Is Lecavalier Over Rated?

With all the Lecavalier trade talk, the question of the day is this: Is Vincent Lecavalier over rated?

Yesterday I read someone who rated Lecavalier one of the top 10, possibly even a top 5, player in the NHL? Is he this good? Is he even top 20? I am not so sure.

The evidence for Lecavalier being one of the best in the NHL would include the fact that he has won a Stanley Cup, the fact that he has had a 50 goal season and a 108 point season and the fact that in addition to being skilled he can play a physical game. But is this enough to rank him among the elite?

While there is no doubt he is an very good hockey player there is ample evidence to conclude that maybe he isn’t among the best of the best.

In his 10 seasons in the NHL (if you include the first half of this season) he led his team in scoring just three times and was second just two other times.

In his 10 seasons in the NHL he has just two seasons where he achieved a point per game pace.

He has only twice scored more than 35 goals or more than 80 points.

In the season when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup Lecavalier finished 4th in team scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs.

In 752 career NHL games he has just 290 goals and 640 points which is good but unspectacular. For example, Eric Lindros, who also had size and played a physical game, had 372 goals and 865 points in about the same number of games (760).

This year will be just his 4th all-star game appearance, has never won an MVP award and only once was named to the NHL’s second all-star team.

Save for a season or two he has played mostly on bad teams.

That is a lot of evidence against Lecavalier being an elite level star NHL player which many people believe he is. So, is Lecavalier over rated and where would you rank Lecavalier among NHL forwards? Is he worth his 11 year $85 million contract extension he signed in the summer? If you were Tampa, would you consider trading him? If you were Bob Gainey would you trade two or more roster players, a top prospect and a first round pick for Lecavalier?

This article has 22 Comments

  1. I would argue that, points alone do not make a player “Elite”. In fact, it is what comes in addition to points that moves a player from “star”, to “elite”.
    At points in both of their careers, Yzerman and Sakic were “stars”, but it was not until they added toughness, two way play, and leadership did they move into elite status.
    I would say Vinnie has shown the ability to have “elite” ability in the past, and in a different situation, would once again prove to be this type of asset.

  2. As for his salary, no, he’s not worth it, no player is, especially with the cap likely to contract. It will prove to be an anchor of a deal, bringing the whole team down.

  3. I think you make a mistake by including the first few seasons of his career into the analysis – since they were definitely not elite.

    However, over the last five years or so he’s proven to be a dynamic, even rugged offensive presence with size and skill. Is he hall of fame worthy? No. Is he currently among the elite? Yes.

  4. I’ll argue that he has had one elite level season and one close to elite level.

    2006-07: 50g, 108pts
    2007-08: 40g, 92pts

    His next best season was 33g, 78pts in 2002-03.

    As for ignoring his first few seasons, why? Most superstar players are star players from the get go. Take a look at Crosby or Ovechkin. Both were elite level early on.

    Lecavalier is a very good player, but is he a 35g, 75-80 point guy or a 40-50g, 90-110 point guy? He has been the former much more than the latter and this year he is on pace for just 74 points, certainly not elite level. He isn’t even leading the Lightning this year.

  5. I don’t know what is considered “elite”, but Lecavalier’s numbers are elite the last two season, and while this IS a down season for him, he is playing with a surgically repaired shoulder.

    Thus, I would argue he was a star or on the cusp up until 2006-7 when he became elite. Comparing him to Crosby and Ovechkin doesn’t seem fair, as those two are arguably THE best two players in the league, and players of their stature may not be seen from for a long time.

    To compare Lecavalier to Iginla, whom I also consider elite, Iginla has only surpassed 73 points in a season 3 times (although he is on over a PPG pace this year). Lecavalier meanwhile has surpassed 73 points 4 times in his career. He is also only 28, and is arguably (based on his last two years) reaching his peak.

    Part of the problem with taking Lecavalier’s career stats into consideration is the young age at which he started.

  6. Lecavalier has had one elite season two years ago when he had 50g and 108 points and another arguably elite season last year when he had 40g and 92pts. But, we need to consider two things.

    1. Were these anomolies? Can he really be considered someone who will be a consistent 40+ goal, 90+ point guy? He isn’t looking like it this year and didn’t look like it prior to those two seasons.

    2. In those two seasons when he had his best seasons the NHL played a heavily unbalanced schedule and Tampa played in by far the weakest division with the weakest goaltending. Iginla on the other hand, who many compare Lecavalier too, has equally impressive numbers in a far tougher division, and is playing with far lesser offensive talent (Lecavalier plays/played with Richards and St. Louis, Iginla has played with a variety of second tier first line players like Langkow, Conroy, Tanguay, Cammelleri, etc.).

  7. Being “elite” doesn’t mean they have to be from the onset of their careers. Some players are late bloomers or gradually become “elite.” Will Stamkos be an elite player? Probably, but is he showing it this year? No. Not many players step in and make a huge impact offensively like Ovechkin and Crosby do. They’re once in a decade/generation players. Iginla didn’t hit the 90 point plateau until his sixth season, and I’d argue that he’s probably the best right winger in the game right now.

    Lecavalier’s not worth the money, but perhaps to Tampa he is. Other than him they really have no immediate marquee player. Stamkos may step into that role someday but he’s a couple years away, much like how Lecavalier was when he first stepped into the league. However, I have a strong belief that no player should make more than Nick Lidstrom in the league, but that’s just me being idealist.

    David, 1 – Lecavalier’s numbers are not anomalies, he really has the talent and ability to put up those kind of numbers regularly, but like the rest of the Tampa lineup he suffers from inconsistency. Eric Staal is going through the same thing right now and he’s been much more successful at his age than Lecavalier at that age. 2 – Everyone’s comparing Iginla to Lecavalier because they play fairly similar games. However, no one is saying that Lecavalier is Iginla’s equivalent.

  8. As someone who’s been a closet tampa fan since 2002, I would argue that Lecavalier is overrated (although a very good hockey player). Everyone says that Lecavalier makes Marty St. Louis go, but most tampa fans will tell you it was the other way around. When Richards had his breakout year, he was playing with St. Louis. When they moved St. Louis to Lecavlier’s line he had his Rocket Richard winning year and Richards got 60 points. St. Louis is underrated.

    Having said that, I’m a huge fan of Vinny, and the offseason shoulder surgery seems to be affecting him (as well as the circus).

  9. How many times did Mark Messier lead his team in scoring? How many Hart Trophies did Steve Yzerman win? You’re using very narrow criteria.

    Go the old fashioned route. Name 10 forwards who are currently better than Lecavalier and have a debate (I don’t care if he sucked seven years ago).

    Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Iginla, Thornton. That’s all I’ve got, but you could make a case for a couple of Red Wings or Flyers or even Savard. I don’t think St. Louis is better overall even if he is a slightly better scorer.

    And aside from St. Louis, he plays on an incredibly crappy team. Their defencemen as a group have scored (I think) one more goal than Van Ryn got in 17 games.

  10. You can’t seriously be comparing Lecavalier to a guy who won 6 Stanley Cups, had 694 goals, 1887 points, played in 15 all-star games, won Two Hart trophies and a Conn Smythe trophy, and had 15 seasons at a better than a point per game. And your comparison to Yzerman is just as rediculous.

    Thornton, Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Iginla, Getzlaf are all easily better than Lecavalier and you can probably make very good arguments for Heatley, Hossa, Marleau, Savard, St. Louis, Kovalchuk, Kane and a handful of others.

    Again, the question that really needs to be answered is this: Is the last two years for Lecavalier the new norm, or the exception, because before that he was far from elite and this year he is looking far from elite as well. If Lecavalier is really a 90+ point guy then yeah, he is an elite level player. If he is a 70-75 point guy like the rest of his career outside the past 2 seasons then he is Mats Sundin. A very nice player but not elite level.

  11. David, I think you’re asking a good question, but I have a bit of a problem with how you’ve used his past stats to back up your position. If that is part of your definition of elite, then please leave Hossa, Marleau, Savard, St. Louis, and Iginla off the list, because they all went through their less-than-stellar development years too.

    To me, the only thing that should enter into this kind of discussion is the short-term history going back 2-3 years, and how he is playing NOW.

    It gets tough to evaluate this season’s stats because there are a number of excuses available… shoulder, circus, etc.

    Anyway, my own opinion is that his combination of size, puck skills, shooting ability, proven leadership, and willingness to mix it up physically puts him in a very exclusive group of players.

    I don’t watch Tampa play all that often, but I do see nearly every Flames game (and have for the past few years) and you won’t catch me saying unequivocally that Iggy is a better offensive plater.

  12. Getzlaf is easily better then Lecavalier?

    He’s young and could very well end up having a career that surpasses Lecavalier, but his highest season – so far – is 82 points. He’ll probably surpass that, but as of the writing of this post that’s the best he’s done. He’s also never won a meaningful individual trophy.

    Lecavalier has 200 points in the past 2 seasons combined. How many other players have more then that? Ovechkin and Thornton. And that’s it (I think). Even Crosby got injured and didn’t hit that mark. Even Malkin didn’t hit that mark over the past 2 seasons. Even Heatley had a down year last year after 2 straight 100 point seasons. He’s one of 3 players in the league that have hit 200 points in the past 2 seasons.

    I totally understand your point that he might be somewhat overrated and is not the best all round player in the league or anything, but he’s in VERY good company when it comes to his recent numbers.

  13. I didn’t say Lecavalier was as good as Messier or Yzerman. By your criteria, though, Mess wasn’t an elite player because he didn’t lead his team in scoring.

    Your list also leaves some questions. Why is Marleau better than Lecavalier when he’s never had 40 goals or 90 points? Last year he got 19 and 48 on a team loaded with talent. Kovalchuk’s great offensively but he’s never won a playoff game nor been a plus player. Kane’s got 37 goals in his entire career – little early to put him in there.

    And: I dispute that Sundin wasn’t an elite level player.

  14. If I could have either Getzlaf or Lecavalier, I take Getzlaf. He is younger, has 50 points this year compared to Lecavalier’s 38 and had 82 last year compared to Lecavalier’s 92 even though he played in a much better division and conference. Plus his career is on an upward path and I cannot say the same for Lecavalier’s.

    To me, the only thing that should enter into this kind of discussion is the short-term history going back 2-3 years, and how he is playing NOW.

    It gets tough to evaluate this season’s stats because there are a number of excuses available… shoulder, circus, etc.

    I find it odd that you say “how he is playing NOW’ and them immediately decide that how he is playing now shouldn’t be counted because of a number of excuses. Now, if Lecavalier had a career of 90-110 point seasons and then this year he seemingly is having an off year being only on pace for 70-75 points, then yeah, I could buy the idea that you can ignore this year and call it an anomaly. But, over his 10 seasons, this season is more like the majority than the previous two were.

    “I didn’t say Lecavalier was as good as Messier or Yzerman. By your criteria, though, Mess wasn’t an elite player because he didn’t lead his team in scoring.”

    Actually, Messier did lead his team in scoring. In 1989-90 he had 129 points, 36 more than #2 Kurri. But it isn’t about one stat, it is about the complete set of stats and there Lecavalier falls short of the true elite players in the NHL. In my opinion anyway. So far I can only consider him very good player with a couple of elite level seasons.

  15. You seem very set in your opinion, and you’re allowed I suppose 🙂

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    At the very least you’ve started some good discussion which was the point.

    I’ll have to steal that idea for my next blog perhaps….hah.

  16. Agreed, David, that Lecavalier is “very good” but not among the “best of the best”, at least not this season. His shoulder injury has a lot to do with it, though.

    And I totally concur with Mittens about St. Louis being underrated and making Lecavalier go!

    St. Louis should’ve been Tampa’s rep for the All-Star game, not Lecavalier.

  17. Here’s the rub, if all 30 teams were forced to start from scratch and all players were free-agents, would Vinny last through the first 30 picks?

    Nope. Hence, he’s elite.

  18. mittens is 100 percent right…
    Vincent is overrated, St Louis is vastly overrated..the way Lecavalier is milked by the media is’s Martin St Louis is one of the leagues top 10 players..pound for pound, he’s my favourite. I’m a big Habs fan, i would trade three players for St. Louis before i’d waste anybody on Lecavalier

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