Jump to content
iacas

Lemieux vs. Gretzky for GOAT

37 posts / 1672 viewsLast Reply

Recommended Posts

I strongly support Mario Lemieux as the GOAT in hockey. Others will just point to career totals, but those don't tell the story.

Others have even said to “compare Wayne’s first 915 games” (which is how many Mario played in his career), because they think that's a "fair" way to compare the careers. But, Wayne started five seasons before Mario and Mario was still playing in the league nine seasons after Wayne had retired.

If instead you look at seasons where Lemieux and Gretzky overlapped (1984-1994 and 1995-1997, a total of 12 seasons), you get a different story.

This doesn’t eliminate differences in teammates, but at least eliminates the change in the style of play and/or the change in goalie style, equipment, etc. It also doesn’t account for the fact that Gretzky had played in the league for five years, which is an advantage earlier in the career and a bit of a disadvantage later in his career).

Over those 12 overlapping seasons, Lemieux:

  • 745 games (highs of 79 and 76, lows of 22 and 59)
  • 613 goals
  • 881 assists
  • 0.82 GPG
  • 2.01 PPG

Gretzky, over the same years:

  • 894 games (+149) (highs of 82 and 81, lows of 45 and 64)
  • 495 goals (-118)
  • 1248 assists (+367)
  • 0.55 GPG
  • 1.95 PPG

So, in the years they played in the league together, Lemieux scored 0.27 goals per game more than Gretzky and 0.06 points per game more than Gretzky.

Gretzky played nearly two full seasons more than Lemieux in their overlapping years, yet came up 118 goals shy of Lemieux and couldn’t even make up the gap in points per game.

Of course Gretzky’s career-long totals are higher than Lemieux’s. The years their careers didn’t overlap were played under quite different rules and equipment and such, and so Gretzky “wins” on longevity. Now, if you rank longevity as a thing, then the post above is irrelevant to you. But if you consider Mario’s career “long enough” to count as a career, and you ask yourself which hockey player was capable of playing the best hockey for their career, you can build a very strong case for Lemieux.


The parallels between Tiger and Jack are kinda crazy. Jack/Wayne had longer careers with fewer injuries against weaker opposition. Tiger/Mario had shorter careers (injuries/illnesses) against stiffer competition.

Woods is the GOAT to me, even before he got his 15th major. Considering the strength and depth of field, 14 > 18 and 81 (at the time before The 2019 Masters) > 72.

P.S. Wayne’s 1994-95 season, in which Mario didn’t play: 48 games, 11 goals, 37 assists for 48 points. If you want to count that season, Wayne’s per-game stats drop to 0.54 GPG and 1.90 PPG.

P.P.S. Someone suggested that Wayne's last five years when he was in decline, if Mario made up those 150 games, he'd see a similar drop to his numbers. This isn't true: In the 2000-2004 season Mario played 144 games. He scored 70 goals (0.49 GPG) (almost Wayne's 12-season-overlap production level) and 207 points (1.44 PPG), which brings his average(s) to 0.77 GPG (over 1/5 of a goal more per game than Wayne during the 12-season span) and 1.91 PPG (0.04 less). It turns out that the differences in goaltender style, etc. had a big effect and substantially boosted Wayne's career totals: in the five years before they had years in common, Wayne played 393 games, scored 356 goals and racked up 914 points.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

I'm sorry; I grew up in Chicago during an era when hockey wasn't shown on TV. (Yes, I'm bitter. ... Damned you, Bill Wirtz!)

So, I don't really know. 

I can only tell you that Gretzky and Lemieux are 2 of only about 5 or 6 hockey players I can name. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

I'm not a big fan of the GOAT arguments because of the difficulties in comparing eras. The inherent nature of hockey makes it even more difficult. It's a team game and an individual player's statistics usually have a lot to do with that guy's teammates.

That said, I'm inclined to agree that Lemieux deserves to be right up there and teammates are a big part of my argument. 

Those early Penguin teams that Lemieux played for weren't very good. #66 made a 100-point scorer out of a guy named Rob Brown. A few years later, I'd watch Brown with Kalamazoo play the Cincinnati Cyclones on a regular basis. Compare that to who Gretzky got to work with and your head spins. You are talking Coffey, Kurri, Anderson and Messier. It's not even close.

Then you had all the health problems that Lemieux suffered. You had the lymphoma, but the back issues were a big factor. Lemieux took a relentless pounding. Remember the job done on him by Darius Kasparaitis. Gretzky, on the other hand, always had his enforcer at the ready. 

You really sort of wonder what Mario could have done in a different situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Yeah, I'd made the argument earlier about the teammates, and the fact that Mario was clutched and grabbed (and slashed to the point of a broken wrist by Adam Graves), while Wayne was free to skate around just about as much as he liked.

Mario's team was a TERRIBLE team early on. They were likely about as good from 90-93 as Wayne's team was with Edmonton, but Wayne was with those great EDM teams for a lot longer than Mario was with the 90-93 teams.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Hockey is kind of interesting when discussing GOATs because it’s relatively simple to adjust points for era.

This post from Copper & Blue is relevant:

20131120_mjm_sb4_119.0.jpg

Adjust the entirety of NHL history for era affects and some remarkable things appear.

Lemiux tops Gretzky in era adjusted PPG.

Bobby Orr is 5th, geez.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Yep. Thanks Bill. And Malkin is still ahead of Ovechkin… because Malkin also passes. 🙂

(And, obviously, because they play in the same era.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

13 minutes ago, billchao said:

Bobby Orr is 5th, geez.

Yeah, but Orr is also the only defenseman on the list. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

I like this:

In the 31 years since the NHL/WHA Merger, only 10 teams have had an NHL scoring leader:
Calgary Flames (1), Colorado Avalanche (1), Edmonton Oilers (8), Los Angeles Kings (4), Philadelphia Flyers (1), Pittsburgh Penguins (15)San Jose Sharks (1), Tampa Bay Lightning (2), Vancouver Canucks (2), Washington Capitals (1)

from this:

20141025_sng_bl6_148.JPG.0.jpg

Normalizing scoring by era to compare the greats.

🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

10 minutes ago, iacas said:

And Malkin is still ahead of Ovechkin… because Malkin also passes. 🙂

Ovechkin is the best goal scorer of all time. All around player? He’s not even the best of his era.

11 minutes ago, mcanadiens said:

Yeah, but Orr is also the only defenseman on the list. 

I’m confused. Why is that a “but?” The fact that he’s on that list as a defenseman is already impressive, but top 5? Crazy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

3 minutes ago, billchao said:

I’m confused. Why is that a “but?” The fact that he’s on that list as a defenseman is already impressive, but top 5? Crazy.

Oh. I guess I interpreted your statement as surprise that Orr was ranked as low as No. 5.

Love watching those old highlights of him even when it came at my club's expense.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

4 hours ago, iacas said:

I strongly support Mario Lemieux as the GOAT in hockey. Others will just point to career totals, but those don't tell the story.

Others have even said to “compare Wayne’s first 915 games” (which is how many Mario played in his career), because they think that's a "fair" way to compare the careers. But, Wayne started five seasons before Mario and Mario was still playing in the league nine seasons after Wayne had retired.

If instead you look at seasons where Lemieux and Gretzky overlapped (1984-1994 and 1995-1997, a total of 12 seasons), you get a different story.

This doesn’t eliminate differences in teammates, but at least eliminates the change in the style of play and/or the change in goalie style, equipment, etc. It also doesn’t account for the fact that Gretzky had played in the league for five years, which is an advantage earlier in the career and a bit of a disadvantage later in his career).

Over those 12 overlapping seasons, Lemieux:

  • 745 games (highs of 79 and 76, lows of 22 and 59)
  • 613 goals
  • 881 assists
  • 0.82 GPG
  • 2.01 PPG

Gretzky, over the same years:

  • 894 games (+149) (highs of 82 and 81, lows of 45 and 64)
  • 495 goals (-118)
  • 1248 assists (+367)
  • 0.55 GPG
  • 1.95 PPG

So, in the years they played in the league together, Lemieux scored 0.27 goals per game more than Gretzky and 0.06 points per game more than Gretzky.

Gretzky played nearly two full seasons more than Lemieux in their overlapping years, yet came up 118 goals shy of Lemieux and couldn’t even make up the gap in points per game.

Of course Gretzky’s career-long totals are higher than Lemieux’s. The years their careers didn’t overlap were played under quite different rules and equipment and such, and so Gretzky “wins” on longevity. Now, if you rank longevity as a thing, then the post above is irrelevant to you. But if you consider Mario’s career “long enough” to count as a career, and you ask yourself which hockey player was capable of playing the best hockey for their career, you can build a very strong case for Lemieux.


The parallels between Tiger and Jack are kinda crazy. Jack/Wayne had longer careers with fewer injuries against weaker opposition. Tiger/Mario had shorter careers (injuries/illnesses) against stiffer competition.

Woods is the GOAT to me, even before he got his 15th major. Considering the strength and depth of field, 14 > 18 and 81 (at the time before The 2019 Masters) > 72.

P.S. Wayne’s 1994-95 season, in which Mario didn’t play: 48 games, 11 goals, 37 assists for 48 points. If you want to count that season, Wayne’s per-game stats drop to 0.54 GPG and 1.90 PPG.

P.P.S. Someone suggested that Wayne's last five years when he was in decline, if Mario made up those 150 games, he'd see a similar drop to his numbers. This isn't true: In the 2000-2004 season Mario played 144 games. He scored 70 goals (0.49 GPG) (almost Wayne's 12-season-overlap production level) and 207 points (1.44 PPG), which brings his average(s) to 0.77 GPG (over 1/5 of a goal more per game than Wayne during the 12-season span) and 1.91 PPG (0.04 less). It turns out that the differences in goaltender style, etc. had a big effect and substantially boosted Wayne's career totals: in the five years before they had years in common, Wayne played 393 games, scored 356 goals and racked up 914 points.

At the risk of being the new guy that gets everyone mad at him on his first day posting, if you're going to talk about potential without injuries, Bobby Orr replicating his numbers over a 20 year career at defense would be the most valuable player in the history of hockey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

12 minutes ago, Cut4 said:

At the risk of being the new guy that gets everyone mad at him on his first day posting, if you're going to talk about potential without injuries, Bobby Orr replicating his numbers over a 20 year career at defense would be the most valuable player in the history of hockey

Totally different era. And Bobby wasn't a "defensemen" in the way we know them to be today.

And FWIW, people (me at least) don't get "mad" for having a different opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

15 minutes ago, Cut4 said:

At the risk of being the new guy that gets everyone mad at him on his first day posting, if you're going to talk about potential without injuries, Bobby Orr replicating his numbers over a 20 year career at defense would be the most valuable player in the history of hockey

Can’t do that, though, because it’s unrealistic that he’d continue putting up the numbers late in his career. What if Mike Bossy didn’t get hurt? Peter Forsberg? Umm Mario Lemieux? 😃

I mean you can look at the guys who did have longevity (Gretzky, Jagr, Messier) to see that the last third of their careers is not the same as the first two-thirds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

2 minutes ago, billchao said:

Can’t do that, though, because it’s unrealistic that he’d continue putting up the numbers late in his career. What if Mike Bossy didn’t get hurt? Peter Forsberg? Umm Mario Lemieux? 😃

I mean you can look at the guys who did have longevity (Gretzky, Jagr, Messier) to see that the last third of their careers is not the same as the first two-thirds.

To piggyback on that, Orr wasn't even super high up in per-game totals during his career:

657 games, 270 goals (0.411 GPG) and 888 points (1.41 PPG). Over Gretzky's NHL career he got 0.60 GPG and 1.92 PPG while Lemieux over his whole career got 0.75 GPG and 1.88 PPG.

That's in spite of only playing 12 seasons in the NHL.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

9 minutes ago, iacas said:

Totally different era. And Bobby wasn't a "defensemen" in the way we know them to be today.

And FWIW, people (me at least) don't get "mad" for having a different opinion.

I think players like Karlson or Doughty are a pretty comparable style. They don't do what Orr did because they can't, not because they don't want to. Obviously the game has changed, but it's changed from when #99 changed too. In a way, that supports your argument as well, because I think Mario's game translate's better to today than Wayne's would. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Cut4 said:

I think players like Karlson or Doughty are a pretty comparable style.

They also face goalies who stop a ton more shots.

Orr was good but he also, like Jack Nicklaus, played against weaker competition. I absolutely think Karlsson and Drew Doughty and other defensemen in the NHL could do what Bobby Orr did. Players are better athletes all around these days. The best defensemen right now is quite likely a better hockey player than the best in 1975. Not guaranteed, but likely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

4 minutes ago, iacas said:

To piggyback on that, Orr wasn't even super high up in per-game totals during his career:

657 games, 270 goals (0.411 GPG) and 888 points (1.41 PPG). Over Gretzky's NHL career he got 0.60 GPG and 1.92 PPG while Lemieux over his whole career got 0.75 GPG and 1.88 PPG.

That's in spite of only playing 12 seasons in the NHL.

Just to play devil's advocate, Orr played in a lower scoring era than Gretzky and Lemieux. In the C&B article I linked before, Orr's adjusted PPG is 1.33 which is only a slight drop to his actual number, but Lemieux (1.66) and Gretzky (1.61) both lose more.

Orr isn't really in this discussion, though. It's true that he changed the position as people saw it, but I don't believe "most influential" is a factor in being GOAT or we'd be talking about Patrick Roy. Or Jacques Plante. Or Stan Mikita.

6 minutes ago, iacas said:

Players are better athletes all around these days.

Gretzky was on the TV broadcast when the Oilers were playing the Devils earlier in the season and said pretty much this. When comparing the game today to when he (and Ken Daneko) were playing, he said, "It's a little different in the sense that the players are bigger, they're faster, the equipment is better... I think all in all, the players of today's age, the skill level's just at a different level."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

I’m going with Patrick Roy. The guy that faces the shots. All around goat

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Awards, Achievements, and Accolades

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Welcome to TST! Signing up is free, and you'll see fewer ads and can talk with fellow golf enthusiasts! By using TST, you agree to our Terms of Use, our Privacy Policy, and our Guidelines.

The popup will be closed in 10 seconds...