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:
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?
Ron Francis undoubtedly belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Skaters who played as long as he did and were as consistently good as he was always get in.
But the real question is, how good was he? He was never really a top offensive star and his best years came as the second line centre on a team with two of the best forwards in history (and one of the two candidates for best centre ever).