When Did You Start To Notice A Slip In Gretzky's Game

Discussion in 'The History of Hockey' started by Supreme King, Aug 12, 2015.

  1. DannyGallivan

    DannyGallivan Your world frightens and confuses me

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    I first noticed a slip in his game during the Winnipeg versus Edmonton Heritage Classic Alumni Game in 2016.
     
  2. scott clam

    scott clam Registered User

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    It shouldn't come as a surprise that Wayne's point production dropped a bit after coming to L.A. Totally new teammates, new coach, new everything. And even then his point production didn't go down all that much from the two previous years.

    It just looks that way because Mario Lemieux had a freak year, even by his own standards. Really his best season, with all due respect to '93 Mario.

    But with that being said, the real surprise was Gretzky's own teammate Bernie Nicholls. Those two were just unstoppable on the power play, and it was Bernie who played the part of sniper.

    And yet the Pens' powerplay was even more ruthless!
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
  3. Voight

    Voight #winning

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    Yea, Nicholls is now part of that trivia question where you have to list the guys who scored 150+ points in a season :laugh:
     
  4. scott clam

    scott clam Registered User

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    The chemistry between Gretzky and Nicholls was scary. Those two were always hanging out after practice. Getting traded must have been truly heartbreaking for Bernie. Even Wayne's point production took a hit after that one. Briefly.
     
  5. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Definitely not a drop off until about 1991. The Suter hit.

    People look at 1987 and say "What, only 183 points?" Well, a couple things here, for some reason Gretzky had 181 points with 6 games left but only got two points in those final 6 games, sitting out one of them. After the Flames in 1986 it all became about being ready for the playoffs, perhaps better rounded, better rested, etc. Put it this way, if Gretzky puts his mind to it, can he get 19 points in 6 games to get to 200? You bet. In 1987 he had 15 points in his first 4 playoff games. I can see a couple of different times at least during the 1987 season where he had 19 points or more over 6 games. So I don't think the 1987 season is a drop off at all. Plus, look at his play in the Canada Cup that year.

    Even in 1988 he is on pace for 189 points or so and he had probably the best postseason of his career. No dip there. Goes to L.A. and gets 168 points on a team that was nearly last place. Yeah, no dip either, look at the context of it. 1990 was a strange year for him. 142 points was low for him at that time, even being on pace for 156 just wasn't enough. Not his type of numbers. 1991 was back to normal again. 163 points and 122 assists. I don't know if I would say he was worse in 1991 than, say, 1985, but he was focusing a lot more on playmaking than goal scoring by then. If there is a difference, it isn't that much. Perhaps a tiny dip in play just because he is in his 12th NHL season and it is darn near impossible to do what Gretzky did so often in the 200ish point level that even when he can't hit that anymore I still don't call it a knock.

    But the Suter thing hurt him. Then his dad getting that brain aneurysm right after. His 1992 season was trying, that's for sure. 121 points, even missing a few games that's not just good but that was his best by then. Still was good in the mid 1990s, but as others have said, he is slightly better than Adam Oates at this time, 1996, 1997, 1998, etc. and that is a noticeable drop. I think 1999 was his final drop. He just wasn't the same anymore by then, his back was flaring up, he was terribly slow out there. I hope anyone that saw him for the first time didn't think this was the real Gretzky. It would be like wondering what all the fuss was about with Muhammad Ali when he loses to Trevor Brebick thinking that this was all there was to him.
     
  6. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    That trade to this day makes no sense. Man, did the Kings ever have bad management back then. The fact that Gretzky could take a Kings team with Kelly Hrudey in net to the Cup final tells you all you needed to know about him.

    If you are lucky to have two centres like them you keep them. Look at the teams that won Cups over the years. Crosby/Malkin, Sakic/Forsberg, Mario/Francis, Gretzky/Messier, Yzerman/Fedorov, etc. You keep these guys together. I know they got a couple of wingers in Sandstrom or Granato but what was wrong with their wingers as it was?

    If you have Gretzky and Nicholls down the middle then you still have a prime Robitaille on LW. Tonelli and Taylor were getting older albeit, but they were wingers too. Krusher was another winger. That's a good top 6 as it is. If you dump Nicholls at least get a goalie or some more defense. They had Duchesne, an old Robinson and McSorley. Not bad, but offense was not their need, they had it.
     
  7. scott clam

    scott clam Registered User

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    With Nicholls' value at it's all time high, you'd think the Kings could have bagged Chelios or Stevens...
     
  8. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Yeah, that Nicholls' trade was nutty. At the time, Wayne was 1st in NHL scoring, and Bernie was 3rd. You can argue that Granato and Sandstrom (when healthy... which was rare) replaced Nicholls' offence in sum, and maybe they did, but it made no sense when Nicholls' was a fan- and teammates-favorite and was Gretzky's best pal on the club. As Phil says, the Kings had no offensive problems (the game before he was traded, the Kings scored 9 goals against Detroit), but rather had defensive issues. They definitely should have gotten a star defenceman or a better goalie than Hrudey, for Nicholls.

    The reason Gretzky's pace declined a bit in that 2nd season in L.A. (he got 142 points in 73 games, or 1.95 PPG) is because of the Nicholls' trade. At the time of the trade (All Star break), Wayne had 98 points in 47 games, which was a 167-point pace in a full season. Immediately after the Nicholls' trade, Wayne picked up only 7 points in the next 10 games, an almost unbelievably low pace for him that was was entirely unprecedented in the first dozen years of his NHL career.

    Outside of those 10 games -- when, I think, he was a bit pissed and sending a message to Kings' management -- he scored 135 points in 63 games, or 2.14 per game, which paces to 171 points over a full season.


    So, was the trade worth it, in the end? In the Kings' 93 run to the Finals, Sandstrom was 2nd on the team with 25 points in 24 games, which is pretty good, but 16 of those 25 were in rounds one and two. He picked up 9 points in 12 games in rounds three and four. Granato was not a major factor in the playoffs -- he ended up fifth in team scoring, which is fine, but throw in an unnecessary 50 penalty minutes.

    There's a debate to be had there, but all things considered I think it was a bone-headed trade.
     
  9. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    ... when he started coaching.
     
  10. Minar

    Minar Registered User

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    Is there anyone that will notice that as Gretzky's career moved along his playmaking skills and passing seemed to get better in some ways? I noticed this when he played and also when you watch YouTube games these days. His playmaking seemed more impressive in 1991 than 1981 for sure. And even in the later years with the Rangers the passes he would do, banking it off the side of the net or curling back and finding the late man...seemed more impressive and smarter than what he was doing in 1981. Just an observation.
     
  11. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Mm. His best "passing" years, I guess, are roughly 1985 to 1991. I wouldn't stretch it beyond the early-90s since his raw numbers decline noticeably after then, but he was still the best passer in the game until 1998.

    For the "adjusted stats" crowd, Wayne's 1991 assists total is the second-highest of his career, after only the staggering 1985-86 season.


    It's been posted many times, but never gets old...
     
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  12. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    While I'm at it, check out the passes he makes in this earlier game, also at Montreal (I think these are from 1990-91). The first one, Gretzky intercepts Carbonneau's bad pass and somehow gets it to Sandstrom... how'd he do that?:
     
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  13. 95Tal

    95Tal Registered User

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    Love this pass off the side of the net. I believe it's from April 10, 1993. A billiards-type play from someone who seemed to see the game from overhead:

     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  14. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    90 friggin' points in his 20th year, once again leading all NHLers in assists.
     
  15. seventieslord

    seventieslord Student Of The Game

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    That was his 19th NHL season.
     
  16. VanIslander

    VanIslander Don't waste my time

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    20th pro season.

    People like to overlook his 110 points in 80 WHA games (and 20 playoff points in 13 postseason games that spring on a Game 6 cup final run).

    That counts in terms of adult pro career, however much one discounts it, especially when talking about LENGTH OF CAREER.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  17. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    I think the Hab defenseman sort of strips it from Gretzky and it goes right to Sandstrom in the slot. In real time at first glance it looks like Gretzky sees him behind him and just drops a pass. He's done more surprising stuff than that even.
     
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  18. Passchendaele

    Passchendaele Registered User

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    Yup. I had to look slow-mo to figure it out.
     
  19. authentic

    authentic Registered User

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    What were you referring to there? He was 31 points back of Lemieux and played 2 more games.
     
  20. Hockey Outsider

    Hockey Outsider Registered User

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    I think he was referring specifically to even strength production.
     
  21. oilexport

    oilexport Registered User

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    Greatest player ever. Unreal how many times i fell off the chair watching him. Some games, every flippin time he went up the ice, something ungodly would happen.

    His body gave up fairly early, the mind shortly after. The Sutter hit and Janet Jones took some energy and longevity away.
     
  22. The Panther

    The Panther Registered User

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    Probably true, but Wayne sort-of had the last laugh there...
    [​IMG]
     
  23. authentic

    authentic Registered User

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    Oh right, makes sense.
     
  24. daver

    daver Registered User

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    It wasn't his best but there seemed to be a bit of a drop in overall scoring (there were 25% less PPG players that season) so one shouldn't necessarily point to that season as a dip in his play because didn't hit 200.

    Scoring returned the next two seasons so I would say that Wayne's 87/88 could be seen as the dip although his playoffs were still among the best of his career.
     
  25. Big Phil

    Big Phil Registered User

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    Suter hit took away some of his quickness I thought. The 1991 Canada Cup was the last time that I could see Gretzky being described as "quick" to an extent. Watch his highlights in the 1991 season, he has times where he is like a waterbug out there. Not blinding speed of course, because he never had that, but quick and shifty and unpredictable and mysterious. He always had the last two and that's why he was still good after the Suter hit, but he lost some of his quickness.

    I don't know if we can blame Janet for much though. She was a popular target at one point but I think the whole "Yoko Ono" thing wore off eventually with people. She was not a big movie star, and after her and Wayne got married she was basically barefoot and pregnant. So I don't think this idea that his wife lured him to Hollywood ever had any bearing.
     
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