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Retrospective Review of All-VHL Teams


Victor
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For those unaware, the All-VHL First and Second (and Rookie) Teams were implemented in S62 as part of a wider discussion on a lack of awards or recognition for a growing pool of players (given we have barely altered our list of awards since S1, although a few additional awards were added for defencemen and goalies in the late 50s). The All-VHL Teams have proven to be a success, a nice boost for those top forwards and defencemen who missed out on the trophies in a given season, and even for the second best goalie, which often meant in the past leaving the awards ceremony completely empty-handed. They've also proven to be useful when it comes to Hall of Fame discussion – certainly for any players who have played since they were implemented. But what about those vast swathes of VHL history from before S62? Well that's what I'm here to address today.

 

I have scoured the regular season indexes that we have from S18 onwards to pick what I think would have been the All-VHL Teams from S18 to S61, adding on all the actual players named to the teams since then at the bottom. While this is by no means an official list and it is only one man's opinion, it is the opinion of someone that I like to think has a fairly unbiased view when assessing the VHL's historical events and was also here for nearly the entire time period in question to be able to contextualise the numbers I was looking at. More importantly though, I think All-VHL Teams are not a particularly judgemental part of the awards process and even if it's not quite the top six scoring forwards and the goalie with the highest save percentage, there are not that many stats that move the needle away from that. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of who voters would have selected in a given season based on teams and other factors (e.g. Scott Boulet Trophy winners, who have often fallen out of the top scorers in a season) and I think have come up with about as good a list as we can get when looking back at 50 seasons of data. Certainly based on the appearances by Hall of Famers and players considered the best or close to it in their position, some logical patterns seem to emerge.

 

Anyway, the full list is linked below and will probably be kept somewhere sensible in the Hall of Fame for future reference. Whether the colour coding hinders or helps the viewing process remains to be seen but I think it at the very least brings out the cream of the crop.

 

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_5H9QZiOesF8-ofxZUZX0R1KiIiLwggh4MDxaoLnOkI/edit?usp=sharing

 

Firstly, we can see that not a single player has been in the All-VHL Teams for all 8 seasons of their career. This would require a superhuman effort from rookie season through depreciation and a lot of things falling just the way you need them to – realistically if it didn't happen in the old VHL it probably never will in the modern era.

 

There are two players who come close though – Conner Low and Lord Karnage. Low in fact hits the mark throughout his full career, as he only played 7 seasons in total. The five First Team appearances as a defenceman make sense as he won the Labatte in each of those seasons, en route to securing his place as the best defenceman of all time and fifth place on the recently published list of top 75 players in VHL history. Perhaps more impressive is his continued success as a forward in his final two seasons, as Low didn't miss a beat and remained a top player despite the position change, something that isn't really considered in his legacy as that was already secure after 5 seasons. But probably more surprising is Karnage's consistency in fact. That he was a great player is no surprise – this is the all-time TPE record holder under the old 9 TPE weekly cap, being the first and only player to hit 1,500 TPE under that system. He won a lot of Scott Boulet Trophies, but the fact he was never the absolute best in a given season and never won a cup (making just one underdog run to the finals with the Stockholm Vikings) means Karnage has flown under the radar since retiring, as reflected by the fact he was ranked only at #42 in the aforementioned top 75 list.

 

I won't go down the list in great detail as a fair few names join at 6 and 5 appearances (the ones in bold and highlighted in different shades of red). It becomes a who's who of some of the finest players in the VHL Hall of Fame. I do think it is worth touching on two things however. The first is the really visible cut-off between the modern era and the old VHL. It's not just the line I put between S61 (the last season I estimated) and S62 (the first season of the actual All-VHL Teams). It's also the increasing lack of players with even 4 career appearances (i.e. half a normal career) and no one exceeding that mark since Matt Thompson retired in S68. There is an increasing amount of players who only peak for 1 or 2 seasons because of how long it takes to break out or wait for someone a bit older to move out of the way, while it is much more difficult to maintain your peak into a 7th and especially and 8th season under current depreciation rules. Compare S75 which had 4 returning players in total out of the pool of 12 to S51 which saw three players on their 5th appearance and two others on their 4th and it's clearly a very different league.

 

Secondly, the contrast between skaters and goalies. It's easier to sneak into the top 6 forwards or top 4 defencemen on a weaker season but for goalies, the margins for error are small – even most all-time greats feature only 3-4 times. The exceptions are Greg Clegane and Hans Wingate, recently voted third and seventh best players of all time respectively, the legendary Aidan Shaw, and the equally legendary Daisuke Kanou, the only goalie to make 6 appearances on the list. But perhaps most remarkably, Kanou never made it as the absolute best goalie in a given season, the recently dethroned playoff guru always settling for second-best in the regular season.

 

That's that, perhaps this will prove useful in some future ranking or Hall of Fame conversation. But until then, hope you enjoyed this little brain dump.

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