All this talk about recent players is leaving a bad taste in my mouth, though. Let's look at some golden oldies. Are there any players who produced at a Gretzorr level in the early years of hockey history? Here are the best seasons, as measured by TPAK, up to 1927/28.
|BOWIE, Russell||1901||Montreal Victorias||CAHL||4||70||1400||11.4||-0.2||0.0||11.2||8.00|
|BOWIE, Russell||1903||Montreal Victorias||CAHL||4||70||1400||10.6||-0.2||-0.1||10.3||7.36|
|ROUTH, Havilland||1895||Montreal Winged Wheelers||AHAC||4||80||1600||12.0||-0.3||0.0||11.7||7.31|
|HOOPER, Art||1902||Montreal Winged Wheelers||CAHL||4||80||1600||11.3||-0.1||0.0||11.2||7.00|
|TRIHEY, Harry||1899||Montreal Shamrocks||CAHL||5||70||1400||9.6||-0.2||0.0||9.4||6.71|
|MALONE, Joe||1913||Quebec Bulldogs||NHA||5||80||1600||10.0||0.9||-0.4||10.5||6.56|
|BOWIE, Russell||1905||Montreal Victorias||CAHL||4||80||1600||10.8||-0.2||-0.2||10.4||6.50|
|SMITH, Harry||1908||Pittsburgh Bankers||WPHL||5||67||1340||10.0||-1.4||0.0||8.6||6.42|
|MORENZ, Howie||1928||Montreal Canadiens||NHL||5||78||1560||9.6||0.8||-0.4||10.0||6.41|
|RUSSELL, Ernie||1907||Montreal Wanderers||ECAHA||5||72||1440||10.0||-0.3||-0.5||9.2||6.39|
|McGOLDRICK, Joe||1886||Montreal Crystals||MHT||9||80||1600||11.0||-0.8||0.0||10.2||6.38|
|TAYLOR, Fred||1918||Vancouver Millionaires||PCHA||4||80||1600||8.9||1.3||0.0||10.2||6.38|
|SMITH, Tommy||1913||Quebec Bulldogs||NHA||7||76||1520||8.9||1.0||-0.3||9.6||6.32|
|BRADLEY, Reg||1892||Ottawa Generals||AHAC||7||80||1600||9.4||0.7||0.0||10.1||6.31|
|McDOUGALL, Bob||1896||Montreal Victorias||AHAC||7||60||1200||7.0||0.5||0.0||7.5||6.25|
|PHILLIPS, Tommy||1907||Kenora Thistles||MHL||6||80||1600||11.5||-0.9||-0.7||9.9||6.19|
|NIGHBOR, Frank||1917||Ottawa Senators||NHA||5||76||1520||7.6||2.0||-0.3||9.3||6.12|
|BOWIE, Russell||1900||Montreal Victorias||CAHL||4||70||1400||9.1||-0.5||0.0||8.5||6.07|
|SMITH, Tommy||1914||Quebec Bulldogs||NHA||6||80||1600||9.0||1.1||-0.4||9.7||6.06|
|SMITH, Harry||1906||Ottawa Senators||ECAHA||6||64||1280||8.5||-0.2||-0.6||7.7||6.02|
|McNAUGHTON, Archie||1890||Montreal Winged Wheelers||AHAC||4||80||1600||9.6||0.0||0.0||9.6||6.00|
|CAMPBELL, Jack||1888||Montreal Victorias||AHAC||2||80||2000||9.1||2.8||0.0||11.9||5.95|
|McDOUGALL, Bob||1897||Montreal Victorias||AHAC||7||80||1600||9.0||0.4||0.0||9.4||5.88|
The appearance of Russell "Dubby" Bowie at the top of the list should come as little surprise to any versed in hockey history. The Montreal Vics superstar rover, who played senior hockey from 1898/99 to 1909/10, is arguably the greatest natural goal-scorer of all time. But the five-time "major-league" goal-scoring champ is underrated today - people may realize he was pretty great, but not how great he really was.
Not only does he possess the top two seasons up to 1927/28, his best season (1900/01) is almost surely the greatest single-season performance ever. He's credited with a TPAK of 8.00, but this is just an arbitrary figure. Knowing that Wayne Gretzky's performances are around 7.00, there's no way anyone could be too far above that, even in a relatively short season such as this (eight games, though bear in mind Bowie was playing 60 minutes per game). The actual calculations have Bowie with a TPAK of close to 9, but I rejiggered it to 8.00 to be more reasonable.
Bowie led the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL) in 1900/01 with 24 goals, despite his missing one of his team's eight matches. The next-best player had 10 goals. Hall-of-Fame forwards like Harry Trihey, Art Farrell, Rat Westwick, Bruce Stuart and Blair Russel could manage no more than 10 goals, yet Bowie put in 24. Bowie scored more goals than the entire Quebec hockey club did. Like Gretzky and Orr at their best, Bowie was playing the game at a different level.
Havilland Routh and Art Hooper also pass the Gretzky-Orr threshold, but only for a single season each. Bowie possessing three of the top seven seasons here demonstrates that his appearance at the top of the list is no fluke. He had three seasons that were better than anything Howie Morenz or Cyclone Taylor ever did. It doesn't matter how great you believe Russell Bowie was; you're probably still underrating him.