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Gretzky Index Part Two: Modern Hockey’s Dream Lineup

NHL: Calgary Flames at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I wrote about the Gretzky Index, as a means of measuring player greatness, by quantifying how good they were at their peak, mixed with some extra credit for sustaining that high level of play over a prolonged period of time.

From last time:

Points Above Threshold (PAT):

Point Shares (PS)

Gretzky Index:

Last week I used this to make my all-time Oilers 20-man lineup. This week, I’m going to look at the all-time team for the NHL’s modern era, aka the expansion era (1967-present). All stats considered in this article are from that time span.

One thing I should point out, before diving into the numbers, is that Gretzky’s PAT and PS per game, that act as the denominators in the formula above, change, depending on what data set we’re using to compare Gretzky against other players.

In last week’s article, I was simply looking at the players’ tenures with the Oilers, so the Gretzky stats I was comparing them against, were from Gretzky’s 696 games, in nine seasons with the Oilers.

For this week’s list, players are compared against the PAT and PS per game totals from Gretzky’s 1487 games, in 20 seasons as an NHL player.

Here are the top 12 forwards:

Which could give us the following lines:

1C: Wayne Gretzky

1LW: Mario Lemieux

1RW: Jaromir Jagr

2C: Sidney Crosby

2LW: Alex Ovechkin

2RW: Teemu Selanne

3C: Phil Esposito

3LW: Evgeni Malkin

3RW: Mike Bossy

4C: Joe Sakic

4LW: Steve Yzerman

4RW: Peter Forsberg

We have a few natural centres playing the wing, but I have no problem with that. We see it on Team Canada in every international competition, and the Oilers have proven that transition usually works fine with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins spending significant time on the wing, with no drop off in play, over the past few years.

On the Blue Line, Here are the top six:

Which could give us pairings like:

Bobby Orr & Ray Bourque

Paul Coffey & Denis Potvin

Al MacInnis & Nicklas Lidstrom

For goaltenders, we’ll look at Goals Against % -, again. Here are the top 10 qualified modern goalies, by that statistic:

Ken Dryden and Dominik Hasek are my goalies.

I’m not surprised about Hasek, but I am a little surprised that Dryden not only led all modern goalies in this regard, but basically lapped the competition.

It’s possible that the Montreal teams that he played for were so dominant, that the shots he faced were, on average, much lower quality. But, without sufficient data from those days, that can only be a theory.

Now that I’ve outlined the Gretzky Index’ ideal lineup, I’ll answer the final burning question that Oilers fans may have. Where is Connor McDavid?

As you may have guessed, a lack of career games played, to this point, is what’s keeping the 23-year-old McDavid off the list. He just hasn’t accumulated enough Points Above Threshold yet.

Still, he’s already in some pretty fantastic company, due to the nature of the calculation, which doesn’t place too much emphasis on longevity.

McDavid currently sports a career Gretzky Index of 56.38, good for 15th among modern forwards. He’s directly behind Brett Hull, and Marcel Dionne, and right ahead of Steven Stamkos, and Eric Lindros.

However, if we were to double all of McDavid’s counting stats, to get the totals that he would be on pace for through 702 career games, rather than his current 351, we would see his career Gretzky Index jump to 65.84, which would rank him sixth among forwards, between Alexander Ovechkin and Phil Esposito. So, if his next five years are anything like his first five, the Oilers’ captain will, by age 28, have one of the best track records in the game’s history.

Next week, I’ll do an homage to one of the weirdest and coolest teams of all-time: the U23 team from the last World Cup of hockey, by using the Gretzky Index to name the NHL’s best all-23-and-under team, from the expansion era.