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ScottM

What If Gretzky and Howe Played at the Same Time?

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waynegretzkygordiehowe-640x427.jpg

 

I read an article earlier today that posed the question of what Gordie Howe's stats would look like if he and Gretzky played at the same time. The article gave some numbers, but I decided to dig a little deeper into them and come up with a year-by-year breakdown of Gordie's stats to see how they would have compared to Gretzky's. I found the results very interesting. This post is long because of the season by season posts, but check it out anyway. I think it will prove interesting.

 

Before I give the numbers themselves, let me explain how I came up with these. I transported Gordie's pre-first retirement career from 1946-47 through 1970-71 to 1978-79 through 2002-03, making his and Gretzky's 18-year-old seasons fall on the same season. For seasons in which Gordie missed games, I assumed that he would miss the same percentage of games in the "new" season rather than the same number of games. For example, in the 1948-49 season, he missed 20 games, so when converted as a percentage of the full season's games, he would have missed 27 games in 1980-81. When adjusting points from season to season, I used year-by-year league goals per game. Therefore, I divided his goal and assist totals by the number of goals per game in the actual season and them multiplied by the number of goals per game scored in the "new" season. In effect, this assumes that all factors outside of Gordie himself are equal from the old season to the new. If you find a similar list elsewhere that gives different numbers, they could have used a slightly different formula than I did, but this struck me as a reasonable formula. When a number is followed by a number in parentheses, that indicates a top 10 finish for that season. That all said, on to the numbers.

 

Goals

1978-1979:    11
1979-1980:    28
1980-1981:    23
1981-1982:    59    (4)
1982-1983:    70    (2)
1983-1984:    81    (2)
1984-1985:    91    (1)
1985-1986:    62    (2)
1986-1987:    48    (7)
1987-1988:    64    (2)
1988-1989:    70    (2)
1989-1990:    50    (9)
1990-1991:    43
1991-1992:    38
1992-1993:    34
1993-1994:    43
1994-1995:    26    (10)
1995-1996:    34
1996-1997:    34
1997-1998:    30
1998-1999:    29
1999-2000:    41    (6)
2000-2001:    44    (5)
2001-2002:    29
2002-2003:    23
Total:          1105    (1)

 

Here, Gordie only leads the league once, but his high falls only one shy of Gretzky's high, making him the only player other than Gretzky to score at least 90 in a season. He joins Gretzky as the only players to score 80+ twice. He breaks Gretzky's and Bossy's record for the most 60+ goal seasons, and game one shy of the record for the most 50+ goal seasons. Additionally, he remained a significant goal scorer, breaking 40 goals and the top 10 twice after Gretzky's retirement. He breaks Gretzky's record for most 40-goal seasons and Gartner's record for most 30-goal seasons. In the end, his goals total smashes Gretzky's total by over 200 tallies.

 

Assists

1978-1979:    22
1979-1980:    38
1980-1981:    47
1981-1982:    55
1982-1983:    70    (4)
1983-1984:    68    (6)
1984-1985:    85    (2)
1985-1986:    91    (3)
1986-1987:    55
1987-1988:    69    (7)
1988-1989:    72    (6)
1989-1990:    63
1990-1991:    61
1991-1992:    61
1992-1993:    71
1993-1994:    57
1994-1995:    33
1995-1996:    63
1996-1997:    60    (6)
1997-1998:    47    (9)
1998-1999:    42
1999-2000:    46
2000-2001:    59    (7)
2001-2002:    39
2002-2003:    27
Total:          1401    (2)

 

Wayne still wins on assists by quite a margin, and Gordie never leads the league in helpers. Opinion Alert: Personally, it seems to me that the assists wasn't quite as big of a deal in Gordie's day, so if you were to transport him, I think his actual numbers would have been higher, especially considering that he did lead the league three times in his actual career. I think that's one of the contributions of Bobby Orr. The setup became a much bigger part of the game. That said, Gretzky still wins this, but Gordie compares favorably to just about anyone in league history. Again, after Gretzky's retirement, he's still put up a top 10 season.

 

Points

1978-1979:    33
1979-1980:    66
1980-1981:    70
1981-1982:    114   (8)
1982-1983:    140   (2)
1983-1984:    149   (2)
1984-1985:    176   (2)
1985-1986:    153   (2)
1986-1987:    103   (6)
1987-1988:    133   (3)
1988-1989:    142   (5)
1989-1990:    113   (5)
1990-1991:    104   (8)
1991-1992:    99    (10)
1992-1993:    105
1993-1994:    100  (8)
1994-1995:    59    (5)
1995-1996:    97
1996-1997:    94    (7)
1997-1998:    77
1998-1999:    71
1999-2000:    87    (4)
2000-2001:    103  (3)
2001-2002:    68    
2002-2003:    50
Total:          2506    (2)

 

Interestingly enough, Gordie never would have won a scoring title, but he compiled his fair share of top 10 seasons. As was the case in his actual career, he was among the league leaders virtually every season. His total is second only to Gretzky's and outpaces everyone else by a mile. Opinion Alert: If my assumption about assists above is true, then these numbers would be much closer. Again, it's all an assumption of mine, so there's no way to prove or disprove any of it. I just throw it out there as food for thought.

 

Summary: Gretzky's season totals are noticeably better than Howe's in points and assists, but Howe hands down beats Gretzky in longevity and consistency, and the two are close in peak goal scoring. Keep in mind that this only goes as far as Gordie's first retirement. The article I read equated his WHA years to playing in today's KHL and then had him finish his career with a year in Ottawa. (It was kind of funny to think of him playing with Karlsson since the article mentioned it. Again, this has him starting in the same year as Gretzky, so that gives younger fans a bit of comparison for the longevity of his career.) Since I didn't take anything after his first retirement into consideration in this post, it doesn't necessarily give Mr. Hockey his full due.

 

So, what do you guys think about this? Fair comparison or not? How go the two compare based on this if it is fair?

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What if they played on the same team and line for 82 games? Wow. Howe might score 120 goals. Gretzky could get 250 points. Scary.

Edited by FD19372
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8 minutes ago, FD19372 said:

What if they played on the same team and line for 82 games? Wow. Howe might score 120 goals. Gretzky could get 250 points. Scary.

 

And that 250 number is likely low. Even scarier. Lol

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The only thing I thought of when I saw the thread title was,  "that would have made Gretzky awfully young. Like in diapers." 

 

In regard to them playing on the same line/team:

 

I don't think it would have raised Gretzky's numbers all that much, actually.   Given what Gretzky already had around him, if you subtract one or more of those and insert Howe you probably don't end up with anything appreciably higher.  

 

Maybe Howe ends up being Gretzky's protection on that line and you don't have to remove Kurri. I guess it could go up some then, but I think only incrementally. 

 

The difference may be larger putting Gretzky and Howe back when Howe played. Howe's numbers go up, I think, but I don't know that Gretzky's ultimately do   Again, because you've subtracted the effect of Kurri and Coffey (not to mention some of the players on other lines that made it difficult to load lines /defensemen against Gretzky). 

 

Howe didn't play by himself either, but I think playing together helps Howe's numbers a little bit more than Gretzky.  A little bit.  But both only marginally, if at all, better than what they had already. 

 

On different teams, just in the same time period:  I don't think Howe ends up with the same longevity if he starts the same time as Gretzky.   It was already a faster game.  You watch any film and the players look like they're skating in pudding. I don't mean to take ANYTHING  away from Howe.   I think I'm just saying that each player was a product of their respective time periods and obviously were head and shoulders above their peers in that time period.   You move either one to the different time period and I don't think the effect is that simple to extrapolate. 

Edited by ruxpin
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@ruxpin I think it's possible that Gretzky's numbers would grow. Say we put Howe on the 80s Oilers teams. With the added depth at right wing, I think I'd bump Tikannen down and move Kurri to the left side. As you said, Howe could provide the protection, theoretically eliminating the need for "The Grate One" on the line. Howe had more grittiness and toughness anyway, imo. Now, you have Gretzky, Howe, Kurri, and Coffey all on the ice. Maybe moving Kurri works, maybe not, but if it did, it would be huge.

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1 minute ago, ScottM said:

@ruxpin I think it's possible that Gretzky's numbers would grow. Say we put Howe on the 80s Oilers teams. With the added depth at right wing, I think I'd bump Tikannen down and move Kurri to the left side. As you said, Howe could provide the protection, theoretically eliminating the need for "The Grate One" on the line. Howe had more grittiness and toughness anyway, imo. Now, you have Gretzky, Howe, Kurri, and Coffey all on the ice. Maybe moving Kurri works, maybe not, but if it did, it would be huge.

Maybe. And it's fun to think about, but I'm willing to bet it comes out a wash. 

 

Hey, I was editing and adding a bit to my post while you were typing.   Check it out.  Might make your head explode. 

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6 minutes ago, ruxpin said:

Maybe. And it's fun to think about, but I'm willing to bet it comes out a wash. 

 

Hey, I was editing and adding a bit to my post while you were typing.   Check it out.  Might make your head explode. 

 

I agree with you that it's impossible to say. It's pure speculation to say that either of them would be the same in a different era. For example, I think Gretzky would've just about gotten killed in earlier eras, but obviously, I can't prove that. I just found the concept interesting and decided to expound on it a bit based on league-wide statistics.

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18 minutes ago, ScottM said:

 

I agree with you that it's impossible to say. It's pure speculation to say that either of them would be the same in a different era. For example, I think Gretzky would've just about gotten killed in earlier eras, but obviously, I can't prove that. I just found the concept interesting and decided to expound on it a bit based on league-wide statistics.

 

Don't get me wrong.  I loved your post and really found it an interesting thought.   I do think it's fun to imagine it.  And man, you did a lot of work.

 

And I think you're probably right on your thoughts of dropping Gretzky into earlier areas.   

 

I just think they were both just the perfect storm for their respective eras.   And I don't mean that to take away from what each accomplished.   Even Napoleon, or Kennedy, or Babe Ruth were that and maybe don't have the opportunity or aren't the right fit to be as prominent in other areas as they became in their own.

Edited by ruxpin

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Just now, ruxpin said:

I just think they were both just the perfect storm for their respective eras.

 

Much truth there. To me, the biggest thing to draw from this is that despite the gap in their statistics, which are era-dependent to a degree, these guys were really close. I'll admit that I'm not up as much on the other major sports as I am hockey since I study hockey and not them, but I'm not sure that any other sport has seen a series of guys so thoroughly dominate the way Howe, Orr, and Gretzky did in succession. It makes me look at all of them in total awe.

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3 minutes ago, ScottM said:

 

Much truth there. To me, the biggest thing to draw from this is that despite the gap in their statistics, which are era-dependent to a degree, these guys were really close. I'll admit that I'm not up as much on the other major sports as I am hockey since I study hockey and not them, but I'm not sure that any other sport has seen a series of guys so thoroughly dominate the way Howe, Orr, and Gretzky did in succession. It makes me look at all of them in total awe.

 

Definitely buy that.

 

I'll let it to others to vet out the other sports, as nothing comes immediately to mind.  I wouldn't think baseball.  It's just a different thing.   You could maybe make an argument for basketball maybe involving Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and someone (there's a bit of a gap in there, but not excessive, so maybe Wilt Chamberlain would be the third).  

 

Football, I don't know.  I don't think so.   You could maybe do a Montana, Young, and Elway.  But I'm not sure they dominated in the way Howe, Orr and Gretzky did.   Basketball, if a triumvirate exists, is probably your best bet for something similar.

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They did, in the final WHA All Star game. Wayne to this day calls that one game among his greatest thrills in the game.

 

  In all seriousness, I doubt if it would have made much of a difference for Gretzky, he was so far above everyone else who ever played but he had HOFer linemates in Anderson and Kurri for much of his career. In fairness, I feel that Anderson was a poor choice for the Hall, that his numbers were propped up by his glorious linemates, he was an above average player but IMHO would never have made the Hall without Gretzky and Kurri, riding on their coattails.

  Howe would have had better numbers to be sure but it is not like he had Kris Draper or Riley Sheehan setting him up, he had Hall of famers in the great Sid Abel and Alex Delvecchio setting the table for his entire career. They did not call it the production line for no reason. But as great as Abel and Delvecchio were (and they were) there is none like Gretzky. I would say maybe a ten percent boost to his numbers, but keep in mind that:

 

Howe never once scored 50 goals in a season. It was rare for players of his generation but others did, he did not.

 

He only scored 100 points once, with 103 late in his career. It is not as if scoring did not matter to him, of course it did, but it was only a part of his game. He led the league in scoring 5 times in his first 8 seasons but only once thereafter, always in the top ten but it was the whole package that people remember.

 

  I think he would have had several 50 goal seasons, maybe even got as high as the upper 50s or low 60s at his peak but that may be pushing it.

 

In truth, I am not certain they would have been a good match, Gretzky was flair and skill and finess and pure speed, Gordie was animal and rugged and nasty. I think if he had been on a line with Messier it would have been a much better match talent wise. Bobby Hull would have been insane with Gretzky, a much better match talent wise, he would have had his stick ready for his patented drop pass massive slap shot and fed from nowhere by the great one, no goalie alive would have been safe.

 Howe with Messier, every opposing player would have went home with unaccounted for bruises and cuts and gouged parts of their bodies, and a minus player most nights to boot. I have heard the 'What if Wayne and Gordie' thing before, like I said, I would have rather have seen Gordie and the Mess. That would have been a fun line to watch.

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@yave1964 I personally find the fact that some people criticize Howe's lack of a 50-goal season as one of the most unfair knocks against him. His final season before retirement was Esposito's 76 goal season, but it's important to remember just how much he smashed the record by. Before that, Richard did it once, Geoffrion did it once, and Hull, who was one of the ultimate scoring talents of all-time had done it four times. Thus, his 49 goal season was 7th all-time. After the 70s and 80s explosion, there's a tie for 5th through 7th at 76 goals by Esposito, Selanne, and Mogilny. The 50-goal season was so rare back then that we we've now had more than twice as many 70-goal seasons as they had 50-goal seasons through 1969-70. In fact, before Geoffrion, there had been only 16 40-goal seasons in NHL history, and Gordie had four of them. The guy was an absolutely remarkable goal-scorer, and remained one for a very, very long time.

 

As for building those lines, how about this? We put Gretzky on a line with Bobby Hull and Mike Bossy and we put a line of Messier, Howe, and Ted Lindsay together? Imagine the scoring punch of that first line and the physical punch of the second.

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 As great as Gordie was, he was not gonna give Wayne much more scoring than he already had....first pp of Kurri, Mess, Wayne, Glen Anderson, Coffey etc....you don't get much better than that...but he certainly would have created some nice room for Wayne.

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20 minutes ago, jammer2 said:

 As great as Gordie was, he was not gonna give Wayne much more scoring than he already had....first pp of Kurri, Mess, Wayne, Glen Anderson, Coffey etc....you don't get much better than that...but he certainly would have created some nice room for Wayne.

 

Or he'd have been far enough behind Gretzky and the play that his numbers drop significantly.   Play style matters.  The Penguins have proven that as recently as this past year.  The team adopted speed and attack... And Malkin's numbers dropped significantly.  Some players just don't gel together well.  

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22 minutes ago, Polaris922 said:

 

Or he'd have been far enough behind Gretzky and the play that his numbers drop significantly.   Play style matters.  The Penguins have proven that as recently as this past year.  The team adopted speed and attack... And Malkin's numbers dropped significantly.  Some players just don't gel together well.  

 

 That is a good point. Sometimes, no matter how talented the individual is, they just don't mesh with the other top talent. A good example of that was how long it took the Stay Puffed man to get acclimated, despite all the talent, skill and speed around him.....and Phil is not exactly a slouch in the skating dept....he's probably in the top 10% of skating for the league.

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@Polaris922 @jammer2 I think those points make @yave1964's point ring even more true. The more I think about it, the more I think Gordie and Wayne would match up better with the types of players I mentioned in my last post. The skill of the first three and the physical play of the second three would probably match better.

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On 8/6/2016 at 2:43 PM, ScottM said:

So, what do you guys think about this?

 

Fascinating.   :thinking:

 

That means Gordie Howe would be even better than I thought he was. I always thought he was comparable to Messier more than Gretzky, but those are some mind blowing numbers.   

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On ‎8‎/‎16‎/‎2016 at 8:46 AM, WordsOfWisdom said:

 

Fascinating.   :thinking:

 

That means Gordie Howe would be even better than I thought he was. I always thought he was comparable to Messier more than Gretzky, but those are some mind blowing numbers.   

Sorry, but even excluding Scott's work. Your statement is ludicrous and I have to kindly tear it apart if you don't mind :)

 

Removing Gretzky and Lemieux out of the equation, Messier only has ONE Art Ross, and perhaps a few more harts and pearsons. Yet that's pathetic and nowhere close to equaling Gordie Howe's 6 Art Ross trophies and 6 MVP's. If anything, Mark Messier shouldn't even be discussed in the same breath as Howe in any comparison whatsoever. Gordie Howe is more comparable to Gretzky and has a case for 2nd best player of all time.

Edited by JagerMeister

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On 8/16/2016 at 11:46 AM, WordsOfWisdom said:

 

Fascinating.   :thinking:

 

That means Gordie Howe would be even better than I thought he was. I always thought he was comparable to Messier more than Gretzky, but those are some mind blowing numbers.   

Completely agree.  A really good indication you're right is that Jaeger thinks it's ludicrous. 

 

Of course they compare better  specifically on style of play.   Gretzky had like two or three fights in his life, and one of them was with his sister. Just in physicality and grit they compare better.  Yeah, Howe did it better, but it's still the more apt comparison of players. 

 

Good point. 

 

Edited by ruxpin

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11 hours ago, JagerMeister said:

Sorry, but even excluding Scott's work. Your statement is ludicrous and I have to kindly tear it apart if you don't mind :)

 

Sweet. :)

 

11 hours ago, JagerMeister said:

Removing Gretzky and Lemieux out of the equation, Messier only has ONE Art Ross, and perhaps a few more harts and pearsons. Yet that's pathetic and nowhere close to equaling Gordie Howe's 6 Art Ross trophies and 6 MVP's. If anything, Mark Messier shouldn't even be discussed in the same breath as Howe in any comparison whatsoever. Gordie Howe is more comparable to Gretzky and has a case for 2nd best player of all time.

 

But didn't the author of this thread establish that if Howe had played at the same time as Gretzky, he wouldn't have won any Art Ross trophies either? What exactly does that statement prove? Only that Gretzky was better than both Messier and Howe correct? :huh:

 

I was comparing Messier and Howe based on their similar point totals and their style of play. If anything, Messier's point totals were probably reduced somewhat because he played on the 2nd line behind Gretzky. I'm sure he didn't get the same amount of ice time that Howe and Gretzky did. Food for thought. :56ce53d1d6689_IDunnoSmiley:

 

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, WordsOfWisdom said:

 

Sweet. :)

 

 

But didn't the author of this thread establish that if Howe had played at the same time as Gretzky, he wouldn't have won any Art Ross trophies either? What exactly does that statement prove? Only that Gretzky was better than both Messier and Howe correct? :huh:

What's your point? No one would have. What I did say was that even excluding Gretzky and Lemieux. Messier only wins 1 Art ross in comparison to Howe's 6 during his era.

And taking into account Scott's information, Gordie Howe would have won 4 art rosses with Gretzky out of the equation. And I didn't even remove Lemieux.

 

Quote

I was comparing Messier and Howe based on their similar point totals and their style of play. If anything, Messier's point totals were probably reduced somewhat because he played on the 2nd line behind Gretzky. I'm sure he didn't get the same amount of ice time that Howe and Gretzky did. Food for thought. :56ce53d1d6689_IDunnoSmiley:

 

 

 

 

 

"I always thought he was comparable to Messier more than Gretzky" What you said in an earlier post. It rather implies that he was more in a league with Messier than Gretzky. That's how I perceived it anyway. But yes, in regards to playstyle Howe is more similar to Messier.

Edited by JagerMeister
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10 minutes ago, JagerMeister said:

What's your point? No one would have. What I did say was that even excluding Gretzky and Lemieux. Messier only wins 1 Art ross in comparison to Howe's 6 during his era.

And taking into account Scott's information, Gordie Howe would have won 4 art rosses with Gretzky out of the equation. And I didn't even remove Lemieux.

 

"I always thought he was comparable to Messier more than Gretzky" What you said in an earlier post. It rather implies that he was more in a league with Messier than Gretzky. That's how I perceived it anyway. But yes, in regards to playstyle Howe is more similar to Messier.

 

That's basically what I meant. :)

 

With every generation of players comes a star player that is the modern equivalent (or close to) a star from a previous era. So for anyone that wasn't alive when Gordie Howe played (me) you could point to Mark Messier and say to someone of my generation that "Howe was a lot like THAT".  

 

As a fun exercise, let's name stars from bygone eras and their modern equivalents today:

 

Example:

 

If I say Brett Hull, you say ..... Alex Ovechkin? Close but not quite right. Goal scoring yes, but different players. A better fit would be Pavel Bure -> Alex Ovechkin. So if you missed seeing Bure, I could point to Ovechkin and say Bure was like him. 

 

 

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@ScottM: Great work, sir! :goodjob: 

 

Investigations such as these--while they can never be perfect, in part given 

the lamentable lack of Star Trek time travel events intersecting with NHL hockey :)--

often help me appreciate the great ones even more. And they spark 

intriguing imaginings... 

 

For example I'm wondering if a line that included Howe and Messier wouldn't work well: 

 

"It's my turn to knock him around." 

"No, it's my turn to knock him around." 

"No . . ." 

 

Switch Cam Neely to left wing, pair him with those two, and we could have 

real problem. :P

 

Line could kick some serious backside too. They'd be about as fun to deal with as 

that actual Team Canada power play with Lafleur, Gretzky, and Perreault. No wonder

Le Démon Blond would laugh to himself whenever he carried the puck up ice and

noticed who was on his either side. :crazysmile: :devil: :crazysmile:

 

P.S. Wayne himself once said that Gordie's goals would have jumped 100 to 150 if 

hooking had been called as often in the latter's day. 

 

 

 

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      @Polaris922 @jammer2 I think those points make @yave1964's point ring even more true. The more I think about it, the more I think Gordie and Wayne would match up better with the types of players I mentioned in my last post. The skill of the first three and the physical play of the second three would probably match better.
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      What if they played on the same team and line for 82 games? Wow. Howe might score 120 goals. Gretzky could get 250 points. Scary.
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      The only thing I thought of when I saw the thread title was,  "that would have made Gretzky awfully young. Like in diapers."    In regard to them playing on the same line/team:   I don't think it would have raised Gretzky's numbers all that much, actually.   Given what Gretzky already had around him, if you subtract one or more of those and insert Howe you probably don't end up with anything appreciably higher.     Maybe Howe ends up being Gretzky's protection on th
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      As great as Gordie was, he was not gonna give Wayne much more scoring than he already had....first pp of Kurri, Mess, Wayne, Glen Anderson, Coffey etc....you don't get much better than that...but he certainly would have created some nice room for Wayne.
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      That is a good point. Sometimes, no matter how talented the individual is, they just don't mesh with the other top talent. A good example of that was how long it took the Stay Puffed man to get acclimated, despite all the talent, skill and speed around him.....and Phil is not exactly a slouch in the skating dept....he's probably in the top 10% of skating for the league.
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      I read an article earlier today that posed the question of what Gordie Howe's stats would look like if he and Gretzky played at the same time. The article gave some numbers, but I decided to dig a little deeper into them and come up with a year-by-year breakdown of Gordie's stats to see how they would have compared to Gretzky's. I found the results very interesting. This post is long because of the season by season posts, but check it out anyway. I think it will prove interesting.   Be
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