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Gretzky Or Crosby

from Paul Grant of ESPN,

With all these comparisons flying around, this week we're going to cut through the crud and make a call. Given two players, one active and one retired, in their primes, who would be better? And the best part of it is that you, the user, get the final word. 

For our second installment, how about: The two best players of their generation, if not the two best players in the history of the game in Sidney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky. This is such a timeless comparison, we're going to do it again, only more lo-fi..



Filed in: NHL Teams, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: sidney+crosby, wayne+gretzky



Gee wiz, does this guy have an ounce of brain in his computer?

Howe, Orr, Stevie Y, Mario, et all . . . 

It certainly shows why ESPN can’t be counted for hockey coverage.


I just hope HNIC will continue, too, as it looks like the Harper government is going to stop one of the greatest things going.

Posted by bobbo on 08/06/13 at 11:58 AM ET

Matt Fry's avatar

I just don’t quite understand the graph.  If Crosby had played the same amount of games as Gretzky, then it would be more comparable.  I’d also put Howe or Lemieux above Crosby at this point in time

PS: I hope Hockey Night in Canada does go away.  TSN does a much better job of sports broadcasting than CBC.

Posted by Matt Fry from Winnipeg on 08/06/13 at 12:27 PM ET

Davis's avatar

Let’s consider two players, shall we? We’ll call them Player A and Player B. Here’s what you need to know: Player A’s Career is ongoing, while Player B retired within the last decade, and should thus be considered a “modern” player. Player A just completed his 8th NHL season, so a comparison of the professional career up to the 8th NHL season is warranted*.

As you review the information below, ask yourself…which player would you draft?

Let’s start by comparing basic scoring data from their first 8 seasons:

Regular Season Stats GP-A GP-B G-A G-B A-A A-B P-A P-B PPG-A PPG-B +/- A +/- B
1 81 61 39 41 63 34 102 75 1.26 1.23 -1 28
2 79 65 36 44 84 53 120 97 1.52 1.49 10 16
3 53 46 24 29 48 41 72 70 1.36 1.52 18 27
4 77 73 33 47 70 68 103 115 1.34 1.58 3 26
5 81 52 51 32 58 47 109 79 1.35 1.52 15 31
6 41 63 32 30 34 41 66 71 1.61 1.13 20 14
7 22 71 8 40 29 53 37 93 1.68 1.31 15 35
8 36 55 15 27 41 32 56 59 1.56 1.07 26 11
T 470 486 238 290 427 369 665 659 1.41 1.36 106 188

Remarkably similar, no? You could argue that Player A is a slightly better distributor, while Player B is perhaps a more adept goal scorer. You may also argue (flimsily, perhaps) that Player B is better defensively (based on +/-). You’ll also note that neither are particularly durable, with only 2 full seasons played between them (both by Player A).

How about post season production?
Post Season GP-A GP-B G-A G-B A-A A-B P-A P-B PPG-A PPG-B +/- A +/- B
1 5 12 3 4 2 11 5 15 1.00 1.25 0 7
2 20 12 6 6 21 6 27 12 1.35 1.00 7 -1
3 24 19 15 12 16 14 31 26 1.29 1.37 9 7
4 13 5 6 1 13 2 19 3 1.46 0.60 6 -3
5 6 2 3 1 5 0 8 1 1.33 0.50 -3 0
6 14 NA 7 NA 8 NA 15 NA 1.07 NA -3 NA
T 82 50 40 24 65 33 105 57 1.28 1.14 16 10

A bit more difficult to parse here, as Player A played considerably more post-season games and the numbers reflect that. However, the disparity between the two in points per game is only 0.14. Reasonably close. We might project out Player B’s post season production and at the 82 game mark could be reasonably similar to Player A’s.

Consider now incidentals:
                                        Player A       Player B
World Junior Championship Medals   2 (Gold, Silver) 2 (Gold)
Olympic Medals                         1 (Gold)      2 (Gold, Silver)
Art Ross                                   1                 0
Maurice “Rocket” Richard               1                 0
Lester B. Pearson/Ted Lindsay         1                 1
Hart                                         1                 1
Stanley Cup                               1                 0
NHL All Rookie Team                   1                 1
NHL First Team All Star                   2                 1
NHL Second Team All Star               1                 1
All Star Game Appearances               4                 6

Player A has a slight edge in hardware, but certainly both hockey pedigrees in their first 8 years of NHL play are strikingly similar.

Overall, you can certainly make an argument that, on paper, these two players are a coin flip in terms of who you would take above the other. They’re equally proficient scorers, appear to be somewhat responsible defensively, and neither are likely to play a complete season.

I’m sure you’ve probably guessed by now that Player A is Sidney Crosby. Player B? It should come as no surprise that Player B is Eric Lindros. He is, I believe, the most apt comparison to Crosby in the modern NHL era. Clearly their career trajectories are in parallel, not only in terms of on ice productivity, but also as an unfortunate case study in just how concussions can impact careers. Obviously, Crosby’s career has yet to play out fully, but any comparison to Gretzky or Lemieux are simply unfounded.

*Both players played Canadian Juniors, both players entered the NHL in the season immediately following their draft…trying for an apples to apples comparison here.

Posted by Davis on 08/06/13 at 02:08 PM ET

LiteWork's avatar

A prime Gretzky or Lemieux. wouldnt have let Henrik Sedin steal an Art Ross from them. Crosby is closer to players like Jagr, Sakic, Forsberg, Yzerman, Lindros etc than he is to Wayne and Mario.

Posted by LiteWork on 08/06/13 at 05:36 PM ET

Nathan's avatar

Posted by Davis on 08/06/13 at 02:08 PM ET

Thanks for the post—I think you make a really great point. Hadn’t thought of it before myself, but they really are remarkably similar in the way they play the game, and even that they have had some injury struggles that are arguably related to the way they play the game. Obviously, Lindros is just plain bigger, but what Crosby lacks in size he makes up for with tenacity.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 08/07/13 at 09:36 AM ET

Tripwire32's avatar

Posted by Davis on 08/06/13 at 02:08 PM ET

great post. that’s how it’s done.

Posted by Tripwire32 from Kay He Mar Heart on 08/07/13 at 10:52 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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