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Stick a Fork in the Washington Capitals?

The Washington Capitals once again failed in the playoffs. Their standard nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, once again knocked them out, and if it isn’t the Penguins it is the Rangers. Did the window officially close for the Caps?

The Capitals enter 2017 shorthanded. If we look at CapFriendly, we see the Capitals with 17 players on the roster with three being RFA. The cap space is roughly $12.5 million. The team needs to sign Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov while Philipp Grubauer is less important, and they are in need of a sixth defenseman. This does not give the team much room unless they look to Hershey which is likely where they will look to for filling roster spots. The loss of players through free agency has hurt this team depthwise Justin Williams is now in Carolina and a few others are enjoying life elsewhere, too. T.J. Oshie is an expensive signing, but he may be an overpriced purchase.

Defensively, the Caps are hindered by an old anchor in Brooks Orpik. Here was a guy that was on his downside with the Penguins during his last two years with the team, but the Caps thought him worthy enough for an outrageous contract. In the attempt to defeat the Pens and Rangers, Orpik was signed through next year. The team does have Niskanen, Orlov, and Carlson to continue to support the defense. All three heavily paid players (Orlov was recently signed for six years) need to compensate for a horrible bottom three. Taylor Chorney’s advanced stats show that the Capital’s defense should be considered suspect. The loss of Kevin Shattenkirk and Nate Schmidt will hurt this team. The defense is a weak link for the Capitals and will hinder Braden Holtby’s numbers.

Offensively, the Captitals are reliant on Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom and TJ. Oshie provide additional support with Marcus Johansson helping out, too. Tom Wilson isn’t going to save the season and neither will Jay Beagle. The Caps should have two strong lines; however, their third and fourth line will be suspect. The forwards present the strongest element to their game. Holtby can’t score goals. There are some AHL players that will be expected to chip in from time to time as I expect the Capitals will need to supplement their lineup due to injuries.

The Capitals will score goals during the 2017-18 season, but they won’t win the President’s Cup or even finish first, but they should make the playoffs where luck can carry a team to the finals. Help from Hershey could keep the team strong as I am not certain Oshie is the solution or that he will shoot 23.1% for the season, so don’t look for 33 goals. Burakovsky and Kuznetsov should net additional goals for the team. The Oshie signing tells us that the Caps aren’t quitting, but they will need a lot of luck such as the Penguins and Rangers meeting in the first round. In fact, the Penguins and Rangers need to not make the playoffs. Let’s just say the team needs a tons of luck much like Oshies’s 2016-27 shooting percentage. Their best chance has past them by but luck has a way of rewarding.

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Categories: Sports Tags: ,

July 1 Free Agency: Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the second time in two years. As the free agency loomed, it was wondered what pieces of the Penguins puzzle would remain. So far, four players are gone with one looking at retirement. How has this truly affected the Penguins?

Ron Hainsey. Ron was a valuable piece to the Penguins for the simple reason that the team was short on defensemen. It appeared as if he found a fountain of youth as the Penguins went deeper, but he was at times an anchor for the team. We just don’t see it as much as the limping defense struggled to perform. At 35, he was slow and needed time to adjust to his pairings. For a team in need of players, Hainsey did well and contributed to the team’s victory. With that said, he is an unimportant piece to the Penguins system. He is too old for the way the team plays, though if you are in a pinch, you would take him. The Penguins will not miss him.

Speaking of old, defensive players, there was Mark Streit who should call it quits. He would get three games in the playoffs but would never play a game in the Stanley Cup. Simply stated, he is too old. His value has diminished with age, and this past season shows it.

Christ Kunitz. Chris has been a valuable member of the Penguins for almost ten years. Fortunately for the Penguins, these were his best years. He benefited from being Crosby’s linemate, however, he didn’t really light it up other than his 35 goal season. I was advocating for the Penguins to be rid of him for the past several years as his value was not on the first line. His statistics show the past three years that he is beyond his prime and indeed beyond playing full-time in this league. Why Tampa signed him is beyond me. I get it, he was effective in some of the 20 playoff games he played in this year, but was it worth it when a better player could have taken his place. He really didn’t fit this team unless it was on the fourth line. There are younger, faster players to take his place plus Ryan Reaves looks to me as a tougher version of Kunitz which was a very expensive trade. Off topic, is the true Rutherford coming back?

Trevor Daley. This was a man I was see happy to arrive the year the Pens won their first cup. First, the Pens got rid of the snail in Rob Scuderi. This second time around showed how Scuderi was even slower that Streit. Another reason was the potential offensive capability of Daley even at 32. Defensively, he wasn’t the best, but he did compliment the Letang injury issues. We had offense when Letang is out. Sadly for the guy, he was knocked out of the playoffs in 2016 and spent nearly a third of the season injured. His 2016-17 season and playoffs was not as good as expected. He appeared slow at times and hesitant on decisions. The playoff output was disappointing. Overall, he underachieved in my eyes. This has left me wondering if he has peaked and is now ready for the decline. It could be that injuries have curtailed his talent this past season. Whatever the reason, the Penguins have Letang and Justin Shultz for the firepower from the defense. Somehow, I still think Olli Maata has the ability to provide offense and better defense. Losing Daley does nothing to hurt the Penguins.

Matt Cullen. Here was a guy that I dreaded when Rutherford signed him. I thought, “old guy with nothing to give but willing to take.” Okay, I was wrong. His proved valuable as a fourth liner with faceoffs and the occasional scoring. He was the energy of the fourth line and the most important piece of the fourth line. This past playoffs his age began to show as he appeared slow at times and worn out. At age 40, you would expect some of this. Faceoffs were his forte and this will be greatly missed. I see him as one of the better faceoff players on the team. I don’t know if you can maintain a spot for him if he should play one more season once he decides to do so in August. The Pens will miss his faceoffs, but that can be overcome.

Nick Bonino. This is the biggest prize as he is only 29. Penguins fans will likely remember him for three things: HBK line, blocking shots, and the Hockey Night Punjabi call. If his faceoffs are to be missed, then Matt Cullen will be greatly missed. His faceoffs are not great as he has been mostly under 50%. You can expect 15 goals from him during the season and mediocre faceoffs. In the playoffs, he is great on blocking shots and isn’t bad on the penalty kill. When you are in need of a third line center, I guess you could miss him, but how much? It would have been nice to retain him simply for the chemistry, but Nashville has greatly overpaid him. I really do not think the Penguins will miss this guy other than the Punjabi calls. You can likely replace Bonino with any young centerman and get similar results. If the Penguins can trade for Matt Duchene without breaking the bank, again (think Reaves), then people will ask, “Bonino who?” Nick Bonino isn’t a great third line center but of the players they lost, he hurts the most. The upside is the pain is more psychological than anything else.

Re-signing Justin Shultz was the biggest move in helping the Penguins to continue. Also important to the Penguins are Conor Sheary and Brian Dumoulin as they are young with growing potential. What they have lost are mostly aging players if not beyond their playing days then very close to them. The Penguins have unloaded slower, aging players, and this helps the team. What remains is the core team and that is what really won the past two Stanley Cups.

Can the Penguins win a third Cup in a row?

Can the Penguins win a third Cup in a row? I will go further and say it is possible that they could win four in a row. This does not mean that I am not aware of the difficulties with winning three let alone four. What I am aware of is the luck the Pittsburgh Penguins had over a decade ago.

When you at the Stanley Cup winners and their rosters of the past decade, only one team stands out and they are the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins have without a doubt the two best players in the league for over a decade. Sorry Ovie, you were never one or two. As much as I like Jonathan Toews, he is not one of the five best players in the league. We hear Patrick Kane, Carey Price, and Erik Karlsson but they have their limitations. Kane cannot take over games like Malkin can, though, I am sure Blackhawks fans would disagree.

For most of Crosby and Malkin’s career, teams had to deal with two lines. Only Penguins poor coaching hurt these two, not to mention David Steckel’s hit to Crosby’s head that took him out for over a year. Talk about poor officiating. I guess Victor Hedman had a part in it, too. Correcting the coaching situation after six seasons, the Penguins appeared to play as a team people expected to see when Bylsma was coaching. The point is the Penguins have two of the best offensive players playing on their team.

When you look at the past Stanley Cup winners, they simply do not have two. Chicago has Patrick Kane. What did Los Angeles and Boston have? Detroit only won the Cup because of a very young and inexperienced Penguins team. The Wings were a veteran team that ran circles around the young whippersnappers. Of the teams that lost in the finals, there are no outstanding players. Joe Thornton is on the downside, Henrik Lundqvist is also at the tail end of his career. In fact, goalies are limited in the fact they are a defense only even though Pekka Rinne may want to argue that.

If we look at the Leafs or Oilers, they have a player each that will be the next great players. Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews are only one player on their team. After these two, most people will find it difficult to name another star player let alone another player at all. Patrick Kane is all alone on the Hawks. Ovie has shown that having good talent around you doesn’t win cups. Having a great offensive defenseman like Erik Karlsson hasn’t won Ottawa the cup. Carey Price of Montreal is only one man. No, there is no team with two great players on their roster.

The Penguins have the fortune to have two great players to build around and have done so with their three Stanley Cup victories. These two players make it difficult for teams to play against and with the support they now have, there is no reason why they couldn’t win two additional cups before they retire. The Penguins won back to back cups because of two players and their supporting cast. Though possible, it doesn’t look like any other team is in a position to win two in a row without having two great players. Winning a third and possibly a fourth remains the reality for the Penguins alone.

Supporting this idea of four in a row is the goaltending. The Penguins have it in Matt Murray. With Kessel, Guentzel, and the additional young cast members the supporting offensive strength is there to help push the Penguins further. The Penguins could have two or three offensive line. The checking role is supported by youth and experience. There is no worry here. The defense has been the main weakness as stated by the media and anyone with a mouth or ability to construct sentences. Somehow the Penguins won two cups with this defense. The key here is goaltending. The defense doesn’t have to be great, just good enough and this is what the Penguins have. Injuries have shown the Penguins to have depth, and this depth is created by the leadership of the veterans and coaches.

Finally, I believe Mike Sullivan to be a better coach than Bylsma and many of the opposing coaches he faced in the playoffs. Jacques Martin is an undervalued coach who has helped Mike Sullivan. In fact, maybe he is why the Penguins do not need a great defense. Then there Rick Tocchet is another issue for me, however, I have heard positives about him such as helping Phil Kessel. The fact remains that the coaching staff is stable and a very important reason to why the Penguins have won two cups in a row.

What makes the Penguins special are Crosby and Malkin. Other teams have the same or similar attributes the Penguins have but do not have these two players. Having one of these players may get you a cup win or maybe two in three years, but it will not give you the possibility of winning three or four Stanley Cups in a row. Penguins fan or not, it would be great to see a dynasty once more.

Is Jake Guentzel Good?

Tied for the most points by a rookie in postseason scoring. Led the playoffs with 13 goals. Won a Stanley Cup. Was fourth in playoff scoring with 21 points with only Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel ahead of him. Is Jake Guentzel the next superstar in ice hockey?

Statistically speaking, Jake had 16 goals and 33 points in 40 games for his first year. Combine this with his 25 playoff games and Jake played 65 games, scored 29 goals for a total of 54 points. In an 82 game season, he would have scored 37 goals and have 68 points. The 37 goals are close to Sid’s 39 goals and beats Malkin’s 33 goals as rookies. The guy Jake reminds me of the most, Patrick Kane, scored 21 goals in 82 games and had another 9 goals in 16 games during his rookie year. These two are close, but does this indicate stardom for young Jake Guentzel?

I would say the new rating systems of hockey analytics would bear out that Guentzel is a good players. Compared to Crosby and Malkin, Jake comes close to their analytics numbers. If you look at the postseason metrics, Jake’s CF% (Corsi for % in all situations) is 5 below Sid and 1.8 below Malkin. The relative Corse is worse for Jake, and the same positioning and range is similar when looking at Fenwick. His metrics match that of Phil Kessel more so than that of Crosby or Malkin. What about Patrick Kane, the player I say Jake resembles? Jake’s stats are actually better than Kane’s and Jonathan Toews for that matter.

Even though this is a very shallow study of Jake Guentzel, I believe this indicates his future potential. His 40 regular season games and 25 playoff games provide a good first year set of data to analyze young Jake, and the stats indicate a very good player was found by the Penguins organization. His AHL stint shows that Jake’s performance at the NHL level isn’t a fluke. During the 2016 AHL playoffs, Jake scored 5 goals and 9 assists in 10 games. He was tied for the team lead in goals and led the team in points during the playoffs. During the 2016-17 AHL season, Jake had 21 goals and 42 points in 33 games. He finished 12 points and 3 goals behind Tom Kostopoulous who played 74 games that season.

I conclude that Jake Guentzel is a good hockey player and the statistics show this. In fact, I imagine he will continue to get better. I do not expect him to be a Crosby or even a McDavid level of elite player, but Jake is good enough to be feared like all good offensive hockey players.

NHL Top 100

The Stanley Cup Finals ended with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being, in the media’s mind, as legends now cemented in greatness with their third Stanley Cup. The talk about the NHL’s top 100 players came to the forefront, and the discussion about Malkin’s not being in the top 100 started once more. In February, it was discussed and now once more it is being discussed. What will it take for him to move up in the list?

I am not a fan of this type of list. If we look at Sidney Crosby and his greatness as a hockey player, one element to his game that often mentioned is his work ethic and determination that is not related to scoring. Without watching him play, it become difficult to see this. A few Youtube pundits have mentioned how great he is when you see him live at the arena instead of the tely. His skill as a hockey player magnifies for those that have seen him. Sidney represents a problem with these types of lists. He is on this list because we can see him, but what about players from the past?

The first issue about this list is what determines greatness. This is not very objective as there are different requirements. Even if we develop an objective list, how do we rate players from the past? How do we rate Georges Vezinas? How many of us has seen him play in a consistent manner? We hear about how great he was, but compared to what? Consider the earlier years of the NHL where teams like Montreal could stack their team with homegrown talent. Is the Rocket Richard great because of the team around him or was he truly a great player? Is offense the main key to rate a player? If so, then why is Ovechkin in the top 100 and not Malkin? Offensively, Malkin is better. If it is about goals then we can find other examples. Do we include goalies or defensemen? These players do not score much.

There is the time period players played in. We only need to go back to the 80s and early 90s when everyone scored and compare to today’s scoring where 100 points is an amazing feat. What about the Original Six years or the period before that. Rule changes have altered how players play as have goalie equipment.

Rating the top 100 of anything or even the top ten is a waste of time but a boon for the fluff writers. These people talk hockey but spend very little of their writing, speaking, and gesturing about actual hockey. Most of these people see very little hockey or have a limited scope of what they see. Even I have a limited scope as I cannot watch every team with any consistency. The NHL Top 100 is a subjective rating where players are placed not on their skill but team achievements and current popularity. Is Jonathan Toews or Alexander Ovechkin better than Evgeni Malkin? How do we know Milt Schmidt is better than Malkin? We don’t and may never know.

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Goal or No Goal

Understanding the NHL and the rules is an important element to understanding how a game is played. However, this knowledge doesn’t always provide an answer to why a decision on ice by the Referee is made. The lack of understanding the rules and interactions between players and Referees can lead fans to angst and the wrong conclusions. Game six of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals had two incidents related to a goal and no goal that need better comprehension.

If you watch the videos of NHL Referees or players mic’d up, you begin to see the relationship between the two groups and how a game will be called. The Referee notifies the players how they will call the game and even tell the goalies their intent. There are discussions between the two groups of why the Referee made or did not make the call. It is clear the Referees are trying to not influence the game but will try to take care of the goalie, “We’re gonna protect ya.” That is a statement from the 2016 playoffs between Pittsburgh and Washington. Referee Jean Hebert, I believe, makes this statement to Braden Holtby during game three. This entails quick whistles and penalties if needed.

Refereeing is not only an objective job but also a subjective one. All fans can recall a moment of where the Referee did not call an obvious penalty during a game or called a “ticky-tacky” penalty. These are subjective and is easily understood when you listen to the Referees interact with the players. Their intent is to let the players play without interfering. There is an intent to call a game evenly and even if the Referees do not admit to make things even, there appears to be attempts by Referees to correct a bad call with another bad call. This is where we see penalties that sometimes do not make sense in the scheme of how the game is being officiated.

There are downsides to allowing these players play. Skilled teams are hampered by lesser skilled or even defensively minded teams as infractions are ignored in the attempt to allow teams play. If we look at the 2017 Stanley Cup games we see the uneven calling not only during a game but between games. If we look at one of the earlier games, Conor Sheary is crosschecked multiple times before a penalty is called. P.K. Subban hits Sidney Crosby in the head a few times without a penalty called. This isn’t a one-way issue as the Penguins were guilty of similar infractions such as game five’s event where Crosby was gently dribbling Subban’s head on the ice. It can be agreed upon that there are plenty of no calls and bad calls where no single event is truly the major event we like to make it out to be.

The first of Game Six’s issues was the no goal by Colton Sissons. Forsberg shoots the puck from Murray’s right. Murray initially stops the puck and from Referee Pollock’s position this looks like a save as he cannot see anything on the left of Murray. There is about a second before the whistle is blown. Before the whistle and unbeknownst to Pollock, the puck is on edge and rolling away from Murray across the crease about a foot away before the whistle is blown. It is roughly less than a second before Colton Sissons dives and knocks the puck into the net. There are two issues with this play. The first is the whistle and the second is the goal. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkYZJPJqI4U)

Per Rule 38.4, this was a good no goal call. Paraphrasing this part of the rule, “”The video review process shall be permitted to assist the Referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals. This would also include situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle” we see that Pollock’s call could be overturned, but in this case, the puck was not moving into the net prior to the whistle and Sissons made contact with the puck and knocked it into the net after the whistle was blown. This was no longer a continuous play. The Referees made the correct call based on the rules.

The next issue is the quick whistle. This is the subjective part of the game where the Referee made an assumption and likely for the protection of the goalie. Keep in mind the conversation between Holtby and Hebert or even look at other instances of the keeper getting the puck and in the attempt to pass it to a teammate the whistle is blown. This is simply part of the game. We either like the call or hate it based on whose team it affects. Now we can argue did some of the penalties called against the Penguins and not called against the Predators later on was an attempt to fix things or make someone happy. That is a personal decision as the Referees aren’t likely to state their intent.

The second issue was Patric Hornqvist’s winning goal. There were some fluff commentators and fluff sports writers stating it was goal tender interference. Honestly, I don’t believe most if not all of these people actually understand hockey, but that is my opinion. In this case, Justin Schultz shoots the puck wide and to the left of goalie Pekka Rinne. It hits the boards behind the net and only Hornqvist reacts to the rebound. Rinne is next to react as he drifts to his left partly outside his crease where he is converging with Hornqvist’s attempt to retrieve the puck. Hornqvist is trying to skate around the moving Rinne but cannot avoid Rinne as Rinne lifts his left leg in a kicking motion to impede Hornqvist. Hornqvist hits the puck out of the air against Rinne’s elbow or glove and the puck enters the net. A goal. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tENiCpaIk9A)

People and one Canadian mouthpiece I am specifically thinking of believes this is goalkeeper interference. He apparently ignores Rinne’s kicking motion. Predator coach Peter Laviolette asks for a coach’s challenge. Good decision as anything can happen. What do the rules state? Paraphrasing Rule 78, “Protection of Goalkeeper

(b) If an attacking player initiates any contact, other than incidental contact, with the goalkeeper, while the goalkeeper is outside of his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

(NOTE 1) In exercising his judgment under subsections (a) and (b) above, the Referee should give more significant consideration to the degree and nature of the contact with the goalkeeper than to the exact location of the goalkeeper at the time of the contact.

  1. In a rebound situation, or where a goalkeeper and offensive player(s) are simultaneously attempting to play a loose puck, whether inside or outside the crease, incidental contact with the goalkeeper will be permitted, and any goal that is scored as a result thereof will be allowed.”

It is clear that this was incidental contact on Hornqvist’s part as he was outside the crease and Rinne was impeding Hornqvist while Hornqvist was not initiating contact. This was also a rebound of sorts and Hornqvist was attempting to play the puck while Rinne was hoping for a miracle, I guess.

 

As difficult as it is for Nashville Predator fans to digest and Penguins haters to accept, these two events were valid in every way. Yes, Pollock’s whistle appears to be a quick whistle, but that is subjective to the fans. There are plenty of instances during the NHL season and playoffs where a quick whistle was blown when the puck was secured in the goalies glove or appeared to be frozen by the goalie. This doesn’t make it easy for an impassioned fan to accept without pain, but this is the reality of sports. I am sure there are plenty of fans for Edmonton that would wish for a quick whistle or a call for interference. There truly are bad calls or ignored calls, but this happens to every teams in all games. As fans, we should be allowed to be upset but also recognize that it is part of the game.

Greatest Hockey Players

The greatest hockey player is a topic I find boring for the most part. Normally, I ignore the idea because the same ten or so players are mentioned with Wayne Gretzky listed as one. It wasn’t until I made the mistake of listening to Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser discuss Sidney Crosby and the Stanley Cup. As I listened to Wilbon list as many hockey players as he could to crush any idea about Crosby being good, I noticed something that Kornheiser noticed. Wilbon was pushing Chicago Blackhawk players. Wilbon’s argument was weak at best. He acted like a chef throwing all known spices into a meal to make it great, thus creating garbage. Wilbon appeared to be solely basing greatness on cups, points, other writers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. I don’t think Wilbon has ever done any analysis of the players he stated and his argument was way off.

Who are the greatest hockey players? Unfortunately, I have seen many players playing and have only seen snippets of others like Orr. I hear how Howe was great but statistically speaking, it is not that impressive but better than Maurice Richard. Wayne Gretzky has the most points while Mario Lemieux has a better point per game if you remove his comeback years. Bobby Orr looks great, but was it really that good.

I exclude Orr for the simple reason that his greatness existed for only six years and the other years were average. He isn’t the greatest nor should be considered to be. He may have been the greatest scoring defenseman who revolutionized the position. His six years are simply amazing! He is eleventh in all-time scoring for defense but the highest in the points per game with 1.393 with Paul Coffey as the only other D-man averaging one or more points per game, 1.087. Coffey’s defensive abilities were a little lacking. What I can’t find out is his defensive capabilities. Simply put, Orr isn’t close.

Now I hear about Jaromir Jagr but his cup wins were because of Lemieux. Jagr, like many others people think of, has not done more than put up points. His longevity will likely place him at number two in scoring but not in the greatest players of all-time. As I look at additional players like Mark Messier, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau, and Mike Bossy; there are good reasons to not consider them as great players worthy of a top ten list without a full analysis.

What about Sidney Crosby? Is he as good as some think or as bad as Wilbon insinuates? Well for starters, Crosby has won two Stanley Cups. I am certain Lafleur, Béliveau, and Bossy exceed him there. Hmm, what about scoring awards? Well I think that is only a partial, and Sidney isn’t going to beat Gretzky. Could saving a franchise count? I think so. Mario did it twice (bought the team the second time) and Sidney brought the team back with his play. Still, this isn’t enough. His 2016 playoffs work was phenomenal, and I don’t recall Gretzky ever doing that. Mario actually did backcheck in the playoffs, but the problem is you need to do it consistently.

If there was an overall best player, I would lean towards Mario. Sadly, I never saw Gordie play, but he could be number one as well. What about Wayne? For all of the points he scored, Wayne is at number three for me. He was no Mr. Hockey and Mario was a better passer and shot as well as played better defense when he had to. Who else can miss a significant amount of games and still come back and pass Pat Lafontaine to win the scoring title in the 1992-93 season.  And if for no other reason, does the name Warren Young mean anything? No, Wayne must happily be perched at third.

I list Mario at one with the knowledge that a good argument could place Gordie at one. Wayne will remain number three. Sidney Crosby at this current time isn’t close, but that is due to the fact his career isn’t done. He is above Marcel Dionne, Peter Stastny, Peter Forsberg, Phil Esposito, and I believe Lafleur. For me, Crosby may crack the list at ten, but without more analysis, it can only be speculative for me.

This doesn’t provide any concrete solution, and there are people sure to argue with who I would place at number one. Does it really matter? Can you compare Howe and his era with Wayne’s or Mario’s? What about the team they played on? That affects the play of these players. Wayne didn’t play alongside Warren. In the end, it just doesn’t matter.