Do great teams make great players, or do great players make great teams?
I’m not sure there is a right answer, but when it comes to winning you need more than one or two great players to win.
The Oilers won a Cup without Wayne Gretzky, the greatest player ever, so clearly they had an outstanding supporting cast around him for the first four. However, when the Oilers won in 1990, no one thought Gretzky wasn’t still the greatest player in the game.
The Oilers were a better team and they had many great players, but Gretzky was still the greatest.
Today there is some debate over who is the best player in the world. For me, it isn’t close.
It is Sidney Crosby.
He has dominated the league and produced more points than anyone else, buy a fairly large margin, and just because he hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in five years, doesn’t mean he isn’t great. His team isn’t dominant, but he’s still outstanding.
Yes, he struggled in the playoffs, but 13 games doesn’t erase years of dominance in my books.
Recently Jonathan Toews has become the media darling for many. They claim he is the world’s best player. If you want to say he is the best leader, then you’d have a very strong case, but saying he is the best player in the world is a significant exaggeration.
“He is a great two-way player, who wins faceoffs and battles. He’s also a great leader,” are the common phrases I hear when defending Toews as the league’s best player. All the points are valid, but that doesn’t make him the greatest player. Greatest leader, sure, but he is far from the greatest player in the game.
Can you name another Stanley Cup champion whose first line centre had only one goal through the first 20 games on their way to a Cup championship?
2013: Toews had 1-8-9 in first 20 games. He picked up 5 points in the final 3 games, and people rave how he was deadly in the final and carried his team that year. Kane carried them offensively. He had 19 points, 18 which were EV. The Hawks don’t make the final without Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Bickell, Keith and Seabrook playing great. Toews had 1 goal in 20 games, and remember the greatest leader in today’s game was so frustrated at one point that Brent Seabrook had to go talk to him in the penalthy box and tell him to calm down.
2012: The Kings only played 20 games, but Anze Kopitar had 8-12-20. He was also +16, a top penalty killer and scored two shorthanded goals. His fancy stats were pretty solid as well.
2011: David Krejci had 10-8-18 in the Bruins first 20 games and played the most minutes of any Bruin forward. He had 4 GWG and he was 52% on faceoffs.
2010: Toews was great in the first three rounds. He had 26 points in 16 games. In the Cup finals he had 0-3-3, and he was -5 but he carried them to the Finals, and then Kane and his teammates helped him win. He was excellent.
2009: Pittsburgh was lead by two players; Malkin and Crosby. They had 36 and 31 points respectively. Bill Guerin was 3rd with 15. Those two were the catalysts. Malkin (14) and Crosby (15) combined for 29 goals, the rest of the team scored had 48. Crosby was 53% in the faceoff dot and only Gonchar played more minutes than either of these two. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team win when two players carried them as much as those two did.
2008: Henrik Zetterberg had 12-11-23 in the first 20 games. He finished with 13-14-27 in 22 games. He had a ridiculous 116 shots, was +16 and was 53.5% in the faceoff dot. He played almost 23 min/game and had two shorthanded goals.
2007: The Ducks won with stingy defence. Pronger, Niedermayer and Beauchemin all played 30 min/game that year. Ridiculous. Getzlaf lead their team with 17 points in 21 games, and even on a low scoring team their top C had 7-9-16 points in the first 20 games.
2006: Eric Staal had 7-15-22 in the Canes first 20 games and finished with 9-19-28 in 25. He wasn’t great in faceoffs and he is not a two-way player like Toews, Zetterberg or Kopitar, but he was their offensive catalyst.
WHAT MAKES THE BEST?
My point isn’t to suggest Toews isn’t an excellent player, he is, but I feel his legend has been blown up bigger than it actually is. He won a 2nd Cup because he was on a fantastic team. In the first three rounds he wasn’t close to being a major impact player.
The Blackhawks are a great team, and while he is their leader, I believe his impact and contributions have been overblown as far as his skill as a great player. He is an extremely competitive player, but his production throughout his career hasn’t come close to the elite players. I keep hearing about his faceoff prowess and dominance as a defensive player, but Kopitar, Zetterberg and Crosby were just as good when they won.
My other argument when determining greatness is the entire picture.
Winning matters, but when a player’s career is over most of the greats have played 1200-1500 regular season games and between 100-200 playoff games. Toews’ playoff numbers are pretty good, but he’s not a point-a-game player in the playoffs and he’s not close to one in the regular season.
Here is a quick look at the top scoring centres in the regular season over the past 7 seasons.
Crosby has scored 107 more points in 94 fewer games than Toews He averages 1.40 points-per-game compared to Toews’ 0.91. That is 40 points over a full season. I understand people want to bring up Toews’ intangibles, but his FO% is not that much higher, and after doing a quick scan of Fenwick, Corsi and other stats I don’t see Toews’ numbers that dramatically better.
You can look at goals, assists, points, advanced stats and many others and I don’t see where Toews stands out.
Yes, he was won two Stanley Cups, but if that is the criteria for best player, it is deeply flawed, especially when you dissect last year’s cup run. The Hawks win because they are a great team, but Toews has not had more of an impact than players like Patrick Kane, Kopitar, Zetterberg, Doughty, Pronger, Datsyuk and others.
Greatness is over the entire career, and for me it includes regular season numbers as well. Toews regular season numbers are not great. He has never finished in the top-10 in scoring in one season.
I don’t recall any other player in history who was considered the greatest in the game who wasn’t an elite scorer. If you want to use FO% and his solid two-way play as your arguments, that is fine, but they don’t make up for his low offensive numbers, not to mention he doesn’t stand well above the crowd by large margins in those categories either.
I love Toews as a player, and he is a great leader, but nothing in his arsenal suggests he is the league’s best player. In his prime Datsyuk was just as good as Toews defensively, but much better offensively. He wasn’t considered better than Crosby, so let’s not pretend Toews is.
He isn’t the best player in the NHL, but he is a great player on a great team.
- Listening to the Habs
talkwhine being respected reminded me of Cartman. If the Habs rallying cry is that no one respects them, great, but I don’t understand why they feel the Bruins and the league must respect them. You earn respect, and even then it isn’t guaranteed.
- Milan Lucic had some choice words for Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin in the handshake last night. Basically, he was heated after a series loss and didn’t control his emotions perfectly. So what? I’ve heard guys say the same thing (I’m going to kill you) in men’s league. It is a hollow threat, anyone who has played at any level knows it doesn’t mean he will actually murder Weise. Lucic looked like a bad loser, but let’s take a deep breath before we claim he is disrespecting the game or anyone else. What he said has been said on a nightly basis in hockey rinks around Canada, so let’s not pretend that us or one of our teammates hasn’t uttered the exact same thing.
- It didn’t look good, and Lucic would have been better off doing nothing, but I hate the fact Weise shared the conversation with the media. No one likes a tattletale. I’m guessing Weise has uttered some less than flattering words to opponents during his career. He should have said nothing, or smiled and said, “He was telling me he was shocked I outscored him in the series.”
- Words are much different than actions. Remember when Eakins said the Oilers would be competitive and earn ice time? Words and actions are always different. Lucic’s actions will not match his words.
- The Kings/Ducks series will be the 6th game 7 this year. The record is 7, set in 2011 and 1994. I hope we see it broken this year. Game 7s are outstanding.
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