Is Phil Esposito one of the Greatest Centres of All Time?

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?

We have no idea, but Espo was the most dominant offensive player between Howe and Gretzky. (We read somewhere that Lafleur was the most dominant offensive player between Howe and Gretzky, but we don’t see evidence to back that up.)

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.

Listen to us talk about Esposito here:

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Does Bert Olmstead Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Bert Olmstead was one of the premier passing wingers of his era, leading both the regular season and playoffs in assists two times. He also won five Stanley Cups.

But his playoff numbers are significantly worse than his regular season numbers, despite the Cups. And he never made a end of season 1st Team in a league with only 6 franchises.

So, does Bert Olmstead belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us discuss here:

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Is Tony Esposito one of the Greatest Goalies of All Time?

Chicago Blackhawks / NHL, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We recorded this just after he died, so RIP.

Tony Esposito has one of the best regular season careers of any NHL goalie ever, not just in germs of his peak but in terms of how long he was among the best goalies in the league (at least by Goals Saved Above Average). Also, he helped change goalie masks for the better.

Yet his playoff numbers are significantly worse. He underperformed in one of his two good playoff runs and he was only ever on one truly great international team, as a backup.

So, it’s obvious Tony Esposito belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame but where does he rank all time?

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Should Clint Smith be in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

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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:

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Is Lionel Conacher Canada’s Greatest Athlete of All Time?

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Lionel Conacher was one of the best defenders of his era.

But that’s not what impresses when you look back at his career. Rather, it’s his incredible versatility.

Listen to us talk about the greatest Canadian athlete of the first half of the 20th century here:

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Why is Harry Watson in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Harry Watson won five Cups. And, uh, he was on some leader-boards when he retired in 1957. And, um, he was a pretty good scorer a couple of times.

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This, it appears, was enough to get him inducted into the Hall of Fame nearly 40 years after he retired.

Listen to us discuss Harry Watson’s Hockey Hall of Fame case here:

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Does Roy Conacher Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

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Roy Conacher scored the second most goals of his era, behind only Maurice Richard. And he also won an Art Ross.

But it took the Hall of fame decades to induct him, and he wasn’t inducted until the late 1990s.

In this episode, we discuss Roy Conacher’s case for the Hall of Fame. Listen here:

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Does Denis Savard Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Denis Savard put up some gaudy regular season point totals in the ’80s and some impressive playoff numbers to boot.

But was he ever really among the best players in the league?

Listen to us discuss whether or not Denis Savard belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

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Does Brad Richards Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

by Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Brad Richards has a Conn Smythe, two Cups, a World Cup and had a couple pretty good regular seasons.

But his regular season numbers are pretty inconsistent. And he was never considered one of the top players in the league.

So, does he belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us talk about him here:

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Does Doug Wilson Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Doug Wilson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame this year and most people seem to be okay with it.

In this episode we wonder whether or not he belongs.

Listen here:

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