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.
Clint Smith set the single-season record for assists in the ’40s. So of course he should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Right?
Well, he did it during World War II, when talent in the league was quiet watered down. He doesn’t have a lot of other accomplishments. And he doesn’t have the Cups that many other “veterans committee” inductees of the ’90s have.
So, does Clint Smith belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us try to sort it out here:
Through a career riddled by injuries – including one induced retirement – Lemieux was one of the most dominant forwards the game has ever seen. He temporarily led the NHL in both career Goals Per Game and Points Per Game, despite debuting after Gretzky and despite playing more of his career in the Dead Puck Era.
But Lemieux never reached Gretzky’s accomplishments either in terms of his peak or his longevity. He has fewer scoring titles and Cups than Gretzky, and Gretzky achieved Lemieux’s offensive feats many times over.
Listen to us discuss whether or not Lemieux is the Greatest Hockey Player of All Time, the Greatest Centre of All Time, or something else, here:
If consistency is what matters, Denneny was one of the best, if not the best, wingers of the NHL’s first decade and a half. Though only briefly dominant, he played and scored longer than most players. So we wonder where he ranks all time.
Dick Irvin Sr. is arguably not as famous as his son to anyone who isn’t a Habs fan or who isn’t a really old Leafs fan.
But before he was a great coach, he was a player. In this episode of The Back Check we try to decide whether he was a player who was good enough to be inducted just as a player, and not due to his coach record, because that’s a conversation we can have.