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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.



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.

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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.

Sidney Crosby 390 199 348 547 115 293 144 52 3 1328 15 1.4
Evgeni Malkin 440 207 34 547 46 444 131 72 4 1641 13 1.24
Henrik Sedin 528 121 419 540 134 310 84 33 4 887 14 1.02
Joe Thornton 535 131 403 534 98 305 85 43 3 970 14 1
Ryan Getzlaf 494 144 367 511 86 476 99 41 4 1166 12 1.03
Nicklas Backstrom 495 127 367 494 74 258 81 44 2 1124 11 1
Eric Staal 524 203 284 487 -21 416 129 64 10 1899 11 0.93
Anze Kopitar 532 182 303 485 59 150 118 57 7 1455 13 0.91
Pavel Datsyuk 461 164 312 476 146 109 107 54 3 1249 13 1.03
Mike Ribeiro 508 134 310 444 -4 335 91 41 2 901 15 0.87
Jonathan Toews 484 195 245 440 141 257 137 50 8 1295 15 0.91
Jason Spezza 440 169 265 434 -7 277 106 62 1 1276 13 0.99
Brad Richards 492 144 285 429 -43 113 93 49 2 1583 9.1 0.87
Steven Stamkos 410 233 193 426 0 267 150 81 2 1334 18 1.04
Vincent Lecavalier 477 170 231 401 -70 372 113 55 2 1514 11 0.84
Mike Richards 519 153 247 400 34 421 85 47 21 1281 12 0.77
Joe Pavelski 515 177 210 387 60 197 110 59 8 1607 11 0.75
Jeff Carter 493 218 163 381 54 276 144 65 9 1829 12 0.77
Paul Stastny 456 132 248 380 2 222 95 36 1 1063 12 0.83
David Krejci 498 110 268 378 100 184 89 18 3 939 12 0.76
Mikko Koivu 455 104 273 377 29 286 71 26 7 1220 8.5 0.83
Derek Roy 472 129 235 364 12 238 84 39 6 1118 12 0.77
Tomas Plekanec 529 147 216 363 18 324 98 36 13 1383 11 0.69
Olli Jokinen 528 143 207 350 -84 383 95 46 2 1500 9.5 0.66

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.

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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.

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  • Listening to the Habs talk  whine 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.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Pens get booted in the second round and they fire the G.M and coach. We miss the playoffs 8 straight years and don’t even fire the assistant coaches. Why does Katz like losing so much?

    • Do what Weight did?

      Lots of conversation about context regarding Lucic and bullying.

      Some context regarding accountability for GM/coach in Pitt vs Edm. In Pitt, it’s cup or bust. They fell 2 rounds short and coughed up a 3-1 series lead in the process. Despite having a stacked team, hey’ve been eliminated early for 3 straight years. Their starting point is drastically different than Edmonton’s.

      Edmonton has fired coach after coach, and replaced GM a year ago. Sounds like some accountability there. Not enough? Won’t be satisfied until Lowe’s head is served on a platter? It seems obvious that having a championship team and keeping them in the playoffs is very different than taking an AHL squad (with a third to half bonafide NHLers) and digging out of a hole.

      Maybe it’s the assistant coaches that you’re targeting this time? Do you know anything about their individual performances? How good of a communicator is Steve Smith? How much confidence do the players have in Kelly Buchburger? Is there a coach that’s been working with Yak to help him feel comfortable with the changes he needs to make to his game? I don’t know the answers to the 30 questions like this I could ask, but your constant calling for accountability strong
      Y implies that you know there’s incompetence.

      Give it a rest. Really. It’s way past old!

  • CaptainLander

    Bold move only a draft away ? Not much difference between top 10 draftees this year , and this looks like a good draft to swap picks if with a club in top ten . Last year there was quite a drop after first 4 or five , but not this year . I believe we can get a good player even at NBR.10 , the equal or possibly better than Draisaitl or others beyond possibly Ekblad . That’s how close this draft appears to me for top 10 -deep , but no MacKinnons .

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Lucic’s actions don’t deserve defending Gregor. He is becoming more and more of a big d-bag over the years. Weiss took the high road and didn’t complain to the media. What Lucic’s did was classless. He has a good ten to fifteen mins to come to terms with the end of his season (after the third Habs goal). What he did in the line was not the result of spontaneous emotion (like if the game ended in OT). It was simply a d-bag move. Plain and simple. Us weekend warriors can fight and claw but still shake hands and share a beer. As a professional, there should be a greater expectation of respect – not less as you imply. Lucic is getting too big for his britches as the media keep fawning over him. I wish John Scott could take him down a few notches and maybe he’ll quit being such a chump. I should note that I used to really like the player. But he is becoming more and more disrespectful to the game and the codes (spearing balls, running goalies, shaking hands). D-bag.

    • Rick Stroppel

      I don’t understand people like you. This is NHL hockey. I see these guys as gladiators. Sure they need to be role models off the ice and respect each other on it. But I want them to hate each other, and I want them to be pissed off when they lose. That’s sport, that’s competition! This isn’t golf!!!!! If we had a few more pricks like Lucic on our team we might be able to finish higher than 27 sometime this decade

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    I think everyone is tired of one player having the crown of best player and so they are trying to challenge it. Crosby may be better than Toews, but I’d take Toews on my team over Crosby. By a slim margin.

  • Rick Stroppel


    In March of this year, Lucic and his wife released a book called “Not Cool to Bully in School”. He has attended at Boys and Girls Clubs in Boston to read from the book and tell the kids what a bad thing bullying is.

    Since then, he came at a player FROM BEHIND and tried to hit him in the testicles with the shaft of his stick. (He did the same last year). He threatened to kill one, maybe two players in a post- game ceremony that is supposed to embody sportsmanship. When asked about it, he didn’t apologize, he called Weise a BABY for disclosing what he had said. Blame the victim. This is CLASSIC bullying behavior.

    Lucic is a hypocrite and a bully.

    • PlayDirty

      Yes, Lucic is a jack-ass. A very successful jack-ass with a LOT of value.

      How ’bout let’s put our reality glasses on for a second and think if he really meant he was going to ‘kill’ someone? Weise is no angel on the ice and I would call BS on anyone who claims he hasn’t “threatened” someone over the course of the year. That’s no less hypocritical.

      We are talking professional athletes who play a game where a major part of the appeal is the brutality. They are going to line up against each other for years to come and the stage has been set, unless Weise figures he’s going to keep his job based on his goal-scoring ability.

      Don’t throw ‘bullying’ into the mix because that is a serious issue that loses it’s impact when it is used as an excuse.

      • Rick Stroppel

        ROLE MODEL?

        I didn’t throw bullying into the mix. LUCIC THREW BULLYING INTO THE MIX BY WRITING AN ANTI- BULLYING BOOK AND PRESENTING HIMSELF PUBLICLY AS A ROLE MODEL. He should have said “I play a very tough game and I am the LAST guy who should should be lecturing kids about aggression”.

        I agree, Lucic has many good points as a hockey player.

        As to this business of hitting another player in the testicles with your stick, Lucic has now done it twice in the last two years. It is a stupid and dangerous thing to do. Moving forward, the NHL should suspend any player who does it.

  • PlayDirty

    It seems whenever there are a couple of players on a line that click, ( I’m talking junior hockey) if both players rack up the points both get drafted high.

    An example could be Kane and Gagner, or Galchenyuk and Yukpov…….given this situation IMHO you always take the playmaker. The Oilers selected the shooters in both these situations and we now know who the real players were.

    I don’t know enough about this years draft to know if Bennet, Drisiatle, or Rinehart are playmakers but it seems safer to draft those types of players……….I’m hoping that we get a repeat of last year where the concensus top player falls as everyone gets nervous and drafts forwards.

    If the gods are with us just maybe we get Ekblad………IMHO this is the best option for the Oilers.

    • Zarny

      LOL…umm no.

      Gagner was the shooter? That’s hilarious. In his draft year Sam had 35 G 83 A 118 PT compared to Kane’s 62 G 83 A 145 PT. Kane is clearly the shooter not the playmaker; but most important he is simply the better player.

      Yakupov had 49 G 52 A 101 PT compared to Galchenyuk’s 31 G 52 A 83 PT while playing 3 more games than Yak. I can’t find OHL SOG stats but Yak probably had more.

      Regardless, Galchenyuk has 58 PT in 113 games compared to Yak’s 55 PT in 111 games. You can make an argument for drafting a C over a W but their comparison does nothing to substantiate your claim of taking the playmaker over the shooter.

      And based on your theory I suppose teams should have shied away from drafting Stamkos and Ovechkin because you know…they are shooters lol.

      You don’t take the playmaker over the shooter or vice versa. You take who you think is the better player and who was driving the offense.

      • PlayDirty

        Your argument actually makes some sense and I have to agree with you. ………my comments were actually based on trying to figure out which players Bennett, Drisiatle, Rienhart plays with great players which help their respective stats.

        I have heard Drisiatle had little talent to play with ………….which may make him a better selection ?

  • Reg Dunlop

    Lucic is a punk, If I was Weise I’d wear a cup made of titanium when he plays the Nutcracker next year. Lucic lack of respect sets a bad example and he should be called out for it.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Jason you do bring up good points. One point you left out is great players come to play when it counts and score timely goals and game winners. Toews must be up there when you look at these numbers. Playoff MVP and Olympic MVP Mmmm some points for being a great player

  • Reg Dunlop

    So, you don’t recall any non-elite scorer being referred to as the best player in the game? I guess soviet coach Tikhonov calling Bob Gainey the best all-around player doesn’t count.

    People who have never played the game can easily be seduced by scoring stats while ignoring the other half, the less sexy and harder to quantify half of the game.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I consider myself a totally unbiased observer wrt the Habs and Bruins. I have no specific love or hate for either team.

    So WRT to the Lucic/Weise fiasco, they both look bad. Lucic can’t control his emotions and Weise looks like a cry baby.

  • PlayDirty

    Lucic’s quote: “I didn’t make the NHL because I accepted losing, or accepted failure. That got me to this point and made me the player that I am.”

    Gawd – could our team use some of that!

    I’ll shut up now. …you’re welcome.

    • PlayDirty

      Agree the Oil need more bad losers.

      I see that Weise says that he never said anything specific about what Lucic said. good for him. It seems like TSN made its own story will the help of some lip reading. Bad on you TSN.

  • PlayDirty

    @ Rick Stroppel

    Bullying in school is in no way, shape or form remotely related to being a professional hockey player in the NHL.

    I expect my 6 and 9 year old kids to be able to tell the difference. If I don’t think they can differentiate between the two, it is my responsibility as their dad and role model to help them understand it.

    Lucic’s book, if anything, should help kids understand that what happens on the ice, stays on the ice.

    One of my favourite things about sports – hockey in particular – is the battle and the blood and guts competition on the ice and being able to sit down and have a beer after the game. And then trying to kick each others’ asses again the next night.

    …all in the name of the world’s greatest sport.