His plus/minus would imply otherwise. The guy was a consistent minus player throughout the last decade of his career (ie the 90s), which at the most fundamental level tells me that the strength of his possession game wasn't enough to keep the puck out of his own zone, nor out of his own net. The opposition consistently outscored his line. And I know +/- is a team stat and blah blah blah, but you'd think for someone who holds almost every offensive record in the books, and continued to produce at an elite level up until his retirement, he would have been able to have at the very least a decent plus minus for half those seasons, especially because that negative +/- was pretty consistent over three different teams (and who knows how many linemates) in the 90s.
The guy was an offensive god, but his defense was little to non existent. The real question is had the Wings acquired him, would he have been Bowman's example for the Wings to adapt a two-way game as Yzerman did, or would he have continued to do what made him famous? The last part is why in retrospect, I would have stuck with Yzerman (although in 1989 I would have made the trade 10 times out of 10).
Firstly, I've heard you rail about how bad a stat +/- is about a thousand times. So it seems like you're nitpicking stats that you'd otherwise argue aren't worth a damn. But I'll play along...
In, the last decade of his career Gretzky had a negative +/- seven times. Five of those times his team didn't make the playoffs (e.g. they were bad teams). The fact that he drives possession doesn't mean he's going to make bad teams into defensive stalwarts, and I never claimed such. But it does mean that on good defensive teams (like the 97 and 98 Wings) his "lack of defense" will likely be made up for by his contributions to possession.
I think the reason why that seems less clear based on +/- stats is because increased possession leads to more powerplays (e.g. those Wings teams were on the PP all the time, hence "our PP is our enforcer), and the additional offensive zone time (and points) gained on the PP does not affect the +/-. For example, if Gretzky was doing his thing in the offensive zone, creating offense on the cycle, and generally pressuring the opposition (like he did his whole career), the opposing team A) can't generate offense (so you're not playing defense) and B) has a greater likelihood of taking a penalty (so you're not playing defense). When they do take penalties, and Gretzky's team scores, it won't affect his +/- but nevertheless his possession lead to A) scoring, and B) long periods of time in which his team didn't have to play defense. He did this ALL THE TIME during his career.
But don't just take my word for it. Here's two time Stanley Cup winning coach Daryll Sutter making the EXACT same argument while explaining how Marian Gaborik's defensive shortcomings wouldn't matter to LA.
"The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone (say) they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play,” said Sutter.
Edited by kipwinger, 14 August 2014 - 07:52 AM.
GMRwings: "Well, in other civilized countries, 16 years old isn't considered underage. For instance, I believe the age of consent is 16 in Canada. There's some US states where it's 16 as well.
Get off the high horse. Not like she was 10."
"Some girls are 17 even though they look 25."