Friday, August 10, 2007


Input Sought: The Top 36 Hockey Players of All Time?

by Jes

Joe Pelletier, the Legends of Hockey Blogger, is asking for input on the Top 36 Hockey Players of all time.

Now, I can barely rank my favourite Spice Girls, let along hockey players, but I can provide SOME input. Perhaps some of you can as well, so leave comments here or over at Joe's site.

Here is a sample list he provides ...

1. The Pantheon - Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr. One could make a good case for any one of these gentlemen to be in the #1 spot, but nobody comes close to these three players.

2. Gordie Howe - Mr. Hockey is a definite #4. Longevity, dominance, and forever changing the way the game was played by introducing the Power Forward concept.

3. Tretiak and Kharlamov are out. The only evidence we have is the games they played on a loaded 'amateur' Russian team against the rest of the world. I realize that this list doesn't have to be exclusively NHL players, but I don't believe there is sufficient evidence to show that these two belong. If we are to add Russians, I'd be more comfortable with the likes of Fetisov and Larionov (Though he is far from the Top 36 of all-time).

4. The list will be skewed towards the current generation. Not only do we have more familiarity with the players of the past 20 years, but the NHL, and hockey world-wide, has expanded over the past 2-3 decades. There are simply a lot more skilled players to choose from.

5. Rank the positions first, and then combine them. If you think Patrick Roy is a better goalie than John Vanbiesbrouck, than Roy shouldn't be behind the Beezer in your master list.

6. I can scratch off a few players easily from the list above: Chris Chelios (good, but not nearly one of the elite), Ted Lindsay (great support player, but not one of the very best), and Bob Clarke, who is notorious and nefarious, but not at all elite.

7. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. If you make a Top 10 or top list of anything, you better not have any doubts about something belonging there. If you feel that Brett Hull shouldn't be there, automatically scratch him off.

8. Ranking the goalies first, I'd go with Hasek, Plante, Roy, Dryden, Hall, Brodeur, and Bill Durnan.

9. Defenseman? Orr, Bourque, Lidstrom, Harvey, Potvin, Coffey, MacInnis, Stevens, and Red Kelly.

10. Forwards? That's a bit too busy for me, but I would consider Bryan Trottier and Pavol Demitra ;)

Once that is done, start combining and formulating your lists. Everyone has their own opinion, so hardly anyone will agree on the same list of players.

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I posted this up on Joe's page but the summary is I have 5 discrepancies with his list.

On his list but not mine: Tretiak, Kharlamov (your point 3 covers that), Syl Apps (I don t see him as the best missing player from his era - Milt Schmidt or Dit Clapper are), Henri Richard (is he the best missing player from the 50s/60's habs? I would say Bernie Geoffrion is, Brodeur (great career numbers and getting better but how much of that is a product of his defence in front of him?)

On my list in their place. Nicklas lidstrom, Joe Sakic. We tend to undervalue our present day stars until there is some time to put them in perspective. Marcel Dionne. 5th highest scorer all time did that without a great supporting cast (is Dave Taylor really great?), Paul Coffey 2nd highest scoring dman ever. Frank Mahovlich 2nd or 3rd best left wing of all time. Left wing is the weakest position of all time but isn't this enough?
Hey Cartman,

1. I neglected to mention Sakic, but he's definitely one of the very best. I'd put him above Messier for a variety of reasons

2. LW is a weak position, and we shouldn't have an equal ratio just to make up for it. Most of the best forwards were centers...that's just the way it is, probably because the best forwards could do it all, as supposed to most wingers, which have an element of their game that is weaker.

3. Dionne has some pumped up offensive stats, but I'd dock him because of a lack of playoff success. His personal stats in his playoff games aren't too impressive, and he never did carry his team like a Top 36 player should. Under the 'gut feeling' category, I'd never consider him as Top 36. Top 50? Yeah, probably.

Of course, most every player we discuss will have some case to be on the list. The more you open up a list (36 vs. 10), the more arguments you create.
I'd probably have Maurice Richard second only to Gretzky, and you could probably make an argument for him being first. Given that Richard played in the six team league there was a less diluted talent pool thus he faced a much higher quality of opponent. There were also far fewer games at the time so one would have to adjust for the shorter season. He's also the one player who scored like Gretzky but managed to physically intimidate people in a manner akin to Messier and Scott Stevens.
Like the season Richard scored 50 in 50 when the non-francophones were getting their asses shot off in Europe.
Notice how there are no Swedes on this list?
1 Wayne Gretzky
2 Mario Lemieux
3 Bobby Orr
4 Gordie Howe
5 Jean Beliveau
6 Maurice Richard
7 Doug Harvey
8 Bobby Hull
9 Terry Sawchuk
10 Dominek Hasek
11 Eddie Shore
12 Ray Bourque
13 Guy Lafleur
14 Howie Morenz
15 Jacques Plante
16 Glenn Hall
17 Steve Yzerman
18 Stan Mikita
19 Mike Bossy
20 Jaromir Jagr
21 Nicklas Lidstrom
22 Denis Potvin
23 Bryan Trottier
24 Joe Sakic
25 Peter Forsberg
26 Mark Messier
27 Patrick Roy
28 Phil Esposito
29 Bobby Clarke
30 Red Kelly
31 Peter Stastny
32 Marcel Dionne
33 Larry Robinson
34 Ted Lindsay
35 Milt Schmidt
36 Ken Dryden

... Big Dan
In regards to the original post:

1, 2) The Pantheon should include Howe. There's no reason he doesn't belong with those three. The major separation exists, but it is after #4, not 3. The guy has 6 Harts for christ's sake!

3) I agree. It's impossible to say what they would have done in the NHL and unfair to assume they'd have been superstars. You put them on a top-36 list and you're bumping out guys like Marcel Dionne and Henri Richard who actually were stars in the NHL.

4) Why skew a list toward the current generation? Where's the fun in that? When two guys never played against eachother all you have to go by are their accomplishements. Look at what they achieved and it will all fall into place.

5) True enough.

6) Chelios is elite, he has 3 norrises. But top-36 is a stretch. Ted Lindsay was not just a support player, he absolutely belongs here. Consensus also is that Clarke belongs there. He's a two-time hart winner and cup winning captain, like Messier without the bonus points from playing with Gretzky.

7)True enough.

8) I have it as Roy, Hasek, Hall, Plante, Sawchuk, Dryden, Durnan, Brodeur, but just 6 of them would make a top 36. (as for Hall vs. Plante, check it out, Hall was a 7-time first team all-star, which was like the vezina back then, the vezina was just for top GAA, plante was FTAS just 3 times)

9) Harvey is a clear-cut #2 all-time defenseman. 7 Norrises to Bourque and Lidstrom's 5. Macinnis has no place on a top-36 or even top 66. Stevens is also very borderline as he never even won a norris. And Eddie shore has 4 harts won before the norris existed... he has been retroactively awarded 7 norris tropgies. It goes Orr, Harvey, Shore, Bourque, Lidstrom, Potvin, Robinson, Kelly, Pilote, Coffey, Park, Chelios... or something like that.

10) I'm not in the mood to go through the forwards too extensively either, but it would take about 19 of them to fill the list. Off the top of my head: Gretzky, Lemieux, Howe, Hull, Beliveau, Richard, Lafleur, Morenz, Messier, Yzerman, Clarke, Sakic, Mikita, Bossy, Trottier, Esposito, Dionne, Schmidt, Jagr.

Rank those guys and throw them in with the defenseman and forward lists and you've got a real solid top-36.
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