Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hockey's Most Gentlemanly Star

I recently had a request for an article on Dave Keon from a pal who worships him as much as I do Gretz. I do not own the magnificently crafted patch pictured above, but as soon as I discovered it's existence, I NEED it. Keon was always known as one of the most gentlemanly superstars of all-time. In looking at his career numbers, it’s hard to argue that fact.

Keon tallied nearly 1000 NHL points while serving only 117 PIMs. In the WHA he was an even cleaner skater with 291 Pts and 20 PIMs. I figured dividing Points by PIM would give a good idea of a players’ cleanliness. I’ll call it a Byng Rating after the trophy. Keon’s NHL Byng Rating is 8.42 Pts/PIM, his WHA 14.45, overall a combined 9.92 Byng. The idea is to see how this stands up against other superstars over the history of the game. I decided to take the top 100 Point scorers in NHL history as an initial source of superstars. This list will take us from The Great One all the way down to Ivan Boldirev at 866 Pts.

Some of my initial hunches to have a high Byng number didn’t even come close to Keon. Mike Bossy at 5.36, Gretz 4.95, Rick Middleton 6.29, Jean Ratelle 4.62, Lafleur 3.39 and Pierre Turgeon at 2.94 Pts/PIM. Then I ran the numbers for Butch Goring. 888 Pts and 102 PIMs gives a Byng of 8.71, just besting Keon's NHL mark. I then went to the all-time list of Lady Byng Trophy winners to round out my list.

Bobby Bauer of the famed Kraut Line checks in with a 7.22 rating and Leaf great Syl Apps a 7.71 Byng…Keon and Goring still in the lead. Digging deeper turned up two Byng Trophy winners with exceptional career Byng ratings. Buddy O’Connor of the 1940’s Habs and Rangers has a career 11.68 Pts/PIM and Clint Smith of the same era Rangers and Blackhawks has a career 16.54 Byng Rating. Smith tallied 397 points in 483 career games with a miniscule 24 PIM, only serving as much as 6PIM in one season. The question may be posed, are these guys considered “stars” let alone superstars?

Buddy O’Connor actually won the 1948 Hart Trophy and had three top-four finishes in assists. In addition, he was named Canada's athlete of the year for '48. I think anyone who has ever won an MVP in any league could be considered a star….even Lindros or Theodore. Clint Smith’s credentials are even more sparkling. He had four top-five point finishes over eight years, topping out with 72 points in 50 games in 1944. That same year he set the record for most assists in a season with 49. Oh yeah, both fellas are enshrined in hockey's hall of fame. Pretty, pretty good.

To answer the initial query, Dave Keon is ONE of the most gentlemanly superstars ever, but not tops in my rankings. My vote goes to Clint Smith.

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