The Best Players Ever - Round of 18 - First Heat

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Who among this group isn't one of the ten best players ever?

We're down to the final eighteen, and with Mike Bossy getting eliminated in the last vote, it's clear that very few players are locks for the top ten. Today, we've got nine players hoping to stay alive, but only eight will get through to the next round. Indivdual profiles for each of today's contenders can be found at the links below:

Howie Morenz
Sidney Crosby and Dominik Hasek
Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr and Jacques Plante
Bobby Hull, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard

Before writing this article, I consulted with the Copper and Blue writers, and six shared their picks, with the vote being closer to a consensus than we've had in a while. Howie Morenz received four votes (Alan, Jeff, OilYYC, Scott), while Sidney Crosby (Ben) and Jean Beliveau (Derek) each got one.

That leaves six players who are supposedly safe, but Jacques Plante has received enough votes in this tournament's previous rounds that I feel the need to once again point to my more substantive defense of Plante from a previous round, which I think still stands up here.

One of the reasons for that is the weakness of Morenz. I think it's important to include some representation from the first half of the last century in the final top ten, but the more I look at things, the more I realize that Morenz isn't the guy to do it. The last time Morenz came up, I mentioned that he led the league in both points per game (0.98) and goals per game (0.63) for a nine-year period from 1924-25 to 1932-33 and deduced that he was therefore probably the best player of his era, especially since he also earned three Hart Trophies, and was named the best player of hockey's first half-century in a 1950 Canadian Press poll.

But... his statistical record just isn't quite as overwhelming as one might hope. In the chart below, I've listed the player with the best points per game for each nine-year period in NHL history, as well as how far ahead of second place that player was:

Best_ppg

Morenz shows up twice, but that's actually less than every other forward in this heat (and Bobby Orr) with the rather notable exception of Maurice Richard. In Richard's case, I was confident that doing the same exercise with goals would show why he's so highly-regarded. Would it be the same for Morenz? In the chart below, I've listed the player with the best goals per game for each nine-year period in NHL history, as well as how far ahead of second place that player was:

Goals_per_game

Richard shines, exactly as you'd expect. He was the second-most dominant goalscorer relative to his peers in history, behind only Wa... nope... behind Bobby Hull who has the three most dominant nine-season stretches, and five of the top eight (Richard has the other three). Morenz? He makes the list, which of course means that he was an excellent player, but he does so just twice, and I can't quite shake the feeling that Charlie Conacher may have an argument as the best forward in the league through a big chunk of Morenz's career. For me, that's enough to send Howie Morenz packing.

But that's just my opinion. Voice yours by voting and in the comments below! Voting will be open until Sunday afternoon, with the next installment coming on Monday.

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