Like everything in Michael Jordan’s orbit, The Last Dance – a 10-part documentary series that concluded on ESPN and Netflix last week – was iconic and memorable. If not for the fact that it was virtually the only fresh sports content available during a global pandemic, then because it gave us incredible insight into one of the most dominant athletes of all time.
One part of the series that really stood out were the middle episodes that focused on Jordan’s famous sidekick, Scottie Pippen. Jordan and Pippen are perhaps the most legendary duo in sports, the core underpinning Chicago’s six titles from 1991-98.
Like Jordan, Pippen was an electric two-way player who could beat you on both sides of the floor. When the two were on the court together, they outscored opponents at a disproportionate rate. Relative to their 1990s peers, Jordan and Pippen ranked first and seventh respectively in Box Plus/Minus.
Reliving the duo’s dominance made me wonder which NHL player combinations over the past decade might be comparable. No duo has even come close to winning that amount of team hardware over the period – in large part because parity in hockey is omnipresent, and it’s much less a star-driven league than the NBA. But we do know of a number of player combinations that drove similarly disproportionate differentials against the opposition.
Let’s try to find some comparables for the Jordan/Pippen combination. First, we will focus on the player combinations that drove the most disproportionate goal differentials together over the past decade. Then we will look at the best single season net goal differential, searching for the magic Jordan and Pippen recreated during the 1995-96 regular season.