Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The NHL 100

I still have another box break to post, but I wanted to get one more hockey-related topic out of the way, even though it's a few days old. 

The NHL revealed their 100 Greatest Players of All-Time as part of the league's 100th anniversary celebration.


The first 33 pre-expansion legends were revealed Jan. 1, while the remaining 67 were announced during last weekend's All-Star festivities. I don't know enough about the 'Original Six'-era players to comment or disagree with the list, but here they are:
  • Sid Abel
  • Syl Apps
  • Andy Bathgate
  • Jean Beliveau
  • Max Bentley
  • Toe Blake
  • Johnny Bower
  • Turk Broda
  • Johnny Bucyk
  • King Clancy
  • Charlie Conacher
  • Alex Delvecchio
  • Bill Durnan
  • Bernie Geoffrion
  • Glenn Hall
  • Doug Harvey
  • Tim Horton
  • Gordie Howe
  • Dave Keon
  • Red Kelly
  • Ted Kennedy
  • Elmer Lach
  • Ted Lindsay
  • Frank Mahovlich
  • Dickie Moore
  • Howie Morenz
  • Jacques Plante
  • Henri Richard
  • Maurice Richard
  • Terry Sawchuk
  • Milt Schmidt
  • Eddie Shore
  • Georges Vezina

The remaining 67 greats played in the NHL after 1967 (coincidence?) and were announced by decade and then by position. As I watched the NHL 100 gala (which was hosted by Jon Hamm) I tried to predict which players would make the list, and I usually guessed right - though there were a few surprises.

Before I nit-pick about the names left off the list I should say that I'm pleased that the committee chose not to rank the players from 1 to 100. There's really no need to assemble these legends and announce that one is greater than the other. I'm also proud of the humility shown by the three greatest living players - Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, and Mario Lemieux - who all agreed that if the players had been ranked, the greatest of them all was not themselves but the late, great Gordie Howe. (Betcha Michael Jordan would never be that humble.)

Here are the 67 expansion-era legends, sorted by decade:

The 1970's (19 players)
Goalies - Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, Bernie Parent
Defensemen - Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard
Centers - Bobby Clarke, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, Jacques Lemaire, Stan Mikita, Gilbert Perreault, Jean Ratelle, Darryl Sittler
Wings - Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur

my thoughts: I loved Jacques Lemaire as a coach, and I'm all for two-way players like Lemaire and Bob Gainey getting recognition.. but there are at least a dozen players who had greater careers and didn't wear the 'Bleu Blanc et Rouge'. 

That said, I don't see any obvious omissions from the 1970's - though Rod Gilbert and Lanny McDonald are in the conversation.

The 1980's (16 players)
Goalies - Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith
Defensemen - Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, Borje Salming
Centers - Wayne Gretzky, Pat LaFontaine, Mark Messier, Denis Savard, Peter Stastny, Bryan Trottier
Wings - Mike Bossy, Mike Gartner, Jari Kurri

my thoughts: Oh, the high-flying 80's.. so many 50-goal, 100-point scorers. This is where it gets interesting: where's Dale Hawerchuk? Michel Goulet? Dino Ciccarelli? Glenn Anderson? How about offensive defenseman Phil Housely, or defensive defenseman Rod Langway? No? Okay, then let's take a closer look at the forwards. 

I hate to single out the only American on this list, but Pat LaFontaine barely managed 1,000 points in an injury-shortened career. Adjusted for inflation, he would have 902 points - good for 115th all-time. That's fine for a two-way forward like Lemaire. But it's not enough in the 80's.

The 1990's (21 players)
Goalies - Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy
Defensemen - Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens
Centers - Sergei Fedorov, Peter Forsberg, Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Steve Yzerman
Wings - Pavel Bure, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan

my thoughts: A decade split into high-scoring and low-scoring by the '95 lockout, this list is loaded with legends. You could make the case for Ed Belfour as a third goalie, but the real debate is between great players with short careers like Lindros and Bure over players who were very good for a very long time, like Mark Recchi, Pierre Turgeon, and Dave Andreychuk. 

Both this list and the Hockey Hall of Fame chose the former, so at least they're consistent. But then how do you explain Nieuwendyk, who won three Stanley Cups with three different teams and is tied for 55th all-time in scoring over Recchi, who won three Stanley Cups with three different teams and is 12th all-time in scoring? 

The 21st Century (11 players)
Goalies - Martin Brodeur
Defensemen - Duncan Keith, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger
Centers - Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews
Wings - Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne

my thoughts: When I watched the NHL 100 ceremony I was expecting to see Brodeur and Jagr in the 90's (Selanne and Lidstrom could have fit in either the 90's or 00's) When Jagr was not announced I thought that maybe the list was excluding active players. Once these names were revealed it became clear that the committee missed some obvious active greats while selecting a trio of Blackhawks stars. This is where I would make the most changes, even if it means omitting a few from past decades. 

For example, I could name 25 players across all (post-expansion) decades that would not be out of place on this list:

Goalies - Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo
Defensemen - Rob Blake, Zdeno Chara, Phil Housley, Mark Howe, Larry Murphy
Centers - Doug Gilmour, Dale Hawerchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Jeremy Roenick, Pierre Turgeon
Wings - Daniel Alfredsson, Dave Andreychuk, Dino Ciccarelli, Rod Gilbert, Michel Goulet, Marian Hossa, Paul Kariya, Lanny McDonald, Mark Recchi, Martin St. Louis, Keith Tkachuk

And that doesn't even include the two most glaring omissions: Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla.

Joe Thornton is currently 24th on the all-time scoring list, and second (to Jagr) among active players with 1373 points*. He is 13th all-time in assists with 993. Adjusted for era, his numbers would be even more impressive: 1105 assists, which would put him 5th all-time (ahead of Messier, Oates, and Sakic) and 1529 total points, which would put him 11th all-time (ahead of Esposito, Dionne, and our next legend)

Jarome Iginla is currently 34th on the all-time scoring list and third among active players with 1285 points. He is second among active players (and 16th all-time) with 617 goals. Every player ahead of him on the all-time list except Dave Andreychuk made the NHL 100 list. Iginla's era-adjusted totals would be 1439 career points (good for 15th all-time) and an astounding 702 goals, which would be 6th all-time.

*stats current as of 1/31/17

I know that hockey has incorporated new-age analytics like Corsi and Fenwick and whatnot, but they really need to utilize these era-neutralizing statistics (like baseball has with WAR, ERA+, and the like) so that great players aren't overlooked for playing in the "dead puck" era, and very good (but not great) players aren't overrated for filling the net in the high-scoring 1980's.

What are your thoughts on the NHL's 100 Greatest Players list? What player(s) would you add to or subtract from the league's list?




  1. Awesome, awesome post. I thought of doing something similar but never found the time. I pretty much agree with your assessment. I'm curious though, how did you adjust for eras to get those adjusted numbers you mentioned for some players? I've often thought about this but never come up with any kind of a formula.

    1. The adjusted stats are on hockey There's a link in the paragraph about LaFontaine.

      Also, I'm definitely up for trading..I was looking for your e-mail when I saw this comment ;)

  2. I really have no issue with the selections.

    1. None at all? Wait a dont even like hockey :P

  3. This was a fantastic post. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The NHL did an admirable job with their selections but, like yourself, I see names that aren't included who should be and obviously, names who are on but really shouldn't be. No offense to Datsyuk, Toews and Kane, who are all great players, but there are better choices. Thornton and Iggy should have been on the list. Shockingly, they didn't select McDavid. The names that are off the pre-expansion era are where you'd find the most glaring omissions. No love for Tiny Thompson? One of the greatest goailes ever. Dit Clapper? Come on. The guy played for twenty years at two different posistions (forward and defense) and was an All Star at both. I have lots of Devils cards if you're ever up for a new trading partner.

    1. Hi Marc, thanks for the comment. I'm glad you liked this post and I'd be happy to trade with you. Send me an e-mail (my address is on my wantlist tab) You're probably right about Tiny & Dit - I've heard those names before and I know they were legends of the early years. I'm okay with Datsyuk because he was a great two-way center and his career is over but the Blackhawks guys are no more deserving of a place on this list than Malkin (and I'd put five or six players ahead of all of them!)

  4. It's funny, while watching the show I was in my head keeping track of who I had cards of. I've got everybody from the 90s to today except Datsuyk, I think. The Original 6 guys though I've only got 4 in my collection and one of them I got as a gift from a Trading Card Database member after the show. I've got most of the 80s players but only a few of the 70s players. Not too bad considering I only began collecting in earnest in January, but I began with 3000 cards thanks to my fellow collectors.

    1. Correction, I got two of the original 6 players from the Database member (Johnny Buyck and Henri Richard)

    2. That's impressive, you're off to a great start! I've been collecting hockey for over 25 years and I only have cards of two of the original 6 guys - and I just got them in the past few months. Jacques Plante was a COMC purchase & Henri Richard was part of a blogger trade. I thought I had a Frank Mahovilich, but maybe not. I do have a Jean Beliveau autographed card though.

  5. Great post! I was hoping Malkin would sneak in there but that is nit picking considering the Pens got a lot of guys in their relatively short history.

    1. He's got a strong case. I'd rank Malkin very high on the 'snub' list, behind Thornton, Iginla, but right there with Recchi, Hawerchuk, Gilmour, and Belfour.