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.
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:
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:
Darryl Sittler has a claim to be the Greatest Toronto Maple Leaf of All Time, as the former franchise record holder for Points, among other things. And though he was never clearly the best player in the league, he was one of the better ones for over half a decade, and a consistent offensive performer much longer.
Does his lack of NHL playoff success hurt him?
In this episode, we discuss whether or not Darryl Sittler belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame:
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: