 featuring Hugh Lehman in a Dutchmen jersey next to another member of the team by the name of Oren Frood.
^ Thanks, I saw that clip when I "was out there" digging info. Oren Frood is a great name by the way. I'll see what I can do.

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09-28-2013, 01:55 PM
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^ That's some heavy stuff. But I liked this quote.


That sounds a bit like Fedorov. I'm not saying Nighbor's and Fedorov's career's were identical but their playing styles seems to have been a bit similar.
Stylistically, I think it's probably a decent fit (moreso than Clarke who was much dirtier than Nighbor), but I don't think Nighbor was as known for his speed as Fedorov was - Nighbor seems to have been fast, but there were definitely peers who were faster. While Nighbor's hook, stick, and pokechecking seem to have towered over his peers similar to Lidstrom (only as a center).

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09-28-2013, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Stylistically, I think it's probably a decent fit (moreso than Clarke who was much dirtier than Nighbor), but I don't think Nighbor was as known for his speed as Fedorov was - Nighbor seems to have been fast, but there were definitely peers who were faster. While Nighbor's hook, stick, and pokechecking seem to have towered over his peers similar to Lidstrom (only as a center).
The thing I'm interested in now... Is if there was anyone before Nighbor who could be considered a two-way forward, who made shutting down the opposition a factor like that.

Those descriptions of Nighbor seem an awful like how a Clarke or Trottier was deacribed decades later, in a far more structured league.

I guess what I'm getting at is... Was Nighbor the prototype for the two-way, playmaking center? Was he ahead of his time?

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09-28-2013, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by DisgruntledGoat View Post
The thing I'm interested in now... Is if there was anyone before Nighbor who could be considered a two-way forward, who made shutting down the opposition a factor like that.

Those descriptions of Nighbor seem an awful like how a Clarke or Trottier was deacribed decades later, in a far more structured league.

I guess what I'm getting at is... Was Nighbor the prototype for the two-way, playmaking center? Was he ahead of his time?
From what I've read, Tommy Phillips appears to have been the first superstar two-way forward. He was a winger though, and probably more of a goal scorer than playmaker (hard to tell since records of assists are spotty at best in that era). He also played at a time (1901-08, 1911-12) when the talent was much thinner than when Nighbor played.

Phillips seems to have pre-dated the "hook check" as an artform though. This post and this one on the history of the hook check seem to indicate that Jack Walker, HHOF defensive rover/winger was the first to use the move and that Nighbor may have learned it from him (deleted). Nighbor then proceeded to perfect the move.


Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe: 09-28-2013 at 03:57 PM. Reason: had my timing off
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09-28-2013, 03:49 PM
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Jack Walker never played for the Vancouver Millionaires. Walker and Nighbor were teammates on the 1912–13 Toronto Blueshirts. Walker only played one game for Toronto that season though as he arrived from the Moncton Victorias of the Maritime league. Next season Nighbor moved to Vancouver.

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09-28-2013, 03:55 PM
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Jack Walker never played for the Vancouver Millionaires. Walker and Nighbor were teammates on the 191213 Toronto Blueshirts. Walker only played one game for Toronto that season though as he arrived from the Moncton Victorias of the Maritime league. Next season Nighbor moved to Vancouver.
obviously had my timing off on when they played together...

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09-28-2013, 05:05 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Why not actually compare the seasons when they were in the league together? This is all in the profile I linked.



This also doesn't take into account that Nighbor was a playmaker-first playing in an era when assists were recorded at less than half the modern rate.
Edit: It seems the NHA/NHL distinction I tried to make wasn't exactly accurate though.
Wouldn't the illegality of forward passing account for less assists and make goal scoring more important in Lalonde and Nighbor's era?

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09-28-2013, 08:11 PM
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Well, he was better than Fedorov, no doubt.

The Top 60 centers thread has me re-considering him as well. Some great information there and, I have to admit, I didn't really look into him that closely before.
On My list, I have Nighbor & Bobby Clarke ranked very, very close together.

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09-28-2013, 11:31 PM
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Well, he was better than Fedorov, no doubt.

The Top 60 centers thread has me re-considering him as well. Some great information there and, I have to admit, I didn't really look into him that closely before.
funny on my 13 hour drive today I spent alot of time wondering which player was actually better of the 2.

Very similar type of players and all of the 2 way types that come to mind, like Clarke, Frank, Feds and Forsberg are really close in my books, for different reasons though.

All of them have their strong points and then weak points on their resumes.

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09-28-2013, 11:36 PM
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You want to rank Nighbor's time in the NHA or in the NHL? Lalonde was probably better in the NHA, but Nighbor was better in the NHL. Their careers overlapped, but Lalonde was 5 years older, so their peaks weren't at exactly the same time.

Keep in mind that "a Hart" Trophy was the first Hart Trophy ever awarded; Nighbor was 31 years old and a bit past his offensive prime (finished 8th) and still won.

Nighbor was much more consistent offensively than Fedorov. More of a clean version of Bobby Clarke.

We know the source, or most of it for Feds, is there very much information on frank's varying offense?

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09-28-2013, 11:50 PM
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I dug up Stuminator's old post comparing Nighbor with Bobby Clarke:



http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...7&postcount=32
Interesting stuff by Stuminator but exactly how good is a top 20 (the 16,16 and 18th in points specifically) in such an era? Very few teams with even fewer players per team.

Also Clarke's stats are somewhat diminished by the fact that Russians and Czechs weren't in the league as evidenced by later stats with an older Vald Nedomansky scoring at a better clip than him in 79 and 80.

It certainly should raise a few questions.

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09-28-2013, 11:57 PM
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Wouldn't the illegality of forward passing account for less assists and make goal scoring more important in Lalonde and Nighbor's era?
It would seem so, one would think, at least in terms of offense.

Frank only has 4 playoff goals but 3 of them certainly put him as the most important playoff performer on his team in 21 and 22.

his 4th playoff goal came in 27, when only 6 players on his team had playoff goals, so it was definitely a different time.


Last edited by Hardyvan123: 09-29-2013 at 12:01 AM. Reason: Note the 4 goals are in his NHL time, he certainly was a better player and playoff performer in his pre NHL career.
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09-29-2013, 06:32 PM
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Interesting stuff by Stuminator but exactly how good is a top 20 (the 16,16 and 18th in points specifically) in such an era? Very few teams with even fewer players per team.

Also Clarke's stats are somewhat diminished by the fact that Russians and Czechs weren't in the league as evidenced by later stats with an older Vald Nedomansky scoring at a better clip than him in 79 and 80.

It certainly should raise a few questions.
. . . except he didn't. Same PPG in 79, marginally better in 80 (0.03, in fact).

And by the start of the 1979 season, Clarke had (by my count) played in 805 high-level games. Nedomansky in 733, largely in the less physically demanding Czech league. Which one of these players was really, 'older' in 1979?

Your conclusions are a real stretch, even for this, 'integrated league' theory.

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09-29-2013, 06:48 PM
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Interesting stuff by Stuminator but exactly how good is a top 20 (the 16,16 and 18th in points specifically) in such an era? Very few teams with even fewer players per team.

Also Clarke's stats are somewhat diminished by the fact that Russians and Czechs weren't in the league as evidenced by later stats with an older Vald Nedomansky scoring at a better clip than him in 79 and 80.

It certainly should raise a few questions.
considering their offensive rankings come out about the same after Sturm's exercise, it would be safe to say clarke is the better offensive player because his finishes are more modern in a bigger talent pool.

BUT, there are two caveats to this. One, Clarke's rankings don't include all the best in the world at the time. It likely doesn't threaten his two 2nds, but it certainly would drop his other finishes down a peg or two if you imagine the whole world was in the NHL like it has been post-93. (which is what Sturm's exercise has already attempted to do for Nighbor). Second, Nighbor was more of a playmaker than a goalscorer - IIRC, the second-most prolific of his era, a good deal behind Taylor but also a good deal ahead of Mickey MacKay, which is where the pack begins. In a league where assists were credited 1.6-1.7 times per goal (like Clarke played in), Nighbor's points finishes would have been better too. Indeed, they have almost an identical range of top 2, 5, 10, 15, and 20 finishes. Nighbor's are 2-5-7-8-11 and Clarke's are 2-5-9-9-10. The real difference is in their goals finishes: Nighbor's are 1-4-6-7-8, Clarke's are 0-0-0-2-3.

So, before concluding Clarke is definitely better offensively I'd want to make an attempt at a couple more adjustments to make it fairer for Nighbor.

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09-29-2013, 10:12 PM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
Wouldn't the illegality of forward passing account for less assists and make goal scoring more important in Lalonde and Nighbor's era?
Somewhat so, probably. (To be clear, forward passing was allowed in the neutral zone for the majority of Nighbor's prime, but wasn't allowed in the offensive zone).

But still, the NHL was very inconsistent in recording assists through the 1930s and early 1940s, well after the forward pass was allowed in all three zones. If you look at box scores from the 1930s, sometimes 3 assists were credited per goal, occasionally a player appears to have gotten 2 assists for the same goal (?), but more often, there was only 1 (or zero) assists on a goal.

The modern ration of assists to goals didn't really come about until the late 1940s; before then playmakers are going to be underrated and goal scorers are going to be overrated by point totals.

That said, for someone like Nighbor who played before the forward pass, simply adjusting his assist numbers to the modern ratio would probably overrate him (you and I agree here), but they still should be adjusted upwards somewhat. I don't have a formula in mind; I just do a mental adjustment of pass-first players from the era upwards a little bit.


Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe: 09-29-2013 at 10:18 PM.
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