Many 21st century hockey fans likely think the answer to the question “Who is the Greatest Left Winger of All Time?” has an easy answer, Alex Ovechkin.
But it’s possible we don’t remember how dominant Bobby Hull truly was. Hull won 2 Hart trophies and 3 Art Ross trophies. But he was a Hart finalist for most of a decade. Additionally, he was, by most standards, the best offensive player of his era, both in the regular season and, crucially, in the playoffs.
And then he went to another league and dominated it in his late 30s. (It’s possible his departure to the WHA colours how we think of his career.)
So, is Bobby Hull the Greatest LW of All Time? Listen here:
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.
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?
We don’t know exactly what happened between 1987 and now, but the standards for goalie admission got a lot stricter. (Well, we do know that goalie stats got better.) It’s so hard to get admitted into the Hall of Fame as a goalie now, but when Ed Giacomin was inducted, it seems like it was less hard.
Giacomin has good traditional stats, such as wins. And it’s arguable he was the Most Valuable Goalie in the league for four seasons.
But he was never the best goalie in the league by Save Percentage, Goals Saved Above Average or even GAA – that Vezina is for total Goals Against – and his peak only lasted about four years. The rest of his regular season career is not outstanding (especially as he got older).
Additionally, his playoff numbers aren’t great.
So does Ed Giacomin actually belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us discuss it here:
Bobby Clarke is one of the most notorious players in NHL history but he’s also one of the most decorated, one of only a few players to ever win the Hart three times. (He also became a star in spite of his diabetes.)
He was extremely hard to play against but also an offensive star. He only won one Selke because it was introduced half way through his career.
So where does Clarke rank all time among defensive forwards? Listen to us discuss his Hall of Fame case here: