As the players and fans gather for one of the innovative strategies--the three on three format--implemented into All-Star game activities sports-wide, the NHL will also name its 100 Greatest Players list this weekend as part of the 100th Anniversary of the NHL. The league has already released the early league players, but this weekend they will officially give everyone a number and an official order will be presented that we as hockey fans can bicker over and debate.
But, since I have this space, I’m going to give you the Top 20 in my view, Of course this list is as subjective as any GOT list, so enjoy, and pick it apart if you will (@PolkaPat if you want to bicker!). Players are listed with their primary team.
By the way, this was harder than I expected. It’s always an arduous task when trying to compare players from different eras, rules, and competition. Here are my picks 20 through 11, with the Top 10 coming next week.
20) Mike Bossy (RW, New York Islanders - 1977-87): The best goal scorer in league history when speaking percentages, with a 0.76% Goals Per Game average, just one percent more than Mario Lemieux. Like Lemieux, both players had amazing careers cut short by injury. Bossy was the first superstar player of my childhood, and had he played a full 20 or so seasons, Boss would be in the top 10 on any list. Mike never scored less than 51 goals over his first nine seasons, and in his injury-shortened final season, he still managed 38 goals in just 63 games. The abuse Bossy took in front of the net ended the career of one of the brightest and best.
19) Steve Yzerman (C, Detroit Red Wings - 1984-2006): One of only five players in NHL history to score 150 points in a season (three others are on this list), can you name the fifth without looking it up? Stevie Y was an offensive juggernaut when he broke into the league, and then came Scotty Bowmen, and Yzerman changed his game to defense and the Stanley Cups started pouring in, along with a Selke Award as league’s best defensive forward.
18) Stan Mikita (C/RW, Chicago Blackhawks - 1959-80): Size never stopped Mikita from being both one of the more physical players of his era, along with being among the most dynamic. One Stanley Cup, two Hart Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, and an 11-time All-Star, Mikita also leads the league in an unofficial statistic, the Gordie Howe Hat Trick: that’s a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same game.
17) Doug Harvey (D, Montreal Canadiens - 1948-69): Harvey won seven Norris Trophies along with six Stanley Cups and was the NHL’s first premiere defenseman, and one who set the mold for future defensemen. The 13-time All-Star also placed in the Hart Trophy race’s top five on five different occasions.
16) Ron Francis (C, Hartford Whalers - 1982-2004): Probably one of the most underrated players in NHL history, and also one of the game's most consistent. Francis rarely missed games and played for 22 years, allowing him to pile up impressive numbers and cement a legacy in the NHL’s record books. Francis won two Stanley Cups during his career with the back-to-back Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991-92.
15) Guy Lafleur (RW, Montreal Canadiens - 1972-91): The Flower is one of the most prolific scorers of his era or any era for that matter, punching in 50 goals or more for six straight seasons. His name appears on the Stanley Cup five times, with two Hart Trophies and three Art Ross Trophies as well.
14) Patrick Roy (G, Montreal Canadiens - 1985-2003): After winning the Stanley Cup his rookie year, St. Patrick wrote his own history, and it’s a great book. Roy went on to win another Cup on 1993 with the Habs and two more with the Colorado Avalanche. Five Jennings Trophies, three Vezina trophies and three Conn Smythe trophies are in his cabinet at home as well, and Patrick was also an 11-time All-Star.
13) Jean Beliveau (C, Montreal Canadiens - 1951-71): There are not enough kind adjectives to describe Jean Beliveau the man and player. He retired the year I was born and I would have given anything to see him skate in his prime. A 10-time Stanley Cup winner, 13-time All-Star, two-time Hart Trophy winner, and won the first ever Conn Smythe Award as the playoffs best player, simply one of the greatest ever.
12) Phil Esposito (C, Boston Bruins - 1964-81): In my humble opinion, Espo was the first real legit big time scorer, the first player to eclipse 150 points in a season and in between 1971-75, he scored 76, 66, 55, 68, and 61 goals respectively. Phil won two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins, two Hart Trophies as league MVP, and five Art Ross Trophies as the NHL’s leading scorer along with 10 All-Star nods. Not many players have come close to approaching Espo’s offensive resilience, and I doubt we will see one anytime soon.
11) Maurice Richard (RW, Montreal Canadiens - 1943-60): Rocket Richard is as immortal a player as there has ever been in the NHL, and he was the league’s first superstar. Rocket is the NHL’s first sniper, and the NHL has rightfully named a new trophy in his honor for the league's leading goal scorer each season. The first player to ever score 50 goals in a season, Rocket scored 544 career goals in only 978 games. The eight-time Stanley Cup winner and 13-time All-Star was the hero to millions and is considered royalty in NHL circles. Roclet retired before I was born, but I still cried when Rocket died.
Look for my Top 10 of All-Time next week and remember you can always hit me up @PolkaPat