Perhaps I’m in a mood to beat up on puck-based stereotypes today, but I think that fans of the Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks and – yes – both lovers and haters of Sidney Crosby will find Behind the Net’s study of the most productive young (and old) players quite interesting. The blog looked at the highest point-per-game rates for players between the ages of 18-21 as well as the other end of the spectrum: players 38 and older.
For the young players, Crosby is in second place behind … Barry Pederson?
While Sidney Crosby’s greatness is readily apparent, it’s amazing how far Barry Pederson is ahead of the pack. The Pederson-Rick Middleton combination was amazing in the 1982-83 playoffs, but they came up against the eventual cup champion Islanders and went down four games to two. Pederson looked like a sure-fire hall of famer, but underwent numerous surgeries after a tumor was found in his shoulder and was never the same player. He would have just two playoff points after age 21.
Interesting stuff. Other notable names on the “young” list included Stan Mikita, Steve Yzerman, Bobby Orr and Nicklas Backstrom. The old fogies list includes the incomparable Jean Beliveau as well as modern players including Bill Guerin and third-place Nicklas Lidstrom (especially impressive considering the fact that, you know, he’s a defenseman).
In many ways, I feel that posts like this – as well as evidence from youthful dynasties like the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers of the ’80s – prove that the “experience” argument is overdone. Am I saying that having guys with Just for Men beards like Bill Guerin or Scott Niedermayer isn’t worthwhile? No, not at all. But like John Buccigross and others have pointed out plenty of times before, Wayne Gretzky and other stars almost always hit their primes in their early twenties. Some might scream “Detroit Red Wings!” but to me they’re an anomaly (and, besides, as important as Lidstrom has been this season, much of their resurgence can be tied to 25-year-old Jimmy Howard). Experience is valuable, but if you put a gun to my head, I’ll take the young legs every time.
So, yeah, if you’re a fan of high draft pick-heavy squads like Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington, Colorado and Los Angeles, go ahead and feel good about the future.