Why is it that we (our generation anyway) have trouble thinking of Esposito as one of the greatest hockey players of all time? Is it because he was on the same team as Bobby Orr, whose legend has endured far better? Is it because of Esposito’s extraordinarily unathletic physique? Is it because everything he did has since been done multiple times by multiple players so those records feel less important?
Sure, Espo benefited from playing more games per season in the newly expanded league (someone was going to set records) and, yes, he benefited from playing with the Greatest of All Time, but lesser players wouldn’t have excelled the way he did, over such a long period of time.
For two straight years, Bernie Parent was the best goalie in the NHL. He won two straight Vezinas (when it was the Jennings) and two straight Conn Smythes. Additionally, by Hockey Reference’s Goals Saved Above Average metric, Parent’s 1973-74 season is the greatest ever by an NHL goaltender.
Does this brief stretch of dominance put him among the ranks of the very best goalies ever? He’s certainly one of the couple best goalies of the 1970s.
Listen to us discuss Parent’s Hall of Fame case here:
Jacques Lemaire was one of the most consistent forwards of his era, and a member of the Greatest Team of All Time. He won an incredible eight Stanley Cups.
But he was never one of the best regular season players in the league, at least by offense, and he was only ever the best forward on one of those Cup winners. He has no major awards and never made an end-of-season All Star team.
So, does Jacques Lemaire belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen here:
By regular season numbers, Jean Ratelle was one of the best forwards of his era. And, had he been healthy in his best season, he might have competed for the scoring title. (His peers awarded him with the Pearson for that.)
However, his playoff numbers are noticeably worse. And, of course, he never won a Cup.
So, how great was Jean Ratelle? Is he one of the greats of his era or does his longevity make him look better than he was? Listen to us discuss Ratelle’s Hall of Fame case here:
Gerry Cheevers was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame only five years after he retired. And yet he has one of the weakest resumes of any Hall of Fame goalie, and that resume is significantly weaker than some goalies who are not in the Hall of Fame.
Cheevers was never an end-of-season All Star (1st or 2nd Team) in the NHL, he never won an award and he never led the NHL in any regular season statistical category. His regular achievements all happened in the WHA.
However, he went to four Stanley Cup finals and won two Cups. And while he was in the WHA, he was one of the very best goalies in the league.
So, does Gerry Cheevers belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us discuss his case here:
There are basically only 3 post-Bobby Orr defensive defencemen in the Hockey Hall of Fame. (And Savard actually is a contemporary of Bobby Orr, so maybe there are only two.) It’s hard to get in as a defensive defenceman when so many D score now.
On the other hand, there are few NHL players in NHL history to have a higher career plus minus than career points total. Savard is one of those players. And if Savard had never played for the Jets, his utterly insane plus minus would be even higher than his total points.
Is it possible that Savard’s remarkable goal differential is a product of his Hall of Fame teammates? In part, sure. But it’s a chicken or egg question, isn’t it?
So, does Serge Savard belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?