First, let me come to the conclusion that all my fellow writers have already made and proclaimed loudly from the rooftops: There need to be more than 6 players from the modern era on the list if Jonathon Toews makes it. I believe that there should be more than six (as Sean Spicer would say) period. I also don’t think Jonathon Toews deserves (yet, at least) to make this list.
But I’m going to use the NHL’s list as a starting point. Then I will take into other lists, like that made by Wyshinski, Lozo, and McIndoe, as well as considering fan favorite players as well as my own favorites. I’m going to try and not show too much homerism. That may be a hard promise to keep.
Let’s start with the top 5 players in the NHL. I’m not going to rank these guys, but these five are statistically, far and away, the best players in NHL history.
Wayne Gretzky, C, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, New York Rangers (1979-99)
Stat Line: 1487 GP (games played), 2857 P (points), 894 G (goals) 1963 A (assists), 577 PIM (penalties in minutes), 73 SH (short-handed goals), 91 GWG (game winning goals), 76 SHA (short-handed assists), 17.6 S% (shooting percentage) (Playoffs: 208 GP, 382 P, 122 G 260 A, 66 PIM, 11 SH, 24 GWG, 17.5 S%)
“The Great One” is the best player of all time. There’s no contesting it, even though he himself would like to believe that it’s the guy following him alphabetically, Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe. That’s the kind of guy Wayne Gretzky is. He doesn’t want to believe that he’s the greatest even though he put up numbers that will never be contested and, with the eventual notable exception of Jaromir Jagr, who’s career longevity will rival that of only Chris Chelios and Gordie Howe, has more assists than anyone has (or likely will have) points.
I like to think that 99 was shooting for his birth year in assists (1961) but overshot it by two. He figured, hey why stop? Two more goals could help this team win, even though I’m Wayne Gretzky and the other team is likely losing anyway. Gretzky impresses me in every way. His hockey knowledge is astounding. His list is probably the one to read. His abilities on the ice are the most impressive, ever. And the fact that he comes off as just a genuine, kind dude, that’s impressive as well.
His number is retired across the league. He won eight straight MVP awards. It’s hard for anyone to convince me that there’s ever been a greater sheer athlete. I think Gretzky could play now, and still be better than half the league. But it would mess with his points per game average, where he now stands as the best. He’s also first in goals and assists per game, short-handed goals, goals, assists, and points.
Awards: 9 Hart Trophies, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 10 Art Ross Trophies, 5 Pearson (Ted Lindsay) Trophies, 5 Byng Trophies, 8 First Team All-Stars, 7 Second Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 9 Byng top 5 finishes, 4 Cups
Once again, the greatest to ever play the game.
Gordie Howe, RW, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers (1946-71, 1979-80)
Stat Line: 1767 GP, 1850 P, 801 G 1049 A, 1685 PIM (Playoffs: 157 GP, 160 P, 68 G 92 A, 220 A)
Gordie Howe played 80 games in the NHL when he was 51 years old. He would continue skating for decades after that, playing competitively, making the case for a senior’s league (aka the alumni game) in the NHL. Mr. Hockey was called that because before the Great One came around he was simply the most dominant player in the game.
Howe played from the 1940s into the 1980s and helped to get the game off of its feet. His loss was colossal last year, and he could probably have played a few more games. At one point, he played on the same team, sometimes iced at the same time with his son, who is a Hall of Famer himself. And despite playing 1767 games, Howe had more points than games played. He’s 37th in points-per-game all time.
Howe also helped reinvent the game, and he was the NHL’s biggest name from when he entered the league in the 1940s until he left in the early 70’s. His return was something special. He averaged half a point per game as a 51-year-old. More than 3 decades after his entrance into professional hockey, Mr. Hockey remained special. He deserves an award all his own, and the WHA gave him their Hart. I suggest the NHL do the same.
Awards: 6 Hart Trophies, 6 Art Ross Trophies, 12 First Team All-Stars, 9 Second Team All-Stars, 10 top 5 Hart finishes, 4 Cups
Jaromir Jagr, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Dallas Stars, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers
Stat Line: 1691 GP, 1903 P, 761 G 1142 A, 1147 PIM, 11 SH, 135 GWG, 4 SHA, 13.7 S%, 20:32 TOI (Playoffs: 208 GP, 201 P, 78 G 123 A, 163 PIM, 2 SH, 16 GWG, 11.4 S%, 20:45 TOI)
Jaromir Jagr is 44 years old. He plays top 6 minutes for the Florida Panthers and was a major factor in their winning their division last year. He keeps talking about how he’s going to play until he’s 50 years old. He keeps himself in shape like that statement will be true. I think he just wants to be older than Gordie Howe when he takes his last shift. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
Jagr has also played for nearly every team on the East coast, including Pittsburgh, Washington, New York (R), Philadelphia, Boston, New Jersey, Florida, and he has also played for Dallas. He will go into the Hall of Fame a Pittsburgh Penguin, a team he hasn’t played for in 16 years. They will “eventually” retire his number. That eventually will be reached when he is still playing hockey in the NHL. You know what else is interesting about 68? He’s never been in a fight.
Jagr, despite his games played (1887) also has more points than games played. That’s a common theme with these longevity guys. They were able to produce so much as young’uns, or they are still so able to produce, that they don’t really skip a beat. Jagr had 47 and 66 points his last two full years. Talented beyond a doubt at age 44.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 5 Art Ross Trophies, 3 Ted Lindsay Awards, Masterton Trophy, 7 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 6 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Mario Lemieux, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (1984-94, 1995-2006)
Stat Line: 915 GP, 1723 P, 690 G 1033 A, 834 PIM, 49 SH, 74 GWG, 22 SHA, 19.0 S% (Playoffs: 107 GP, 172 P, 76 G 96 A, 87 PIM, 7 SH, 11 GWG, 18.9 S%)
Mario Lemieux bought the Pittsburgh Penguins on back pay owed by the team. He saved them from moving to Kansas City, he became Pittsburgh’s hero, and he got Sidney Crosby in the process. And that’s post his time on the ice. When he was on the ice, it was his. He dominated the ice, and he was simply better than most players on the ice. I must say most because Lemieux played at the same time as Wayne. Those two were the best of their era, it’s uncontested, and that was one of the best eras in NHL history.
Lemieux beat cancer at age 27, he had Hodgkins’ disease. He played 60 games that year and came back the next to play 22. He continued to have a legendary career, scoring 549 points after beating cancer. That included two Art Rosses and a Hart. Lemieux was a true legend, and he was worthy of the accolades that have been bestowed upon him since.
He led the league in scoring 6 times. He had more than 100 points 10 times. He had six fifty goal seasons. Lemieux was a stunning offensive force, and he was able to contend in one of the worst eras in NHL history. Super Mario’s 3rd in goals per game, and 2nd in both assists and points per game. He’s 10th in goals, 11th in assists, and 8th in points.
Awards: 3 Hart Trophies, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 6 Art Ross Trophies, Calder Trophy, 4 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Awards, Masterton Trophy, 5 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 6 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Bobby Orr, D, Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks (1966-79)
Stat Line: 657 GP, 915 P, 270 G 645 A, 953 PIM, 16 SH, 26 GWG, 30 SHA, 9.2 S% (Playoffs: 74 GP, 92 P, 26 G 66 A, 107 PIM, 3 SH, 7 GWG)
Those stats are as a defenseman. Orr is the greatest defenseman of all time, and while he’s alone on the top 5 list for his position, Nick Lidstrom (at the very least) joins him in the top 10. The picture of him flying for that goal is a capture of the early days of the NHL. No helmet, no visor, trying your damned hardest to score and win.
That’s what Orr represents not only to the city of Boston, where he never has to buy a drink again but to the NHL as a whole. Orr is the best of the generation that branches from peak Howe to Gretzky. His career was shortened by knee problems, but if he had the longevity of a Lidstrom or a Chelios, who knows. We might have a different great one.
As it stands, though, Bobby Orr is seventh amongst defensemen in goals, 13th in assists, and 11th in points. He leads in goals, assists, and points per game. It’s not close in any category. He’s actually fourth all-time amongst all positions in points per game. He wasn’t just an offensive defenseman, though – he was also able to shut down teams best players.
Awards: 3 Hart Trophies, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 8 Norris Trophies, 2 Art Ross Trophies, 1 Pearson Trophy, Calder Trophy, 8 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Norris finish, 2 Cups
And the goalies:
Dominik Hasek, G, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings
Stat Line: 735 GP, 389 W, .922 SV%, 2.20 GAA, 81 SO, 19 P, 170 PIM (Playoffs: 119 GP, 65 W, .925 SV%, 2.02 GAA, 14 SO, 3 P, 44 PIM)
The worst mistake Dollar Bill Wirtz, the late owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, ever made was not boxing out fans. It wasn’t letting the Blackhawks get zero air time. It wasn’t allowing Pat Foley, a Hall of Fame broadcaster who should take over the national game when Doc retires, to walk. It wasn’t hurting Roenick by trading him, it wasn’t the plethora of mistakes that Dollar Bill is famous for. The worst mistake Dollar Bill ever made was letting a 27-year-old Dominik Hasek leave the team. Hasek would go on to be arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history, close in company with only Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy.
Hasek won a cup when he was 43 years old. His other one came when he was 37. I guess that’s what you get when you spend the majority of your career with the Buffalo Sabres. Hasek in the playoffs was a monster, a brick wall. He put up a career GAA of 2.02 in the postseason. That included a league leading 1.61, a 1.33, a 1.96, a 1.77, a 1.86, and a 1.79. That’s where Hasek was truly dominant, his abilities contributed directly to the first of his cups.
He won six Vezinas. That included three in a row. Two of the others were back to back. He was truly a dominant goaltender, and he led the league in SV% six years running. During two of those, he also led in GAA. In his career, he held less than 2.00 GAAs twice. Four times he led in shutouts. He’s sixth all-time in that category.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 6 Vezina Trophies, 2 Pearson Trophies, 3 Jennings Trophies, 6 First Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Vezina finish, 2 Cups
Patrick Roy, G, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche (1984-2003)
Stat Line: 1029 GP, 551 W, .910 SV%, 2.54 GAA, 66 SO, 45 P, 262 PIM (Playoffs: 247 GP, 151 W, .918 SV%, 2.30 GAA, 23 SO, 11 P, 54 PIM)
When Patrick Roy was allowed to stay in for a ritual slaughtering which the Montreal Canadiens have continued to do since (see Montoya vs. Blue Jackets), he was fired up enough, passionate enough to demand a trade. He then went to Colorado with Joe Sakic and won cups there twice, which met the two Cups he won in Montreal.
That’s the kind of player Roy was: fired up and passionate. When he was on, he shut out teams 89 teams including in the playoffs. There were times he wasn’t on, but in the hot puck era, he found a way to win 702 games out of 1276 and to lower the likes of Gretzky and Lemieux to 2.45 GAA. He will most likely be one of the more sought after coaches this next season after seeing what Colorado is without him.
Roy is 15th in shutouts. He’s second in wins. He’s fourth in points amongst goalies, and 50th in GAA. What’s truly impressive about Roy, though, is the number of times he led the league in statistical categories. He led three times in GAA. He led four times in SV%, and once in saves. He did all those things in the playoffs multiple times. Roy was fired up, but that just made him better.
Awards: 3 Conn Smythe Trophies, 3 Vezina Trophies, 5 Jennings Trophies, 4 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 7 top 5 Vezina finishes, 4 Cups
Now to the real test of this list: Who else makes it? There are 93 slots and perhaps 120 players vying for it.
I’d say Wyshinski, Lozo and McIndoe’s but you gotta buy that. Support hockey writers. Here’s a snippet they made public, though. The Book is called The 100 Greatest Players in NHL History
And here’s the all-time scoring list (and a few others), for the record:
I will also be using Hockey Reference (www.hockey-reference.com)
Alright, before we get too deep into this (he says 1600 words in) I’ve been watching hockey since high school. That’s since the 09-10 season, but really it’s since the 2012-2013 lockout/Blackhawks fire season. That lockout is actually what brought me close to hockey, that’s the defining entry point of my fandom.
So I will somewhat rely on the work of others and on the lists presented, as well as points per game leaders. Anybody can crack the all-time points list – Rod Brind’Amour and Vincent Damphousse are both on it but on nobodies top 100s – but it takes a special player to be top 50 in PPG (and that’s why Patrick Kane will be on this list someday).
There’s also a morality clause to this list, and players with notable off-ice issues will not appear.
The players who make it from this generation will be close to the end of their careers – Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Henrik Lundqvist – because they’re easier to speculate on than say “hey, could Kane have another Hart season?” I honestly have no clue. I believe so, but he will have to stop bouncing around the lineup and play consistently with the people he’s best with – Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov – and play well on the Power Play again. Not as easy as one might think with the Blackhawks.
Now that I wasted 250 words on that explanation, back into it. This is going to take a while
Babe Dye, RW, Toronto St. Patricks, Hamilton Tigers, Chicago Black Hawks, New York Americans, Toronto Maple Leafs (1919-1931)
Stat line: 271 GP, 248 P, 201 G 47 (Playoffs: 10 GP, 2 P, 2 G 0 A)
Here’s the thing about Babe Dye (well, apart from that luxurious, luxurious hair that I couldn’t achieve on my best day now, even with all the product in the world. I don’t truly understand how he achieved that) he’s still, nearly 90 years later, top 5 all time in goals per game.
That’s a ridiculous stat. Plus the fact Dye didn’t begin playing until he was 21, plus the fact that he only played 271 games, Dye was a beast of a scorer and one of the earliest stars in the NHL, right when they need him.
Dye’s hair is still impressive, though. Like, there’s guys in the NHL now still doing that hair style. Babe Dye, one of the first greats of the NHL, trendsetter.
Awards: 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 Cup
Newsy Lalonde, C, Montreal Canadiens, New York Americans (1917-1922, 1926-27)
Stat line: 99 GP, 166 P, 125 G 41 A (Playoffs: 7 GP, 19 P, 15 G 4 A)
Lalonde played for five years. Well, five years, and then five years later he played one more game. He disappeared for five years. It wasn’t during the World Wars, it was in the middle of the peace between, so my biggest question for Lalonde is where did he go? Where did he go?
During the five years he was really, truly active, Lalonde took the scoring title twice, and was much more than a goal per game. He was also near 2 PIM per game, so the guy could dish it out both in terms of greasy, physical play and in terms of goal scoring. It just really sucks that no footage exists of Lalonde, but hey, at least we have this picture, right?
Think of Lalonde as an actually talented Corey Perry, except likable and with finishing ability. Oh, and by the way, he started playing in the NHL at age 30. So think about what Lalonde could have done during his peak.
Howie Morenz, C, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks, New York Rangers (1921-34 [his death])
Stat line: 550 GP, 472 P, 271 G 201 A (Playoffs: 39 GP, 22 P, 13 G 9 A)
Morenz is one of the very few NHL players to die in a game. That shouldn’t be his legacy, the fact that he led the NHL in scoring all-time at the time of his death should be, but it’s hard to overlook the fact that the man was killed in a hockey game. Not physically on the ice, he suffered a broken leg and died of an infection later, but still, his death can be traced to a hockey game. And he was killed by another top 100 NHL player, Earl Seibert.
During his time on ice, he won three Hart trophies, two scoring titles, and scored the most goals in the league once. He had more penalty minutes than points and was as tough as they came. He was also 5’9″, clearing the path for Martin St. Louis and Johnny Gaudreau among other shorties that would follow.
Awards: 3 Harts, 2 first team all-stars, 1 Second team all-star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 top five Byng finish, 3 Cups
Nels Stewart, C, Montreal Maroons, Boston Bruins, New York Americans (1925-40)
Stat line: 650 GP, 515 P, 324 G 191 A (Playoffs: 50 GP, 21 P, 9 G 12 A)
Nels Stewart won the Hart his first year in the league. He won the Stanley Cup that year as well, but would never do it again. He would win another Hart, 4 years later, but never another Stanley Cup. But why does that matter?
The guy won two Harts in the early years of the NHL and played for two now nonexistent teams in the Maroons and the Americans. The year following his rookie season he led the NHL in PIM. The dude did it all and won two goal scoring titles. He’s still in the top 25 in goals per game and was a scoring first center, a rare thing in the NHL.
Plus, the name Nels. Was it Nelson? Was he born Nels? If so, why? If not, why not?
Awards: Two Harts, One Top 5 Hart finish, 1 Cup
Syl Apps, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (1936-48)
Stat line: 423 GP, 432 P, 201 G 231 A (Playoffs: 69 GP, 54 P, 25 G 29 A)
Syl Apps is one of the most amazing Toronto Maple Leafs of all time. He’s a man who served his country in World War II, and who helped lead the Maple Leafs to three Stanley Cups, including captaining two. That’s three straight by the way.
And that’s without even touching his regular season awards. He was on five all-star teams and won the Calder his rookie year. Apps understood the game and was over a point per game throughout his career. Going to the Stanley Cup and winning it two years after returning from the war showcases his leadership and talent. He was one of several NHL legends to have their careers interrupted, and was fine with it in the end.
The fact that he was a lifetime Leaf is also impressive, and he was one of the best centers of his era.
Awards: Calder, 2 first team all-stars, 3 Second team all-stars, 1 Lady Byng, a lot of top 5 finishes in Hart and Byng, 3 Cups
Toe Blake, LW, Montreal Maroons, Montreal Canadiens (1934-48)
Stat Line: 577 GP, 527 P, 235 G 292 A (Playoffs: 58 GP, 62 P, 25 G 37 A)
The fact that Toe Blake was a better coach (above) than he was player highlights how great he was as a coach because he is truly deserving of a top 100 player spot. In one of his cup runs, Blake had the most points in the league in the playoffs. That was before the Conn Smythe, and Blake would have won it that year.
In fact, that was where Blake was most impressive, in the playoffs. He led the league several times in several categories, including twice in games played, once in goals, twice in assists, once in points. And, apart from the occasional fight, Blake was a clean player in the playoffs.
There was a year in Toe Blake’s career where he played 50 games, most in the NHL, and only sat 2 minutes in the box. That year won him the Byng and a second team all-star. Now, it would win him national attention. Only 2 minutes?
And that’s without addressing the real facts: His name was Toe. His nickname was the Ol’ Lamplighter. Both all-time greats.
Awards: 1 Hart, 3 1st Team All-Stars, 2 2nd Team All-Stars, 1 Byng, 3 Cups
Frank Boucher, C, Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers (1921-22, 1926-38, 1943-44)
Stat Line: 557 GP, 423 P, 160 G 263 A, 119 PIM (Playoffs: 55 GP, 36 P, 16 G 20 A, 12 PIM)
Boucher won the Lady Byng so many times (seven) that they gave him the trophy. Byng had to donate another trophy because Boucher was the most gentlemanly player in the history of the game. Every year (between 1926 and 35) Boucher didn’t win the Byng, he finished in the top 5. Boucher had single digit PIM 9 times in his 14-year career.
On top of just being the cleanest guy, Boucher had three straight first team all-stars IN HIS THIRTIES. He was past his peak physically when he started dominating. Boucher had the most assists in the league 3 times. When he came back for his age 42 season after being the coach for the Rangers, he was at a near point-per-game clip. Imagine an NHL coach doing that today.
Man, the Frank Boucher legacy. That long Rangers streak without a Cup could have been known as the Boucher streak because the last cup before 94 was with him as coach. Cause he’s just stupid good and is one of the best all-time Rangers.
Awards: 3 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 7 Lady Byngs, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Lady Byng top 5 finishes, 2 Cups
King Clancy, D, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs (1921-37)
Stat Line: 592 GP, 283 P, 136 G 147 A (Playoffs: 55 GP, 16 P, 8 G 8 A)
Clancy is another one known for his legacy off the ice, which kind of sucks considering how able he was on the ice. Clancy did everything in terms of the hockey world – he played, he coached, he reffed, he managed. This guy did it all, but what he did best involved him being on the ice, starting with his playing career.
During his time as a defenseman, Clancy played a full season 7 times. He finished in the top 5 for the Hart five times. He was a first-team all-star twice and a second team all-star twice. Dude was competent on the ice, but he was just as likely to be a scrapper. He finished with 914 PIM.
Clancy didn’t score a lot of points, but he was one of the first truly solid defensemen and was a lock down guy, propelling his team to three cups.
Plus, he now has a trophy dedicated to being the best human in the league. (Which, as a Blackhawks fan with inherent bias [there’ll be a lot of Hawks on this list] why hasn’t Jonathon Toews won this award yet? He’s not a great player but he’s one of the finest human beings to ever play the game.)
Awards: 2 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 3 Cups and HIS OWN DAMN AWARD
Charlie Conacher, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, New York Americans
Stat Line: 459 GP, 398 P, 225 G 173 A (Playoffs: 49 GP, 35 P, 17 G 18 A)
In the early 30s, there was not a better right wing than Conacher. One of the last great (New York) Americans, Conacher dominated scoring. He had five goal scoring titles and had the most points in the league twice. Then, Conacher got hurt in two straight years and just wasn’t the same.
It’s interesting to think about what Conacher might have been, and he retired relatively early at 31 years of age, but it’s also important to focus on what Conacher was. And what Conacher was was a three-time first team all-star, a two-time second team all-star, and someone who got very close to a Hart trophy without a lot of assists and without playing the full season. Conacher never actually played a full season.
Where Conacher really shined was the playoffs, where apparently Conacher was his healthiest. He played the most games in the league four times in the playoffs, and had the most goals once and the most points a different time. In fact, Conacher was much closer to being an even goal scorer/playmaker in the playoffs, and it paid off in a Cup.
Awards: Three First Team All-Stars, Two Second Team All-Stars, two top 5 Hart finishes, 1 Cup
Charlie Gardiner, G, Chicago Black Hawks (1927-34 [His Death])
Stat Line: 316 GP, 112 W, 2.02 GAA, 42 SO, 2 PIM (Playoffs: 21 GP, 12 W, 1.43 GAA, 5 SO)
If you ever want an example of how tough (and how stupidly tough) NHL players can be, look no farther than Charlie Gardiner, the first Scottish-born player to play in the NHL. Gardiner caught an infection having his tonsils removed. Through pain and the infection, including fevers, aches, and losing his vision, Gardiner continued to play in NHL games, including shutouts and winning games for the early 30’s Blackhawks. Imagine if Jordan played a full season with the flu at that skill level. That was Gardiner’s life and last season. Oh, and in that last season, he was the first All-Star goalie, and won the Vezina.
Charlie Gardiner had the potential to become one of the first true legends of hockey, to become one of the greatest to ever play the game and do it early. In his five seasons (of seven) above .500 as the Blackhawks’ goaltender, Gardiner won 3 first team all-stars, 2 Vezinas, 1 Second team all-star, and a top 10 Hart finish. In the playoffs, he won 1 Cup with a Hawks team that wasn’t one of the 3 best of the original six.
Charlie has just insane stats. Twice he led the league in shutouts. Once he led in GAA, but he kept it under 2.01 five times in his career. His playoffs GAA, implausibly, was better.
Gardiner might remain one of the biggest what-ifs in NHL history.
Awards: 2 Vezinas, 3 1st Team All-Stars, 1 2nd Team All-Star, 1 Cup
Earl Seibert, D, New York Rangers, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings (1931-46)
Stat Line: 645 GP, 276 P, 89 G 187 A, 746 PIM (Playoffs: 66 GP, 19 P, 11 G 8 A, 76 PIM)
Because of concussions, Earl Seibert was the first player to wear a helmet full-time. This random fact is for those who want to know the specifically detailed history of the NHL.
For those who want to know about Earl Seibert, look no further than this quote from Ching Johnson, his defensive partner in New York, “Even Eddie Shore and Red Horner steered clear of him, and Shore and Horner were considered the toughest guys in the League”. Shore is also on this list, and if Shore was afraid of someone, that man had to be good.
And good Seibert was. From age 23 to 32, Seibert appeared on either the first or second all-star team every, single, year. Seibert was grit exemplified and was top 5 in Hart finishing twice. The man was hard hitting, and kept every backline he played on great. It was also Seibert who broke Howie Morenz’ leg, which ended up killing Morenz. Seibert would never be the same.
But during that eleven-year period of unending all-star quality play, there was next to no-one better on the blueline than Seibert.
Awards: 4 1st Team All-Stars, 7 2nd Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Eddie Shore, D, Boston Bruins, New York Americans (1926-40)
Stat Line: 550 GP, 284 P, 105 G 179 A, 1047 PIM (55 GP, 19 P, 7 G 12 A, 181 PIM)
Eddie Shore has four Hart trophies. That’s about all I need as justification for Eddie Shore to make this list. What other players on this list have never done once, Shore did 4 times. He also finished in the top five for the Hart 4 other times. That’s mind boggling.
And Shore did it for Boston, before Bobby Orr. It was much like the Indianapolis Colts are now: the Boston Bruins have always had a franchise defenseman. That’s what their team is built around. It started with Shore, then it was Orr, then it was Bourque, then it was Chara, soon it will be McAvoy. The Bruins are a team known for their defensive style, and there’s a reason for that.
Shore is a legend on a legendary team. He’s one of the best defensemen from the Original 6 era, and may still be one of the best defensemen today.
Awards: 4 (!!) Hart Trophies, 7 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, Four top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Doug Bentley, LW, Chicago Black Hawks, New York Rangers (1939-44, 1945-52, 1953-54) & Max Bentley, C, Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers (1940-43, 45-54)
Stat Line [Doug]: 566 GP, 543 P, 219 G 324 A, 217 PIM (Playoffs: 23 GP, 17 P, 8 G 9 A, 12 PIM)
Stat Line [Max]: 646 GP, 544 P, 245 G 299 A, 179 PIM (Playoffs: 51 GP, 45 P, 18 G 27 A, 14 PIM)
The original Sedin twins, Doug and Max Bentley were early greats in the National Hockey League and played together much of the time. They formed two signature lines: the first all-brother line, with their brother Reg, and the Pony Line with Bill Mosienko. Doug was named the greatest Chicago hockey player of the half century in 1950 Chicago. Max played for three of the original 6 teams, about the percentage of the league that Jaromir Jagr is at.
Both players led the league in scoring at some point, and while Doug came away with numerous First Team All-Stars, Max won a Hart. So, again, an early Canadian Sedins. Doug retired first years after the Blackhawks had traded Max to Toronto. The two would join back up in New York.
Both were caught in Canada during World War II. They survived the initial round of departures in the NHL, but Max was called to duty in 43 and Doug was stopped at the border in 44 and returned to the family farm. They returned to the Blackhawks after the war. Both brothers could also have been finalists for the Byng award, and in fact, Max won one.
Max finished second among active players at the time, behind only Maurice “Rocket” Richard. The brothers were two exceptional players and the fact that they played together for most of the time added to their legacy.
Awards [Doug]: 3 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 3 top 5 Hart finishes
Awards [Max]: 1 Hart, 1 Byng, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 Second Team All-Star, two top 5 Hart finishes, 2 top 5 Byng finishes, 3 Cups
Turk Broda, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (1936-43, 1945-52)
Stats: 629 GP, 302 W, 2.53 GAA, 62 SO (Playoffs: 101 GP, 60 W, 1.98 GAA, 13 SO)
Alright, stay with me here: Turk Broda might be the greatest playoffs goaltender of all time. Yeah, there’s Grant Fuhr and Corey Crawford and others. But Broda’s 1.98 GAA is better than every other goaltender’s on this list. Those 13 SO contributed to five Stanley Cups, including 2 where Broda played the most games in the league.
Broda won two Vezinas on top of that, led the league twice in shutouts, and got a top 5 Hart finish as a goaltender in the 1940s. Both of the times he led the league in GAA he won the Vezina. This dude man, he was goaltending greatness, and there’s a reason the Leafs were capable behind him.
He was also the first (and only) goaltender to get a reverse-sweep in the Final. Plus, his name rhymes with my Dad’s name. And he served in the war, and he retired the winningest goalie in NHL history. I need a Broda jersey.
Awards: Two Vezinas, Two First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 5 Stanley Cups
Bill Durnan, G, Montreal Canadiens (1943-50)
Stat Line: 383 GP, 208 W, 2.36 GAA, 34 SO (Playoffs: 45 GP, 27 W, 2.07, 2 SO)
Alright, the greatest goaltender of the late 40s. Bill Durnan began playing NHL hockey at age 28. He retired from exhaustion before the age of 35. In that time, Bill Durnan won six Vezina trophies and finished the First Team All-Star all six times.
Durnan was just a freaking wall. In a period of high goal scoring and where goaltenders couldn’t leave their feet to make a save (see above), Durnan led the league in GAA six times and was even somewhat better in his 30’s. Durnan led the league twice in shutouts.
Durnan remains just outside the top 20 in league history in GAA, and six of those are current guys who could drop lower. The man’s six Vezina trophies are tied for second in league history, behind only Jacques Plante and tied with Dominik Hasek.
And none of this is even taking into account Durnan’s playoff performance, where he was if anything even better.
Awards: Six Vezina Trophies, Six FIrst-Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Calder finish, 2 Cups
Elmer Lach, C, Montreal Canadiens (1940-54)
Stat Line: 664 GP, 623 P, 215 G 408 A (Playoffs: 76 GP, 64 P, 19 G 45 A 36 PIM)
Elmer Lach finished first in scoring twice, once before the invention of the Art Ross, once after. At least for the first effort, he still won the Hart and a first team all-star. Lach wasn’t a true goal scorer – he led the league three times in assists. Lach was also one of the first to play 70 games in 1951 and was the glue for a team that won 3 Stanley Cups.
Lach centered the Punch Line, with Toe Blake and Maurice Richard. All three of those players made the top 100 list, perhaps the only line to do so. That Punch Line, man, those were some legends.
Lach also retired first all-time in scoring, with all those assists from Maurice Richard goals, of course he did.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Art Ross Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 3 Cups
Maurice Richard, RW, Montreal Canadiens (1942-60)
Stat Line: 978 GP, 965 P, 544 G 421 A, 1285 PIM (Playoffs: 133 GP, 126 P, 82 G 44 A, 188 PIM)
There’s a reason they named the goal scoring title after this guy. He won it himself 5 times and was perhaps the greatest pre-Ovechkin goal scorer in the league. Richard’s prowess in getting the puck in the net also helped translate into 8 cups for the Montreal Canadiens, including five straight.
But Richard wasn’t just a pretty goal scorer. He led the league in penalty minutes once and twice in the playoffs. The man could scrap just as easily as he could score, and you didn’t want him doing either against your team. Perhaps that’s why Montreal always kept a firm hold on his contract.
Or perhaps it’s that in his final five seasons, Richard was above (or within a point of) a point per game 3 times. Richard also invented the 50 goal season, and that’s still a marker of the most remarkable players in the league.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 8 First Team All-Stars, 6 Second Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 8 (!!) Cups
Jean Beliveau, C, Montreal Canadiens (1950-51, 1952-71)
Stat Line: 1125 GP, 1219 P, 507 G 712 A, 1029 PIM (Playoffs: 162 GP, 176 P, 79 G 97 A, 211 PIM)
Jean Beliveau remains in the top 50 in points per game 45 years after his retirement. He’s also in the top 20 in points per game in the playoffs. Beliveau was a beast of the game, and his ten Stanley Cups only help to assert that fact.
Beliveau was beloved in Montreal, is still beloved in Montreal. And who can blame that city for loving probably their best player? Beliveau delivered game in and game out and was a massive off-ice personality, and for the good. Beliveau is the early model of the point scoring center, a position that will continue to be on this list and in the game.
Beliveau was a perennial Hart contender and played both before and after the invention of the Conn Smythe and advanced stats. His years of playing lifted Montreal to the legendary status they have now in the sport, and he is a true champion.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 1 Art Ross Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 6 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 7 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 Byng top 5 finish, 10 Cups
Bernie Geoffrion, RW, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers (1950-64, 1966-68)
Stat Line: 883 GP, 822 P, 393 G 429 A, 689 PIM (Playoff: 132 GP, 118 P, 58 G 60 A, 88 PIM)
“Boom Boom” was nicknamed such because of the sound the puck made coming off his puck and when it hit the boards. Not when it hit the net when it missed by a large margin. But, as an inventor of the slapshot, Geoffrion probably had to learn on his own how to control it.
Geoffrion is one of many players in the early days of the NHL who came out of retirement to play a couple more seasons. His tenure with the Montreal Canadiens is enough to make him on this list, but his tenure on the Rangers… is really unimpressive, so let’s focus on the Canadiens.
Geoffrion led the league twice in goals scored and points. Geoffrion was over a point per game 7 times in his career. Geoffrion was on one of the greatest teams of all time, the mid-50s Canadiens. His slap shot is still one of the greatest skills in the NHL, and if he hadn’t popularized it, and won scoring titles with it, who knows if the league has it now.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Calder Trophy, 2 Art Ross Trophies, 1 First Team All-Star, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Byng finish, 6 Cups
Doug Harvey, D, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues (1947-64, 1966-67, 1968-69)
Stat Line: 1113 GP, 540 P, 88 G 452 A, 1216 PIM (Playoffs: 137 GP, 72 P, 8 G 64 A, 152 PIM)
Harvey is one of the greatest defensemen of all time. Up there with Howe, but with a longer career. Harvey won 7 Norrises in his time on ice and was a top 5 finisher for much of his 30s.
On a team made up of a lot of great forwards, Harvey was the focal point of the Canadiens defense. He also had four straight 40+ point seasons. This is truly a remarkable defenseman, and the guy came out of retirement twice with two different teams. Hell, he had 22 points on an early Blues team at 44.
Harvey’s true hall of fame career didn’t even start until he was 28, and yet his 30s were one of the greatest decades of play in NHL history.
Awards: 7 Norris Trophies, 10 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 top 5 Norris finishes, 6 Cups
Red Kelly, D/C, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-67)
Stat Line: 1316 GP, 823 P, 281 G 542 A, 327 PIM (Playoffs: 164 GP, 92 P, 33 G 59 A, 51 PIM)
Red Kelly was once traded from the Leafs to the Rangers, refused to go, and that trade then had to be canceled. I mean, if I was happy in the situation I was in, I’d do the same. Luckily, more NHL players haven’t figured out that trick.
Kelly was also one of the few players to make the transition from forward to defenseman and to do it well. Kelly was at once both a great center and a great defenseman, and his ability won him both the first Norris ever and also numerous 40+ point seasons.
Kelly also won the Lady Byng trophy 4 times and didn’t take a ton of penalties ever. He was two different players, a defenseman with the Red Wings and a forward with the Maple Leafs, and he was great at both.
Awards: 1 Norris Trophy, 4 Byng Trophies, 6 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, top 5 Calder finish, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 5 top 5 Byng finishes, 3 top 5 Norris finishes
Ted Kennedy, C, Toronto Maple Leafs (1942-55, 1956-57)
Stat Line: 696 GP, 560 P, 231 G 329 A, 432 PIM (Playoffs: 78 GP, 60 P, 29 G 31 A, 32 PIM)
Kennedy retired fifth in scoring all-time. That’s not bad for a Maple Leaf, and in fact, Kennedy was around for 5 Toronto championships, more than even this core couldn’t hope to accomplish.
In fact, in two of the Cup runs, Kennedy led the team in goals twice and in scoring once. Kennedy was even at a point per game pace as a young man. He scored 49 points in 49 games his age 18 season. He scored 1 point in 2 games at 17.
Kennedy is one of the best Maple Leafs of all time and helped the Leafs win five Cups in six seasons.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 5 Cups
Ted Lindsay, LW, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks (1944-60, 1964-65)
Stat Line: 1068 GP, 851 P, 379 G 472 A, 1808 PIM (Playoffs: 133 GP, 96 P, 47 G 49 A, 194 PIM)
Lindsay came out of retirement at 39, and scored 28 points, five years after playing in the NHL. That in itself is remarkable. What else is remarkable is that Lindsay racked up 173 PIM that same year. So he just came back basically to fight everybody as a 39-year-old. That’s even better.
Lindsay became the fifth-leading NHL scorer by the end of his career. He has since been replaced several times over, but still, remarkable for the era he played in. He played in the time before the Ross and after the Ross and was one of the first Art Ross winners. He won the award with only 33 goals.
Twice Lindsay led the league in assists, and once he led in penalty minutes, so the guy wasn’t a perennial Lady Byng contender. He also wasn’t a perennial Hart contender, which is a real shame considering, you know, he was one of the first Art Ross winners. I’m starting to think there’s a reason that the players-named MVP award is his trophy.
Awards: 1 Art Ross Trophy, 8 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, top 5 Calder finish, 4 Cups
Dickie Moore, LW, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues (1951-63, 1964-65, 1967-68)
Stat Line: 719 GP, 608 P, 261 G 347 A, 652 PIM (Playoffs: 135 GP, 110 P, 46 G 64 P, 122 PIM)
Dickie Moore was a point per game or better four times out of his fourteen seasons. In those four seasons, he finished in the top 3 of the Calder and got two Art Ross trophies. That’s pretty darn good. In two of those four, he led the league in scoring.
Moore and Ted Lindsay had pretty close careers – neither won the Hart despite Art Ross wins. Neither won the Calder, but both finished in the top 5. Both won multiple cups, and both played left wing. I guess you could call Dickie Moore the Ted Lindsay of the MCanadiens. Or you could call Ted Lindsay the Dickie Moore of the Red Wings. Whatevs.
Moore won the Art Ross in back to back seasons. During those two seasons, he put up 180 points. He also led the league in playoff scoring twice. He also, after retiring twice from the league, at 32 and 34, unretired and helped to get the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals – and then lost to his HOF bust team, the Canadiens.
He also played with both the Leafs and Canadiens, which is probably a much rarer feat than people expect.
Awards: 2 Art Ross Trophies, 2 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 top 5 Calder finish
Jacques Plante, G, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins (1952-65, 1968-73, 1974-75)
Stat Line: 837 GP, 437 W, 2.38 GAA, 82 SO, 8 P (Playoffs: 112 GP, 71 W, 2.14 GAA, 14 SO, 1 P)
Jacques Plante was the first goaltender to wear a mask. But his contribution to the game goes past that – in an age where goaltenders were not allowed to leave their feet to make a save, he won 7 Vezinas. 7! Jeebus. He also had a 2.38 GAA, and you try to do better without leaving your feet.
Plante won 5 straight Cups as well, staying the starting goaltender the entire time. Nowadays, goaltenders can’t even win 2 straight (Corey Crawford would have three. Thanks a lot, Nick Leddy).
Jacques Plante is a Montreal legend. And like Dickie Moore, a player who played in front of Plante, he played for rivals. Except, Plante played for both Boston and Toronto. So. Plante’s probably not the most popular guy in Montreal. He retired from age 36 to 40, then came back and played until his 44th year. He played in the playoffs at 44. Do that, Carey Price!
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 7 Vezina Awards, 3 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team-All Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 top 5 Calder finish (three years into his career), 6 Cups
Terry Sawchuk, G, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers (1949-70)
Stats: 971 GP, 447 W, 2.51 GAA, 103 SO, 7 P, 229 PIM (Playoffs: 106 GP, 54 W, 2.54 GAA, 12 SO, 26 PIM)
Sawchuk, in all honesty, should have just stayed a Red Wing. He played the first six seasons of his career in Detroit. After two years in Boston, he played seven more. After four years away, he came back. And then he played another season. Why? If you believed in the guy at age 39, keep him at 26. Free agency didn’t exist – the Red Wings traded him and then traded for him. Man, Mike Ilitch really turned that team around.
In his first three full years in the league, Sawchuk won two Vezinas and the Calder. All three years he was the First Team All-Star. He won two more Vezina trophies before he retired. Every full year in his first stretch with Detroit, Sawchuk led the league in wins.
Sawchuk continued playing until he was 40. He played hurt a lot and was killed after fighting with a teammate while drunk. If he had kept going, Sawchuk could have continued being a dominant goaltender – Plante, who played much of the same time as Sawchuk, played til 44.
Awards: 4 Vezina Trophies, 1 Calder Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 4 Cups
Milt Schmidt, C/D, Boston Bruins (1936-42, 1945-55)
Stat Line: 776 GP, 575 P, 229 G 346 A, 466 PIM (Playoffs: 86 GP, 49 P, 24 G 25 A, 60 PIM)
Schmidt was one of many early NHL legends who had their careers interrupted by World War II. Schmidt fought for the Canadian Army and returned to the ice to win two First Team All-Stars, and to continue being a prescient scoring threat.
Schmidt was overshadowed as a Bruins defender by Eddie Shore. But as a Center man, there was no better Boston Bruin in his time. There’s a reason Schmidt stayed with the team so long. Schmidt was also quietly a gentlemanly player – his highest career PIM was 57, and that year, he had one of his best chances at winning the Hart.
Schmidt won his only Hart at age 32, 5 years after returning from war. Schmidt had to go from winning the Stanley Cup to fighting in battle. Man, if that happened now, I don’t know how much of a chance Beau Bennett would have.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars 1 Second Team All-Star, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Andy Bathgate, RW, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins (1952-1968, 1970-71)
Stat Line: 1069 GP, 973 P, 349 G 624 A, 624 PIM (Playoffs: 54 GP, 35 P, 21 G 14 A, 76 PIM)
Bathgate is a New York Rangers legend. At the same time, he scored the first goal in expansion team history, the first goal in Penguins franchise history. His impact on the game is obvious, and the fact that he unretired for the Penguins at 38, after 3 years away, is but another factor.
Bathgate led the league in scoring once. It was three years before, though, that he won the Hart award. That was a year where he scored 88 points and was top 5 in Byng voting with 48 PIM. That’s a lot for a Byng voting finish.
Bathgate played for both the Maple Leafs and Red Wings in addition to the Penguins. It was in his two-year term in Toronto that he won his sole Stanley Cup. At age 24, Bathgate started producing at above a point per game clip. He didn’t stop ’til he was 32.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Lady Byng finish, 1 Cup
Johnny Bower, G, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs (1953-55, 1956-57, 1958-70)
Stat Line: 552 GP, 250 W, 2.51 GAA, 37 SO, 3 P (Playoffs: 74 GP, 35 W, 2.47 W, 5 SO, 1 P)
Alright, here’s the thing about Johnny Bower: he didn’t play full time until he was 34. He played 70 games his age 29 year, then played five games as a 30-year-old. Then he didn’t play until he was 32 when he played two games. He didn’t get it back on track until age 34, and then he didn’t stop.
And the whole time, Bower lied about his age. He lied about his age as a 15-year-old, attempting to join the army, so why wouldn’t he lie about his age as a professional goaltender?
But he won two Vezinas, at age 36 and 40. He was in the Hart conversation throughout his late 30s. Bower is impressive, as well as being weirdly aged.
Awards: 2 Vezina Awards, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 4 Cups
Johnny Bucyk, LW, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins (1955-78)
Stat Line: 1540 GP, 1369 P, 556 G 813 A, 497 PIM, 19.1 S%
Like Bower, Bucyk didn’t hit his true stride until he was in his late 30’s. The man bridged from Shore to Orr and was the lone star in the middle. He’s become overshadowed by Orr and those to follow, but Bucyk still leads the Boston Bruins franchise with 545 goals. He did that in 21 seasons.
Bucyk started a Red Wing. He became a Bruin in a trade for legend Terry Sawchuk, who was unhappy in Boston. He then became a Bruins legend, having his number, 9, retired by the franchise.
Bucyk is also one of a very few amount of Bruins to win the Lady Byng. That’s despite the style of play that Bucyk probably indulged in in Boston, home of some of the hardest hits in hockey.
Awards: 2 Lady Byng Awards, 1 First Team All-Star, 2 Second Team All-Star, 5 Lady Byng top 5 finishes, 2 Cups
Glenn Hall, G, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Black Hawks, St. Louis Blues (1952-53, 1954-71)
Stats: 906 GP, 407 W, 2.49 GAA, 84 SO, 9 P (Playoffs: 115 GP, 49 W, 2.78 GAA, 6 SO)
Alright, it’s my turn to be pissed off. Hall is a Blackhawks legend, but he played for the Hawks’ two chief rivals at the beginning and the end of his career. Like. Come on now. Hall got the Black Hawks to the time where they could acquire Tony O, but still. Hall is one of the first great Chicago netminders.
Hall won one of the very few Cups with the Blackhawks pre-dynasty era. He also was one of the very few players who won the Conn Smythe without winning the Stanley Cup. As goaltenders, there are only four who have done it: Hall, Roger Crozier (Detroit Red Wings, 1966), Ron Hextall (Philadelphia Flyers, 1987), and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, 2003).
Hall helped get the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals, and that’s why he won that award. Cause doing that was that hard. Just gotta get that one last dig in (it won’t be the last Blues dig). Hall also holds the record for most consecutive games played by a goaltender: at 502. That’s not being broken.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe, 3 Vezina Awards, Calder Trophy, 7 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 Cup
Tim Horton, D, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres
Stat Line: 1446 GP, 518 P, 115 G 403 A, 1611 PIM, 2.8 S% (Playoffs: 126 GP, 50 P, 183 PIM)
Yeah. That Tim Horton. The one who founded a doughnut chain that’s become the Dunkin Donuts of Canada, with the Timbits. The actually good doughnut chain. Oh, yes, I went there.
It’s what Horton did on the ice that gets him here, though. He was one of the few players to play at the age of 44, and he showed nos signs of stopping. That’s a small part of why his death was so tragic. He could have kept playing past that age, and joined a very small amount of people to have scored a goal past that age – Chris Chelios, Jaromir Jagr, and Gordie Howe. All legends in their own right.
Horton was a lockdown defenseman, one who stayed in the Norris hunt his entire time on ice. The closest he came was age 34 and age 39, both times he finished second. Think of Horton as an early version of the best defensive defensemen today – your Hjalmarsson, your Lidstrom. That’s what Horton brought to the table.
Awards: 3 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 6 top 5 Norris finishes, 4 Cups
Dave Keon, C, Toronto Maple Leafs, Hartford Whalers (1960-75, 1979-82)
Stat Line: 1296 GP, 986 P, 396 G 590 A, 117 PIM, 9.9 S% (Playoffs: 92 GP, 68 P, 32 G 36 A, 6 PIM)
Keon was recently named the greatest Leaf of all time. While that’s a debate I’d like to have – Turk Broda, again, might be considered one of the greatest goaltenders – Keon was certainly great. And being named Top Leaf is also definitely an honor.
During his original stretch of NHL play, from 60-75, Keon stayed a Leaf. During that time, he won two Byngs, the Calder, and was the Conn Smythe for the Leafs in 67, the last time they won the Stanley Cup. Keon was a gentlemanly player who still found the ability and the ways to make good plays, leading to good points every year.
Keon played for nearly two decades, but couldn’t break the 1000 point mark. But inside his own zone, he was one of the best players in the league, and if the Selke had been around back then, he would have been a perennial winner. In fact, his last year in the league, Keon came in ninth for the Selke.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, Calder Trophy, 2 Lady Byng Trophies, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 7 top 5 Lady Byng finishes, 4 Cups
Frank Mahovlich, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens (1956-74)
Stat Line: 1181 GP, 1103, 533 G 570 A, 1056 PIM, 173 +/-, 15.4 S% (Playoffs: 137 GP, 118 P, 51 G 67 A, 163 PIM)
Here’s the thing about Mahovlich: he could have been a Black Hawk. The story goes that after a long night of drinking with Harold Ballard, James Norris, owner of the Chicago Black Hawks, offered to pay a million dollars for Mahovlich. That was the most (offered to be) paid for the contract of any professional athlete, in any sport. Bruce Norris, the owner of the Red Wings, heard tell and went to Conn Smythe to get the deal killed. Mahovlich would become a Red Wing later.
So maybe that’s where the Red Wing/Black Hawk rivalry gets really ugly. The Red Wings literally robbed the Blackhawks of a crucial piece to more Cups. Man. Good thing Detroit’s no longer in our division and that the 2013 series was a truly fitting end to the rivalry. But anyway, Mahovlich.
8 times throughout Mahovlich’s career, he was at a point per game clip or better. Every year that they tracked it, Mahovlich was a positive in terms of plus/minus, which shouldn’t count for much, but in an age before advanced statistics, it’s one of like five stats.
Awards: Calder Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 6 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 6 Cups
Stan Mikita, C/RW, Chicago Black Hawks (1958-80)
Stat Line: 1394 GP, 1467 P, 541 G 926 A, 1270 PIM, 12. 4 S% (Playoffs: 155 GP, 150 P, 59 G 91 A, 169 PIM)
*Controversial Statement Alert* Stan Mikita is the greatest Blackhawk of all time. Wait, that wasn’t actually that controversial. Huh. Oh well.
Mikita retired the third most scoring player of all time, only behind Howe and Phil Esposito, who was also a Blackhawk (for a time). Mikita led the league in scoring four times. His entire 20s, Mikita was a point per game or better. The same thing goes for his age 31-35 years and the playoffs. Mikita was an unstoppable scoring force. Which is something the Blackhawks only recently re-acquired, but we’ll get into that later.
Mikita still ranks in the top 50 players all-time in points per game. He’s ahead of Gordie Howe in that category. He also went from getting 154 PIM to winning back-to-back Lady Byngs in only two years. A player like that is really hard to come by. What’s even harder to come by – he got those back to back Lady Byngs along with back to back Harts and Art Rosses.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 4 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Lady Byng Trophies, 6 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, top 5 Calder finish, 1 Cup
Pierre Pilote, D, Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs (1955-69)
Stat Line: 890 GP, 498 P, 80 G 418 A, 1251 PIM, 3.4 S% (Playoffs: 86 GP, 61 P, 8 G 53 A, 102 PIM)
Now, before you jump to the same conclusions – that my homerism is showing itself – Pierre Pilote won three straight Norrises. Any man who does that deserves to be on this list. In addition, he finished second in Norris voting 3 times to complete a six-year streak. Now you can plainly see that Pierre Pilote was one of the best defensemen on the ice during the 1960s.
Pierre was still capable of putting up short handed points near the end of his career. In fact, he had two short-handed assists in his last two years. The guy could kill penalties and take advantage of the other team’s advantaged missteps.
And Pilote won a Norris when he had 162 penalty minutes. I’d like to see a defender nowadays do that.
Awards: 3 Norris Trophies, 5 First Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Norris finishes, top 5 Calder finish, 1 Cup
Henri Richard, C, Montreal Canadiens (1955-75)
Stat Line: 1256 GP, 1046 P, 358 G 688 A, 928 PIM, 7.3 S% (Playoffs: 180 GP, 129 P, 49 G 80 A, 181 PIM)
Henri was the playmaking brother of Maurice. While the Rocket scored the goals, the other Richard set them up. He finished with 688 assists, leading the league in both 57-58 and 62-63. Only one of those did he play with his brother.
In fact, while it might be tempting to credit Maurice with Henri’s success, most of the other Richard brother’s points came on his own, of his own volition, of his own talent. Henri reached 1000 points, something Maurice couldn’t do. Henri won 11 Stanley Cups – Maurice had 8. While Cups are a team award, Henri scored 2 Cup-clinching goals.
Henri’s career is equally as impressive as Maurice’s, including the six Cups he won without his brother. While Maurice was the true goal scorer, Henri understood how to set up those goals not only for Maurice but for other players on the extremely talented Montreal roster. Man. Montreal was the best Ori– nope. Not gonna say that.
Awards: Bill Masterton Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, top 5 Calder finish, 2 top 5 Byng finishes, 11 Cups
Bobby Clarke, C, Philadelphia Flyers (1969-84)
Stat Line: 1144 GP, 1210 P, 358 G 852 A, 506 +/-, 1453 PIM, 99 PPG (power play goals), 32 SHG, 38 GWG, 37 SHA (short-handed assists), 13.8 S% (Playoffs: 136 GP, 119 P, 42 G 77 A, 152 PIM, 3 SHG, 7 GWG)
Clarke represented the gritty time in the NHL – he scored 1000 points, yet had more PIM than points. He could hurt people, or score goals, and often times, both. Clarke was physical, yet he was able to play pretty at the same time. I think that’s a pretty good summary of the Broad Street Bullies mentality.
I mean, look at the guy. He’s got that gorgeous flow going, but at the same time, he’s clearly missing teeth. That’s the Flyers to a missing t(ooth).
Clarke won three Harts and was good enough towards the end of his career at locking down play that he also won a Selke. He also got one of the first player-selected MVP awards, in his time called the Pearson.
Awards: 3 Hart Trophies, 1 Selke Trophy, Masterton Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, Calder top 5 finish, 1 Selke top 5 finish
Yvan Cournoyer, RW, Montreal Canadiens (1963-79)
Stat Line: 968 GP, 863 P, 428 G 435 A, 255 PIM, 68 GWG, 17.9 S% (Playoffs: 147 GP, 127 GP, 64 G 63 A, 47 PIM, 12 GWG)
Cournoyer could play both offense and defense and play them well. He owes that to coach Toe Blake, who forced him to learn the defensive side of the puck, and transformed Cournoyer from a Maurice Richard to a Conn Smythe winning player. Cournoyer retained that offensive prowess, however, and throughout his career, he scored 68 game winning goals.
On his way to the Conn Smythe in 1973, Cournoyer scored 15 goals in 17 games and led the league in playoff scoring with 25 points. He heavily contributed the Montreal Canadiens winning 8 Cups. For much of his career, actually, Cournoyer was more than a point per game player in the playoffs.
Cournoyer was able to be a contributor offensively while transforming into one of the best defensive forwards. While he was never recognized for the Selke award, there are plenty of great forwards who deserved one and never got. Cournoyer is just the best of those.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Byng finish, 8 Cups
Marcel Dionne, C, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers (1971-89)
Stat Line: 1348 GP,1771 P, 731 G 1040 A, 600 PIM, 19 SH, 74 GWG, 11 SHA, 13.6% (Playoffs: 49 GP, 45 P, 21 G 24 A, 17 PIM, 1 GWG)
Dionne was the player’s player. He won Byngs and Pearson/Lindsays, but never Harts. He played like a gentleman and played really well. While he was never formally recognized for it by the NHL, the players all around him knew it.
Despite going Cupless throughout his career, Dionne was one of the best Los Angeles Kings in history. On a team that traded for Wayne Gretzky and had Luc Robitaille, that’s a hard thing to accomplish. But Dionne was the first true star of the Los Angeles Kings and therefore has earned a place in Los Angeles rafters.
Oh, and also, Dionne is still in the top ten of all time in points, goals, and assists and points and assists per game. He shared a scoring title with Wayne Gretzky and was a point per game player throughout his career. That’s probably more important. That’s on me for burying the lead.
Awards: 1 Art Ross Trophy, 2 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophies, 2 Lady Byng Trophies, 2 1st Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, top 5 Calder finish, 4 top 5 Byng finishes
Ken Dryden, G, Montreal Canadiens (1970-73, 1974-79)
Stat Line: 397 GP, 258 W, 2.24 GAA, 46 SO, 19 P (Playoffs: 112 GP, 80 W, 2.40 GAA, 10 SO, 4 A)
There are a few remarkable things about Ken Dryden. First, look at that mask. That’s a great freaking mask. Second, there’s what he did on ice that didn’t involve that glorious mask. Like the fact that after playing 6 games in the regular season his first year, Dryden won the Conn Smythe. Then he won the Calder.
Then there’s the fact that Dryden remains in the top ten all-time in GAA. His worst year was a 2.69, and he posted four shutouts that year. Then there’s the fact that he missed the year proceeding his first Vezina win, and after coming back and having that rough 2.69 year, he won 4 more Vezinas in a row.
Then there’s the fact that Dryden retired at 31. Only 31. In his 8 years on ice, he had won 6 Cups and 5 Vezinas, and he still retired essentially in his prime, off a year when he won the Cup, the Vezina, and was in the voting for both the Byng and Hart. That’s the ultimate going off on top.
Awards: 5 Vezina Awards, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 1 Calder Trophy, 5 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 6 Cups
Phil Esposito, C, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers (1963-81)
Stat Line: 1282 GP, 1590 P, 717 G 873 A, 910 PIM, 23 SH, 118 GWG, 12 SHA, 14.0 S% (Playoffs: 130 GP, 137 P, 61 G 76 A, 138 PIM, 12 GWG)
The first Esposito brother is one that looks like the lovechild of Rocky Balboa and Robert De Niro. He is also a Boston Bruins legend. Just like Rocky, he hit hard. Just like Robert De Niro, he scored a lot.
The man has five Art Ross trophies. He’s still sixth all-time in goals, and he’s tenth in points (and PPG). In an age dominated by Wayne Gretzky’s playmaking ability, Espo was the guy who was known for his finishing ability. While he was overshadowed by two of the three greatest players of all time in Orr, his teammate, and Gretzky, he made a name for himself at the same time.
Espo’s also got two Harts and two Cups. So, you know, just all around legend. He’s a better than a point per game player in the playoffs. Plus, he set the goals record at 76 while in a Spoked-Bs jersey. Just… he couldn’t have stayed a Black Hawk? Come on. Stop giving away our legends, guys.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 5 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophies, 6 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Byng finish (how), 2 Cups
Tony Esposito, G, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks (1968-84)
Stat Line: 886 GP, 423 W, 2.92 GAA, 76 SO, 25 P (Playoffs: 99 GP, 45 W, 3.07 GAA, 6 SO, 0 PIM)
The second Esposito brother isn’t a love child – he’s just a friendly dude who acts scared in Binny’s commercials. Tony O is the Black Hawks legend of the family and another marker in the long legacy of Blackhawks goaltenders. He got a Calder where his brother couldn’t, and that’s dope as well.
Tony Esposito had the most shutouts in his career than any other goaltender playing at the time. That includes Bernie Parent, two-time Conn Smythe winner. Espo also had a great GAA, even taking into account his last three seasons – 4.52, 3.46, 4.82. Those were his worst, second worst, and fourth worst years, statistically. His third worst also came in his last four years.
So, if you remove that: Espo is a leading goaltender, one who had the most shutouts in the league three times. He also led the league in GAA once, posting a 1.77. He won three Vezinas and the Calder for his efforts.
Awards: 3 Vezina Awards, Calder Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes
Guy LaFleur, RW, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Quebec Nordiques (1971-85, 1988-91)
Stat Line: 1126 GP, 1353 P, 560 G 793 A, 399 PIM, 3 SH, 97 GWG, 2 SHA, 15.9 S% (Playoffs: 128 GP, 134 P, 58 G 76 A, 67 PIM, 14 GWG)
Holy goal scoring, Batman! From 1974-1980, here’s how LaFleur’s point totals went: 119, 125, 136, 132, 129, 125. It’s one of the greatest peaks for a player that’s not named Gretzky. During that time, LaFleur had 327 goals. That’s just a crazy amount.
LaFleur was another player who played at his skill level but did it cleanly. Every year from 74-82, LaFleur finished in the top 20 in Byng voting.
The only thing missing about LaFleur is his four years where he retired. He was still near his peak, and he could have very well continued playing. He actually stopped playing during the season of his 33rd year, only playing 19 games. LaFleur was never the same.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Award, 3 Art Ross Trophies, 3 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophies, 6 First Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 4 top 5 Byng finishes, 5 Cups
Jacques Lemaire, C, Montreal Canadiens (1967-79)
Stat Line: 853 GP, 835 P, 366 G 469 A, 217 PIM, 4 SH, 58 GWG, 2 SHA, 12.0 S% (Playoffs: 145 GP, 139 P, 61 G 78 A, 63 PIM, 1 SH, 11 GWG)
Every year but his rookie year, Lemaire had a better than 50 point season. Among them were seasons of 95, 92, and 97. In the playoffs, Lemaire had two seasons of 19 and a season of 20 and 23.
Lemaire was better known for his coaching ability, but like Toe Blake, his contributions on the ice were also important. Really because except for a few years, Lemaire was better than a point per game every season.
Lemaire is also the only important player from the Montreal Canadiens 70’s dynasty without his number retired. It’s strange because he’s one of the most valuable in terms of offensive production. And because he coached the Canadiens as well. I don’t know. Maybe retire his blazer.
Awards: top 3 Calder finish, top 5 Byng finish, 8 Cups
Bernie Parent, G, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers (1965-72, 1973-79)
Stat Line: 608 GP, 271 W, 2.55 GAA, 54 SO, 12 P, 112 PIM (Playoffs: 71 GP, 38 W, 2.43 GAA, 6 SO, 4 PIM)
Parent is one of the truest Flyer legends. He won back to back Conn Smythe trophies with the team, as he led them to back-to-back Cups. As much as the 1970’s were another decade of Canadiens dominance, the Flyers proved that they had what it took to compete with the greatest teams.
Strangely, it took a trip to the WHA to make Parent great. I mean, Wayne Gretzky’s first year of professional hockey was in the WHA, so is it really that surprising? No. It was after his one year in the WHA that Parent took the Flyers on a short Championship spree.
Parent, in his two Smythe years, also led the league in shutouts, and in GAA. He won the Vezina back to back years. Just like another great 70’s player, Guy LaFleur, Bernie Parent probably had one of the greatest peaks at his position.
Awards: 2 Vezina Awards, 2 Conn Smythe Trophies, 2 First Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 2 Cups
Brad Park, D, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings (1968-85)
Stat Line: 1113 GP, 896 P, 213 G 683 A, 1429 PIM, 5 SH, 28 GWG, 7 SHA, 7.6 S% (Playoffs: 161 GP, 125 P, 35 G 90 A, 217 PIM, 1 SH, 6 GWG)
Brad Park is Mr. Bridesmaid. He never won a Norris trophy, but he finished in the top 3 7 times. Most of those were second place. See, he played at the same time as other legends – namely Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, and Larry Robinson. Park was beyond talented, but so were the defensemen he played against.
Park is called by some “the greatest player to never win the Norris.” I mean, there were some early greats that didn’t – namely Seibert, Shore, and Clancy – but the fact that Park could have won it has got to hurt even more.
In the end, Park was also Mr. Bridesmaid in the postseason – he never won a Cup but made the Finals 3 times. He came up against the Montreal Canadiens in back to back ones, losing to the dynasty that defined the 70’s. And notching new marks in the Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens rivalry.
Awards: Bill Masterton Trophy, 5 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team-All Stars, 6 2nd place Norris finishes, 1 top 5 Norris finish, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, top 3 Calder finish
Gilbert Perreault, C, Buffalo Sabres (1970-87)
Stat Line: 1191 GP, 1326 P, 512 G 814 A, 500 PIM, 8 SH, 81 GWG, 4 SHA, 16.6 S% (Playoffs: 90 GP, 103 P, 33 G 70 A, 44 PIM, 5 GWG)
Perreault is the first Buffalo Sabres legend. Thing is, though, it’s hard to be recognized for awards when you’re a team’s first legend. Unless you’re Wayne Gretzky, but nobody is Wayne Gretzky, ‘cept Wayne Gretzky.
Perreault was also unable to win any Cups with the Sabres. I mean, he was the first legend for a reason. He’s not tied with anybody. For 12 years, from 1972-85, Perreault was over a point per game per season. I mean, except for a few times when he was injured, but he was injured. It’s likely he would have finished those seasons over a point per game as well.
Perreault was recognized for a few things – he played a few times for Team Canada – looking at that beautiful jersey above that needs to make a comeback – and the fact that he got to the Stanley Cup finals a couple times. Perreault also remains in the top 25 for points per game, and top 50 for assists per game. Still just… man that’s a classic style. That’s a really pretty, minimalistic jersey, and that works way better than it should.
Awards: Calder Trophy, 1 Lady Byng Trophy, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 top 5 Byng finish
Denis Potvin, D, New York Islanders (1973-88)
Stat Line: 1060 GP, 1052 P, 310 G 742 P, 1356 PIM, 1o SH, 44 GWG, 20 SHA, 10.2 S% (Playoffs: 185 GP, 164 P, 56 G 108 A, 253 PIM, 2 SH, 7 GWG)
Say hello to the start of the New York Islanders dynasty. Once the Islanders got their #1 defenseman, they kind of took off. And as a number one defenseman, Potvin became number one. He won the Norris three times, two back-to-back. He also won the Calder.
Potvin is 3rd All Time in terms of points per game among defensemen. He’s 4th in terms of assists per game, and 2nd for goals. He’s one of the best offensive defensemen of all time, and he’s the greatest if you take out the greatest defenseman of all time (Orr).
Potvin got close to a couple Hart trophies, which is something that’s historically been hard to do as a defenseman once the Norris became a thing. His last year, he finished top 10 in Norris voting, so Potvin remained great until the end. 8 times in his career, Potvin was over a point per game in a season. That included the ultra rare more than a 100 point season by the defenseman.
Awards: 3 Norris Trophies, Calder Trophy, 5 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 4 top 5 Norris finishes, 4 Cups
Larry Robinson, D, Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings (1972-92)
Stat Line: 1384 GP, 958 P, 208 G 750 A, 793 PIM, 3 SH, 29 GWG, 7 SHA, 8.9 S% (Playoffs: 227 GP, 144 P, 28 G 116 A, 211 PIM, 3 GWG)
Robinson is another legend in the rafters for the Canadiens. For the team that’s retired the most number of jerseys in the league, and is probably the hardest to accomplish that feat for, Robinson is one of few defensemen who did it.
Robinson did it through a variety of scoring, he once posted a 120 point season, and just being a great defensive defenseman. Robinson had ten seasons of 50 or more points, and he also won 2 Norris trophies. He led the league once with a 120 +/-, and he never scored more than 20 goals.
Robinson also contributed to the postseason success of the Canadiens ongoing dynasty. He won a Conn Smythe with the team, as well as 6 Cups. He played a long, long career, and three years into it, he had 69 points. Three years before the end he had 39.
Awards: 2 Norris Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 5 top 5 Norris finishes, 6 Cups
Borje Salming, D, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings (1973-90)
Stat Line: 1148 GP, 787 GP, 150 G 637 A, 1344 PIM, 6 SH, 13 GWG, 10 SHA, 5.9 S% (Playoffs: 81 GP, 49 P, 12 G 37 A, 91 PIM, 1 GWG)
Hell, even the worst owners have favorites, and Salming was the infamous Harold Ballard’s. The Swedish defenseman, the first of the Swedish Defense System, was a tough one who took a 200 stitch cut to the face once.
Salming was the original defenseman who couldn’t score. Only once in his career did he come close to scoring 20 goals. He was Niklas Hjalmarsson well before Hjalmarsson. Salming was a present defenseman, one who was a Maple Leafs staple for the better.
Despite never winning a Norris, a lot of defensive defensemen don’t do that, and Salming finished in the top 5 for it seven times straight. Salming was just the first, and likely the best, of many.
Awards: 1 First Team All-Star, 5 Second Team All-Stars, 7 top 5 Norris finishes, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 1 top 5 Byng finish, top 3 Calder finish
Darryl Sittler, C, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Detroit Red Wings (1970-85)
Stat Line: 1096 GP, 1121 P, 484 G 637 A, 948 PIM, 10 SH, 57 GWG, 9 SHA, 12.7 S% (Playoffs: 76 GP, 74 P, 29 G 45 A, 137 PIM, 1 GWG)
Sittler’s 10 point game stands as the record. He did it against the Boston Bruins, and so the Toronto Maple Leafs in dark times should remember that. Sittler scored 6 goals and 4 assists, and that’s two hat tricks in a game. It’s two hat tricks. What happened after everybody had thrown their hats once? Did they have to get them back and do it again?
Sittler scored more than 80 points 9 times. The season where he scored the 10 points in a game wasn’t even the most, he would top it two years later. Sittler remains in the top 50 for points per game in the NHL.
Sittler and Salming were the heart of the Maple Leafs for years, and between them kept the Leafs fans on board for a few years. They’re the best kinds of legends – ones that come in the darkest of times. It’s like if Crosby and McDavid were on the same team, and so were Ovechkin and Erik Karlsson, would the Kings have won Cups?
Awards: 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish
Bryan Trottier, C, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins (1975-92, 93-94)
Stat Line: 1279 GP, 1425 P, 524 G 901 A, 912 PIM, 19 SH, 68 GWG, 17 SHA, 18.4 S% (Playoffs: 221 GP, 184 P, 71 G 113 A, 277 PIM, 4 SH, 12 GWG)
Trottier was part of two dynamic dynasties – the New York Islanders four Cup team, and the start of the Penguins three decades of excellence. Trottier was just that kind of player – in the playoffs, he led the league in scoring twice and won the Conn Smythe. He was a Selke-conversation defensive center and he was able to convert in the offensive zone.
In fact, it wasn’t only the regular season where Trottier led in scoring – his fourth year in the league, he won the scoring title and the Hart, as he scored 134 points, with 87 assists. While he would never hit 134 again, he scored more than 90 points 8 times throughout his career, including a season of 129 points. So at least he got close. Those seasons included a record six points in a period.
It was the end of his career where Trottier became a defensive center. He finished in the top 20 of Selke voting 5 times, including 3 top 10 finishes. Towards the end of his reign in New York, Trottier also won the King Clancy trophy. That’s for leadership and humanitarian effort. So on the ice, Trottier had scoring prowess and back-checking ability, and off the ice, he was just a genuinely good dude. NHL Players, amirite?
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Award, 1 Art Ross Trophy, Calder Trophy, 1 King Clancy Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Selke finish, 6 Cups
Mike Bossy, RW, New York Islanders (1977-87)
Stat Line: 752 GP, 1126 P, 573 G 553 A, 210 PIM, 8 SH, 82 GWG, 1 SHA, 21.2 S% (Playoffs: 129 GP, 160 P, 85 G 75 A, 38 PIM, 17 GWG)
Bossy retired at the age of 30. He retired because of a sustained neck injury, one that made him leave the game well before his time. Before Bossy retired, though, he did significant damage to the league, perhaps for the betterment of the league. Mike Bossy is why the Islanders gained a foothold in New York, and why they will not leave, no matter how many Quebec or Hartford rumors come out.
Bossy is the all-time leader in goals per game. There is no one above him, as in his 752 games played, he scored 573 goals. That’s .762 goals per game. That means that in any game played, Bossy stood a better than 75% chance of scoring. Bossy is only behind Wayne and Mario for the lead in points-per-game all time. His 1.497 was better than even Bobby Orr. Quite simply, the case can be made that Bossy is the greatest winger of all time.
And that’s not even taking into account the playoffs, where Bossy helped spur the Islanders to 4 straight Cups. He led the league in playoff goals three times in that four-year stretch, and led the league in scoring once, with 35 points in 18 games. Bossy deserves to be talked about more, but because of a freak injury and bad luck, he simply doesn’t have the longevity.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Award, Calder Trophy, 3 Lady Byng Trophies, 5 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 6 top 5 Byng finishes, 4 Cups
Paul Coffey, D, Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Boston Bruins (1980-01)
Stat Line: 1409 GP, 1531 P, 396 G 1135 A, 1802 PIM, 20 SH, 44 GWG, 29 SHA, 9.0 S% (Playoffs: 194 GP, 196 P, 59 G 137 A, 264 PIM, 6 SH, 8 GWG)
What is this career? For the amount of grief Jagr has to take with the traveling Jagrs, Coffey played for half the league. He played ten games for the Chicago Blackhawks before being traded. He was a part of both the Whalers and Hurricanes, at two different times in his career. Somehow he was a Boston Bruin? He played for both the Flyers and Penguins. Like, this is a real who’s who in the NHL. And their one connecting factor is Coffey.
Throughout it, he remained one of the best defensemen in the league. He won three Norrises, two back to back, two nine years apart. He was a part of the early Oilers dynasty and joined the first Penguins Cup team. He then played with his Edmonton Oilers teammates Gretzky and Kurri on the Kings. Look at the list above: Coffey was only a free agent twice – going to the Blackhawks and the Bruins. Every other team was through trades.
And here’s the thing: Coffey is the second defenseman in terms of points, goals, and assists. That’s only behind Ray Bourque, who had a lot more consistency than Coffey. Coffey scored 1000 points in 770 games. Coffey is the second defenseman in points per game, behind only Orr. Again: a lot more consistency. Imagine if Coffey had the chance to build chemistry with teammates.
Awards: 3 Norris Trophies, 4 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 8 top 5 Norris finishes, 4 Cups
Grant Fuhr, G, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames
Stat Line: 868 GP, 403 W, .887 SV%, 3.38 GAA, 25 SO, 46 P, 120 PIM (Playoffs: 150 GP, 92 W, .900 SV%, 2.92 GAA, 6 SO, 14 P, 24 PIM)
As much as two players belong together, perhaps Fuhr is the one who belongs with Gretzky. Yes, Messier was Gretzky’s wing in both Edmonton and New York. But Fuhr was with Gretzky in Edmonton, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Gretzky has said about Fuhr that if he had to play one game for his life, Fuhr’s in his net.
Fuhr is also the first African-Canadian on this list. He’s not the last. The history of the NHL is for the most part white. But every once in a while, a legend like Fuhr or Jarome Iginla pop up, and they help to give the NHL a different face. Like PK Subban is doing now with Nashville, Fuhr did with Edmonton, winning four Stanley Cups in net.
Fuhr also played in what is perhaps the hardest era for goaltenders. He won a Vezina with a 3.43 GAA and a .881 SV%. The nets, as seen above, were substantially bigger than the netminders, and that’s why everyone from your grandma to your best friend is suggesting that we make the nets bigger. Fuhr led the league in saves twice, and in shutouts once. He won the Jennings trophy once, for fewest goals against. He did so with a 3.68 GAA. Like I said. The hardest era for goaltenders.
Awards: 1 Vezina Trophy, 1 Jennings Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 4 top 5 Vezina finishes, top 3 Calder finish, 4 Cups
Dale Hawerchuk, C, Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, Philadelphia Flyers (1981-97)
Stat Line: 1188 GP, 1409 P, 518 G 891 A, 730 PIM, 13 SH, 49 GWG, 10 SHA, 13.8 S% (Playoffs: 97 GP, 99 P, 30 G 69 A, 67 PIM, 2 GWG, 10.2 S%)
It’s really hard playing in Winnipeg when 99 is just over there in Edmonton. Such was life for Hawerchuk, who was able to win the Calder trophy but not much else, as he played in the shadows of giants, playing at the same time as Gretzky and when he joined the Philadelphia Flyers, Mario Lemieux.
In Hawerchuk’s first seven seasons, here are his point totals: 103, 91, 102, 130, 105, 100, 121. That’s a lot of points for someone so young, and again, it would be Hart and Art Ross worthy numbers, if it weren’t for the fact that the greatest player in league history was playing.
Hawerchuk stayed in small markets most of his career. He went from Winnipeg to Buffalo to St. Louis to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was the biggest market, and there he finished with 54 points in 67 games. His career was a series of ill-timed events, that if had happened in a different decade would have netted Hawerchuk more awards.
Awards: Calder Trophy, 1 Second Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Hart finishes
Jari Kurri, RW, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Colorado Avalanche (1980-90, 1991-98)
Stat Line: 1251 GP, 1398 P, 601 G 797 A, 545 PIM, 39 SH, 72 GWG, 43 SHA, 19.1 S% (Playoffs: 200 GP, 233 P, 106 G 127 A, 123 PIM, 10 SH, 14 GWG)
A lot has been made about Kurri’s top 100 eligibility. He’s a product of Gretzky, they say. He’s given too much leeway for having played with Gretzky and Messier. To that, I say bah. Look at his numbers without Gretzky, and Kurri remains a prominent threat in the NHL. His last year with Gretzky in Edmonton, Kurri scored 96 points. The following year, he scored 102. Then he scored 93. So.
One year, Kurri led the NHL in goals, game-winning goals, and shot percentage. Yeah, he beat Gretzky with more efficient shots. Kurri was also a forward that could play near Selke-level. He finished with 4 top 5 Selke finishes. That’s an amazing range of skills contained in a very fast package.
In the playoffs, Kurri led the league in goals 4 times. He had six playoff seasons of more than 20 points. Kurri was an all-around talent, which helped contribute to 5 Edmonton Oiler Cups.
Awards: 1 Lady Byng Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 4 top 5 Selke finishes, 3 Lady Byng top finishes, 5 Cups
Al MacInnis, D, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues (1981-2004)
Stat Line: 1416 GP, 1274 P, 340 G 934 A, 1511 PIM, 10 SH, 44 GWG, 23 SHA, 6.6 S% (Playoffs: 177 GP, 160 P, 39 G 121 A, 255 PIM, 5 GWG, 5.9 S%)
And at last, welcome to the first of many players to play into the new millennium. MacInnis was a defenseman known for helping to popularize the booming slap shot from the point. His was a magnificent shot, one that was the hardest in the NHL, just ask goaltenders who were missing holes in their gloves cartoon-style.
That booming slap shot helped get MacInnis 7 years of 20 goals or more. His point totals were another result of his astounding prowess in the offensive zone: 7 seasons of 70 points or more. MacInnis could slap shot, or he could pass. He could help set up plays, and he was able to just get the puck in the back of the net in a snap. A very loud snap.
But MacInnis was no slouch defensively. He won a Norris and was in the top 5 another 5 times. MacInnis had 2709 total goals for when he was on the ice. By the same token, 1639 found their way past the goalie in his time. He was on the ice for 23 years. There were some bound to do so. But he ensured that more than 1000 more were put in than taken against. That’s a good defenseman.
Awards: 1 Norris Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Award, 4 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 5 top 5 Norris finishes, 1 Cup
Mark Messier, LW/C, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers (1979-2004)
Stat Line: 1756 GP, 1887 P, 694 G 1193 A, 1910 PIM, 63 SH, 92 GWG, 79 SHA, 16.4 S% (Playoffs: 236 GP, 295 P, 109 G 186 A, 244 PIM, 14 SH, 12 GWG, 15.8 S%)
The other Wayne Gretzky winger, for which the Captain’s trophy in the NHL is now named. The Mark Messier award for Mark Messier level leadership. Cause we all know that it was Messier’s leadership that won the Oilers five Cups. Not the talent around him, including Gretzky, Kurri, and Coffey. No, it was Messier’s leadership.
The Cup that Wayne wasn’t around for, Messier led the team in assists and points. He also got 2 Harts once Gretzky’s streak was up and he didn’t want them anymore. To Messier’s credit, he also won a Conn Smythe when Wayne was there. And, to Messier’s credit, he’s second in all-time short-handed goals. Behind. You know.
Mark Messier remains in the top 30 of all-time in both points per game and assists per game. Not so hot on goals, though. The baldy’s real talent showed through in his predicting New York’s last Cup. Cause he got that right, he’s the bald Nostradamus. Nostradome-us. Cause he’s bald! Nailed it.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Award, 2 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophies, 4 First Team-All Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 6 Cups
Denis Savard, C, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks (1980-97)
Stat Line: 1196 GP, 1338 P, 473 G 865 A, 1336 PIM, 20 SH, 56 GWG, 13 SHA, 15.0 S% (Playoffs: 169 GP, 175 P, 66 G 109 A, 256 PIM, 2 SH, 6 GWG, 12.5 S%)
Savard was a Blackhawks legend who retired a Blackhawk. He was around for the transformation from the Black Hawks into the Blackhawks. He was around for the dark ages of the Blackhawks, and he was the light in the dark. Savard was also, and this is incredibly important to modern Blackhawks history, the coach who was replaced by Joel Quenneville.
Savard is in the top 30 in points per game, and the top 20 in assists per game all-time. He’s ahead of several names on this list in both categories. While he never won many awards and had to go to Montreal to win his Cup, the Blackhawks were not well run in his time in Chicago. Yet he was vitally important to the success that the Blackhawks did see.
Savard had two playoff seasons with over 20 points. Even during a time dominated by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier and other legendary centers, Savard was able to propel his team to the playoffs and won an all-star spot. In his time on ice, he had five seasons of over 100 points.
Awards: 1 Second Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 Cup
Peter Stastny, C, Quebec City Nordiques, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues (1980-95)
Stat Line: 977 GP, 1239 P, 450 G 789 A, 824 PIM, 7 SH, 54 GWG, 7 SHA, 19.0 S% (Playoffs: 93 GP, 105 P, 33 G 72 A, 123 PIM, 1 SH, 7 GWG, 18.6 S%)
Peter Stastny began playing NHL hockey at age 24. Now, in the early days of the NHL, that’s not such a big deal. But when the rest of the league’s centers and forwards who became legends started playing at age 18 around 1970, it did become a big deal. So Stastny’s stats are limited – he missed out on a ton of youth. But what he didn’t miss out on was winning the Calder, and still managing to post huge stats. If Artemi Panarin manages to have anywhere close to the career Stastny had, I’ll be happy.
Stastny’s rookie year, he posted 109 points. He would go on to top that 5 times, and add another season of 100 points. Nobody in the NHL, even in their primes, get to within a point of what Stastny did as a rookie. And Stastny was doing his damage in one of the smallest Canadian markets – there’s a reason they don’t have a team anymore. So when he appears to be awards-less besides that Calder, that’s why.
And also because he was playing at the same time as Wayne Gretzky and a few other legendary centers. But here’s the thing about Stastny: he remains in the top 10 in points and assists per game. He’s in the top 50 in terms of points and assists period all-time, despite the fact that he played about two to three hundred fewer games than the rest of his competition, and sometimes more. Once more, Stastny’s a legend for his 15 years on ice, no matter when he started.
Awards: Calder Trophy, 1 top 5 Hart finish
Scott Stevens, D, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils (1982-2004)
Stat Line: 1635 GP, 908 P, 196 G 712 A, 2785 PIM, 5 SH, 34 GWG, 17 SHA, 6.0 S% (Playoffs: 233 GP, 118 P, 26 G 92 A, 402 PIM, 8 GWG, 5.3 S%)
Amongst players who belong on this list, Scott Stevens is second in penalties in minutes. That’s only behind Chris Chelios, who played longer than Stevens. So Stevens was known as much for delivering hits like the one above and worse, as his assisting ability. He made people suffer, both by helping get the puck to the net and by actually doing physical harm to them.
Stevens became a Devils legend, helping New Jersey get 3 Cups. He messed people up and also made sure that they couldn’t get to Brodeur. The Devils defensive system was as much a result of Stevens as anyone else. In fact, once Stevens got to Jersey, his penalties settled down. That was probably a result of age as anything else. But it does help show the result that Stevens focusing on defense in a great defensive system also helped.
Stevens never won the Norris – probably took too many penalties to stay on the ice – but he came close several times. He also won a Conn Smythe, so he was a significant factor in the Cup runs. Plus, Stevens is top 15 in points for defensemen all-time.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 7 top 5 Norris finishes, top 3 Calder finish, 3 Cups
Ed Belfour, G, Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers (1988-07)
Stat Line: 963 GP, 484 W, .906 SV%, 2.50 GAA, 76 SO, 34 P, 380 PIM (Playoffs: 161 GP, 88 W, .920 SV%, 2.17 GAA, 14 SO, 1 P, 80 PIM)
Eddie the Eagle is in the top 5 of goaltenders in terms of penalties in minutes. He’s also in the top 50 in terms of GAA. He won Dallas their Cup and was a legend for the Blackhawks in the dark ages. Belfour also won three Jennings trophies, two Vezinas, and led the league in shutouts four straight years.
Eddie Belfour led the league in SV% twice. He led the league in wins his rookie year, where he also led in SV%, GAA, and saves. Belfour finished with five top 5 Vezina finishes.
Belfour was also the goaltender in front of somebody named Dominik? Hasek? In Chicago.
Awards: 2 Vezina Awards, Calder Trophy, 3 Jennings Trophies, 2 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 5 top 5 Vezina finish, 1 Cup
Ray Bourque, D, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche (1979-01)
Stat Line: 1612 GP, 1579 P, 410 G 1169 A, 1141 PIM, 16 SH, 60 GWG, 29 SHA, 6.6 S% (Playoffs: 214 GP, 180 P, 41 G 139 A, 171 PIM, 4 GWG, 4.6 S%)
Bourque was a legendary defenseman, who just couldn’t win with the Boston Bruins. He’s beloved in Boston, though, and there’s a reason for that. He’s in the top five of every statistical category for defensemen. He’s perhaps the greatest offensive defenseman of all time, and he’s got a long career that proves it.
He had 4 seasons of 90 or more points. He was over a point-per-game average for 14 seasons. His last year in the NHL, the year he FINALLY won the Stanley Cup, perfecting the Stanley Cup handoff, he finished with 59 points. Bourque was an offensive genius who backchecked with the best of them.
He also won five Norris trophies. He went back to back twice. He got the Calder trophy and was the best defenseman in the time of Gretzky. Bourque was simply great. No one was more deserving of the Stanley Cup, and how he got it is one of the best stories in NHL history. He’s also the Meryl Streep of the NHL. He won 5 Norrises and got 14 top 5 finishes.
Awards: 5 Norris Trophies, Calder Trophy, 1 King Clancy Trophy, 13 First Team All-Stars, 6 Second Team All-Stars, 14 top 5 Norris finishes, 5 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 (glorious) Cup
Pavel Bure, RW, Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers, New York Rangers (1991-2003)
Stat Line: 702 GP, 779 P, 437 G 342 A, 484 PIM, 34 SH, 59 GWG, 15 SHA, 14.0 S% (Playoffs: 64 GP, 70 P, 35 G 35 A, 74 PIM, 2 SH, 3 GWG, 13.9 S%)
Pavel was a pure goal scoring monster. Yes, he only ever played 702 games. That’s really unfortunate, but because of it, he’s in the top five all-time in goals per game and in the top 20 points-per-game. Bure was a quick skater before everybody else was fast, he was the guy who entered in on the breakaway and was unstoppable from there.
Bure won two Rocket Richards, and he was the Russian Rocket before Ovechkin came around. He actually led the league in goals three times, once before the trophy existed. Whenever Bure played more than 70 games, he scored 50 goals or more.
Bure had 34 career short-handed goals. He had 59 game-winning ones. In five playoff seasons, Bure had 35 goals. He led the league in playoff goals once, when the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup.
Awards: 2 Rocket Richard Trophies, Calder Trophy, 1 Hart top 5 finish, 1 Byng top 5 finish
Chris Chelios, D, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Atlanta Thrashers (1983-10)
Stat Line: 1651 GP, 948 P, 185 G 763 A, 2891 PIM, 13 SH, 31 GWG, 39 SHA, 5.1 S% (Playoffs: 266 GP, 144 P, 31 G 113 A, 423 PIM, 3 SH, 6 GWG, 5.3 S%)
Chris Chelios played from Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby. He spent the vast, vast majority of his adult life on ice. He played 7 games in Atlanta at 48. The only person older to play in the NHL is Gordie Howe. Chelios was a defensive defenseman, and here’s proof: he played 39 games more than Ray Bourque and has 600 fewer points.
Chelios had 266 playoff games. That’s more than the vast majority of NHL players have games. In those games, he had 144 points. He also had 3 Cups. Two of them came in the Detroit legacy, and he’s still there. He still played more games with the Blackhawks. So there. He’s ours. Leave him alone.
Chelios has the second most penalties in minutes among defensemen. In fact, among all players, he’s twelfth all-time. So he played 26 years while making people hurt and then helping put the puck in the net a little bit. After all, Chelios only has 185 goals.
Awards: 3 Norris Trophies, 5 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 4 top 5 Norris finishes, 1 top 3 Calder finish
Sergei Fedorov, C, Detroit Red Wings, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Columbus Blue Jackets, Washington Capitals (1990-2009)
Stat Line: 1248 GP, 1179 P, 483 G 696 A, 839 PIM, 36 SH, 93 GWG, 31 SHA, 12.1 S% (Playoffs: 183 GP, 176 P, 52 G 124 A, 133 PIM, 5 SH, 12 GWG, 8.6 S%)
Sergei Federov was the rare center who won Selkes but was also capable of 120 point seasons. He was great at defense, but he was also able to produce offensively. While he only reached 100 points twice, he won the Hart and the Pearson/Ted Lindsay the same year as his first Selke for a reason. He was just the best center on the ice that year, and that came at a time when Fedorov was playing with not only Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but his own teammate Stevie Y and many other terrific centers.
The thing about Federov, though, was that he became gradually more and more defensive focused. After his first few years of 79, 86, 87, 120, 50 (in a shortened season) and 107 points, Federov hit speed bumps, and only hit 80 once more, at age 33. By 37, he had half as many points in seven fewer games.
But in Detroit’s back to back Cup years, Federov contributed back to back 20 point playoff seasons. When Detroit did it again four seasons later, Fedorov nearly did it again. His most impressive numbers came in the playoffs, where Fedorov finished only seven points off of a point-per-game pace.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Ted Lindsay/Pearson Trophy, 2 Selke Trophies, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 3 top 5 Selke finishes, Calder top 3 finish, 1 top 5 Lady Byng finish, 3 Cups
Peter Forsberg, C, Quebec City Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche (1994-2008, 2010-11)
Stat Line: 708 GP, 885 P, 249 G 636 A, 690 PIM, 16 SH, 43 GWG, 16 SHA, 14.7 S% (Playoffs: 151 GP, 171 P, 64 G 107 A, 163 PIM, 2 SH, 14 GWG, 18.1 S%)
Like a few other great careers, Forsberg’s career was cut short just a few games above 700. Yet, in his time on ice, he won the Calder trophy and both the Hart and Art Ross. This came on the team where Joe Sakic (and eventually Patrick Roy and Ray Bourque) was the main star. Yet Forsberg was the quiet undercurrent, the strong scorer able to master the second fiddle.
The first time Forsberg produced under a point-per-game clip, he was both 33 and traded mid-season. Forsberg, despite shortened seasons, continued producing for much of his career. He was genuinely able to score, even in the midst of one of the worst eras of hockey ever. There’s a reason it had to be saved by glowing pucks.
In the playoffs, Forsberg led scoring twice. Strangely, neither of those two seasons the Avalanche won the Cup. Forsberg got hurt the second Avalanche Cup run, and it was the first after Colorado had moved from Quebec City that Forsberg shined. In 22 games, he produced 21 points.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Art Ross Trophy, Calder Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Selke finishes, 2 Cups
Ron Francis, C, Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Carolina Hurricanes, Toronto Maple Leafs (1981-2004)
Stat Line: 1731 GP, 1798 P, 549 G 1249 A, 979 PIM, 12 SH, 79 GWG, 18 SHA, 14.6 S% (Playoffs: 171 GP, 143 P, 46 G 97 A, 95 PIM, 11 GWG, 12.3 S%)
Francis was both a Whaler and a Hurricane. Perhaps that’s why he’s ended up as their current GM. During his time as a Whaler, Francis was better than a point per game every season but one. During his time as a Hurricane, Francis hit fifty points every full season. He also won a Byng and the King Clancy as a Hurricane.
Francis was an offensively productive player, one who was in Hart conversations throughout his career, coming in the top 10 three times. He was also in the Selke conversation, winning one and coming in the top 5 three more times. That’s a rare combination, and Francis was perhaps one of the best defensive centers throughout the eighties and nineties, before finally taking his reward in 95.
Francis was an elite passer – he cracked 90 points five times but 30 goals only 3 times. He actually led the league in assists twice as a Penguin. Francis was a truly clean player – he had 3 Lady Byngs. For modern fans, imagine Ron Francis as a Jonathan Toews type who was able to crack a hundred points, something Toews has never done.
Awards: 1 Selke Trophy, 1 King Clancy Trophy, 3 Lady Byng Trophies, 3 top 5 Selke finishes, 1 top 5 Lady Byng finish, 2 Cups
Brett Hull, RW, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes (1986-2006)
Stat Line: 1269 GP, 1391 P, 741 G 650 A, 458 PIM, 20 SH, 110 GWG, 8 SHA, 15.2 S% (Playoffs: 202 GP, 190 P, 103 G 87 A, 73 PIM, 4 SH, 24 GWG, 12.8 S%)
I had to put a Hull on this list. Just not that Hull. This Hull is a decent person, so he makes the list. He also makes the list because he’s better than a point per game in his career, and took so few penalties. Hull is top 30 in career points-per-game. He’s also in the top 10 in goals-per-game. Brett Hull did some serious damage in the league when he was there.
Hull’s foot was in the crease. That’s perhaps his most famous game-winning goal, but he had 24 in the playoffs and 110 in the regular season. Hull is tied for third all-time in game-winning goals, ahead of names like Gretzky and Lemieux. So he could win games, even if it was controversial when he did so.
Hull was also proof that 6th round picks can turn into top 100 players. I don’t understand why every team in the league passed on him five or more times, but I guess being the son of a, I guess, player doesn’t get you everything. Hull earned his spot on this list, just like he earned his Hart trophy, helped earn his 2 Cups, and earned that foot in the crease.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophy, 1 Lady Byng Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 4 top 5 Byng finishes, 2 Cups
Pat LaFontaine, C, New York Islanders, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers (1983-98)
Stat Line: 865 GP, 1013 P, 468 G 545 A, 552 PIM, 11 SH, 59 GWG, 17.6 S% (Playoffs: 69 GP, 62 P, 26 G 36 A, 36 PIM, 1 SH, 4 GWG, 17.8 S%)
LaFontaine is on this list mainly for the fact that he remains 15th in points per game all-time. Despite playing only 800 some games for three teams, LaFontaine was able to produce at a historic level. He was one of the quietest centers in the era of great centers, but his production showed his ability to be one of the most productive. Of men of his era, LaFontaine is only behind Sakic and Forsberg, the Colorado Avalanche’s pairing of centers.
LaFontaine still remains in the top 20 for goals-per-game. He scored over 30 goals 9 times, including highs of 54 and 53. LaFontaine scored 59 game winning goals. But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t assist – he got over 40 7 times. LaFontaine was a straight point production machine, and it makes sense why every New York team would want him.
And that’s the last thing about LaFontaine – he was firmly a New York legend. He played 8 years for the Islanders, 6 years for the Sabres, and a year for the Rangers. LaFontaine jerseys remain everywhere in New York, and there’s a reason for that, despite the fact that he played for three rivals.
Awards: Masterton Trophy, 1 Second Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, 3 top 5 Byng finishes
Brian Leetch, D, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins (1987-2006)
Stat Line: 1205 GP, 1028 P, 247 G 781 A, 571 PIM, 8 SH, 38 GWG, 14 SHA, 6.8 S% (Playoffs: 95 GP, 97 P, 28 G 69 A, 36 PIM, 1 SH, 6 GWG, 8.0 S%)
Leetch is top 10 in goals, points, and assists for defensemen. He’s also top ten in points and assists per game, and top 20 for goals per game. Leetch also backstopped the Rangers to a Cup, being the first defenseman on that run. His 1028 points were a great amount, especially from the defensive position.
Leetch might be the greatest American defenseman. The only other American in terms of points from a defenseman ahead of Leetch was Phil Housley, and Housley took 200 more games than Leetch to get 200 more points. Leetch’s points-per-game is better than Housley’s. Leetch’s ability to lead the Rangers also helped them to the ’94 Cup, Housley never did that.
Leetch ended his career with 2 Norrises and a Calder. He also won the Conn Smythe for his performance leading up to the 94 cup, which is why I’ve been here preaching about his backstopping the team. Because he won them that Cup, on a team with Mark Messier, Leetch was the one to shine brightest when it mattered most.
Awards: 2 Norris Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, Calder Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 1 Cup
Eric Lindros, C, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars (1992-2007)
Stat Line: 760 GP, 865 P, 372 G 493 A, 1398 PIM, 7 SH, 46 GWG, 2 SHA, 16.1 S% (Playoffs: 53 GP, 57 P, 24 G 33 A, 122 PIM, 4 GWG, 14.6 S%)
Lindros’s career faced numerous obstacles. There’s the story about how Lindros was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques, who he refused to play for. He was then traded to the Flyers, who he became a modern day legend for. Then, Lindros suffered a series of concussions, and he never fully recovered from them. He showed his potential in his age 21 year, where he put up the most points in the league. He showed his abilities again in the playoffs two years later, leading in points.
The series of concussions hit early. Lindros never played a full season of hockey, coming close but twice, where he got 81 games at age 29, and in a lockout-shortened season at 21. By then he was in New York and put up 53 points. A lot, by Dead Puck Era standards, but not the amount he had been able to produce. 29 is still in an NHL Player’s prime, and he should have been able to. He was able to produce seasons of 97, 115, and 93 points.
Lindros remains in the top 20 in points per game. He was able to get 100 points more than games played, and when he was on the ice he remained productive. He just wasn’t… the same. You know. It just sucks that Lindros couldn’t get a Cup or an Art Ross trophy. He deserved one, but they didn’t award him it during the lockout.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish
Luc Robitaille, LW, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings (1986-2006)
Stat Line: 1431 GP, 1394 P, 668 G 726 A, 1177 PIM, 3 SH, 89 GWG, 3 SHA, 16.9 S% (Playoffs: 159 GP, 127 P, 58 G 69 A, 174 PIM, 12 GWG, 13.9 S%)
Lucky Luc was the Kings’ first franchise star. Yes, Wayne Gretzky was a King. But he entered the Hall of Fame an Oiler, and he will always be an Edmonton Oiler. There’s even some who list him as a Ranger before a King. But Luc is a King, through and through. He left a few times, but he always came back. There’s a reason his jersey is in the rafters, and there’s a reason Luc helped the Kings become a firmly established franchise.
In Luc’s career in LA, he was better than a point-per-game. That’s even with his last two seasons being 51 and 24 points, he was just that good before the end. Luc played the position on this list that’s the rarest – he was an elite left wing. Robitaille, in the prime of his career, was able to put up 100 points four times. He was a particularly excellent player before he left LA the first time.
Robitaille won the Calder, getting 84 points his rookie year. He also was labeled the best left wing in the league 5 times. Cause that’s what that First Team All-Star thing I put in everybody’s awards means. Robitaille had a stellar career (he remains in the top 50 in goals-per-game), and he played in that cosmic purple and yellow. That was a great uniform.
Awards: Calder Trophy, 5 First Team All-Stars, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 1 Cup
Joe Sakic, C, Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche (1988-2009)
Stat Line: 1378 GP, 1641 P, 625 G 1016 A, 614 PIM, 32 SH, 86 GWG, 17 SHA, 13.5 S% (Playoffs: 172 GP, 188 P, 84 G 104 A, 78 PIM, 4 SH, 19 GWG, 14.4 S%)
Sakic is top 15 in points-per-game and assists-per-game. He’s also top 50 in goals-per-game. Because he was a much better assist man and playmaker than a goal scorer, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sakic was a leading playmaker in the NHL, and he inspired a generation of greats all his own – look at Toews and some of the other 19s in the league now.
Sakic was great on both international and league ice. He helped the Canadians to win medals and helped the Avalanche win titles. Sakic won a Conn Smythe for his efforts in the 96 playoffs. Sakic led the league in playoff points twice – both times resulted in a Stanley Cup. Sakic became the Avalanche’s captain, and never stopped producing.
Sakic wasn’t only great in the playoffs. He won a Hart, a Byng, and a Pearson/Lindsay in the same year. He scored 118 points that year. It was neither a league nor career high. Sakic scored 120 points in 82 games at 26. Sakic was an insane player in the regular season. And he was also a great defensive player – he finished second for the Selke the same year he won his Hart and Byng.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 1 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophy, 1 Byng Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 8 top 5 Lady Byng finishes, 2 Cups
Teemu Selanne, RW, Winnipeg Jets, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks
Stat Line: 1451 GP, 1457 P, 684 G 773 A, 660 PIM, 7 SH, 110 GWG, 2 SHA, 15.1 S% (Playoffs: 130 GP, 88 P, 44 G 44 A, 62 PIM, 11 GWG, 12.6 S%)
Teemu Selanne remains in the top 50 in points-per-game. Jari Kurri is the only Finn above him. Therefore, it’s possible that Selanne is the greatest Finn to have ever played the game – although Kurri was able to produce without Gretzky, Gretzky still bumped those numbers. Selanne never had that benefit.
Selanne is top 15 in goals all-time, with 684. Teemu was able to score very quickly, and he remained one of the most entertaining players throughout his career. The “President” “President” “President” “President” “President” Trump stuff with Teemu is a little bit worrying – but he never beat his wife. I won’t say he didn’t become a Nazi Sympathizer, because who knows with this President.
Who knows what Teemu is going to go into the Hall of Fame as (a Duck) but he’s earned his place there. His rookie year, he had 132 points. He would go on to top 100 points three more times throughout his career and lead the league in goals three times. He won one of the first Rocket Richard trophies for most goals in the NHL. Selanne truly didn’t fall off until the last two years of his career.
Awards: 1 Rocket Richard Trophy, Calder Trophy, Masterton Trophy, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 6 top 5 Byng finishes
Brendan Shanahan, LW, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils
Stat Line: 1524 GP, 1354 P, 656 G 698 A, 2489 PIM, 23 SH, 109 GWG, 14 SHA, 12.9 S% (Playoffs: 184 GP, 134 P, 60 G 74 A, 279 PIM, 1 SH, 12 GWG, 9.6 S%)
Allow this to speak volumes about Shanahan: before the Red Wings won back-to-back Cups, Scotty Bowman believed enough in Shanahan to grab him two games into the season. It was in Detroit where Shanahan would transform into one of the best left wings in history. It was there that Shanahan would help lead Detroit to 3 Cups.
Shanahan had more than 10 points three times in the playoffs. He had more than 80 points four times. He was a great forward on an even better team. Shanahan was also named to the first all-star list twice and was a second-team all-star once. His best ability was not so much scoring the most points – it was scoring a lot of points for a very long time. He scored 50 points a year or more from age 20 to 39.
He did it also while changing teams a bunch, never developing chemistry until he stayed in Detroit for nine years. He wasn’t in Detroit until age 28. Shanahan was a star of a dynasty team – imagine him like the 90s/early 00s version of Marian Hossa, just with more offense and more penalties. Shanahan’s also in the top 5 of game-winning goals, so he was great at winning in clutch moments.
Awards: 1 King Clancy Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 3 Cups
Steve Yzerman, C, Detroit Red Wings (1983-2006)
Stat Line: 1514 GP, 1755 P, 692 G 1063 A, 924 PIM, 50 SH, 94 GWG, 33 SHA, 15.0 S% (Playoffs: 196 GP, 185 P, 70 G 115 A, 84 PIM, 3 SH, 12 GWG, 12.0 S%)
Yzerman Yzerman Yzerman. Stevie Y was the captain of the Red Wings and was an excellent leader while doing it. He won everything besides a Hart – he finished in third but won the Pearson that year. Stevie Y also helped the Red Wings establish a dynasty, winning three Cups in his thirties. He won a Conn Smythe the second of the back-to-back Cups.
Yzerman became one of the best GMs in the NHL. Before that, he was one of the best centers in the era immediately proceeding Wayne Gretzky’s changing of the game. Yzerman is top 20 in points-per-game all time, but he also won a Selke trophy and came close 3 other times. Yzerman did everything. And he did it well.
Yzerman remains in the top 25 for assists-per-game. He was one of the better playmakers in the NHL, and it contributed to the success of the Red Wings. Yzerman was able to lead the league in playoff scoring once, and he hit 20 points two other times. Yzerman was an astounding success.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 1 Pearson/Ted Lindsay Trophy, 1 Selke Trophy, Masterton Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, top 3 Calder finish, 3 top 5 Selke finishes
Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues (1991-2015)
Stat Line: 1266 GP, 691 W, .912 SV%, 2.24 GAA, 125 SO, 2 G, 47 P, 122 PIM (Playoffs: 205 GP, 113 W, .919 SV%, 2.02 GAA, 24 SO, 1 G, 13 P, 34 PIM)
It takes a special kind of goalie to score two goals. It takes a special kind of goalie to score a goal in the playoffs. It takes a special kind of goalie cause Martin Brodeur is a special kind of goalie. Brodeur was the kind of goalie who won his first Vezina at 30. He was a perennial contender before then, but he never won, and then he won four times in his 30’s.
Brodeur was over a .915 SV% 8 times in his career. He was under a 2.00 GAA 2 times. He was a great goaltender throughout his career. He was the kind of goaltender you didn’t want to go up against and were glad when you saw his backup on the ice. Still, the crushing New Jersey defense in Brodeur’s prime was itself formidable. Brodeur only had to make more than 2000 saves once in his career.
Brodeur is top 10 all-time in GAA, which is the much better stat historically. He has the most goals for any goaltender in the National Hockey League. He also had the most shutouts. Brodeur won 5 Jennings trophies in his career. He won 4 Vezinas. He won 3 Cups. He was the heart of a dynasty. And he did it all while playing the most games in NHL goaltender history.
Awards: 4 Vezina Awards, 5 William Jennings Trophies, Calder Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 7 top 5 Hart finishes, 9 top 5 Vezina finishes, 3 Cups
Zdeno Chara, D, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins (1997-now)
Stat Line: 1331 GP, 593 P, 184 G 409 A, 1764 PIM, 7 SH, 28 GWG, 26 SHA, 6.3 S%, 24:34 TOI (average time on ice) (Playoffs: 141 GP, 58 P, 15 G 43 A, 186 PIM, 3 GWG, 4.8 S%, 26:54 TOI)
Zdeno Chara’s greatest skill was always being tall. It’s why his skill sets have not died down as he’s gotten closer and closer to 40. Cause he’s always going to be tall. Yes, he’s lost speed. He’s lost some scoring ability. But if you have to face off against Chara, you’re going to have to go the long way around. And that’s always going to be the case.
Chara won a Norris for being the dominant defenseman he was during his peak. He came close 7 other times, but he was up against defensemen like Chris Pronger, Duncan Keith, and Nicklas Lidstrom. Chara was always a great defenseman, he just wasn’t as offensively able as the other players. Throughout Chara’s career, he topped 50 points 3 times. It was during one of these that he won the Norris.
Chara’s defensive domination also contributed to some very good teams. The Ottawa Senators in the early 2000s. The Bruins in 2010 and 2013. He was the best defenseman on those teams, and his size did contribute. Chara is one of those guys you don’t want to run into in a dark alley on the ice, but off he’s probably just a good dude.
Awards: Norris Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 7 top 5 Norris finishes, 1 Cup
Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings (2001-16)
Stat Line: 953 GP, 918 P, 314 G 604 A, 228 PIM, 6 SH, 51 GWG, 5 SHA, 14.0 S%, 18:52 TOI (Playoffs: 157 GP, 113 P, 42 G 71 A, 55 PIM, 7 GWG, 9.9 S%, 19:04 TOI)
Pavel Datsyuk never scored the most points. He was never the one who hit 100 points, who threw in 50 goals. But he was the one who played a clean game. A game that was truly impressive when he did score when he did set up plays. He was a really able player, and his deke skills are legendary. The Magic Man was called that because when he was trying to score, he found magical ways to do so.
Magic Man was one of the best defensive centers in the league for the time he was there. He won three straight Selkes. He won four straight Byngs. He was just great at playing the game, and Detroit had reason to be upset when he disappeared. Pavel was an incredible player, who chose to be the best on one end of the ice and still put up productive numbers throughout his career on the other.
Datsyuk had two seasons of 87 points and two seasons of 97 points. Datsyuk was truly impressive in Detroit’s latest Cup run. He scored 23 points in 22 games. It included a game-winning goal. He played 21 minutes a game in that Cup run. He also won a majority of his faceoffs. He was deserving of the Conn Smythe, but that team also had a lot of other great players.
Awards: 3 Selke Trophies, 4 Lady Byng Trophies, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 4 top 5 Selke finishes, 3 top 5 Byng finishes, 2 Cups
Marian Hossa, RW, Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks (1997-now)
Stat Line: 1292 GP, 1126 P, 520 G 606 A, 626 PIM, 34 SH, 84 GWG, 12 SHA, 12.4 S%, 18:43 TOI (Playoffs: 201 GP, 149 P, 52 G 97 A, 93 PIM, 3 SH, 12 GWG, 7.5 S%, 19:16 TOI)
Marian Hossa is the greatest player to never win the Selke award. Much like Brad Park had sucky luck playing with legends like Potvin and Orr his whole career, Marian Hossa began playing when the Selke was no longer going to wings. But make no mistake, if the award went to all forwards, instead of being dictated by faceoff percentage, Marian Hossa would have multiple Selke awards.
That’s the kind of player he is, one of the finest two-way players to have ever played the game. Not only is he defensively conscious, as well as being hard to bump off the puck, even at 38 years old, he’s in the top 50 all time for Goals and will end his career top 50 in points. That comes with 33 shorthanded goals and the fact that, at 38, he was the Blackhawks leader in goals and could end the season with a 30 goal plus performance.
Hossa is a sure-fire hall of Famer and is one of the quietest leaders in the NHL. He helped lead three different teams to three straight Cup appearances before winning with Chicago. He signed with the Blackhawks because he recognized that was the best place to win Cups. That’s one of the most recognizable achievements not involving hardware out there. Plus the fact that Hossa achieved that without ever being a Montreal Canadien makes it all the more impressive.
Hossa also appeared in three straight Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams. That’s one of the more impressive things in history.
Awards: 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 3 Calder finish, 1 top 5 Selke finish, 1 top 5 Byng finish, 3 Cups
Jarome Iginla, RW, Calgary Flames, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings (1996-now)
Stat Line: 1535 GP, 1291 P, 619 G 672 A, 1024 PIM, 13 SH, 97 GWG, 9 SHA, 13.1 S%, 19:47 TOI (Playoffs: 81 GP, 68 P, 37 G 31 A, 98 PIM, 3 SH, 7 GWG, 15.4 S%, 21:01 TOI)
Iginla led the league in goals twice. He was the ultimate power forward – fast, strong, and able to finish on plays. He found his way to the net and once he was there he was able to put the puck in the net. It’s what led him to score more than 40 goals four times, including 2 fifty goal seasons. He had more than 90 points three times.
Iginla’s career in Calgary was something special. He scored 1095 points in 1219 games. He was something to behold, and it’s incredibly unfortunate that he never won a Cup with the Flames. Jarome led the league in game-winning goals once as a Flame. Even that wasn’t enough to win him the Hart, though.
Iginla in the playoffs was still special. The same season he led the league in goals, he led the league in playoff goals as well. Jarome was an incredible force. It’s a shame that he’s going to waste away on a Kings team now.
Awards: 1 Art Ross Trophy, 1 Ted Lindsay Trophy, 2 Rocket Richard Trophies, 1 King Clancy Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Hart finishes, top 3 Calder finish
Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Detroit Red Wings (1991-2012)
Stat Line: 1564 GP, 1142 P, 264 G 878 A, 514 PIM, 10 SH, 35 GWG, 30 SHA, 6.8 S%, 26:54 TOI (Playoffs: 263 GP, 183 P, 54 G 129 A, 76 PIM, 3 SH, 11 GWG, 8.2 S%, 28:09 TOI)
Nicklas Lidstrom is one of the greatest defensemen of all time. He’s one of the longest tenured ones too, and out of all the great defensemen, he’s the one who spent his entire career with one team. He’s a Detroit legend in the truest sense of the word, and the fact that he missed out on the King Clancy is a damn shame. Nobody showed more leadership or genuine good humanness than Lidstrom during his time in the NHL. I think it’s only a matter of time before he’s a coach for somebody’s defensive system.
He won seven Norris trophies. That include two stretches of three trophies. He was the best defenseman in the 2000’s, hands down. And during that time, he was playing against the likes of Zdeno Chara, Scott Niedermayer, and Scott Stevens. Lidstrom wasn’t just a great defenseman on the defensive side – he had nine seasons over 60 points.
Lidstrom in the playoffs was both a points monster and a defensive lockdown defenseman. He helped the Red Wings through four Cups and was a stalwart of the Red Wings defense for all of them. He won a Conn Smythe for his efforts.
Awards: 7 Norris Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 10 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 6 top 5 Norris finishes, Calder top 3 finish, 11 top 5 Byng finishes
Scott Niedermayer, D, New Jersey Devils, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim/Anaheim Ducks (1991-2010)
Stat Line: 1263 GP, 740 P, 172 G 568 A, 784 PIM, 1 SH, 39 GWG, 16 SHA, 7.1 S%, 25:21 TOI (Playoffs: 202 GP, 98 P, 25 G 73 A, 155 PIM, 3 SH, 8 GWG, 6.1 S%, 26:32 TOI)
Niedermayer is in the top 25 in points for defensemen. He’s in the top 30 in goals and top 20 in assists. In points-per-game, he remains in the top 50. Niedermayer’s also in the top 20 in points, goals, and assists in the playoffs for defensemen. I mean, that’s kind of what happens when you take your team to the playoffs as many times as Niedermayer.
Niedermayer won a Conn Smythe as part of a Devils dynasty Cup team. He played a huge part in the Devils defensive system in front of Brodeur. He and Stevens were the one-two punch for a time that made the Devils great. Stevens became the defensive rock, the aged veteran who kept the team hungry. Niedermayer became the young kid who could be both offensive and defensive.
As part of the Cup run where Niedermayer won the Conn, he scored 16 assists and 18 points. That was most in the league that year. Niedermayer was the best help that Brodeur could get – a strong defenseman in front of him that conformed to the system the Devils had in place. Ever since Niedermayer left, the team hasn’t been the same defensively. The Ducks improved when they received Niedermayer, and it helped lead to their own Cup.
Awards: 1 Norris Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 3 First Team All-Stars, 1 Second Team All-Star, 3 top 5 Norris finishes, 4 Cups
Chris Pronger, D, Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers (1993-2012 although technically he’s still a part of the Arizona Coyotes)
Stat Line: 1167 GP, 698 P, 157 G 541 A, 1590 PIM, 2 SH, 27 GWG, 16 SHA, 6.0 S%, TOI 27:28 (Playoffs: 173 GP, 121 P, 26 G 95 A, 326 PIM, 3 GWG, 6.4 S%, 29:41 TOI)
Pronger played a large role in getting the Ducks their Cup. He was one of the best defensemen in the league at the time, and he played in a system with another top 100 player in Scott Niedermayer. Pronger was a beast, and during the Cup run, he played an average of 30 minutes a night. He didn’t leave the ice, and while on it, he scored 15 points in 19 games.
So his career being shortened by concussions was tragic for multiple reasons. First, it ruined his life – between 2012 and when he got a job with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, it was said Pronger was unable to truly be awake without having the worst pain in his head.
Pronger is one of the best defensemen in league history. He’s one of the most physical, one of the most punishing, and one of the ablest offensively. He’s in the top 10 in points all time for defensemen. Same with assists, and in goals he’s in the top 20. Pronger was a threat whenever he stepped on the ice, whether he was dishing out hits or scoring. Pronger was an imitating presence, and he played that way until his career was shortened too soon.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Norris Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 6 top 5 Norris finishes, 1 Cup
Joe Thornton, C, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks (1997-n0w)
Stat Line: 1429 GP, 1381 P, 382 G 999 A, 1152 PIM, 6 SH, 61 GWG, 6 SHA, 13.9 S%, 19:55 TOI (Playoffs: 156 GP, 121 P, 27 G 94 A, 126 PIM, 8 GWG, 8.4 S%, 21:25 TOI)
Joe Thornton has never been much of a goal scorer. His highest goal total came in 2000-01 when he scored 37 goals. He only hit 30 goals once more, two years later. Thornton, however, is one of the finest passers in league history. There’ve not been many better players at setting up plays than Thornton. Gretzky numbers one, but besides him… Thornton is a magnificent player. The beard is a magnificent beard. And Jumbo Joe, when Joe stands at 6’4″, is a magnificent nickname.
It’s a real shame that Thornton has not been able to win a Cup. He was traded a few years before the Bruins won their first in a long time. The Sharks finally made it to the Stanley Cup finals last year, but couldn’t overcome a terrific Penguins offense. Jumbo has to win one, or he could go down as one of the very best not to do so.
Thornton has said that he enjoys the smiles on teammates faces when they score a goal. That’s why he’s bordering on 1000 assists, but only 400 goals. He’s one of the league’s best, well, few, personalities, and he’s been unfairly underrated because of the market he now plays in. There’s a reason that at 37, Thornton is still on the top line in San Jose.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Art Ross Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 3 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, 1 top 5 Selke finish
Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (2005-now)
Stat Line: 762 GP, 1005 P, 372 G 633 P, 574 PIM, 3 SH, 51 GWG, 5 SHA, 14.8 S%, 20:54 TOI, 52.2 FO% (face-off percentage) (Playoffs: 124 GP, 137 P, 49 G 88 A, 61 PIM, 9 GWG, 12.6 S%, 21:19 TOI, 52.3 FO%)
One of the measures for current players is whether, if they retired right now, they would be considered one of the greatest players of all time. For Sidney Crosby, that is most certainly the case. He’s done serious damage in this league since he arrived, and the fact that he lost the Calder both surprises and deeply upsets me. Crosby has the chance to be one of the five to ten greatest players of all time in the end, and the fact they couldn’t see that in a 102 point rookie season is a poor reflection on the NHL’s voting committee.
Crosby has fewer goals than I would expect him to have. But he’s an all-around playmaker, and the fact that he’s able to get assists consistently proves it. Even when Sidney Crosby gets slow starts, as he did in 2015-16, he heats it up in the second half. Crosby has led the league in goals twice, and once in assists. He has led in points twice, with a 120 point season and a 104 point season. He’s hit 100 points twice more.
He has hit 50 goals only once in his career. He led that year in goals and won the Rocket Richard trophy for it. His playoffs performance is also noteworthy – better than a point-per-game performance and he’s been the heart and soul of two Stanley Cup teams. He has been videotaped as having a collection of all the captains who have won the Stanley Cup since him the first time in his garage. I just like to picture that he has three photos of Jonathan Toews tormenting him daily.
Awards: 2 Hart Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 3 Ted Lindsay Awards, 2 Art Ross Trophies, 1 Rocket Richard Trophy, 4 First Team All-Stars, 2 Second Team All-Stars, 3 top 5 Hart finishes, top 3 Calder finish, 2 Cups
Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks (2005-now)
Stat Line: 895 GP, 500 P, 89 G 411 A, 505 PIM, 5 SH, 15 GWG, 14 SHA, 4.8 S%, 25:21 TOI (Playoffs: 122 GP, 80 P, 18 G 62 A, 60 PIM, 5 GWG, 6.3 S%, 28:17 TOI)
Duncan Keith is the greatest defenseman on what could be considered the greatest team since the 90’s Devils. Keith has played crucial roles in the Blackhawks’ Cup runs, including winning a Conn Smythe after scoring 3 game winning goals in that Cup run. He also played a good half the game every game. He’s become the iron man on a Blackhawks defense that has asked him to play a lot of minutes. He’s played them really well.
People have called Keith dirty, but he’s been in the top 30 for Byng voting 4 times. He’s one of the toughest men on the ice in the modern era, and he’s been shown to pull out teeth and then keep skating. Keith’s name and his number, 2, will be in the rafters in Chicago, and his bust will be in the Hall of Fame.
Duncan Keith, as he currently stands, is 25th in points per game for defensemen. He’s near to the top 25 in assists per game, and Kevin Shattenkirk is just a little bit ahead of him right now. Keith’s had two seasons of sixty points. His first earned him a top 20 spot in Hart voting. His second netted him his second Norris. He’s an elite defenseman and he has been ever since entering the league. Actually, elite doesn’t begin to define Keith.
Awards: 2 Norris Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 3 Cups
Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers (2005-now)
Stat Line: 733 GP, 402 W, .920 SV%, 2.31 GAA, 61 SO, 22 P, 16 PIM (Playoffs: 116 GP, 55 W, .921 SV%, 2.28 GAA, 9 SO, 1 P, 0 PIM)
Since his arrival, Lundqvist has been the greatest goaltender in shutouts and save percentage, and is second in GAA. This is an era where amazing goaltenders are playing – Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, and Cory Schneider to name a few – and yet Henrik has been their leader. He remains an elite goaltender in the league still, and he’s 34. Those other guys are still very much younger than him. I don’t think we’re at the point yet where Lundqvist has to be traded to win the Cup, but the stills of him laying on the ice after the loss to the Kings are some of the most disturbing hockey images. To be fair, partially that’s because he’s my favorite goaltender.
Lundqvist wins games. He takes the team on his back, and he proceeds to win. With a bad Rangers defense, the Rangers are still in the playoff conversation, and that’s because of number 30. Even in a down year, he’s been remarkable to watch, and he makes clutch saves not only in the regular season but in the playoffs. The best thing you can say about Lundqvist is that it’s never been his fault the Rangers have lost down the stretch. He’s worthy of more than just the one Vezina he has.
Henrik is known as the King for a reason. He propelled the Rangers to the Finals with a .927 SV% and a 2.14 GAA. He had the most losses in the playoffs that year, but he managed to wrangle the Rangers out of three straight series. If the Rangers ever win the Cup, it’ll be because of Hank. If they ever trade him, it’ll be because they know they don’t have a chance even with him. Just looking forward to that Lundqvist last chance Cup run with the Blackhawks in a few years.
Awards: 1 Vezina Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 1 Second Team All-Star, 6 top 5 Vezina finishes
Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals (2005-now)
Stat Line: 901 GP, 1020 P, 552 G 468 A, 611 PIM, 4 SH, 95 GWG, 1 SHA, 12.4 S%, 21:06 TOI (Playoffs: 84 GP, 82 P, 41 G 41 A, 38 PIM, 6 GWG, 10.3 S%, 21:45 TOI)
Here’s the thing about Alexander Ovechkin: all he does is score. When Evgeni Malkin said “I am score”, he obviously forgot to precede that statement with “Alexander Ovechkin is score”. Ovechkin is one of the most prominent goal scorers in NHL history. And he does it from the same spot, repeatedly. No one can stop him. He just goes to the circle and blam – one timer in the net. He’s scored 552 goals. Probably 400 of those are from the circle.
Ovi’s another one of those guys who has willed his team into the playoffs but has never been able to win. Backstrom’s points are all because he plays with Ovi. Watching the Great 8 on ice, it makes you openly weep. He’s one of the most fascinating and fun to watch players, and he keeps just doing it. Ovechkin is sixth in all-time goals-per-game. That’s above even Wayne Gretzky. And it’s not that close.
Ovechkin is 27th all-time in goals. Only Bossy played fewer games. He’s a miracle on ice in himself, and he’s probably the reason the NHL is going to the Olympics next year. Cause nobodies going to want Ovechkin just out of the league for a year. Even his opponents will be like – yo, we need Ovechkin here. Cause that’s the power of Ovi. I also look forward to his stint with the Blackhawks. He’ll be the left wing Jonathan Toews has always needed.
Oh, one more paragraph cause Ovi’s just that good – he won both a First Team All-Star and Second Team All-Star spot in the same year. The lockout year, he was the first team left wing and the second team right wing. Cause why not? Ovechkin won the Hart and the Richard that year. 32 goals in 48 games. Worth it.
Awards: 3 Hart Trophies, 1 Art Ross Trophy, 6 Rocket Richard Trophies, 3 Ted Lindsay Awards, Calder Trophy, 6 First Team All-Stars, 4 Second Team All-Stars, 2 top 5 Hart finishes (both second place)
Alright, these guys aren’t on this list yet. The actual list ends with Alexander Ovechkin. The Great 8 is Number 100, at least by the combination of era and alphabet. But these are the guys who will be on this list soon if they keep down the roads they’re on. Malkin could be on this list now, but I couldn’t take anyone off. Same with Karlsson and Toews. Price, McDavid, and Kane could be three of the greatest, but it’s seriously too soon to tell.
Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks (2007-now)
Stat Line: 721 GP, 731 P, 278 G 453 A, 280 PIM, 49 GWG, 1 SHA, 12.4 S%, 19:39 TOI, 147 BLK (blocks), 446 TK (takeaways) (Playoffs: 123 GP, 121 P, 49 G 72 A, 60 PIM, 1 SH, 11 GWG, 13.2 S%, 20:15 TOI, 28 BLK, 69 TK)
The thing about this future’s list is that there’s something holding these guys back from being on this list right now. Patrick Kane’s is this: where is his Rocket Richard trophy? He’s won literally everything else that’s important – he’s got a Hart, a Conn, an Art Ross, a Ted Lindsay, and the Calder. Where is his 50-goal season? Can he get another 100 point season? That’s what would put Kane back firmly on this list. If he was able to produce at his 2015-16 rate again, he would be on the list for sure.
I firmly believe that Patrick Kane will remain the best right wing in the National Hockey League for the rest of his career. He’ll be on the list before he retires. But if he was able to steal a Rocket Richard from Ovechkin, Crosby, and now McDavid, that would mean he did something truly special. And that would showcase his ability to be one of the best forwards over an extended period of time.
Kane’s underrated in one respect: during his career, he has been better than a point per game. Since 2012, he has not missed a season, ending each over a point per game. He’s done the same in the playoffs, and he led the league in playoff points during the latest Chicago Blackhawks cup run. Kane’s an insane player, worthy of this list, I just can’t bump anyone yet.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 1 Art Ross Trophy, 1 Ted Lindsay Award, 1 Calder Trophy, 2 First Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Byng finish, 3 Cups
Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators (2009-now)
Stat Line: 540 GP, 440 P, 110 G 330 A, 270 PIM, 1 SH, 21 GWG, 3 SHA, 6.9 S%, 25:49 TOI, 728 BLK, 404 TK (Playoffs: 29 GP, 19 P, 4 G 15 A, 16 PIM, 4.5 S%, 26:41 TOI, 38 BLK, 19 TK)
Karlsson is one of the greatest offensive defensemen of all time. He’s led the NHL in assists once and has had three seasons of 70 or more points. In just eight seasons, Karlsson is now 9th in points-per-game. He’s incredibly proficient in scoring points, and it’s the assists where he gets the most credit. But he doesn’t get enough credit for goal scoring – he’s had two seasons of twenty goals.
Karlsson takes a lot of crap for “not playing defense”, yet he continually blocks shots – in 540 games played, he has 728 blocks, and he can backcheck just like he can help on the forecheck. There’s a reason he continues to be Ottawa’s first defenseman. He’s the heart of that team. Throughout his career, he’s played five minutes less than half the game, and that’s an incredible feat.
For a defenseman with only 110 goals, Karlsson’s 21 game winning goals are astounding. That’s about a fifth of his goals, coming in the most clutch moments. He’s won 21 goals for his team, and he doesn’t usually score goals. I’m just waiting on game-winning assists to be a stat because that will be even more impressive for the young defenseman. His one fault right now – he’s too young. We don’t know if he can finish his career like he began it.
Awards: 2 Norris Trophies, 3 First Team All-Stars, 1 top 5 Norris finish
Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (2006-now)
Stat Line: 699 GP, 822 P, 321 G 501 A, 721 PIM, 4 SH, 55 GWG, 1 SHA, 13.3 S%, 20:16 TOI, 43.5 FO%, 239 BLK, 505 TK (Playoffs: 124 GP, 129 P, 48 G 81 A, 147 PIM, 1 SH, 10 GWG, 10.4 S%, 20:17 TOI, 46.1 FO%, 59 BLK, 92 TK)
The reason Evgeni isn’t on my list yet is this: look at his stats and Patrick Kane’s. Patrick Kane’s is as similar to Malkin’s as a winger could be to a center. Those two, at least for me, are forever linked, because of the awards they’ve won, the Cups they’ve willed their teams to, and their abilities on the ice. The fact that they could be considered the second name on their team is also a factor – Jonathan Toews comes up first for the Hawks, and Sidney Crosby does for the Penguins. I can’t put Malkin on the list without putting Kane there, I can’t put Kane on without putting Malkin on.
Malkin in himself, though, is something special. He’s an amazing offensive center, and he’s 14th all-time in points-per-game. That’s mainly due to assists, where he’s 21st in per game all-time. On the brink of 700 games played, Malkin has already made his Hall of Fame case, and he can back up that “I am score” case. When Crosby was having a down year, Malkin picked up the slack, leading the league in points. He also helped to will the Penguins to the Cup that same year, when he won his Conn Smythe. And then he had an even better year three years later.
Evgeni is a total champion. In fact, he’s only been below a point-per-game once, when he got hurt 43 games in. He may very well have finished that season above a point-per-game as well. Cause Malkin’s just that good. I want to see him and Ovechkin on the same team eventually, and just watch those two win a Championship together, with Malkin finally getting the 1C credit he deserves.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 2 Art Ross Trophies, 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, Calder Trophy, 1 Ted Lindsay Award, 3 First Team All-Stars, 2 Cups
Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers (2015-now)
Stat Line: 109 GP, 120 P, 37 G 83 A, 40 PIM, 10 GWG, 1 SHA, 12.5 S%, 20:14 TOI, 42.6 FO%, 30 BLK, 93 TK
I’m way too soon on McDavid. I am fully cognizant of it. He’s only played 100 games, and he’s not yet been to the playoffs. But he looks like the most promising player since Sidney Crosby, and his stats in those 100 games are insane. His points per game average, if he qualified right now, would put him at 26th all-time. And he’s only going to improve.
McDavid is the fastest skater in the history of the NHL. I liken him to Jonathan Toews, because that skill set is his, but if Toews was the fastest skater in the history of the NHL. That’s the kid Connor McDavid, the guy who’s going to overtake even Toews and Crosby in a few short years. His speed sets him apart, but it’s what he does with that speed that makes him truly special.
The guy is younger than me and my height. I like to imagine that if I was to ever play hockey at a professional level, that this is what my game would have looked like. I think a lot of 6’1″ guys feel the same way. Watching McDavid is special – he takes advantage of the talent the Oilers have surrounded him with, but you’d love to see him with someone his skill level. McDavid/Ovechkin is likely the greatest duo in hockey history.
Awards: top 3 Calder finish
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens (2007-now)
Stat Line: 495 GP, 260 W, .920 SV%, 2.42 GAA, 39 SO, 12 P, 43 PIM (he got in a fight!) (Playoffs: 54 GP, 23 W, .912 SV%, 2.62 GAA, 5 SO, 8 PIM)
Carey Price is the current greatest goaltender in the NHL. He’s one of the best goaltenders in league history. In an era where the greatest goaltenders are NHL goaltenders, and they’re all like really really good, Price remains the best. His numbers are dragged down by his first few years in the NHL, but looking at his recent numbers, he’s amazing. He had three straight years of better than .925 SV% before this year. He also had a 2.32, 1.96, and 2.06 GAA in those years respectively.
In Price’s Vezina/Hart year, cause he won both trophies the same season, he had a .933 and a 1.96. Those are both great numbers for goaltenders, and it shows the capability of Price. Price got better every single year since 2012, and even before that he had two seasons above .920 SV% and below 2.50 GAA. His rookie year is one of the best seasons for a rookie goaltender. That year, he had a .920 and 2.56.
The downfall of Price so far has been the playoffs – he’s never gotten past the Eastern Conference Final, and even there he’s only been once. He carried his team the last two playoff seasons, and he got hurt in the Eastern Conference Final, a major reason the Canadiens lost that series. He’s also improved there, where he used to post .890 SV%s but now he’s at .919 and last season .920. So he’ll soon be as dominant in the playoffs as he is in the regular season. And that’s a guy you don’t want to face in the regular season.
Awards: 1 Hart Trophy, 1 Vezina Trophy, 1 Ted Lindsay Award, 1 William Jennings Trophy, 1 First Team All-Star, 2 top 5 Vezina finishes
Jonathon Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks (2007-now)
Stat Line: 699 GP, 610 P, 267 G 343 A, 378 PIM, 14 SH, 56 GWG, 15 SHA, 14.7 S%, 19:45 TOI, 57.1 FO%, 227 BLK, 564 TK (Playoffs: 124 GP, 108 P, 39 G 69 A, 82 PIM, 3 SH, 10 GWG, 12.1 S%, 20:47 FO%, 56.8 FO%, 54 BLK, 101 TK)
Jonathan Toews is the singular best defensive center in the game right now. Fight me Boston fans. Toews deserves to have three Selkes, and his two-second place finishes should be two more awards. The fact is, Toews is better statistically in every category except faceoffs than Bergeron, and even that is only sometimes – usually Toews is better. Still, he’s got a Selke to his name, and will likely finish with more.
He’s also got a Conn Smythe to his name, won in the first Blackhawks cup run in the current dynasty. He won that Conn in his third year in the league. He’s been the heart and soul of the team since then, and he’s earned the nickname Captain Clutch, in addition to the one he’s gotta hate – Captain Serious. Cause underneath that straight face, there’s gotta be a fun dude, right? He’s also got 4 top 10 Hart finishes, so the league does see his value, even without the most points.
In every playoff season where the Blackhawks have played more than 10 games, Toews has more than 10 points. Even in playoffs where the Hawks exit prematurely, he’s dependable. That’s the thing about Jonathan Toews – he’ll never have the shiniest stats, but he’s one of the most dependable centers in league history. The Blackhawks depend on him to shut down other teams – he does that. They depend on him to get points in stints – he’s led the league in points the month of February – so he does that. The team depends on him in the playoffs – he does that.
Awards: 1 Conn Smythe Trophy, 1 Selke Trophy, 1 Second Team All-Star, 1 top 5 Hart finish, 5 top 5 Selke finishes
Hey, why did the New York Americans fold? They had so many legends play for them at one point or another, they couldn’t keep it together? Plus, Americans is a great name for a hockey organization, especially with the amount of Canadians that would be on the Americans right now. You know what? Re-launch the Americans.
New York Hartford Quebec City Mexico City Islanders Americans.
There are only seven franchises who have existed longer than a year without a player on this list. The Pittsburgh Pirates, from way back when the NHL was founded. The California Golden Seals, perhaps the more poorly run franchise in NHL history. The Atlanta Flames, before they became Calgary. The Colorado Rockies. Both Minnesota teams, the North Stars, and the Wild, though there are Dallas Stars on the list. The new Winnipeg Jets don’t have anyone, but the Thrashers did.
The team that appears on this list the most are the Montreal Canadiens. After them, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks. So I guess I failed in that homer-ism thing. Although the Blackhawks are an Original Six franchise, so it does make some sense.
This list heavily favors two-way players like Marian Hossa and Jonathon Toews. But there are a lot of offensive players, and the defensemen on this list are mostly offensive defensemen. There’s really just Salming and Horton in terms of purely defensive defensemen. I like players that can play defense, and that shows through. But so does staggering amounts of points.
The first guy off this list is goaltender George Hainsworth. It’s mostly because he didn’t play enough games, and because he played way back in the 20s and 30s. But he is one of the most impressive goaltenders in league history, and in 25 years, when there’s more players to be added, Hainsworth might be one.
If I was going to rank players on this list, guys like Sittler without many awards would be on the lower end. Ovechkin, Crosby, and Lidstrom would be on the higher end. Eh. I might rank this list eventually. For now, I just wanted to get this out.
Cause it took me two months. I started work on this in January, and it took me until March 2nd to reach this section. I sunk a lot of energy into this, but it was worth it to learn my hockey history. Because of this list, I have a better appreciation for Gretzky, and guys like Brodeur, Iginla, and Thornton. I also learned about guys I never saw see, but who were outstanding in their times.
Also, this is coming up: If you were a St. Louis Blues coach, you’re guaranteed to be better later on. I look forward to the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup in three years under Ken Hitchcock.
Wayne Gretzky, C
Gordie Howe, RW
Jaromir Jagr, RW
Mario Lemieux, C
Bobby Orr, D
Dominik Hasek, G
Patrick Roy, G
Babe Dye, RW
Newsy LaLonde, C
Howie Morenz, C
Nels Stewart, C
Syl Apps, C
Toe Blake, LW
Frank Boucher, C
King Clancy, D
Charlie Conacher, RW
Charlie Gardiner, G
Earl Seibert, D
Eddie Shore, D
Doug Bentley, LW, Max Bentley, C
Turk Broda, G
Bill Durnan, G
Elmer Lach, C
Maurice Richard, RW
Jean Beliveau, C
Bernie Geoffrion, RW
Doug Harvey, D
Red Kelly, D/C
Ted Kennedy, C
Ted Lindsay, LW
Dickie Moore, LW
Jacques Plante, G
Terry Sawchuk, G
Milt Schmidt, C/D
Andy Bathgate, RW
Johnny Bower, G
Johnny Bucyk, LW
Glenn Hall, G
Tim Horton, D
Dave Keon, C
Frank Mahovlich, LW
Stan Mikita, C/RW
Pierre Pilote, D
Henri Richard, C
Bobby Clarke, C
Yvan Cournoyer, RW
Marcel Dionne, C
Ken Dryden, G
Phil Esposito, C
Tony Esposito, G
Guy LaFleur, RW
Jacques Lemaire, C
Bernie Parent, G
Brad Park, D
Gilbert Perreault, C
Denis Potvin, D
Larry Robinson, D
Borje Salming, D
Darryl Sittler, C
Bryan Trottier, C
Mike Bossy, RW
Paul Coffey, D
Grant Fuhr, G
Dale Hawerchuk, C
Jari Kurri, RW
Al MacInnis, D
Mark Messier, LW/C
Denis Savard, C
Peter Stastny, C
Scott Stevens, D
Ed Belfour, G
Ray Bourque, D
Pavel Bure, RW
Chris Chelios, D
Sergei Federov, C
Peter Forsberg, C
Ron Francis, C
Brett Hull, RW
Pat LaFontaine, C
Brian Leetch, D
Eric Lindros, C
Luc Robitaille, LW
Joe Sakic, C
Teemu Selanne, RW
Brendan Shanahan, LW
Steve Yzerman, C
Martin Brodeur, G
Zdeno Chara, D
Pavel Datsyuk, C
Marian Hossa, RW
Jarome Iginla, RW
Nicklas Lidstrom, D
Scott Niedermayer, D
Chris Pronger, D
Joe Thornton, C
Sidney Crosby, C
Duncan Keith, D
Henrik Lundqvist, G
Alex Ovechkin, LW
Patrick Kane, RW
Erik Karlsson, D
Evgeni Malkin, C
Connor McDavid, C
Carey Price, G
Jonathon Toews, C
Alright. The top 100 Coaches! Just kidding. I don’t want to die writing this article. Just the top 5. These guys I’m gonna rank.
#1: Scotty Bowman, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings
Stat Line: 1244 W, .657 pt% (points won out of points possible), 223 PW (playoff wins), .632 W-L% (playoff wins vs losses), 2 Jack Adams, 9 Championships
Bowman won championships everywhere he went. He won five in Montreal. He tried his damn hardest in Buffalo and got them a President’s Cup. He won in Pittsburgh. He won three times in Detroit. And he coached a good 2/5ths of the players on this list. Bowman’s resume is impressive, and the fact is he’s not done winning Cups. As Senior Advisor to the Blackhawks, he’s added three more to his impressive resume.
His playoffs win-loss record speaks for itself. He won close to two-thirds of his playoff games and did so through various teams and through various players. He developed talent, and then he won with that talent. He bred the Red Wings to winners twice, going through a full cycle. Bowman has the most Stanley Cups ever won, and he’s also got two Jack Adams on top of that – one for Montreal, one for Detroit.
Bowman also spawned one of the greatest GMs of all time. He made Detroit’s 25-year playoff streak possible. He was also a GM, and he helped to draft some of the greatest players in NHL history. If Bowman took over a team now, that team would be contenders within two years.
#2: Joel Quenneville, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks
Stat Line: 841 W, .618 pt%, 118 PW, .559 W-L%, 1 Jack Adams, 3 Championships
The fact that Quenneville has not won a Jack Adams for his work with the Chicago Blackhawks speaks volumes about how the voting for that award is going. Because quite simply, we’re living in the era of the most parity in league history. There’s not supposed to be dynasties. And yet, there the Blackhawks stand – 3 Championships since Joel Quenneville took over, eight years ago. They remain at the top of the Western Conference, and could well be on their way to a fourth Cup.
When Bowman has had to shed talent over the years, every expert has expected the Blackhawks to fall off a cliff. And yet they keep going, spurred by Quenneville and Bowman drafted talent, and Quenneville’s ability, even if reluctance, to develop rookies. At the start of the year, there were six rookies on the team. There still are, and it’s because of Quenneville’s ability to play to players’ strengths.
Since Quenneville took over the Blackhawks, they’ve missed out on 100 points just once, the year after the first Cup. They got 97 points that season and made the playoffs. He won the Presidents Cup with the Blackhawks the year of the lockout, finishing with a .802 pt %. He’s won the West twice. Looking at Quenneville’s time with the Blackhawks, he raised both his pts % and W-L %, now .650 and .613. He’s also one of the best personalities in the NHL.
#3: Toe Blake, Montreal Canadiens
Stat Line: 500 W, .634 pt%, 82 PW, .689 W-L%, 8 Championships
Blake was the Canadiens’ best coach. With him helming the team, the Canadiens won 8 of their 27 Stanley Cups. In the photo above, there’s Jean Beliveau, Jacques Plante, and Boom Boom Geoffrion – all on the list of the 100 greatest players. Blake played a role in their careers, helping them develop into some of the greatest players of all time. Blake was a legendary coach, and he won more than a third of his playoff games.
Blake won five Cups in his first five years. Back to back to back to back to back. His fifth, his team didn’t lose any games in the playoffs. Blake had 9 first place finishes in the regular season. His teams were incredibly built and incredibly run, and his record and championships show it. He’s got the second most Championships all-time, and his playoffs W-L is behind only Sather.
Toe is the only person on both the all-time coaches and players list. He showed his excellence in every area of hockey and helped jump start the NHL in the 50s by giving it it’s first dominant coach.
#4: Glen Sather, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers
Stat Line: 497 W, .602 pt%, 89 PW, .705 W-L%, 1 Jack Adams, 4 Championships
Sather has the second-best playoff W-L% in history. That’s only behind a coach who coached for two years. Sather coached for much more than that, coaching the Oilers for 11 years, including the best period in their history. Sather won 4 Cups with a team that included and then didn’t include Wayne Gretzky, as well as Jari Kurri and Mark Messier.
Sather also coached the Rangers for a short period, before he became their GM, and now President of Hockey Ops. Sather was the one who inspired a team that had traded Gretzky into winning another one. He was the one who helped perhaps the greatest dynasty in hockey history win 2 pairs of back to back Cups. Sather had six straight division championships. That included two Presidents’ Trophies.
Sather helped develop some of the greatest players in the National Hockey League. The Rangers closest interaction with the Stanley Cup since the 90s came when he was the GM. Sather won a Conference Championship in addition to his Stanley Cups, as well as an Adams. His ability to keep the Oilers winning post-Gretzky showed his true competence.
#5: Al Arbour, St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders
Stat Line: 782 W, .564 pt%, 123 PW, .589 W-L%, 1 Jack Adams, 4 Championships
Arbour is the third-winningest coach of all time. His Islanders won their division five times. He’s another coach that coached the Blues before his prime and then became better somewhere else. Arbour had a .564 pt%, at a time when he was competing against numerous great teams, including the 90’s Red Wings and the 80’s Oilers and Kings. He was a true winner, and the team showed it.
Arbour won four straight Cups. He won five Conference Championships straight, but he lost that last Stanley Cup Final. He wasn’t the same afterward, but his prime was glorious. He had five straight playoff seasons of above a .600 playoff W-L record. During the cup runs, they read .714, .833, .789, and .750. His teams were just that good.
He returned to coach the Islanders as a 75-year-old, filling in for a game in 2007. That gives hope to all those coaches who will still want to coach then (please, Joel, please).