Can anyone match “The Great One”?
A few years ago Wayne Gretzky predicted that Sidney Crosby would break Gretzky’s many records, but to this point, that seems unlikely.
Many players have come and gone with promise, but havent come close. Eric Lindros, Teemu Selanee, and even Mario Lemieux couldn’t touch the Great One.
If Crosby can reach that peak remains to be seen, but even with Gretzky’s prediction, I can tell you that his records will most likely never be broken.
When I say talent, I do not mean that the skill level of NHL players will never reach that peak, however the margin between the worst NHL player and the best is not nearly as wide.
We are in an age of hockey that if you can’t skate and play in a system, you don’t have a job. The age of the goon is past us and the expectation of an average role player is so much higher.
This a time where hockey players are taught conditioning and nutrition in grade school. Some kids are taught the neutral zone trap before they learn history.
The talent level in this game is as high as a whole as it has ever been. There are no pushovers anymore.
This is in no way a bash to coaches past, but a nod to the science that coaching has become. In this age of technology, coaches can prepare their players for anything with video from any angle, stats down to the smallest detail, and scouting reports that tell what the opponents had for dinner the night before.
Todays coaches have time-tested systems that didn’t exist back in the day. Many teams in the 80′s and 90′s had a system that included no system at all, just let the talent do the work.
History has produced many incredible goalies, but as a whole prior to the last decade or so, the talent and teaching of goalies was not nearly what it is now. Todays goalies are conditioned, trained, and molded into puck stopping machines. Just watch a few videos of goalies from the 80′s and see the difference. The fine tuned art of goaltending didn’t exist, not to mention the massive equipment that you see today.
This may sound like it contradicts a bit, but it really does not.
While the bottom level talent has improved the top end talent is too spread out. With the increase in the number of NHL teams and a salary cap, the top end talent does not get the opportunity to play together. Take a look at Rick Nash playing the solo star in Columbus. Some teams are fortunate, but most are not, compare Sidney Crosbys linemates to Gretzky’s. As much as I like Pascal Dupuis, he sure isn’t going to be confused with Jari Kurri any time soon.
For some reason, despite the years of success since the 2004 lockout, the NHL can not seem to keep this from creeping back into the game.
The first time that Mario Lemieux retired, he cited that part of the reason was the clutch and grab in the NHL. While it isn’t quite that bad yet, the league does not seem to have any urgency to crack down before it gets worse.
Prior to 2004, hockey was more like Rugby on ice. The games were not made for the fleet footed but for the big and brutish.
Nobody wants that to happen again, but until the league and refs stay consistent, obstruction will be a threat to the game.
As much as I would love to see someone put up Gretzkyesque numbers again, I just don’t see it happening.
This is a different time and a different game. The talent of Gretzky and the style of game of the time were a perfect recipe for greatness.
Every hockey fan that is skeptical must ask themselves this, if Gretzky was in his prime today, what kind of numbers would he put up?
To look at that another way, if you take, Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and Stamkos and put them in the 80′s, what kind of numbers could they have put up?
Until next time…..
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