The Best Players Ever - Round of 32 - Second Heat

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Who among this group doesn't belong in the discussion about the best hockey players to ever play the game?

The first heat is done, and two more players have been eliminated, namely Newsy Lalonde and Stan Mikita, who went down with 35% and 18% of the vote respectively. With Derek already expressing some dismay at some of the voting based on era-adjusted point totals, I imagine we've got an article on Lalonde's 0.86 adjusted goals per game over his 99-game NHL career in our future.

But enough about last Thursday's vote. We've got eight more contenders today, and I've once again written a brief review of each. The poll at the end will ask you which of these eight should be eliminated from contention, and the two players with the most votes are out. The voting will be open until Wednesday afternoon, and the third group will be up on Thursday.

Ray Bourque (1979-2001) - Bourque is one of just six players in NHL history to have his jersey retired by two different teams (all six are in the tournament), although he's also the least deserving name on that list given that he played just two seasons with the Avalanche and was 39 when he arrived. Then again, Bourque's last season in the NHL was one of thirteen times he was voted a First-Team All-Star, three more than any other player in NHL history. Bourque also won the Norris five times as the league's best defensemen, in part because of his amazing offensive ability: Bouque is currently 11th on the all-time list in points with 1,579 and first among defensemen.

Bobby Clarke (1969-1984) - I was originally surprised to see Clarke automatically qualify for the tournament via three Hart trophy victories. Clarke's offensive output is impressive, but 1.06 points per game over 1,144 career games isn't really all that good in this tournament. My confusion was rectified when in the comments to my first post in this series, it was pointed out that Clarke is one of the most dominant two-way players ever. Here's Pardini's brief summary of what made Clarke so great:

The Flyers scored five times as many goals with Clarke on the ice as did their opponents at even strength during their Cup years. That’s an absurd statistic. Clarke showed how much better a team could be by having its best players kill penalties, rather than third and fourth line PK specialists who barely had the talent to play in the league. His impact on the game is enormous.

Sidney Crosby (2005-2014) - It's not often that Sidney Crosby's old moniker of "Sid the Kid" is still applicable, but this tournament is certainly one place where it is. Crosby's story is still largely unwritten, but what we've got so far is truly incredible. Crosby's point per game rate during the regular season is 1.43, good enough for fourth all-time. During the playoffs, it's a lofty 1.28, also good enough for fourth all-time. Both of those numbers dwarf everyone else in his generation. All this and Crosby is still in his prime. At 26, Crosby may well have his best season ever this year, and with seventeen points in just eight games so far, he's off to a very good start.

Dominik Hasek (1990-2008) - It's my opinion that Dominik Hasek is the best goaltender to ever play the game. He is the only goaltender to win the Hart Trophy twice, and has a won six Vezina Trophies as the league's best goaltender despite having his career overlap with other greats like Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Among goaltenders with at least 250 regular season games, his save percentage of .922 is still the best ever even though save percentage has consistently risen since Hasek's retirement (he is, in fact, the only goaltender in the top ten who isn't still active). Hasek is also one of just eight goaltenders to post a save percentage of .930 or better while playing at least 40 games in a single season. He's the only one on that list to do it prior to 2001-02, and the only one to do it three times (1994-95; 1997-98; 1998-99).

Gordie Howe (1946-1980) - Gordie Howe was an incredible hockey player, a guy who was both the best offensive player of his era and arguably one of the toughest too. He became the first player in the history of the game to score ninety points in a single season when he put up ninety-five during the 1952-53 season, a total that put him twenty-four points ahead of teammate Ted Lindsay and thirty-four ahead of the next-best player, Maurice Richard. Howe would win the Art Ross Trophy six times and the Hart Trophy five times during his career, and he was named a First or Second Team All-Star a record twenty-one times. By the time he retired Howe is third all-time in points with 1,850 but could easily be second if he'd stayed in the NHL instead of jumping to the WHA. That's where Howe played from age 45 to 50, and he still managed to finish seventh on the all-time scoring list for the league, which makes him the only player among the top ten all-time scorers in both the NHL and WHA.

Sergei Makarov (1976-1997) - In North America, we don't remember Makarov as one of the greats because he played his prime in the Soviet Union. Makarov led the Soviet league in scoring nine times in ten seasons from 1979-80 to 1988-89, and during that stretch he was named the Soviet Union First-Team All-Star eight times, the Soviet Union Player of the Year three times, and a World Championship All-Star eight times. Makarov arrived in the NHL at age 31 where he amassed 384 points in 424 regular season games during the twilight of his career. That point per game rate of 0.91 is good enough to make Markarov 30th all-time for players at age 31 and older, ahead of players like Steve Yzerman and Guy Lafleur, and not wildly far behind the leader, Wayne Gretzky, who posted 1.27 points per game at that stage of his career.

Eddie Shore (1926-1940) - There is a reasonable argument to be made that Eddie Shore is the best defenseman of all-time. The Norris Trophy didn't exist while Shore played so he doesn't have any of those, but he does have four Hart Trophies to his name, the most of any defenseman in the history of the league, and was named a First or Second Team All-Star in eight of the first nine seasons of the award's existence. There's also a reasonable argument to be made that Eddie Shore is one of the craziest and most violent players of all-time. During Shore's first seven years in the league, he amassed 783 penalty minutes in just 301 games, the most in the league during that time by almost one hundred minutes.

Bryan Trottier (1975-1994) - The third-best player on the Islanders' dynasty was the only one to win a Hart Trophy when he totally jobbed Mike Bossy after the 1978-79 season. After winning four Stanley Cups as a key cog with the Islanders in the 80s, Trottier would go on to win two more with the Penguins in a lesser role in the early 90s. Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his playoff heroics in 1980, and was named a First or Second-Team All-Star four times over the course of his career.

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