Monday 27 February 2012

Herb Jordan

Herb Jordan

Quebec's great centre from 1903 to 1909, Herb Jordan was one of the most gifted goal-scorers of his time. Largely forgotten today, Jordan actually has a strong case for the Hall of Fame, when you compare his performance to that of his contemporaries.

In 1903, Jordan was third in goal scored, behind two immortals in Russell Bowie and Frank McGee. In 1904, he was behind only Bowie in goals, but actually scored at a greater rate per game than Bowie did, which was no mean feat when comparing oneself to a player who averaged nearly three goals per game for his career. In 1905, Jordan was again third in goals (behind Bowie and Quebec teammate Joe Power), but second in goals per game. In 1908, he was fourth behind three Hall-of-Famers (Bowie again, Tommy Phillips and Marty Walsh), and in 1909 he was second behind only Walsh. He was never able to lead the league in scoring, but came very close several times.

Jordan was recognized as the most dangerous performer on his team, often attracting double-coverage from the defence: 
The Vics paid special attention to Jordan, and he generally had two men on him to attend to, which blocked many of his shots that would have told. (Quebec Chronicle, 9 Jan 1905)
Jordan gave a singularly pretty exhibition of stick-handling and his shooting was deadly. A particularly clever shot was passed out to him from the side by Chubby Power. Although covered by two men, he managed with that funny poke of his to elude both of them and lifted the puck right into the nets. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Jan 1908)
He scored so many goals by virtue of having a quick, hard shot, and swiftness in play in general:
Jordan finally relieved the monotony by scoring for Quebec with one of his hard, fast shots. (Quebec Chronicle, 4 Jan 1904)
Now Jordan has it, flies past the cover-point, like a veritable streak, and before the crowd can draw their breath the goaler was wondering if it was an electric bolt that had passed him. (Quebec Chronicle, 22 Feb 1904)
In the centre of the ice Herbie Jordan and Joe Power proved a great pair. Some neat combination was engineered between them and their quickness in passing and shooting fooled Waugh a number of times. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Feb 1905)
...Herbie Jordan, who from a difficult position on the right wing delivered one of his own characteristic scoops to Hern, who failed to negotiate it... (Quebec Chronicle, 22 Feb 1909)
He apparently possessed a "scoop" shoot, which I suppose to mean that he was adept at lifting the puck off the ice with his shot. This would be a useful skill indeed, as he played right in front of the goalkeeper with regularity:
Herbie Jordan played his usual useful game. He bored right in on the nets, and at times the only was in which the Shamrock defence appeared to be able to stop him was by tripping. (Quebec Chronicle, 8 Feb 1909)
Herbie Jordan, one of the greatest centre ice men in the game to-day, again proved his claims to the honor, his efforts being of the gilt-edged variety. He played right in on the poles and he was robbed of many more scored than those credited to him only by the alertness of the Ottawa goal-keeper. (Quebec Chronicle, 8 Mar 1909)
This isn't just a case of looking at big numbers and surmising the player must have been a great one, even though the Hall of Fame never honoured him. Herb Jordan was recognized as an outstanding hockeyist when he played, and deserves such recognition today: 
Herbie Jordan played his usual dashing game, and his heady work and general unselfishness in passing the puck when he might have tried for goal himself, resulted in many a score for Quebec. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Feb 1905)
Herbie Jordan once more proved himself the peer on any centre man in the game to-day. Fast, aggressive, clear-headed and unselfish, he was a dangerous man around the poles. Time and time again he fooled the Ottawa defence and had LeSueur at his mercy. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Jan 1908)

1903Quebec AthleticsCAHL458016003.3-
1904Quebec AthleticsCAHL48016009.1-
1905Quebec AthleticsCAHL57114207.00.1-
1906Quebec BulldogsECAHA56412804.50.1-
1907Quebec BulldogsECAHA5408002.
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHA56412806.
1909Quebec BulldogsECHA58016005.3-0.2-
1910Renfrew Creamery KingsNHA5438601.
1911Renfrew Creamery KingsNHA55100-


Thursday 23 February 2012

Lineage of the NHL

The lineage of the National Hockey League, which played its first season in 1917/18, is normally tracked back through time as follows:

National Hockey Association (1909/10 to 1916/17)
Eastern Canadian (Amateur) Hockey Association (1905/06 to 1908/09)
Canadian Amateur Hockey League (1899/00 to 1904/05)
Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (1886/87 to 1898/99)

And this is certainly true, in the sense that these are the highest-quality hockey leagues in Canada in their times. They are the "major" leagues, meant in a sense different from the modern one.

However, if you want to track direct lineages of league-season to league-season, this progression isn't accurate. The AHAC led directly to the CAHL, which led directly to the EC(A)HA. But the NHL did not descend directly from the ECHA.

Before the 1909/10 ECHA season, the new owners of the mighty Montreal Wanderers desired to move the team from the Montreal Arena to the smaller Jubilee Rink. The three other teams in the league (Montreal Shamrocks, Ottawa Senators and Quebec Bulldogs) strenuously objected to the move, finally going as far as leaving the ECHA over the dispute. These three teams formed the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA), accompanied by a new team organized by Art Ross (All-Montreal), and the French-Canadian Montreal Nationale, which had played in the rival Federal Amateur Hockey League years before.

The Wanderers, for their part, joined the new National Hockey Association, along with the Renfrew club from the Federal Hockey League, and Cobalt and Haileybury from the Temiskaming Mines professional league. A new French-Canadian club was created for Montreal, the Canadiens, to fill out the league. Every club in the league, save Wanderers, were owned by Ambrose O'Brien, the son of a wealthy mining magnate.

It seems clear to me, then, that the direct lineage that began with the AHAC in 1886/87 came to an end when the CHA folded early in the 1909/10 season. The CHA had hockey history on its side (especially since the Wanderers did not even originate as part of the lineage), but the NHA had Ambrose O'Brien's mining money. In the end, the cash won out. Some talk of a merger took place, but ultimately the NHA accepted the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Shamrocks into its fold, bringing to an end the line of the AHAC. Although the NHA featured two clubs with long histories in the lineage, they had come over from another league, their own having died.

In fact, the Montreal Canadiens franchise was offered to the owners of le Nationale by O'Brien, who turned it down. It could very easily have been the Montreal Nationals in the NHA rather than the Canadiens. There's some alternate history for you.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Clare McKerrow - a Brief but Dominant Career

We've been spending a good deal of time in the 20th century lately, albeit to early 20th century. But it's time again for something from the 19th, to centre ourselves.

Clare McKerrow played rover for the Montreal AAA from 1896 to 1899, only four seasons. But he accomplished more in that short time than most players do in an entire career. In his four years, he finished second, first (tied), second and first in goals per game in Canada's highest league. Take a look at his Point Allocation records:

1896Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC46012005.9-
1897Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC48016005.
1898Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC48016006.
1899Montreal Winged WheelersCAHL4469206.4-


He was the best player in the country in 1899 with a 6.74 TPAK, which comes close to hitting the Gretzky-Orr Threshold. He was more than simply a scorer, though he was noted as being an exceptional natural goal-scorer. McKerrow was also noted as a gifted skater and diligent checker. He played his last senior hockey at age 21. It's incredible to imagine what he might have done had he played into his prime athletic years, a two-way force that could have kept the AAA on top of the league for a number of years. As it is he won a Stanley Cup in 1895 (his first appearance in senior hockey was in a Cup game), and another as  coach on the AAA in 1902.

Clare McKerrow is also credited as a mentor to a young Lester Patrick, teaching him about the game, and how to conduct himself as a gentleman. As Patrick proved throughout his career as a player and an executive, he was an unparalleled expert on both topics, so it seems McKerrow was a creditable teacher as well.

It should be noted that the picture above is actually from a lacrosse card, from over a decade after McKerrow played his last senior hockey. The image can also double for a picture of Andrew McKerrow, who played point for the Montreal AAA in 1896 (1.20 TPAK), and who happened to be Clare's twin brother, the first confirmed incidence of twin brothers playing on the same senior-level squad.

Friday 17 February 2012

Dr. Jerry Laflamme

Dr. William "Jerry" Laflamme, noted dentist and hockeyist, was a fixture in the Ontario Hockey Association senior ranks throughout the 1910s, always serving as his team's captain. He captained the St. Michael's squad to the Allan Cup in 1910 (his first year in senior hockey), and did the same for the Toronto Dentals in 1917. Playing centre for the first half of his career and defence for the second, Laflamme was always noted for his speed, knowledge of the game and leadership.

He led the OHA in goals in 1911/12, playing on a team with Hall-of-Famers Frank Rankin and Frank Foyston. He played for six different senior OHA clubs, which compiled a combined record of 55-19-1 when he was a regular. He was later an NHL referee, and was a coach of the Montreal Maroons for one season.

After his offensive outburst in 1911/12, Laflamme apparently changed his focus to defence (while still playing centre), leaving the goal-scoring to Rankin. He still produced a few goals, but his defensive efforts made his team an outstanding defensive squad, and if there had been a Selke Award at the time, he would surely have been in the running. His Point Allocation numbers in 1912/13 make his look like a blueliner rather than a centre, which he certainly was. He made the switch to defence for real in 1915/16, and continued to put up solid performances.

Laflamme was a fast, skilled player, and very tough to boot; he did not miss games unless he meant to. He excelled at all facets of the game, having no particular weakness. His "hockey sense" was likely his best feature.
He is a dental student, and no centre in Canada understands the scoring game better than “Jerry”. He is fast, as quick as a flash, carries his forwards with him in passing rushes, and is always watchful until something happens. (New York Times, 25 Feb 1910)
For the match tomorrow night the Torontos will be greatly strengthened by the services of Jerry Laflamme at centre. He is conceded to be one of the fastest forwards in the OHA... (Montreal Gazette, 27 Feb 1912)
Jerry Laflamme is made of the real stuff. He started out with a very sore leg...and before the first half ended he fell on [an opponent's] skate and opened a nasty gash over his eye. It took five stitches to close the cut, and Jerry gamely went into the fray in the second half. It failed to slow him up one bit. (Toronto World, 22 Feb 1913)
The second quote above, referring to Laflamme joining the Torontos, comes from a time that several strong offers were made by NHA Toronto teams for his services. Laflamme ultimately did not accept the offer, and did not turn professional. This likely had nothing to do with desires to remain "pure", but instead reflected the fact that "amateur" players often made as much as the pros did at the time.

Had he joined the Toronto Hockey Club, Laflamme would have been a very good NHA player, judging by his Point Allocation results. Not a superstar certainly, but a highly effective man. Toronto didn't make out so badly, of course. Not being able to sign Laflamme, they instead added a teammate of his to play centre the following season in future Hall-of-Famer Frank Foyston. As good as Laflamme was, Foyston was certainly the better man.

1910Toronto St. MichaelsOHA58016001.
1911Toronto St. MichaelsOHA58016005.3-
1912Toronto EatonsOHA48016006.2-
1913Toronto St. MichaelsOHA58016000.54.5-
1914Toronto St. MichaelsOHA58016003.
1915Toronto St. MichaelsOHA58016001.
1916Toronto ArgonautsOHA37218000.
1917Toronto DentalsOHA34812000.
1918Toronto DentalsOHA38020000.
1919Toronto NewmansOHA38020002.4-
1920Toronto GranitesOHA38020000.
1921Toronto GranitesOHA38200-

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Vezina v. Benedict

Quick one today. Who was better: Georges Vezina or Client Benedict?

Two very much contemporary goaltenders, both Hall-of-Famers, both rightly considered among the best of their time, or indeed any time. So who was better?

Well, we can have a look at what the Point Allocation system suggests, which certainly isn't the answer, but is an answer. And a good one at that.

Georges Vezina
1911Montreal CanadiensNHAG8047850.019.1-
1912Montreal CanadiensNHAG8048000.020.3-
1913Montreal CanadiensNHAG8048000.019.5-
1914Montreal CanadiensNHAG8047880.020.1-
1915Montreal CanadiensNHAG8047890.016.1-
1916Montreal CanadiensNHAG8048000.
1917Montreal CanadiensNHAG8048000.
1918Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1919Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1920Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1921Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1922Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1923Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1924Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1925Montreal CanadiensNHLG8048000.
1926Montreal CanadiensNHLG1440.


Clint Benedict
1912Ottawa New EdinburghsIPAHUG8047780.016.2-
1913Ottawa SenatorsNHAG158540.
1914Ottawa SenatorsNHAG3118250.
1915Ottawa SenatorsNHAG7947130.
1916Ottawa SenatorsNHAG7947350.
1917Ottawa SenatorsNHAG7343290.
1918Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8048000.
1919Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8048000.
1920Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8047930.023.5-
1921Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8048000.
1922Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8048000.
1923Ottawa SenatorsNHLG8048000.
1924Ottawa SenatorsNHLG7444100.
1925Montreal MaroonsNHLG8047950.
1926Montreal MaroonsNHLG8048000.
1927Montreal MaroonsNHLG7946970.
1928Montreal MaroonsNHLG7947300.
1929Montreal MaroonsNHLG6740150.
1930Montreal MaroonsNHLG23133201.301.30.98


Oh dear, that didn't help much did it? Vezina has a better career average (though that might be due to missing stats for his pre-Montreal days), but Benedict had better best seasons. Vezina was strikingly consistent, which is quite a tribute given the shoddy defences he often played behind in his early years. Benedict generally benefited from better teams in front of him, but was still remarkable in his own right.

If I had to choose, I'd probably go with Vezina, since you would know exactly what you were going to get. Benedict could often be better, but sometime noticeably worse as well. Hard to complain about either of them.

Monday 13 February 2012

Gretzorr in the past

We've pretty well established a TPAK value of around 7.00 as the Gretkzy/Orr threshold, the type of number that only one of the absolute best players of all time can reach. You can't really fluke a season that good, and you have to be in the upper stratosphere of historic hockey talent to produce at such a level on a regular basis, someone like Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr.

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, Russell1901Montreal VictoriasCAHL470140011.4-
BOWIE, Russell1903Montreal VictoriasCAHL470140010.6-0.2-
ROUTH, Havilland1895Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC480160012.0-
HOOPER, Art1902Montreal Winged WheelersCAHL480160011.3-
TRIHEY, Harry1899Montreal ShamrocksCAHL57014009.6-
MALONE, Joe1913Quebec BulldogsNHA580160010.00.9-0.410.56.56
BOWIE, Russell1905Montreal VictoriasCAHL480160010.8-0.2-
SMITH, Harry1908Pittsburgh BankersWPHL567134010.0-
MORENZ, Howie1928Montreal CanadiensNHL57815609.60.8-0.410.06.41
RUSSELL, Ernie1907Montreal WanderersECAHA572144010.0-0.3-
McGOLDRICK, Joe1886Montreal CrystalsMHT980160011.0-
TAYLOR, Fred1918Vancouver MillionairesPCHA48016008.
SMITH, Tommy1913Quebec BulldogsNHA77615208.91.0-
BRADLEY, Reg1892Ottawa GeneralsAHAC78016009.
McDOUGALL, Bob1896Montreal VictoriasAHAC76012007.
PHILLIPS, Tommy1907Kenora ThistlesMHL680160011.5-0.9-
NIGHBOR, Frank1917Ottawa SenatorsNHA57615207.62.0-
BOWIE, Russell1900Montreal VictoriasCAHL47014009.1-
SMITH, Tommy1914Quebec BulldogsNHA68016009.01.1-
SMITH, Harry1906Ottawa SenatorsECAHA66412808.5-0.2-
McNAUGHTON, Archie1890Montreal Winged WheelersAHAC48016009.
CAMPBELL, Jack1888Montreal VictoriasAHAC28020009.
McDOUGALL, Bob1897Montreal VictoriasAHAC78016009.

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.

Friday 10 February 2012

1970/71 Point Allocation

Last time we looked at the 1985/86 NHL Point Allocation results, in order to examine the upper limits of player performance. Wayne Greztky's 215-point season came in at a TPAK of 7.00. Now let's see how good Bobby Orr's +124 season, in 1970/71. Unsurprisingly, he was the best in the league that season:

ORR, BobbyBOS38020008.66.5-0.314.87.40
PLANTE, JacquesTORG5733620.
WHITE, BillCHI36917251.49.2-
ESPOSITO, PhilBOS58016007.81.1-
BUCYK, JohnBOS68016007.
PLAGER, BobSTL37218001.28.8-
KEON, DaveTOR57815605.
ROBERTS, JimmySTL37418501.98.1-
BELIVEAU, JeanMTL57214406.90.8-
COURNOYER, YvanMTL76713406.10.7-
HULL, BobbyCHI68016006.02.0-
TREMBLAY, J-CMTL37819504.25.5-
SELING, RodNYR37017501.77.0-
MAGNUSON, KeithCHI37819501.28.8-
SMITH, DallasBOS37518752.76.5-
CHEEVERS, GerryBOSG5834650.
ANGOTTI, LouCHI56713402.14.3-
PARK, BradNYR37017503.05.5-
NEILSON, JimNYR37919751.77.7-
SANDERSON, DerekBOS57314604.52.8-
WESTFALL, EdBOS78016004.03.4-
HODGE, KenBOS78016006.60.9-
ULLMAN, NormTOR57515005.51.1-
STAPLETON, PatCHI37819502.75.7-
RATELLE, JeanNYR58016005.51.4-
MIKITA, StanCHI57615204.71.7-

Orr and Gretzky, in their primes, probably put up 7.00 TPAK seasons as a matter of course, while other players can only dream of approaching that number once in their careers. We could call this the Gretzky-Orr Threshold, or maybe Gretzorr (which sounds like a hockey-themed Masters of the Universe villain, so maybe we shouldn't call it that). Let's stick with the Gretzky-Orr Threshold, and use it to see which historical players had this type of singular performance.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

1985/86 Point Allocation

With any new valuation system, it's important to establish baselines that allow people to interpret the results. It's all fine and good to say Joe Power had a 4.81 TPAK season, but unless you know how good that is, it's basically meaningless. One way to help modern hockey fans to understand the results of historical seasons is to show the equivalent numbers for more recent years.

The Point Allocation results for the 1967/68 NHL season have already been published here, and I'm going to show a couple more seasons, specifically to discuss the upper bounds of performance. What better place to examine that than Wayne Gretzky's 215-point season? So let's look at 1985/86.

First, here are the results of the Edmonton Oilers, who recorded 119 points on the strength of scoring 72 more goals (close to a full goal per game) than the second-best offence in the league. It's no surprise that Gretzky is on top. It should also be no surprise that his TPAK score of 7.00 is the highest we've seen so far. A rate of 6.00 is the level of the superstar; beating that by a full point (standings point, not scoring point) per 1,000 minutes puts you in the absolute upper stratosphere of hockey performance.

GRETZKY, Wayne58016009.22.1-
COFFEY, Paul37919757.74.4-0.311.85.97
KURRI, Jari77815606.61.6-
MESSIER, Mark56312605.31.4-
ANDERSON, Glenn77214406.11.1-
MOOG, AndyG6437960.
FUHR, GrantG5231120.
NAPIER, Mark68016004.
HUNTER, Dave66212403.01.1-
MacTAVISH, Craig57414803.31.4-
FOGOLIN, Lee38020002.14.1-
GREGG, Randy36416001.43.0-
SMITH, Steve35513752.31.9-
HUDDY, Charlie37619001.73.2-
KRUSHELNYSKI, Mike65410802.30.4-
LUMLEY, Dave7469201.80.5-
SUMMANEN, Raimo67314602.70.4-
LOWE, Kevin37418500.83.3-
McCLELLAND, Kevin57915803.40.7-
TIKKANEN, Esa7357000.90.2-
JACKSON, Don34511250.51.2-
McSORLEY, Marty75911801.70.4-
SEMENKO, Dave66913800.20.5-0.8-0.1-0.07

And now, the league leaders in TPAK for 1985/86. Gretzky's Number One, of course, but the Number Two in this case is surprisingly close:

GRETZKY, WayneEDM58016009.22.1-
HOWE, MarkPHI37719254.98.2-
COFFEY, PaulEDM37919757.74.4-0.311.85.97
ROBINSON, LarryMTL37819504.07.0-
McCRIMMON, BradPHI38020002.88.4-0.310.95.45
KURRI, JariEDM77815606.61.6-
MESSIER, MarkEDM56312605.31.4-
BOURQUE, RayBOS37418503.66.0-
HRUDEY, KellyNYIG6136520.
BOSSY, MikeNYI78016006.
ANDERSON, GlennEDM77214406.11.1-
HAJT, BillBUF35814500.95.9-
LEMIEUX, MarioPIT57915806.11.1-
POTVIN, DenisNYI37418503.65.0-
WAMSLEY, RickSTLG6035860.
CHELIOS, ChrisMTL34110251.82.9-
MURRAY, TroyCHI58016005.41.9-
MURPHY, LarryWAS37819503.84.9-
LANGWAY, RodWAS37117750.77.2-
FROESE, BobPHIG6538870.
NASLUND, MatsMTL68016005.
RAMAGE, RobSTL37719253.05.6-
LOOB, HakamCGY76813604.51.4-
FRANCIS, RonHAR55310603.51.1-
SAVARD, DenisCHI58016006.40.8-
PROPP, BrianPHI67214403.92.3-
HAWORTH, AlanWAS57114204.71.5-
QUENNEVILLE, JoelHAR37117751.56.4-
GUSTAFSSON, Bengt-AkeWAS57014003.72.3-
CHRISTIAN, DaveWAS78016004.
MALARCHUK, ClintQUEG6437860.015.9-
MacINNIS, AlCGY37719254.24.0-
POULIN, DavePHI57915803.33.4-
BABYCH, DaveHAR38120253.25.2-
TROTTIER, BryanNYI57815604.52.2-
SINISALO, IlkkaPHI77414804.21.9-
STASTNY, PeterQUE57615205.31.0-
STEVENS, ScottWAS37318252.55.3-
PATRICK, JamesNYR37518752.55.4-
LUDWIG, CraigMTL36917250.07.1-
DINEEN, KevinHAR75711403.81.1-
CARBONNEAU, GuyMTL58016002.73.8-
BEAUPRE, DonMING7343780.017.3-
MOLLER, RandyQUE36917251.16.1-
MIDDLETON, RickBOS7499802.
LINSEMAN, KenBOS56412803.71.5-
MANTHA, MoePIT37819503.34.4-
FRASER, CurtCHI66112204.40.6-
TIPPETT, DaveHAR68016001.94.2-

Mark Howe is certainly an underappreciated player, but I don't think anyone realizes how good he really was. Now, although Howe is only 0.25 TPAK behind Gretzky in this season, you do have to remember it's only one season. Gretzky was putting up seasons like this all the time at this point in his career, while this was clearly Howe's best. He scored over a point per game while being the top defenceman for a dominant defensive team. In the six seasons from 1981/82 to 1986/87, the league leader in plus-minus was an Oiler (Gretzky four times and Charlie Huddy once); only Mark Howe was able to take spot for another team in 1985/86.

Howe was a First-Team All-Star, but it seems he deserved the Norris Trophy as well, over Coffey.

Monday 6 February 2012

Tommy Smith - All-Rounder

Like his brother Harry, Tommy Smith was a hockey mercenary. He had played exactly one season of high-level senior hockey in his hometown of Ottawa before going to Pittsburgh to play for pay. He played for seven different clubs in the next seven seasons, before finally settling down (mostly) in Quebec for a few years, where he had his greatest success in terms of the Stanley Cup.

Although Joe Malone is today the best-known player on the great Bulldog teams of the 1910s, there seems little doubt to me that Smith was actually their best player. As it happens, Malone was four years' Smith's junior, and as such was able to hang around long enough to produce in the NHL, rather than the NHA, and as such is known to even some less-than-hardcore fans as the man who scored 2.2 goals per game in the current league's inaugural season. No disrespect intended to Malone, of course, who was a great player in his own right. But Smith doesn't get the respect today that he deserves.

Tommy Smith scored buckets of goals, wherever he went. have a look at his Point Allocation results. He scored in Ottawa, he scored in Pittsburgh, he scored in Brantford, he scored in Galt, he scored in Moncton, he scored in Toronto, and he especially scored in Quebec. He led three separate leagues in goals (the Federal Amateur Hockey League, the Ontario Professional Hockey League, and the National Hockey Association twice), missed leading the Maritime Professional Hockey Association by one goal in 1911/12, and would surely have also led the Western Pennsylvania league in 1908/09 had the team he was playing for not folded halfway through the schedule (his goals-per-game was over twice that of the man who actually led the league, and only his brother Harry was close on a per-game basis).

1906Ottawa VictoriasFAHL78016007.2-1.0-
1906Ottawa SenatorsECAHA6244801.90.3-
1907Pittsburgh HCIHL47715403.51.1-
1908Pittsburgh LyceumsWPHL58016008.9-
1909Brantford IndiansOPHL56513007.0-0.1-
1909Pittsburgh LyceumsWPHL5326404.7-
1909Haileybury MinersTPHL6102000.8-0.1-
1910Brantford IndiansOPHL58160-
1911Galt RedshirtsOPHL58016007.8-
1912Moncton VictoriasMPHA58016006.1-0.3-
1913Quebec BulldogsNHA77615208.91.0-
1914Quebec BulldogsNHA68016009.01.1-
1915Quebec BulldogsNHA5367204.50.1-
1915Toronto ShamrocksNHA6408003.70.4-
1916Quebec BulldogsNHA57314604.81.2-
1917Montreal CanadiensNHA55611201.21.8-
1920Quebec BulldogsNHL533660-1.10.6-0.2-0.7-1.06

Offensively, Smith was a beast, there's no doubt about it. Any time you produce a TPAK of over 6, you're in very rarified air, one of the very best players of all time. But it seems Tommy Smith was not just about filling the opponent's net.
Tommy Smith was good both on attack and defence and is one of the best all around players on the team. (Quebec Chronicle, 2 Jan 1913)
[Tommy] Smith, unlike his brother Harry, is a speed merchant and is always in the thick of the fray. (Quebec Chronicle, 20 Jan 1913)
Here Smith is noted for his speed and two-way play, and for always being involved in the action. However, that opinion was not unanimous:
[Tommy] Smith, while he loafs almost all the time, never fails to be on the job for a pass, and his shooting is a feature of the forward line. (Toronto Star, 9 Feb 9 1914)
Tommy [Smith] was always ready to join in any Quebec rush if some one else would carry the puck three-quarters of the way up the rink to where he was usually loafing. (Toronto Star, 12 Feb 1914)
A player who "loafs off-side" is basically what we'd call a "floater" today. When the puck was in his own zone he would wait up the ice for his mates to retrieve it and start a rush. Hobey Baker was a loafer, as were many of the best offensive players at this time. But how do we reconcile the differing opinions of the Quebec and Toronto writers? One says he's good defensive and is involved in the play, while the other dismisses him as a floater.

To a certain degree we can attribute the Quebec opinion to homerism; however, in the same respect we can attribute the Toronto opinion to anti-homerism, if you will, or beating up on opposing players while dressing up your own. So the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

My interpretation is that Smith had some defensive skill, but did not use it all the time, as a tactical decision. He was most valuable on offence, so did not spend too much energy on defence. However, both when in Quebec and Moncton, at least, he was noted for always being in the thick of it. I interpret that to mean that while he did not necessarily backcheck, he was an aggressive forechecker.

Smith was quite a durable player - he never missed a significant number of games due to injury; it took typhoid fever to knock him out for most of the 1909/10 season. He was also apparently excellent at taking faceoffs, something not often noted at the time, despite playing wing when he was teamed with Malone.

Friday 3 February 2012

Paddy Moran - the Wandering Goalie

I wrote about Paddy Moran in the last post, and promised to give him a proper profile. Here it is.

Patrick Joseph Alexander "Paddy' Moran was born in Quebec City on March 11, 1877. By 1900 he was playing intermediate hockey, the level just below senior, with the Quebec Crescents. In the 1901/02 season he began his long career with the Quebec Athletics/Bulldogs, playing with them until 1916/17, with the exception of a single season. As discussed last time, Moran is a Hall-of-Famer with some numbers that are, at times, decidedly unimpressive.

However, when we look at his Point Allocation results, we can see that his numbers can quite reasonably be made to fit a Hall-of-Fame career, and that's what we do. Whenever possible, we assume that contemporary accounts and those who witnessed a player's play at a high level are correct in their assessments of that player's ability. If we had to break, rather than bend, the Point Allocation system to make Moran look like a high-quality netminder, that would be one thing, but although he certainly had a few down seasons, he certainly produced some very good years:

1901Quebec AthleticsCAHLG7142240.
1902Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1903Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8047660.03.7-
1904Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1905Quebec AthleticsCAHLG8048000.
1906Quebec BulldogsECAHAG8047770.
1907Quebec BulldogsECAHAG4828620.0-0.80.0-0.8-0.28
1908Quebec BulldogsECAHAG8047760.017.5-
1909Quebec BulldogsECHAG8048000.
1910Haileybury MinersNHAG6740070.
1910Montreal All-MontrealsCHAG148000.
1910Montreal Allis-ChambersMMHLG84800.
1911Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1912Quebec BulldogsNHAG8047780.021.4-
1913Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1914Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1915Quebec BulldogsNHAG8048000.
1916Quebec BulldogsNHAG7444190.
1917Quebec BulldogsNHAG2112480.

But here at Hockey Historysis, we're interested in more than just numbers and results. It's fine to say that Moran was an outstanding goaltenders. The question is: why? What made him unique?

First, Moran was not afraid to use his stick for more than just playing the puck. According to Without Fear: Hockey's 50 greatest goaltenders (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2002), Moran was very aggressive in defending the goal area, gladly using his stick to dissuade opponents from getting too close, his play being described as attempts to "slash [opposing players'] heads off with lightning strokes of his blade." Legends of Hockey agrees, noting that "Moran played in the days prior to a goal crease being painted in front of the net and guarded his area like a stray dog with a bone. His quick stick was used for more than just deflecting shots and opposition players soon developed a healthy respect for Paddy's self-created 'crease.'" 

But Moran's playing style was notable for more than his willingness to use his stick on his opponents. He was also noted for leaving the goal area, and even rushing opposing players to prevent scoring chances: 
Moran in goal was really wonderful. Time and again he stopped what seemed impossible shots, and not only stopped the shots, but stopped those terrible rushes for which the Victoria players are noted...The way Moran met some of the individual rushes of a maroon shirted player, with one of his own rushes, was a caution and Paddy wasn't always underneath. (Quebec Chronicle, 4 Feb 1904)
For Quebec, Moran gave an exception exhibition of goal-keeping. He was steady and sure, and he saved many a possible score. On one occasion, he gave a really sensational display, when he ran out and blocked two Shamrock men who had got inside the defence and were apparently bound to deliver the goods. (Quebec Chronicle, 14 Feb 1908)
We need to reconcile some of Moran's poor performances, especially early in his career, with his contemporary reputation of being an outstanding netminder:
The irrepressible Paddy Moran, in goals, gave an exhibition that was worth the whole price of admissions to witness. Paddy has acquired a well-deserved reputation for performing sensational stunts, and last evening he treated the crowd to a number that were well-worth seeing and he saved the situation on several occasions by his quick-wit in realizing the situation. (Quebec Chronicle, 7 Jan 1909)
You might think that perhaps Moran was too reckless in his wanderings. Although many times he might be able to intercept an incoming attacker, being too far away from his posts could leave him out of position as well. This play certainly didn't always work out for him:
In endeavoring to save a score Moran made a spectacular rush out of goals and fell on the puck, necessitating a face right in front of Quebec's poles, Ward batting the rubber in and giving the visitors their second tally. (Quebec Chronicle, 7 Jan 1909)
So perhaps he just reigned in his proclivity for rushing the attackers himself later in his career, and that's what allowed him and his team to capture league championships in 1912 and 1913. But I don't think so; even in those championship years he was still leaving his posts with regularity:
The hero of the match was undoubtedly Paddy Moran, who never played a better game in his life than he did last night. Time after time when the visitors' forwards had penetrated the Quebec defence Paddy sailed out and robbed them. (Quebec Chronicle, 6 Feb 1913)
So I think with Moran, you had to take the bad with the good. Surely he did put himself out of position at times when he left the goals. However, I think this tendency also gives us a clue as to why he was as good as he was. Check out this quote from 1908:
“Paddy” almost impregnable against a shot from fair range...and the Vics only rolled up a big score by taking the rubber disc right to the mouth of the cage. (Quebec Chronicle, 13 Jan 1908)
So we have a goalie who is especially good at handling longer-range shots, and who is known for charging out of the crease. To me, this indicates a goaltender who cut down the angles better than anyone of his time. I suspect that was Moran's biggest advantage: his natural aggressiveness resulted not only in his being able to block the attackers himself, but give them less room to shoot at should they get a shot away before he got to them. Modern goalies can be aggressive by coming out of their nets to cut down a shooter's angle, and I suspect Moran did the same. He didn't just leave his post to challenge the shooter directly, he did so to make their shot more difficult as well.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Paddy Moran - A Mediocre Hall of Famer?

Patrick 'Paddy' Moran is one of the more interesting goaltenders in the Hall of Fame. He played senior-level hockey from 1901/02 to 1916/17, playing for Quebec with the exception of the 1909/10 season, when that club did not operate for a full season. Although inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, a cursory look at Moran's career numbers raises more questions than it answers. His won-lost-tied record is 99-107-2, and in 16 seasons he led his league in goals-against average only once. Now, he played in leagues of between only four and six teams throughout his career, which makes a below-average winning percentage more understandable, but which also makes his GAA record less impressive, since he has fewer teams to beat.

But we can look at his career in more detail. From 1910/11 to 1915/16, Moran (or more properly Moran's team) had the best goals-against average in the league only once. However, it's probably worth noting that the starting goaltender of nearly every team he finished behind is also a Hall-of-Famer, and that he finished ahead of several Hall-of-Famer seasons as well. Being in the middle of the pack amongst Hall-of-Famers is hardly a point against you.

Here are the GAA leaders, in order, for each of these seasons, finishing with the lowest-ranked Hall-of-Famer that season. Non-Hall-of-Famers are in brackets.

1910/11: Georges Vezina, Percy LeSueur, Riley Hern, Paddy Moran
1911/12: Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Percy LeSueur
1912/13: Paddy Moran, Georges Vezina, [Art Boyce], Percy LeSueur, Hap Holmes
1913/14: Georges Vezina, Hap Holmes, Percy LeSueur, Paddy Moran
1914/15: Clint Benedict, [Charlie McCarthy], Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Hap Holmes, Percy LeSueur
1915/16: Clint Benedict, Georges Vezina, Paddy Moran, Percy LeSueur

Of the 12 team-seasons that were ahead of Moran, 11 were recorded by Hall-of-Famers. And Moran finished ahead of seven other Hall-of-Famer seasons as well.

If this was the case throughout his career, there would be no mystery to Moran's reputation. However, earlier in his lengthy career, the same analysis shows much different results:

1901/02: [Bill Nicholson], Bouse Hutton, [Archie Lockerby], Paddy Moran
1902/03: [Bill Nicholson], Bouse Hutton, [Jim Nichol], [Patrick O'Reilly], Paddy Moran
1903/04: Bouse Hutton, Paddy Moran
1904/05: [Nathan Frye], [Oliver Waugh], Paddy Moran
1905/06: [Henri Menard], [Billy Hague], [Fred Brophy], [Nathan Frye], Paddy Moran
1906/07: Riley Hern, Percy LeSueur, [Nathan Frye], [George White], Paddy Moran
1907/08: [Bill Nicholson], Percy LeSueur, Riley Hern, Paddy Moran

These results don't make Moran's case seem very strong. He was behind all kinds of other netminders, only one of which (Big Bill Nicholson) has anything close to resembling a Hall-of-Fame career. But the fact is, if Moran was really that bad, he wouldn't have lasted at this level long enough to record the more impressive results he did in his later seasons. Moran played for some bad teams, especially early in his career. And even when he had a good team in front of him, it tended to be a team focused on defence rather than offence, so he was often the last line of defence when his skaters had abandoned him in an effort to fill the other net. It is easy to overstate this effect, though. For his Quebec career his team had a tendency towards offence, but not a huge one. Here are Quebec's Marginal Goals score (MG), Marginal Goals Saved (MGS) and the percentage that MG is of the total (MG%):


However, one could certainly argue that if Moran was a lesser netminder, this percentage would be even higher than it is. Perhaps they only saved as many goals as they did because of their spectacular goalie.

So to a certain extent, it appears that the responsibility for Quebec goal prevention was left to Moran, while his mates went forward in search of goals. On top of that was Moran's unique style, which we'll discuss in the next post when we give Moran a proper profile. We've already seen that Moran likely deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame, which means the Point Allocation system can reasonably be bent to agree with the his reputation. As such we have no reason to refute the opinion that he was a great goalie. Next time, we'll see just how good the system thinks he is.
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