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Ranking the Greatest Soviet Forwards

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07-16-2014, 08:18 PM
  #1
BillyShoe1721
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Ranking the Greatest Soviet Forwards

http://thehockeywriters.com/valeri-kharlamov-the-most-overrated-player-in-history/

I recently penned the above article, calling Kharlamov the most overrated player ever. It contains a breakdown of Petrov, Mikhailov, Kharlamov, Makarov, and Maltsev in terms of Russian scoring, MVP, AS votes, and Vs2. It also compares their WC AS Teams, WC Best Forward, WC PPG, Olympic PPG, and Summit Series production. Here are the two key tables:





I think this would be a useful exercise leading up to the Wingers project to give people a good look at some of the players that some know little about. In addition, you could add Anatoli Firsov, Vladimir Krutov, Helmut Balderis, Alexander Yakushev, or Igor Larionov to the conversation. However, I think the five listed in the table are the top 5 in terms of Soviet (not counting Ovechkin, Bure, Datsyuk, etc.) forwards.

This poll done by VMBM recently indicates people think Makarov was better than Kharlamov, which signifies a shift in how Soviets are being perceived.

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh....php?t=1508061

Here is some source data regarding Soviets:

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/sh...v#post42773491

So, how would you rank the top 5 or 10 Soviet forwards? I have Makarov easily first, then it's a toss-up between Mikhailov and Maltsev, then a toss-up between Petrov and Kharlamov. However, positions 2-4 could easily be changed by a good argument.

Discuss.

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07-16-2014, 11:44 PM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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Other than the clickbait title of the article, nice work.

I get that Firsov is tough to compare because he played during an earlier time - played against somewhat weaker competition; no domestic assists recorded for most of his career; MVP voting for only the second half. But... I think most would have him higher than Maltsev or Petrov.

The thing with Kharlamov is that his reputation seems to have been made as a "big game player." I think it was VMBM who posted about this about a year ago. Basically, he dominated the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, which were bigger tournaments than the WCs even back then. Also the best Soviet forward for the first half of the 72 Summit Series... and the whole Bobby Clarke thing shows how he was thought of. I mean, you basically go over all this in your article, so I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but there it is. I guess it's like an NHL player who made his name in the playoffs.


Last edited by TheDevilMadeMe; 07-16-2014 at 11:51 PM..
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07-17-2014, 12:28 AM
  #3
kmad
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From what I gather, Kharlamov was a quarterback type player, and the Soviet league didn't award second assists (of which that type of player gets a lot), which would account for his unexpectedly disappointing point scoring finishes, at least relative to his reputation.

Any merit to that?

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07-17-2014, 01:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmad View Post
From what I gather, Kharlamov was a quarterback type player, and the Soviet league didn't award second assists (of which that type of player gets a lot), which would account for his unexpectedly disappointing point scoring finishes, at least relative to his reputation.

Any merit to that?
That is the narrative I've seen; yes.

It is a fact that the Soviet league didn't record secondary assists. And frankly, in a Communist System that looked down upon individuality, I don't know if there was really motivation to put much effort into accurate recording of personal statistics.

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07-17-2014, 01:57 AM
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Sprague Cleghorn
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So, would Kharlamov's reputation kind of be like Jack Darragh (big game player) but so-so in the regular games? Also, what do you think of Kharlamov vs. Mikhailov? Who's greater?

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07-17-2014, 03:13 AM
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TheDevilMadeMe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sprague Cleghorn View Post
So, would Kharlamov's reputation kind of be like Jack Darragh (big game player) but so-so in the regular games? Also, what do you think of Kharlamov vs. Mikhailov? Who's greater?
Kharlamov seems to have peaked higher than Mikhailov. Better MVP shares when they were both in their primes (Mikhailov's 2 wins were basically in the late 70s gap between generations), and has at least somewhat of a better peak internationally

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07-17-2014, 04:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyShoe1721 View Post
http://thehockeywriters.com/valeri-kharlamov-the-most-overrated-player-in-history/

I recently penned the above article, calling Kharlamov the most overrated player ever. It contains a breakdown of Petrov, Mikhailov, Kharlamov, Makarov, and Maltsev in terms of Russian scoring, MVP, AS votes, and Vs2. It also compares their WC AS Teams, WC Best Forward, WC PPG, Olympic PPG, and Summit Series production. Here are the two key tables:


Mikhailov had 5 pts (3+2) in the 1972 SS*, and 6 pts (4+2) in the 1974 SS, i.e. = 11 pts.

* The official 1972 SS statistics are very unreliable, though

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07-17-2014, 05:18 AM
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Theokritos
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So the bottom line is that looking at Soviet scoring stats tells us the people who watched Kharlamov and the others play (above all Soviet/Russian observers, including Anatoli Tarasov) don't have much of a clue about hockey. Right.

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07-17-2014, 05:19 AM
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Originally Posted by kmad View Post
From what I gather, Kharlamov was a quarterback type player, and the Soviet league didn't award second assists (of which that type of player gets a lot), which would account for his unexpectedly disappointing point scoring finishes, at least relative to his reputation.

Any merit to that?
Then again, if secondary assists had been awarded, it would've also increased Petrov's and Mikhailov's (and other players') point totals, and I doubt that Kharlamov's (possible) advantage would've still been enough to compete with those guys equally.

Having said that, it might very well be that Petrov (who has clearly the most assists - as well as pts - of the 3) 'benefited' the most from the status quo; for example, Mikhailov banged in a lot of Petrov rebounds over the years, that's for sure... and in those situations, I guess Mikhailov got credit for the goal and Petrov for the assist, no matter who had done most of the work (in setting up the goal).

Also, in the 'major international tournaments' - where secondary assists were awarded - Kharlamov is the top Soviet scorer of all-time, and has clearly more assists (105) than Petrov (87) and especially Mikhailov (68), for example.

http://www.goironpigs.com/?cat=40
Quote:
SOVIET UNION NATIONAL TEAM – major international tournaments all-time

◾194 pts — 89 go – 105 as — 14 app — Valery KHARLAMOV
◾193 pts — 98 go — 95 as — 17 app — Alexander MALTSEV
◾182 pts — 82 go – 100 as — 17 app — Sergei MAKAROV
◾177 pts – 109 go — 68 as — 14 app — Boris MIKHAILOV
◾171 pts — 84 go — 87 as — 14 app — Vladimir PETROV
◾144 pts — 51 go — 93 as — 16 app — Vyacheslav FETISOV *
◾131 pts — 71 go — 60 as — 13 app — Vladimir KRUTOV
◾117 pts — 66 go — 51 as —– 9 app — Anatoli FIRSOV
◾112 pts — 68 go — 44 as — 11 app — Veniamin ALEXANDROV
◾108 pts — 64 go — 44 as — 12 app — Alexander YAKUSHEV
◾106 pts — 66 go — 40 as — 12 app — Sergei KAPUSTIN
◾102 pts — 57 go — 45 as — 10 app — Vladimir VIKULOV
◾95 pts —– 28 go — 67 as — 15 app — Alexei KASATONOV
◾94 pts —– 64 go — 30 as — 10 app — Vyacheslav STARSHINOV
◾88 pts —– 45 go — 43 as — 10 app — Vladimir SHADRIN
◾86 pts —– 50 go — 36 as —– 8 app — Konstantin LOKTEV
◾84 pts —– 36 go — 48 as — 11 app — Viktor ZHLUKTOV
◾80 pts —– 36 go — 44 as — 11 app — Igor LARIONOV *
◾75 pts —– 37 go — 38 as —– 9 app — Vyacheslav BYKOV *
◾72 pts —– 37 go — 35 as —– 7 app — Alexander ALMETOV
◾71 pts —– 38 go — 33 as —– 8 app — Viktor SHALIMOV
◾68 pts —– 35 go — 33 as —– 7 app — Helmut BALDERIS
◾66 pts —– 31 go — 35 as — 12 app — Andrei KHOMUTOV *
◾62 pts —– 30 go — 32 as —– 7 app — Boris MAYOROV
◾60 pts —– 30 go — 30 as —– 8 app — Viktor YAKUSHEV


Last edited by VMBM; 07-17-2014 at 06:27 AM..
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07-17-2014, 06:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VMBM View Post
Having said that, it might very well be that Petrov (who has clearly the most assists - as well as pts - of the 3) 'benefited' the most from the status quo; for example, Mikhailov banged in a lot of Petrov rebounds over the years, that's for sure... and in those situations, I guess Mikhailov got credit for the goal and Petrov for the assist, no matter who had done most of the work (in setting up the goal).
The Soviets didn't award assists on rebounds either.

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07-17-2014, 06:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VMBM View Post
Also, in the 'major international tournaments' - where secondary assists were awarded - Kharlamov is the top Soviet scorer of all-time, and has clearly more assists (105) than Petrov (87) and especially Mikhailov (68), for example.

http://www.goironpigs.com/?cat=40
This could support two separate narratives - that Kharlamov was a second-assist playmaker, or that Kharlamov was a big-game player. I don't know which one to pick.

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07-17-2014, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by BM67 View Post
The Soviets didn't award assists on rebounds either.
Okay, so obviously that does not explain Petrov's big edge in (Soviet league) assists at all then. Bang goes the theory

Petrov was a good playmaker too, so I'm not questioning it, but it's still interesting.

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07-17-2014, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by kmad View Post
This could support two separate narratives - that Kharlamov was a second-assist playmaker, or that Kharlamov was a big-game player. I don't know which one to pick.
Maybe he was both?

Also, in the Soviet league, Kharlamov often played fewer games a season than his linemates, for whatever reason. This did not help either, as far as scoring finishes are concerned. So while his point total is not very impressive compared to some other players, his PPG is actually pretty good.

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07-17-2014, 08:03 AM
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I would also include Guryshev, Bobrov, Starshinov (still can't believe he was not named one of 60 best centers), and Yakushev into this discussion.

To me, Kharlamov had the highest peak of them all, but prime and career easily go to Makarov. And yes, I prefer "big game players," hence my love for Yakushev.


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07-17-2014, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
So the bottom line is that looking at Soviet scoring stats tells us the people who watched Kharlamov and the others play (above all Soviet/Russian observers, including Anatoli Tarasov) don't have much of a clue about hockey. Right.
Well, it is how we judge North American players. Should we use the same criteria for Soviets? The idea is tempting, but like I said... I don't exactly trust the official scorekeepers for a team whose entire reason for existence was to act as a propaganda arm for the Soviet brand of Communism.

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07-17-2014, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Theokritos View Post
So the bottom line is that looking at Soviet scoring stats tells us the people who watched Kharlamov and the others play (above all Soviet/Russian observers, including Anatoli Tarasov) don't have much of a clue about hockey. Right.
The problem is that European rate athletes differently than Americans.
They don't count awards and stats and just rely on what they see.
Some attributes, like consistency or injuries aren't nearly as important.

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07-21-2014, 03:24 AM
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A word on the Soviet league statistics, the reliability etc. This post by TDMM on another thread got me wondering a bit:

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
This one is easy - Starshinov was a one-dimensional goal scorer and the Soviet league didn't record assists through the 1960s (IIRC, they started in 1970). I have no doubt that if the Soviet league recorded assists, Firsov would have regularly beat Starshinov. If you look at the World Championships (which did record assists), Firsov was a great playmaker and Starshinov was a terrible one.
I'm confused. Namely, we DO HAVE assist numbers for certain players already from the mid-1960s. Look at e.g. Boris Mikhailov's Soviet league record (taken from Joe Pelletier's 1972 SS site http://www.1972summitseries.com/mikhailov.html):

Quote:
Season Club GP G A Pts PIM
1962-63 Avangard Saratov - - - - -
1963-64 Avangard Saratov - - - - -
1964-65 Avangard Saratov - 23 - 23 -
1965-66 Lokomotiv Moscow 28 18 8 26 8
1966-67 Lokomotiv Moscow 44 20 7 27 16
1967-68 CSKA Moscow 43 29 16 45 16
1968-69 CSKA Moscow 42 36 14 50 14
1969-70 CSKA Moscow 44 40 15 55 22
1970-71 CSKA Moscow 40 32 15 47 16
1971-72 CSKA Moscow 31 20 13 33 18
1972-73 CSKA Moscow 30 24 13 37 20
1973-74 CSKA Moscow 31 18 9 27 12
1974-75 CSKA Moscow 35 40 11 51 30
1975-76 CSKA Moscow 36 31 7 38 43
1976-77 CSKA Moscow 34 28 23 51 10
1977-78 CSKA Moscow 35 32 20 52 18
1978-79 CSKA Moscow 43 30 24 54 23
1979-80 CSKA Moscow 41 27 23 50 19
1980-81 CSKA Moscow 15 4 5 9 4

Soviet League Totals 572 452 223 675 286
I don't know how reliable they are, but he has his assists recorded from the 1965-66 season on.

Then look at Anatoli Firsov's Soviet league record (also from Pelletier's site http://www.1972summitseries.com/otherfirsov.html):

Quote:
Season Club League GP G A Pts PIM
1958-59 Spartak Moscow USSR - 0 - 0 -
1959-60 Spartak Moscow USSR - 6 - 6 -
1960-61 Spartak Moscow USSR - 10 - 10 -
1961-62 Spartak Moscow USSR - 1 - 1 -
1961-62 CSKA Moscow USSR - 17 - 17 -
1962-63 CSKA Moscow USSR - 20 - 20 -
1963-64 CSKA Moscow USSR - 34 - 34 -
1964-65 CSKA Moscow USSR - 21 - 21 -
1965-66 CSKA Moscow USSR - 40 - 40 -
1966-67 CSKA Moscow USSR - 41 - 41 -
1967-68 CSKA Moscow USSR 43 33 - 33 -
1968-69 CSKA Moscow USSR 38 28 - 28 -
1969-70 CSKA Moscow USSR 38 33 - 33 -
1970-71 CSKA Moscow USSR 33 17 - 17 -
1971-72 CSKA Moscow USSR 29 18 10 28 -
1972-73 CSKA Moscow USSR 32 25 8 33 -
1973-74 CSKA Moscow USSR 4 1 2 3 2
Only for his last 3 seasons (1972-74) is there any assist data available.

What gives? These players played for the same team (CSKA) from the 1967-68 season on, and yet, of the two, we have the assists numbers only for Mikhailov 1968-1971. Like Mikhailov, some other 1970s star players like Kharlamov and Petrov have their assists recorded from very early on.

This leads me to suggest that however unimportant assists were deemed back then, they actually were recorded already in the mid/late-1960s (not just from 1970 on or whatever), even though apparently only the guy with most goals was the scoring champion.

Could it be that when the '70s star players like Mikhailov, Petrov and Kharlamov retired (or died) in the early 1980s - and with hockey being more popular in Soviet Union than ever before - there was a need to find their complete (or as complete as possible) stats for their bios, tributes etc, and so they were dug up, even those early assist numbers? On the other hand, Firsov's retirement during the 1973-74 season was probably more low-key, and there wasn't any particular demand to compile his complete Soviet league statistics, so nobody even tried and maybe now they are lost forever (?). Does this make any sense at all?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
Well, it is how we judge North American players. Should we use the same criteria for Soviets? The idea is tempting, but like I said... I don't exactly trust the official scorekeepers for a team whose entire reason for existence was to act as a propaganda arm for the Soviet brand of Communism.
I doubt that Kharlamov's Soviet league numbers are any more unreliable than those of his peers, so I don't think there's much wrong to compare their stats. But how much weight should be put on them, that is the question.

Based on accolades, stats and, most importantly, the eye test, IMO Kharlamov probably had the highest peak of any Soviet player (1972-76). Plus he certainly had some very good seasons already in 1969-71, and wasn't too shabby in 1977-80 either.


Last edited by VMBM; 07-21-2014 at 05:03 AM..
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07-23-2014, 07:33 PM
  #18
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Originally Posted by VMBM View Post
Based on accolades, stats and, most importantly, the eye test, IMO Kharlamov probably had the highest peak of any Soviet player (1972-76). Plus he certainly had some very good seasons already in 1969-71, and wasn't too shabby in 1977-80 either.
This is my belief VMBM. Theres an old Soviet expression, "Eyewitnesses are liars". Fortunately for me I wasnt brought up in the USSR. Of all the Soviet & post Fall of the Iron Curtain I still rank Kharlamov as the best Russian Ive ever "seen" with my own two eyes. Pavel Bure' come close but then he was a different animal altogether. Was able to explore, enjoy freedom unshackled. In terms of Old School two~way hockey genius, Kharlamov was in a Class of One. Him.... then there was everyone else and that included Canadians with the exceptions of guys like Morenz, Richard, Hull & Orr. Not that they were "better" but more that they were all cut from the same brilliant cloth. Kharlamov to me one of the greatest players Ive ever seen.... Call me a liar if youd like Comrade. Dont really care. Stalin was an idiot and Im not a Soviet era lawyer.... though sometimes I like to fall asleep thinking so.

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