My initial intention was to write about my top 5 players of all-time. I thought I had my top 5 solidified; Lemieux, Orr, Howe, Gretzky, Brodeur. Lemieux and Orr are given credit based on their astonishing careers and the fact that they did what they did in a limited amount of time. Had those two played as much as Howe and Gretzky, who knows if ‘The Great One’s’ totals would be as staggering.
Another reason why Lemieux is my top choice is because I think his game could have translated to any generation. I think he could have played in the 60’s & 70’s and fared well against the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ and ‘Broad Street Bullies.’
Orr & Howe given they were iconic in the aforementioned eras obviously were capable of playing in that era. They were also capable of holding their own as they weren’t pushovers and didn’t have a Marty McSorely as their personal goon.
Gretzky made his claim in an era where the goaltending was sub-par and the brutality of the game was easing up. I don’t think he could have played in the earlier eras and I don’t think he would have been as dominant in today’s era either. What he did have was great hockey sense and knowledge. I don’t even consider him the best goal scorer of all time, but he amassed so many points strictly based on his situational awareness and how he responded to plays as they developed.
Brodeur needs to be in the best five considering he is the best goalie of all-time. There is nothing that he left undone and his career saw him transverse and use different goaltending styles and techniques to continue keeping the biscuit out of the basket.
So aside from my brief, arguable synopsis of why these are my top 5 choices, I set out to actually methodically analyze and evaluate some of the best players of all-time. I used what is called a decision matrix where you choose categories that are important to you, weight them and then place the factual stats in them. For instance, if goals was weighted as a five and there were five players involved, Gretzky would get the full 25 points, Howe would get 20 and so on and so forth.
A decision matrix can be used for just about anything from which car to buy, to what to eat for dinner. For my best players of all time matrix I used four categories that are important in determining the best player. The categories chosen and their weights respectively (4-1) were; points per game, Stanley Cup Wins, Penalty Minutes and MVP trophies.
My logic behind this is you would have high scoring players that reached the pinnacle of the sport (most often multiple times) who could play and grinding or finesse game and lastly were voted by their peers as the MVP of the league.
Once I started working the matrix, before I even finished two categories, I found myself digging through stats and trying to come up with a set number of players who I could at least rate on all the categories. Keep in mind when looking at penalty minutes, I wasn’t looking at the Tiger Williams’ and Tie Domi’s, I was looking at the players who had the most penalty minutes that also scored a lot of points.
That analysis took me to guys like Mark Messier. Arguably could be in the mix with the players I have already mentioned. Played a lot of games, had a lot of assists, had a lot of penalty minutes, has his name on the Cup a lot of times, etc.
It then dawned on me that no matter what grouping of stats I was going to look at, there would always be different names at the top of the list. For how great Gretzky was in the regular season, there were better players in the playoffs. For how good Bobby Orr’s plus/minus was there was someone better. It was impossible to nail down who the best player of all time was.
I will argue to my death about the five best players of all time and you should too. I have come to find out there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to this topic. For sake of argument, something I love to do, let’s here who you’re top 5 players of all-time are!
Shout-out to the Brothers and Sisters of the Detroit Fire Department as they gear up for another Devil’s Night.