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How I compare the WWII years in terms of competition

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12-29-2013, 02:03 PM
  #1
Big Phil
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How I compare the WWII years in terms of competition

Alright, inspired a bit from the Richard thread. This isn't solely about Richard. I will talk a bit about his 50-in-50 season but that's it. This is how we can compare just how competitive the War years were in the NHL. I would use the seasons 1943-'44 and 1944-'45.

Would it be fair to compare these seasons to the often debated 2005 World Championship? But just a bit better? I say this not to take anything away from the Cup winners of those years, but we've always used the 2005 World Championships as a tournament that we will admit was more prolific than any other World Championship but a clear notch below an Olympic/Canada Cup tournament. The only difference being the 2005 Worlds happened during a lockout year where a lot of NHLers would have been a little more deflated and less enthusiastic about.

But I don't think these War years are ever as bad as we project them to be. Richard had 50-in-50 in 1945 but take a look at the guy who finished 2nd in goals. Herb Cain with 32. Ted Kennedy and Toe Blake had 29. That is significant separation and other than Cain these are all-time greats.

1945 had these scoring leaders (HHOFers in bold):

Lach, Richard, Blake, Cowley, DeMarco, Carveth, Kennedy, Mosienko, Smith, Howe

1944 had these scoring leaders (HHOFers in bold):

Cain, D. Bentley, Carr, Liscombe, Lach, Smith, Cowley, Mosienko, Jackson, Bodnar

Blake, Pratt, Hextall, Syd Howe and Richard all were in top 15.

Look, I'm not saying there wasn't some big names missing. The Kraut Line was missing, Max Bentley and Syl Apps were gone. Doug Bentley was missing in the 1944-'45 season. Turk Broda was the biggest omission in goal. And there is a reason Herb Cain isn't in the HHOF despite winning a scoring title. A player who dominates during the War years and then is average any other year shouldn't be a HHOFer. Flash Hollett may be the only exception but alas.

What is your opinion of the War years? I never just simply ignore them as if they aren't there. I realize it has to be taken into context but it isn't a whitewash over those years the way others may think.

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12-29-2013, 02:32 PM
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Canadiens1958
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June 1945

During WWII the NHL was playing both sides against the middle - patriotism on one hand, business as usual on the other.

June 1945 meetings, days after VE day, there was talk of expansion - upwards of 3 teams - rebirth of the New York Americans, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?id...2113%2C2370659

Also a post about Red Dutton:

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...&postcount=178

Looks like the NHL powers felt that talent was sufficient to expand upwards towards the 1930-31 benchmark of 10 teams.

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12-29-2013, 03:07 PM
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Crease
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I guess this is as good of a thread to ask as any: In what years near WWII was NHL competition relatively weak? Trying to place Bryan Hextall all-time amongst Rangers wingers and his dominant years were from '39 to '44. Was competition "down" in those years?

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12-29-2013, 03:19 PM
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LeBlondeDemon10
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I think that its interesting that MLB was missing a number of players, including Ted Williams, to the war and I've never really heard much of an argument that the league was watered down because of this factor. Maybe I've missed it. The biggest argument I've heard regarding Williams missing all the games he could have played after stints in WWII and Korea is how he likely could have passed Babe Ruth in home runs.

The argument may not be as significant in baseball because of the large American population and number of players in a very large minor league farm system.

In terms of Richard, its my opinion that when you remove a number of significant players from a league or expand, the replacement players or additions, are usually less skilled and more defensive minded to make up for a lack of skills. (Hockey may not have been as deep in talent as baseball as it was primarily a Canadian game at the time and with a population significantly less than America.) This may have been the case. I think you'd have to look at the overall gpg average of the league during the war years to get a larger picture of what occurred. However, for Richard, perhaps he was able to capitalize on a number of defense men that did not know his patterns? As we've talked about in other threads, the 6 team league was notorious for knowing each others tendencies inside out.

Another way to look at it is that Richard only scored the 50 goals once. Taking that season away from him or adjusting his goals for that season does little to tarnish the legacy of the player. I would say the same about most HOFer's. Even if you take away Espo's 76 goal season he still had 5 other 60 goal seasons. Unheard of at the time.

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12-29-2013, 03:38 PM
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Sens Rule
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Pete Gray a one armed outfielder played a season in the war. Joe Nuxhall pitched a game at 15 years and 11 months.

Baseball's competition was weaker in WWII, especially late in the war.

In hockey it is about a lot longer participation in the war, and a much higher participation level. Outside of French Quebec, where volunteering for the war was less popular, so many teens and young men volunteered, right from the very start of the war in 1939 and 1940. I would venture to guess that being a hockey player would make you tougher and given towards excitement and more likely to volunteer.

So you see not that many existing NHLers volunteer. Quite a few for sure. But not virtually all of them. However I would guess that virtually all 16-22 year old hockey players at other levels volunteered for the war. From 1940-1945. Would have affected the war and the years after the war.

I think that existing NHLers didn't volunteer on the per capita basis, not because they were hockey players and "stars", but because they had wives and children. If you were a single male in Canada from the West or Ontario... And you were healthy and given to excitement and physical endevours, unless you were supporting your family, you volunteered for the military. In numbers probably like 70-80 or even 90%.

So you would lose a lot of NHLers, AHLers, other minor leaguers and senior leaguers that would fill that spot, and scores and scores of juniors as well. Not for just 2 or 3 years but for 5 years.


Last edited by Sens Rule: 12-29-2013 at 03:45 PM.
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12-29-2013, 03:52 PM
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Killion
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There's a terrific book written by Douglas Hunter called War Games: Conn Smythe & Hockeys Fighting Men that came out years ago that takes an in-depth look at this very issue (amongst other things).... here too a very well written (though some typos, misspelled names etc) article that goes into some depth in providing background, context & details that should answer many questions one might have about hockey & the NHL circa 1939-45/46.

http://www.hockeycentral.co.uk/nhl/m...rld-War-II.php

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12-29-2013, 05:12 PM
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Hardyvan123
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It's hard to say or even quantify but Richard had 50 in 50 which is a 1.00 GPG rate.

as great as he was, and i s remembered the next highest he ever achieved was

.75 (47)
.70 (44) another War year
.65
.61
.57

I never saw him play and most of us didn't but it's hard to conclude that the war years were anywhere as good overall as the years before or after IMO.

As for comparing them to the 2005 WC, that's a real stretch at best and pretty insulting to the 05 guys at the worst.

The growth of the game over that time and countries like USA/Sweden/USSR being almost on the same level as Canada tells us that this comp really is out there IMO.

another thing to look at is the year by year top 10 scoring rates before the war, when players rarely scratched 50 points, to the explosion in scoring leaders in the war years and the lingering affect afterwards, in part to going to 60 GP of course in 1947.

http://www.hockey-reference.com/lead...ts_top_10.html

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12-29-2013, 05:35 PM
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Killion
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
It's hard to say or even quantify but Richard had 50 in 50 which is a 1.00 GPG rate... I never saw him play and most of us didn't but it's hard to conclude that the war years were anywhere as good overall as the years before or after IMO.
Yes I agree with most of your points Hv, and as your aware in 1943/44 the NHL introduced the Center Ice Red Line in order to speed the game up. Previously, you couldnt pass out out of your Blue Line which resulted in stultifying fore-checks, bottling teams up in their own ends. In allowing passes from behind the Blue Line but not beyond the Center Ice Red Line, headmanning the puck on transition from defence to offence (which we take for granted today of course) seriously altered the game.

With rosters decimated, underagers, guys like Goalie Frank McCool & countless others who normally would never have even gotten a shot to play in the NHL were in like Flint, so desperate were all but really the Habs for players. Upon conclusion of the hostilities, returning vets werent able to keep up & adapt to the rule changes, the torch passed on to the likes of Richard & Lach, Howe & Lindsay, Ted Kennedy et al. Goaltenders like Turk Broda returning & displacing McCool, teenage sensation like Harry Lumley & a few years later Terry Sawchuk given the go to as starters. Richard however, an entirely different matter & animal. Granted when he broke-in the league was a rather weak cup of tea but none the less, I dont put any asterisks beside his name, that he was somehow "advantaged". Not when you look at the totality, the complete body of his works & career.

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12-29-2013, 09:06 PM
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Big Phil
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crease View Post
I guess this is as good of a thread to ask as any: In what years near WWII was NHL competition relatively weak? Trying to place Bryan Hextall all-time amongst Rangers wingers and his dominant years were from '39 to '44. Was competition "down" in those years?
I would say 1939-'43 was pretty much a full league. Schmidt, Bauer and Dumart who formed the Kraut line lafter after the 1942 season so they were gone three full seasons. But the 1942-'43 NHL season was pretty much a full league. The two seasons after were the ones in question.

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