Greatest player ever? (Courtesy: sportsmemorabilia.com)

Media Puck-Up's: The Stanley Cup Rating System

New Segment: Media Puck-Up’s. Members of the media were taught how to speak, how to write, and how to report sports news. They weren’t necessarily taught common sense, and so they go along saying stupid things all the time. It’s time they are held accountable for the filth they spew, so without further ado, I bring to you my first post about this topic: The Stanley Cup Rating System.

While my argument can be applied to any sport, I’ll keep it to hockey for obvious reasons. When the media compares great players, they always bring up the number of championships a player has won as a way to compare one great player to another. I think that is an invalid argument. Hell, by that token, Henri Richard should be considered the greatest player of all time.

The Great One is considered the best player ever. Or is it Mario the Magnificent? Or maybe Mr. Hockey himself? A case can also be made for #4, Bobby Orr. But what if you’re not talking about those guys. What if you want to compare Lindros to Jagr or Bure to Federov? As for players today, the obvious argument is between Crosby and Ovechkin.

As far as I’m concerned, that stupid argument starts and ends with one counterpoint: It takes a team to win the Stanley Cup. It takes a special blend of talent to win the Stanley Cup.  It’s never, ever been about one guy doing everything. A goalie can play out of his mind, allowing 2 goals against per game. But what good is that if his team doesn’t score for him? Look at these past Cup Finals. Is Antti Niemi better than Michael Leighton because he’s got the ring around his finger?  What about the fact that his team decided that they won in spite of him and didn’t retain him the following season. Is he as good as Marc Andre Fleury or better than Ryan Miller since the former has one ring and the latter has none.  Of course not! It’s not fair to judge a players greatness based on decisions he has no influence about. Do you think Kovalchuk participated in Atlanta’s meetings prior to drafts, or researched free agents or potential trades. No, he did not build the crappy team around him. He put up great numbers despite having nobody to play with, for the most part. Why should it count against him that the team kept losing. There’s only so much a single player can do.

This isn’t an argument that compares role players that happen to win the Cup multiple times.  Nobody considers Claude Lemieux better than Dale Hawerchuk.  This is an argument that is about the best players. The top forwards play about 33% of each game, and top defensemen come close to 50% of the game. Goalies, of course are on the ice 100% of the time.  But, each player is responsible for only so much. There is way, way too much that goes on in a game that they have no control over. I don’t know how to make it any more clear, that judging a players’ greatness based on team success is just stupid journalism.

So of course, that leaves one question: how should we compare great players. That answer isn’t so easy. First off, you have to look at stats. But you must look inside stats, not just at total numbers.  Sure, Gretzky put up career numbers that will probably remain untouched. However, he played in a high scoring era that just will not be matched. Lemieux might have been better, but he suffered too many injuries. That matters! Also, when a guy puts up big numbers, what kind of help did he have? Ovechkin was putting up big numbers before he got any help. Crosby has had Malkin there the entire time. Style matters too.  A power forward, a guy who spends time in front of the net just won’t get as many goals (usually) as a sniper. Both are crucial, either one can help a team, so when comparing guys with different styles and different strengths, you have to take their effectiveness into account.

I can keep going on and on about the right way to do it.  Settling arguments about who is better is never easy. That’s part of what makes hockey great. There are tons of factors to look at when figuring out who was a better player.  But one thing I am sure about, is that judging individual talent by team awards is just plain wrong.

Thanks for Reading!

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Tags: Alexander Ovechkin Antti Niemi Atlanta Thrashers Claude Lemieux Dale Hawerchuk Eric Lindros Evgeni Malkin Gordie Howe Henri Richard Hot Stove Ilya Kovalchuk Jaromir Jagr Marc Andre Fleury Mario Lemieux Media Puck-up's Michael Leighton Pavel Bure Ryan Miller Sergei Kostitsyn Sidney Crosby Stanley Cup Rating System Wayne Gretzky

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