Two weeks ago, we wrote about the most overrated NBA players of the past 30 years. It was a collaborative effort among the Deadspin staff. The list included all-time great players who are beloved, like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal. That went over great! The next day, we published our most underrated list. We can all agree that Ed Murawinski’s caricatures are awesome at least.
The NHL version of these lists was compiled by three of us — Chris Baud, Sam Fels and Jesse Spector — because, well, we’re the ones who like hockey. We set up a group chat and just rambled on about it. Two of us vehemently disagreed that Jaromir Jagr is overrated, but we included him because it’s not a democracy, it’s just for fun.
CHRIS BAUD: Ok, guys, let’s talk about the most overrated NHL players.
SAM FELS: This is a conversation hockey fans have been having interminably. Jesse, let’s start with the name that usually drives people nuts…
JESSE SPECTOR: Yeah, that works for me.
SF: It feels like so many people called him overrated over the years that he might even be underrated, as he’s probably not the garbage can most would have you believe.
JS: He’s first all-time in wins... and also first all-time in losses. But I think the question that we can never really answer is: How much was due to Brodeur and how much due to the system? Because it’s not like there was another goalie in that system, and it’s not like ever played in another system.
CB: We should start with the obvious: Brodeur was not a garbage can, he was tremendous. But he played in an era where goals were extremely difficult to come by, and he played for a team that was incredibly good at suppressing offense.
SF: And that’s harder to do, because metrics and expected save percentage only go back to when Brodeur did kind of become a garbage can.
I think with Brodeur, it helps to look at what happened post-lockout. The Devils were still good, but there’s a big jump in his shots against, and he still maintained SV% of .916 and above. Those were good numbers, though probably shouldn’t have resulted in the Vezinas he got. And even still, he wasn’t seeing anywhere near 30 shots or more per game. Which to me makes him “fine” to “good,” but hardly a great.
CB: To me he was never in the same class as Dominik Hasek or Patrick Roy.
SF: He’s definitely not Hasek or Roy. I’m not sure I could name a d-man from those Sabres teams when he was throwing up .935s.
JS: He’s not Hasek or Roy, but gets put into the GOAT conversations. There are pretty much no hockey players who get to do TV commercials, but there’s Brodeur on our screens all the time doing those Enterprise ads – well, that one Enterprise ad, because apparently their ad campaign was “we’ll shoot one ad with Brodeur and run it for five years.”
Also, Sam, how dare you disrespect James Patrick.
SF: The Patrick Family will just have to accept my apologies.
CB: Gord Donnelly?
SF: Every Canadian hockey player you haven’t heard of is named Gord Donnelly.
CB: I believe that.
JS: Hasek was a career .922 goalie, Brodeur a career .912. That’s not really even close. And I think the conversation for GOAT often gets boiled down to Roy and Brodeur, when it should be Roy and Hasek. The problem is our stupid emphasis on winning Cups to evaluate individuals.
SF: That’s pretty much it. Roy’s career SV% is .910, and he spent a bulk of that time playing in the 80s and early 90s when 5-4 was a normal score. He’s miles ahead of Brodeur as well. Brodeur is the Hall of Very Good, but nothing more, and maybe that’s kind.
CB: Don’t make me defend Brodeur. He’s a Hall of Famer for sure. but not in the conversation for a top 3 goalie all time.
JS: Yeah, that’s underrating him! Brodeur is a Hall of Famer for sure. I don’t care what the defensive system was, he led the league in shutouts five times. And while I’m not going to hold a lack of Cups against Hasek, Brodeur was instrumental to those Devils wins.
CB: Yeah i just think he’s closer to a “run of the mill” HOF goalie, like Mike Richter, than Hasek.
SF: Instrumental, but there is more than one goalie who could have won behind Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens. I doubt more than one goalie makes those Sabres teams or Canadiens teams even relevant.
JS: Hasek probably wins with those Habs…
SF: Well, that’s what I’m saying.
JS: Okay... since we were just talking a bit about Hasek, do we want to move on to…
SF: I’m curious how you’re going to argue against 700+ goals, but by all means.
CB: Well the nature of this exercise is we’re talking about very good/great players to begin with.
SF: The floor is yours.
CB: So, Hull was a great player and one of the best goal scorers ever, but he was fairly one-dimensional.
SF: Except that one dimension is how they decide who wins and who loses.
CB: And his monstrous three years of 72, 86, 70 goals were aided by playing with Adam Oates quite a bit.
JS: Also, you talk about 741 career goals... nearly one-third of those came in a three-season stretch. He was really good outside of those three seasons, but not a superstar his whole career.
SF: Okay, but even on just those three seasons… I mean, the guy actually took a run at Gretzky’s record, which is unheard of.
CB: Yeah. When he had Craig Janney, who was a very good but not transcendent playmaker, he “only” scored 54 goals.
JS: I’m never going to take anything away from those seasons. That was special. But you look at the career numbers, and you think, “this guy was basically Alex Ovechkin,” and he absolutely was not.
SF: Three 70-plus goal seasons, only he and Gretzky have done it. That’s incredible. I don’t care if Hull had Poseidon as his center. And he was putting up over 30 goals per season in his late 30s when every goal had a chastity belt over it.
CB: Hull is very much Brodeur to Ovechkin’s Hasek in this conversation.
SF: You guys aren’t going to goad me into denigrating Ovechkin, who I have said is the best goal scorer of all time for years.
JS: That’s what I’m saying. And then he gets that Cup-winning goal, which cements his late-career legacy as a clutch winner or whatever.
SF: Except he was. He was a point per game scorer in the playoffs for the Stars at age 35.
CB: Ovi is clearly the best goal scorer of all time regardless of where he ends up on the all-time leader list
JS: You’re correct about Ovechkin. And Brett Hull is not the Ovechkin of his generation.
SF: Hull had 18 points in 23 games when he won with Detroit. 103 goals in 202 playoff games. So there when it counts. You guys are making me defend a Blue. I hate you both with the fire of the sun.
JS: I’m not saying he was a bad playoff player. I also think that you look at where he was in the lineup on those Dallas and Detroit teams, and it makes sense that he’d score a good amount. He wasn’t the guy teams would be keying on.
CB: Yeah he’s at best the fourth-best player on Detroit (Sergei Fedorov, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk)
SF: Datsyuk was a fourth-liner on that team. With Hull, coincidentally.
CB: Even outside of those guys, there is still Brendan Shanahan, Henrik Zetterberg, Igor Larionov.
JS: And Steve Yzerman, who had 23 points in the playoffs that year.
SF: I’m not arguing he was a centerpiece, but he also had 18 points at the age of 37. Yzerman’s great too.
CB: OK, I guess we’ve concluded the 2002 Red Wings were good.
JS: Yeah. Hull was a real good player. Extremely high peak. Solid career. Got into a position to really succeed with two outstanding teams that won Cups. Is not the Alex Ovechkin of his era!
SF: If he doesn’t qualify as the Ovechkin of his era, who does? Because 40+ goals in eight of nine seasons sounds Ovie-like to me given the time.
JS: Let me tell you about a fella by the name of…
SF: Oh here we go… If you want to restrict this to just Jagr’s Pittsburgh’s years, I’ll give it to you.
JS: Please take a look at the 2005-06 New York Rangers, whose second-best player was Michael Nylander.
SF: As a Hawks fan I’m supposed to defend Michael Nylander to a point… but I won’t.
JS: Okay, their next-best player was Martin Straka.
SF: And tell me Jesse, what did those ‘05-’06 Rangers accomplish?
JS: They made the playoffs entirely because Jaromir Jagr was there.
CB: People in Philadelphia still refer to 2011-12 as “the Jaromir Jagr year” and remember it fondly. He was 39, and the Flyers let him go, and that was a mistake. He was still good for another five years!
JS: That Flyers team goes to the Final with Not Ilya Bryzgalov in goal, too.
SF: That’s nice. It was another example of Jagr’s empty-calorie phase, which lasted 16 goddamn years and made every hockey writer weak in the knees and in need of a change of pants. The dude moped his way out of Pittsburgh, when they needed Mario Lemieux to come back from cancer to make him happy. He then torpedoed two organizations by still demanding out of Pittsburgh and then Washington, when he didn’t feel like playing. He bitched his way to New York where he still didn’t care, only to be “inspired” during the lockout by a criminal Russian billionaire robbing his own people blind...
JS: The part of Jagr’s career that he gets dragged for most is when he went to Washington, and was “only” a 30-goal scorer every year.
SF: He then was purely a soulless points-chaser on teams that went nowhere. You can’t talk about how good he was the last five or six years of his career and not mention he went his last 39 playoff games with one goal.
CB: He led the league in scoring five times, and is the only winger to lead the league in assists three times.
JS: Yeah, he moped his way out of Pittsburgh by leading the league in scoring his last four years there.
SF: He was a ghost for the Bruins in ’13. His only contribution to the Panthers was losing Thomas Hickey in overtime. And he absolutely demanded out of Pittsburgh. He spent 10 years being great when it didn’t matter. He was Pete Rose beating out singles for nothing to catch Ty Cobb, probably to pay off gambling/coke debts to Abramovich.
JS: What’s the difference between that and Brett Hull’s time with the Blues?
SF: Hull scored when it mattered.
JS: And I totally disagree with what you’re saying about 2013. Jagr didn’t score any goals in those playoffs, but he had 10 assists, drove a lot of play, and got robbed a whole hell of a lot. And he was old as hell then.
CB: Jagr had 4 GW goals in the playoffs when he was 19 and won his second Cup, those probably mattered.
SF: He was nowhere. And the hockey press can’t spend the whole season talking about what a marvel he was during the regular season and then just pretend the playoffs didn’t happen. Like I said, his Pittsburgh years are indisputable. Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya swallowed him and spit him out whole in ‘13.
CB: Okay, well, his Pittsburgh years make him a Top 10 player all time, minimum. If you want to argue he wasn’t Gordie Howe the rest of his career, I guess I’ll vaguely go with it, but it doesn’t really diminish his status.
JS: He wasn’t great in the 2013 Final, which his team lost in six to a dynastic team, shadowed by one of the best defensemen of the decade. I covered the Bruins a lot in that year’s playoffs, and he was big in getting them there.
SF: One goal, 39 games. (mic drop, door closes)
JS: You know who started the play that tied the game in the “It Was 4-1” game? That was Jaromir Jagr, age 41.
SF: And if I recall, he was playing with Bergeron and Marchand. Not even Jagr can stop the Leafs from immolating themselves. Brad Marchand, there’s another name we could go on all day about.
JS: I suppose we could, because we know that Jagr was amazing in Pittsburgh, unfairly slagged for Washington, robbed of MVP with the Rangers, and stunningly good after returning from Russia. So…
SF: Marchand is a much harder study, because he’s rarely been on the ice without Patrice Bergeron. And his playoff numbers are good, but there are two Finals where you couldn’t find him with Raylan Givens in tow.
JS: He’s also weird because he had his first 100-point season at 30.
SF: That’s at least partially due to scoring environs.
CB: My absolutely favorite moment of this season was Marchand missing the puck on a potential game-tying shootout attempt against the Flyers.
SF: Marchand is a good player, but I would be very curious what he would do away from Bergeron. Would he be more of a 60-point guy. I’m also leaving out David Pastrnak as another factor. Which I shouldn’t, as he might be the best of the three.
JS: That whiff is legendary.
CB: I think it’s hard to criticize Marchand though. He’s had an incredible career. I mean, most great players are playing with good linemates. And he’s somehow getting better?
JS: But here’s the question: Is he really worthy of being top 11 in the Hart voting each of the last three years?
CB: Wow, are we trying to put Marchand on this list? Maybe not top 11 in the league for three years running.
SF: Not even close.
CB: I think I’d have to give that honor to Bergeron.
JS: That’s where he’s being rated by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Bergeron has never been higher than 15th in Hart voting.
SF: Because Bergeron always takes the Selke, rightly or wrongly. All right Chris, I’m gonna play to your Flyers heart, and I know you’ve been aching to get to this...
Go ahead and nominate…
JS: Speaking of taking the Selke rightly or wrongly...
CB: Well, I’m not sure where he’s rated at this point, because the Hawks are so bad, but I do think his reputation got inflated by around 2015 or so.
JS: Career high in points: 81... for the worst team of his entire career last season. I think he’s rated pretty damn highly because he’s a three-time Cup-winning captain.
CB: Sure, and he deserves a lot of credit for that.
SF: This would hinge on where you think Toews is rated by the hockey groupthink. Also don’t forget the two gold medals, which get overvalued in these discussions.
JS: It depends which segment of hockey groupthink, I guess.
CB: NHL.com did a redraft of the 2006 draft and had him No. 1.
JS: Well that’s just dumb.
CB: That’s ahead of Claude Giroux, Nicklas Backstrom, and Marchand. I think it’s a little questionable.
SF: I’d have him easily ahead of everyone on that list except Backstrom.
JS: For me, Backstrom and Giroux.
SF: You’d certainly have him No. 1 over Erik Johnson and Jordan Staal, who were taken ahead of him. Redrafts are dumb anyway.
JS: Well, yes. But, hey, I’d be keeping Toews at 3!
SF: Giroux? Whom he has 100 more goals than while only playing two more seasons?
JS: Giroux has 100 more assists. They have literally the same number of points.
CB: Well Toews isn’t traditionally a type of player who gets overrated because he is so good defensively, but does anyone really think the Hawks are worse in those years with say, Bergeron or Anze Kopitar instead?
SF: Certainly not Kopitar. I would never tell you he was ever better than either of those. And Kopitar fed it to him at times in 2014.
CB: How about the “presumptive” Hart winner…
CB: Also, shoutout to Evolving Wild for taking so much flak about not having him as a Hart candidate.
SF: Ok, well I’m a huge Leon Draisaitl fan, so that’s a little hard to swallow.
CB: He’s not the best player on the Oilers even. (That would be Connor McDavid.)
SF: No, he’s not. But Messier was rarely the best player on his team and well… That doesn’t mean Draisaitl isn’t fantastic.
CB: That’s a nice segue into Jesse’s position on…
JS: Well, he’s also been overrated, but for entirely different reasons, and I was a 13-year-old Rangers fan in 1994.
SF: Ok, now I have to hear this.
JS: I think just ask any Vancouverite about the very concept of the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
SF: Oh, well sure. Everything turns to shit in Vancouver. Natural law. But Messier has two rings without Gretzky, and Gretzky has none without Messier. Only got to a conference final once without Messier. That’s a pretty solid case in itself. And I get these were the same all-time great team.
CB: This is like arguing Kobe Bryant is overrated, and who would be dumb enough to do that?
JS: Messier got to keep playing with the same stacked Oilers after Gretzky left, and then a lot of core guys from Edmonton, plus Mike Richter, in New York. Again, he’s a Hall of Famer, but gets put on the kind of pedestal where they name an award after him. (And Kobe was overrated.)
SF: An award that doesn’t mean anything. At least I don’t know what it means.
JS: It’s for leadership!
SF: You forgot Brian Leetch as well on that list of Rangers.
JS: Right, I thought of Adam Graves first, but then remembered he’d been in Edmonton on the ’90 Cup team. So I just said Edmonton guys and Richter.
SF: Well, it’s kind of that New York thing where they just play up their “captain” so that everyone has to believe they’re the world’s greatest leader. *cough* Jeter *cough*.
CB: Good trivia question: Who was the leading scorer for the 1994 Rangers?
JS: Hall of Famer Sergei Zubov, who no longer is underrated.
SF: I wouldn’t have gotten Zubov with 20 tries.
SF: Chris, you’ve mentioned current players at times, including Sasha Barkov.
CB: I’m not going to make the argument that Barkov is overrated, I just think he became that guy who everyone said, “Wow, this guy is so underrated,” and now he’s properly rated. There’s evidence to suggest he’s not really the Selke-caliber defender that everyone thinks he is but he’s just fantastic anyway
JS: Can you be overrated on the Panthers? … I guess Sam thinks Jagr was.
SF: I KNOW Jagr was.
JS: I am rolling my eyes all the way to Sunrise now. Anyway, Barkov’s really good, and I don’t think anyone knows who he is.
SF: You’re right. If Barkov were a Canadien...well, they probably would have chased him out of town by now because that’s what they do up there.
JS: MAH GAWD THAT’S PK SUBBAN’S MUSIC
CB: Wheeee! So…
CB: Underrated or overrated?
SF: Overrated now for sure, though he’s hardly ever in one piece and is mostly made of plastic at this point. In his first few Nashville days, though, he was incredible and underrated.
JS: Sam, have you considered that with a healthy Shea Weber, the Canadiens would have been a playoff team this year? Also, have you considered that monkeys might come flying out of my butt? Yeah, underrated in Nashville, overrated in Montreal.
SF: Nothing will save the Canadiens. And Weber’s past it. Let’s circle back to…
SF: He’s been a possession force pretty much his whole career, and is even ahead of the team-rate for this woeful Devils team. He just can’t buy a bucket this season. He’s a victim of both Southern and hockey ideology in Nashville, which is when something goes wrong, just blame the black guy.
CB: My position on Subban earlier this year was that I didn’t think you can really rate anyone on that team when it was such a mess and in obvious need of a coaching change. But it does look like he’s rolling quickly down that hill.
JS: I think he’s physically had it. That was pretty evident in Nashville, and is just accelerating. The skills are still there, but he can’t keep up with top guys the same way anymore.
SF: Injuries are clearly an issue.
JS: But he damn well deserved that Norris, and got run out of town for being a black guy with personality in Montreal.
CB: Yeah, I’m fine defending that position as well. But I definitely overestimated his expected remaining career value when the trade out of Montreal happened.
JS: I probably did, too, and he’s going to wind up being overrated in legacy because of people like me who were like, holy hell, this guy, when he was with the Canadiens.
SF: Self-explanatory. Wendel (Clark) sucks. Yes, and throw…
SF: …on there too. More empty calorie points.
JS: Speaking of Getzlaf…
CB: Perry is probably the worst player to ever win a Hart.
JS: And since your favorite moment of the year, Chris, was Marchand’s whiff, I gotta go with the Winter Classic walk of shame from Perry.
SF: That Hart should be stricken from the record. Everyone should just agree it never happened like the ‘05 White Sox.
JS: Talent was there, had the five-goal game, carried the Wild to the conference finals that one year, and... meh.
SF: He was marvelous for the ‘14 Kings (even though he was offside in Game 7), but he was also playing for a contract. Which was a habit of his.
CB: I have to admit I always conflate Marian Gaborik with Marian Hossa, so I don’t know how I rate him.
SF: That’s an insult right there.
CB: Sorry! Hossa was great. Gaborik was one of the better TDL guys of the past decade though.
JS: I think I forget about the ‘14 Kings because that was the first year after I’d switched from covering hockey to baseball. I did cover the Final games in New York, but wasn’t tuned in on that season to nearly the same level.
CB: That was the year I bet a bunch of people in New York that the Kings would sweep the Rangers, and they were up 3-0… But I was getting like 10-1 and had people sweating.
SF: I ran a fan paper for a three-time Cup winner and I still think about the fourth that got away. I’ll never be happy.
JS: So, it turns out that winning Cups is just as overrated as all of these players.