Wayne Gretzky Isn’t the Greatest Player of all time

Wayne Gretzky was never the greatest hockey player. Let me explain.

Wayne Gretzky started his professional hockey career in the WHA. He was only 17 years old at the time. The WHA consisted of veteran players such as Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. At the time, Hull and Howe were in their late 40s and early 50s. Howe was playing with his sons at the time. Howe still put up good numbers, but not as good as he was in his prime.

The WHA wasn’t as competitive as the NHL. The WHA declined to send players during the 1972 summit series. European players were also being signed to WHA contracts. This helped expand the game of hockey internationally.

Once Wayne Gretzky began his career, he put up numbers that would be considered excellent for any rookie today. However, the level of competition had an impact on his performance. First of all, the goalies at the time only knew how to defend the net in a stand-up style. Only a hand full of other goalies knew how to do a butterfly, but they weren’t in the league. Second, he played with many veterans and rookies. Few players were in their prime making it easier for someone like Gretzky to get 46 goals in his rookie year.

Now think about it, scoring 46 goals is great for most rookies, but this is far from the best of what other rookies have done in their first few years. Alex Ovechkin got 52 goals in his rookie season. Ovechkin has played his whole career in the butterfly era. While we can’t have an apples-to-apples comparison, we can look at the percentages. To get the best comparisons I would look at some of the best rookies take the number of points they scored, and divide that by the number of games they played.

When Gretzky came to the NHL he had the best supporting cast anyone could ask for. His teammates included Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, and Paul Coffey. These three players are in the hall of fame today.

Mark Messier would captain two NHL teams to Stanley Cup Wins. Paul Coffey was perhaps the best defenseman in the 80s. Glenn Anderson would have several seasons where he scored over 40 goals for four years consecutively. Anderson would finish his career with 498 goals in 16 seasons.

Most players don’t get the talent that Wayne Gretzky had. Most players get drafted by teams with weak talent. To have the advantages that Gretzky had could potentially set any player apart. Ray Bourque spent most of his career in Boston. He did not have a Phil Esposito or a Bobby Orr to support him. He had Jim Craig, who was a decent goalie, but Craig wasn’t a Hall of Famer. He made one trip to the Stanley Cup finals with them in 1990 but lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

By the time Wayne Gretzky got to the Los Angeles Kings, he was still putting up excellent numbers. The LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers in 1989 but would lose to the Calgary Flames. The Flames would go on to win their first and only Stanley Cup.

The 1993 playoffs would be controversial. In Game 6 of the Clarence Campbell Conference Finals, Wayne Gretzky raised his stick on Doug Gilmore. Most people would say that this should have gone as a penalty, but the referees let it slide, and Gretzky would score the game-winner in that game. The LA Kings would win Game 7 of that series. The Kings would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. It was Wayne Gretzky’s final Stanley Cup appearance.

After the 1990–1991 season, Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have a 40-goal season again. Gretzky would have a steep decline in performance. He had many back injuries and didn’t play as often as he did when he was with the Oilers. Players such as Steve Yzerman could steal the puck from him and score. Patrick Roy even deked Gretzky once.

If a player who’s supposedly the greatest of all time could lose to other stars in critical situations, is he the greatest of all time? Mario Lemieux had to work for his two Stanley Cups. He didn’t have the advantages that Gretzky had. Lemieux even played during the butterfly era and still found ways to score in his old age. Mario Lemieux. Unlike Gretzky, Mario Lemieux didn’t win a cup in his first few years. Given the limited amount of games that he played, Lemieux would finish with 690 goals and 1033 assists for a total of 1723 points. Many players don’t come close to these numbers. Sidney Crosby has already played more in the NHL than Lemieux, and Crosby only has 1409 points. Ovechkin has 1410 points and has played about the same amount of time.

There isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to eras. But we can take a player’s play style to determine how they would fair in today’s NHL. A Player’s dominance of one era doesn’t mean that that player will dominate in other eras. Ken Dryden won the Conn Smyth in the stand-up era. He also didn’t play with composite sticks. Many factors could determine whether or not a player could dominate an era or even make it to today’s NHL. More factors should go into determining a player’s greatness. I don’t know who could be considered the greatest of all time. But whoever you consider, you should factor in the development of the player, era, skills, play style, and statistics.

Wayne Gretzky was never the greatest hockey player. Let me explain.

Wayne Gretzky started his professional hockey career in the WHA. He was only 17 years old at the time. The WHA consisted of veteran players such as Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. At the time, Hull and Howe were in their late 40s and early 50s. Howe was playing with his sons at the time. Howe still put up good numbers, but not as good as he was in his prime.

The WHA wasn’t as competitive as the NHL. The WHA declined to send players during the 1972 summit series. European players were also being signed to WHA contracts. This helped expand the game of hockey internationally.

Once Wayne Gretzky began his career, he put up numbers that would be considered excellent for any rookie today. However, the level of competition had an impact on his performance. First of all, the goalies at the time only knew how to defend the net in a stand-up style. Only a hand full of other goalies knew how to do a butterfly, but they weren’t in the league. Second, he played with many veterans and rookies. Few players were in their prime making it easier for someone like Gretzky to get 46 goals in his rookie year.

Now think about it, scoring 46 goals is great for most rookies, but this is far from the best of what other rookies have done in their first few years. Alex Ovechkin got 52 goals in his rookie season. Ovechkin has played his whole career in the butterfly era. While we can’t have an apples-to-apples comparison, we can look at the percentages. To get the best comparisons I would look at some of the best rookies take the number of points they scored, and divide that by the number of games they played.

When Gretzky came to the NHL he had the best supporting cast anyone could ask for. His teammates included Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, and Paul Coffey. These three players are in the hall of fame today.

Mark Messier would captain two NHL teams to Stanley Cup Wins. Paul Coffey was perhaps the best defenseman in the 80s. Glenn Anderson would have several seasons where he scored over 40 goals for four years consecutively. Anderson would finish his career with 498 goals in 16 seasons.

Most players don’t get the talent that Wayne Gretzky had. Most players get drafted by teams with weak talent. To have the advantages that Gretzky had could potentially set any player apart. Ray Bourque spent most of his career in Boston. He did not have a Phil Esposito or a Bobby Orr to support him. He had Jim Craig, who was a decent goalie, but Craig wasn’t a Hall of Famer. He made one trip to the Stanley Cup finals with them in 1990 but lost to the Edmonton Oilers.

By the time Wayne Gretzky got to the Los Angeles Kings, he was still putting up excellent numbers. The LA Kings defeated the Edmonton Oilers in 1989 but would lose to the Calgary Flames. The Flames would go on to win their first and only Stanley Cup.

The 1993 playoffs would be controversial. In Game 6 of the Clarence Campbell Conference Finals, Wayne Gretzky raised his stick on Doug Gilmore. Most people would say that this should have gone as a penalty, but the referees let it slide, and Gretzky would score the game-winner in that game. The LA Kings would win Game 7 of that series. The Kings would lose in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. It was Wayne Gretzky’s final Stanley Cup appearance.

After the 1990–1991 season, Wayne Gretzky wouldn’t have a 40-goal season again. Gretzky would have a steep decline in performance. He had many back injuries and didn’t play as often as he did when he was with the Oilers. Players such as Steve Yzerman could steal the puck from him and score. Patrick Roy even deked Gretzky once.

If a player who’s supposedly the greatest of all time could lose to other stars in critical situations, is he the greatest of all time? Mario Lemieux had to work for his two Stanley Cups. He didn’t have the advantages that Gretzky had. Lemieux even played during the butterfly era and still found ways to score in his old age. Mario Lemieux. Unlike Gretzky, Mario Lemieux didn’t win a cup in his first few years. Given the limited amount of games that he played, Lemieux would finish with 690 goals and 1033 assists for a total of 1723 points. Many players don’t come close to these numbers. Sidney Crosby has already played more in the NHL than Lemieux, and Crosby only has 1409 points. Ovechkin has 1410 points and has played about the same amount of time.

There isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to eras. But we can take a player’s play style to determine how they would fair in today’s NHL. A Player’s dominance of one era doesn’t mean that that player will dominate in other eras. Ken Dryden won the Conn Smyth in the stand-up era. He also didn’t play with composite sticks. Many factors could determine whether or not a player could dominate an era or even make it to today’s NHL. More factors should go into determining a player’s greatness. I don’t know who could be considered the greatest of all time. But whoever you consider, you should factor in the development of the player, era, skills, play style, and statistics.

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