There is a never-ending debate among hockey fans as to which player of Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr was the greatest. There are certain areas where each stands supreme.
Our vote is for Orr because we think he played the more difficult and more important position and because he revolutionized the position as well. (Also, the skating.) But at least one of us thinks there’s room for debate.
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.
Gerry Cheevers was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame only five years after he retired. And yet he has one of the weakest resumes of any Hall of Fame goalie, and that resume is significantly weaker than some goalies who are not in the Hall of Fame.
Cheevers was never an end-of-season All Star (1st or 2nd Team) in the NHL, he never won an award and he never led the NHL in any regular season statistical category. His regular achievements all happened in the WHA.
However, he went to four Stanley Cup finals and won two Cups. And while he was in the WHA, he was one of the very best goalies in the league.
So, does Gerry Cheevers belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame? Listen to us discuss his case here:
There are basically only 3 post-Bobby Orr defensive defencemen in the Hockey Hall of Fame. (And Savard actually is a contemporary of Bobby Orr, so maybe there are only two.) It’s hard to get in as a defensive defenceman when so many D score now.
On the other hand, there are few NHL players in NHL history to have a higher career plus minus than career points total. Savard is one of those players. And if Savard had never played for the Jets, his utterly insane plus minus would be even higher than his total points.
Is it possible that Savard’s remarkable goal differential is a product of his Hall of Fame teammates? In part, sure. But it’s a chicken or egg question, isn’t it?
So, does Serge Savard belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?
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:
For 6 seasons – more than half a decade – there was arguably no better hockey player on earth than Guy Lafleur. And there is arguably no better team in NHL history than Lafleur’s Canadiens of the late ’70s.
For the rest of his career, Lafleur was, um, not the best hockey player in the world. And so the question is, was he good enough in those six seasons to rank among the very, very best forwards in history, who managed longer peaks but less consistency?
Listen to us talk about Guy Lafleur’s case for one of the Greatest of All Time 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: