Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jibblescribbits: Why Joe Sakic should be the All-Decade Center

(On Saturday, Earl Sleek wrote a great post covering one of the burning questions of the All-Decade team selection process: Niedermayer or Pronger? Today, Jibblescribbits covers one half of the other great discussion: Sakic vs. Thornton. Once you're done reading about Burnaby Joe make sure to head over to his great blog that covers the Colorado Avalanche and hockey in general.)

Normally when I'm given a side in a point-counter-point argument The first thing I do is I try to mentally argue the other side in my head. Knowing your enemy gives you more ammunition and the ability to rebut the other side's argument before they even make it, defusing it. But for this argument I have a hard time doing that, and that is because I cannot come up with one good reason to pick Joe Thornton over Joe Sakic for the all-decade team. (And I'm a huge Thornton fan)

Jos Sakic won his Conn Smythe in 1996 so I can't use that. I guess all I am left with is a Hart, Lester B. Pearson, Lady Byng (all in '01) NHL All-Star MVP (which I'll admit isn't worth a whole lot), and 3 NHL all first teams ('01, '02, '04). He's also got one of those Stanley Cups in '01 and then a Gold Medal (and Olympic MVP) in '02. Instead of listing his all-star appearences, I'll just list the years he didn't go: '03, '08, '09. All three of those years happened to be because he was injured.

Thornton has a Hart, and leads Super Joe Sakic in regular season points over the last decade 708-650(even though Sakic leads in goals 248-221), so there's an argument that could be made here.

But dig any deeper and that argument quickly breaks down. Add in playoff points and it's a virtual tie in points (747-744 edge to Thornton). Sakic also has over 400 less PIM than Thornton. Based on merits alone Sakic has a slight edge, but there's more to hockey than stats.

I'm not a big fan of calling someone clutch. I think "clutch" is overused and is misunderstood. With a small sample size anyone can get lucky and appear to be clutch, and anyone can have a slump at the wrong time and look like a choker. I'm not going to call Thornton a choker, because that wouldn't be fair (nor accurate).

That being said if there ever is such a thing as clutch.. well Joe Sakic is it. In the playoffs he's playing at a smidgen under a point per game pace (94 points in 96 games) while Thornton has struggled to keep his regular season form in the playoffs (only 39 points in 53 games). And yes, Cups count. Thornton could win one this season (and I hope he does) but Sakic has 1 and there can't be enough said of his trancendent Olympic Performance in Salt Lake in '02. For what it's worth, Sakic also has, and not too put too much hyperbole on it, the greatest goal of the decade on his resume. I consider a Game 7 series icer in which he makes not one, but 2 future hall of famers look silly while firing off his iconic wrist shot the greatest goal in history. Sure there's more significant ones, but in sheer terms of skill combined with what was at stake they don't get any better than this:

(1:44 mark)

None of this is any disrespect to Joe Thornton. I think he's a fantastic player and certainly belongs in the discussion of greatest centers of the last 10 years. But he's not at the top. Joe Sakic is. His regular season stats combine with his postseason stats to make him the best center of the last 10 (cough 15-20) years.


J. Scott Moore said...

Clearly Sakic is the winner...plus he beat up Doug Gilmour and that was awesome!!!

jamestobrien said...

He beat up Doug Gilmour? He beat someone up? How did I not know/forget this?

Mina said...

Nice work, Jibblescribbits. Very solid.

unlearn. said...

Um, Sakic has 2 cups, so just another cherry to scoop...

Jibblescribbits said...

@ jamestobrien:

How do you like those apples

@ unlearn... just 1 this decade (1 last decade as well)

Mike at MHH said...

I can't begin to encompass the depths for which you are correct in your assessment.

jamestobrien said...

@ Jibbles:

HOLY CRAP. That was awesome. Joe Sakic already had my respect ... now I think it's jumping straight to adoration.

Wow wow.