It would be extremely foolish to think that Yzerman (or any player for the matter) could have kept a consistent scoring pace in the first half of his career and his second half. I think you are overestimating the impact of him putting his team first. You could probably take any player in history and you will likely see some signficant declines in later years.
If Gretzky maintained the same pace in his last 10 years as he did in his first 10 years, he'd have scored 3,674 points, not 2,857. Injury + age, same for Yzerman, is the main reason for decline.
There are other reasons. People tend to forget (or didn't witness it firsthand if they are under, say, 30 years old) that NHL scoring fell off a cliff after roughly the 1992-93 season.
If you only talk with Red Wings fans, you grow up with the impression that the 90's and early 2000's were this golden age of hockey. And they were...for a Red Wings or Avalanche fan. Everyone else refers to it as the "Dead Puck" era - the first time in this history of hockey were goaltenders were absolutely fearless in net, when they wore absurdly large (and since outlawed) jerseys, pads, and chest protectors that took up the whole net, but still benefited from trapping defensive schemes, no two-line passes, and unmitigated obstruction that slowed the game down. There's a reason Teemu Selanne scored 70 goals as a rookie and never got close to that total again. If Gretzky's career started in 1991 instead of 1979, he'd still have been a great player, but I'm almost certain he doesn't break Howe's goal record. It wasn't even the same game in the 1980's, and blocked shots are a huge difference even between the 90's and 2000's.
I want to say Lidstrom in the poll (who won an extra Cup, and did so as the leader of a Salary Cap-limited team), but my heart knows that it's Yzerman. However, I do think that the praise for Yzerman swings a little too far at times, and people forget that that those 80's Wings teams where Yzerman was an offensive beast were still basically the likable losers. It wasn't until Fedorov and Lidstrom came along that this became a perennial playoff team, Bowman got the star players to play defense, and even then, they still couldn't beat the other great teams of the day ('95 Devils, '96 Avs) until they added Shanahan and some other "spare parts". But if you look at Yzerman's first half of his career compared to Lidstrom's, he was a much more important player to his team, even if the team wasn't doing much at the time. Lidstrom may well be among the Top 5 or Top 10 defensemen of all time, yet Yzerman's importance to the Red Wings is somehow much more complex than that.
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