The Best Players Ever - Round of 18 - Second Heat

Phillip MacCallum

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

As it turned out, the last vote wasn't even close as Howie Morenz joined almost everybody else from his era on the outside of the top ten looking in. Today, we've got the last player whose career started before 1940 along with seven more who are looking to make it into the next round. Indivdual profiles for each of today's contenders can be found at the links below:

Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Roy
Ray Bourque, Gordie Howe and Eddie Shore
Phil Esposito and Alex Ovechkin
Nicklas Lidstrom

Before writing this article, I consulted with the Copper and Blue writers, and six shared their picks, with the vote being split three ways. Alex Ovechkin received three votes (Ben, Chappy, Scott), Eddie Shore got two (Alan, OilYYC) and Patrick Roy picked up one (Derek).

This is the second time in a row that I'm nominating Ovechkin for elimination, and I laid out some reasons for that line of thinking last week. The basic argument is that Ovechkin isn't the best forward of his era, and that the guy who is isn't one of the three or four best forwards ever. Despite all of the goalscoring accomplishments (and Ovechkin's performance in that area is unquestionably elite), I still think taking him out is the right call.

But I'm less invested in Ovechkin getting bounced than I am in keeping Eddie Shore. Eddie Shore is the only man left representing the pre-1940 period of hockey, and unlike Howie Morenz, I'm ready to defend Shore all the way to the top ten. That's because, unlike Morenz, I'm happy to declare Eddie Shore the best player of his era. The first thing to check off is the player's offense. In the chart below, I've listed the defenseman 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. You'll notice that Shore is the first guy to dominate a sizeable period of history:

Defense_ppg

But offense was far from Shore's only ability. Eddie Shore was also renowned for his toughness in every sense of the word. He was able to endure tremendous amounts of punishment (he once almost lost an ear after a particularly violent collision), and was more than willing to dish it out. 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. If being a defenseman requires at least a little bit of crazy, Shore had no problem meeting the quota.

That combination of skill and toughness earned Eddie shore the Hart Trophy four times (as well as one second-place finish), the most of any defenseman in the history of the league. He was also named a First Team All-Star in seven of the first nine seasons of the award's existence (he made the Second Team in one of the other seasons), and would have easily had at least one more appearance if the award had existed before the 1930-31 season.

I think Bobby Orr is safe as the best defenseman ever, but Eddie Shore is clearly number two in my books and is a great representative of hockey's crazy early years. So maybe you're like me and you think it's time for Ovechkin to go. But if not, vote for Bourque or Jagr, Lidstrom or Roy, maybe even Esposito. Just don't vote for Eddie Shore.

That's my opinion. Voice yours by voting and in the comments below! Voting will be open until Wednesday afternoon, with the next installment coming on Thursday.

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