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.
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?
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:
Paul Coffey’s offensive stats are just staggering. He owns the single season goals record for a defender and almost topped Orr’s points record. He had both an extremely high offensive peak and also did things consistently through his career that few have ever done before. If he was healthier at the end, he probably would be the highest scoring D in NHL history.
But, especially in the ’80s, there were huge concerns about his defense. And some people still believe he should have played forward.
So where does he rank all time? Does such a player belong in the Hall of Fame?