Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Was Stevie Y the greatest captain of all time?

I'm reading about some calling Steve Yzerman the greatest captain in NHL history. Do you agree? It's debatable. Yzerman was made captain of the Red Wings in 1986 at the age of 21, and held the captaincy for 20 years until his retirement. He won the Cup 3 times, scored 1755 points in 1514 NHL regular season games, and 185 points in 196 post season games. The length of Stevie Y's service as captain, especially after the dismal 'Dead Wings' years is worth noting in consideration as the greatest captain.
But let me throw a few more names at you.
Jean Beliveau. Played on 10 Canadiens Cup-winning teams and captained 5 of them.
Wayne Gretzky. 4 Cup wins as captain in Edmonton. Popularized hockey in Los Angeles and made right on his promise to bring the joke Kings to the Finals. Holds too many records to count.
Mark Messier. I'm kidding.
Denis Potvin. Dynasty, baby!
Joe Sakic.
Mario Lepoo?
Gordie Howe. How long was he captain of the Wings?
Yzerman's longevity as captain is much longer than any of those guys. But I'm more partial to Gretzky because of his greatness, or even Beliveau, who was beyond my time.
Yzerman's number gets retired tonight at 4:30 PST. Should be an emotional night. Bring Kleenex.


At January 2, 2007 at 4:09 p.m. , Anonymous Isabella said...

Mark Messier. I'm kidding.

Damn right you are!

Greatest captain of his generation, maybe, but not all-time. I just personally don't believe in absolutes. Stevie Y is up there, though, no doubt. They just don't make guys like that anymore.

At January 2, 2007 at 4:10 p.m. , Anonymous Isabella said...

Oh, and happy holidays :)

At January 2, 2007 at 4:26 p.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Happy holidays to you! A friend and I were just having a hard time coming up with the best captain. I still don't know, but would pick Gretz in the end I suppose.
No love for Messier huh? I remember your post!
Isabella, I haven't been able to get to your site for a month at least. Is it offline? New address?
I miss your wit!

At January 2, 2007 at 4:27 p.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Hope your holidays were a beauty as well!

At January 2, 2007 at 4:36 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Messier was a great captain those last seven years I tell. He was no better than those around him. Overrated!

Yzerman changed his game to lead the Wings - he's up there!

The greatest is debatable,but Beliveau was flawless!

At January 2, 2007 at 4:49 p.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Anyone know how long Howe was captain of Detroit?

At January 2, 2007 at 8:06 p.m. , Anonymous Matt said...

Wikipedia says Howe was captain from 1958-62 only

At January 2, 2007 at 11:35 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt's right! The NHL Official Book and Record Guide corraborates that. Alex Delvecchio took over beginning with the 1962-62 season.

At January 2, 2007 at 11:51 p.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Thanks! I couldn't find it. Only 4 years, so he's not on the list then.

At January 3, 2007 at 12:00 p.m. , Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Messier's defense, he all but hand-delivered the Cup to the Rangers organization after 54 years. Might not be the greatest captain ever, but he deserves his props.

I would say it's a toss up with Yzerman and Gretzky, but one thing in Yzerman's favor is that he was with one team for so long. That had to say something to the other guys in the locker room that Gretzky couldn't match. And being a prolific point-scorer doesn't mean you are equally good at leading the troops into battle. Gretzky certainly didn't have the grit that Yzerman did. So this could be a long debate.

At January 3, 2007 at 12:07 p.m. , Blogger Zanstorm said...

Indeed, TB. There are too many variables to really answer the question. Longevity of his tenure is a huge factor tho!
Messier didn't really hand the Cup to the Rangers. They were the top team in the NHL that season. After loading up on vets like MacT, Larmer, Noonan, etc, they should have been EXPECTED to win the 1994 Cup. Messier was the beneficiary of a STACKED team, IMO.
He was a good leader tho. Another kudo to Mess was the 1990 Cup win with Edmonton without Gretz. He captained that team well too.

At January 3, 2007 at 12:38 p.m. , Anonymous Isabella said...

There was a problem with my server's DNS settings. It should be all fixed now, hopefully! But at least I'll be able to monitor the site's uptime more often on campus this semester.

(Whoops, just monitored the server - looks like I was a little too optimistic about the server problems being fixed. Now my entire host is down.)

Best captain in history is an interesting topic, though. Maybe I'll bring it up to my hockey panel during one of our hockey-and-get-Isabella-drunk summits.

And one thing about Messier: he was a good leader when it suited him, but he lacked the ability to compromise or bring together a team. Messier's ego made him a very divisive element while he was with the Canucks. I can't speak for the other teams he was on but on the Canucks, he was a poison, and that, IMO, is a HUGE blemish on his otherwise great career.

Good captains don't have to be the most popular guy in the room, but they should be respected. They should be hard workers with big hearts. Stevie Y exemplifies those characteristics. When he was in Vancouver, Messier did not. The team needed a shake-up in the years following 94, but in the locker room in St Louis, when Keenan tore into Linden, Messier should have stepped up. He should have said something instead of sitting there. It's not his job to decide who's a good fit for the team; it's his job to lead whatever crackpot group the GM and coaches assemble.


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Waiting For Stanley was created in June 2006.