Last week I presented players 11 through 20 from my own list of the 100 greatest players in NHL history. I must say that I wish the Soviet Union had allowed their players to leave what has become Russia instead of sneaking away, for this list would look very different. As I’ve mentioned before, these sorts of lists are all speculative and vary from person to person, but these are mine, and here are my top ten players, and two more players who have scored 150 points in a season. Have you guessed number five yet?
10) Ray Bourque (D, Boston Bruins - 1980-2001): Had I grown up a Bruins fan, Ray and Nick Lidstrom may have had their places changed on my list, but I’d take either in a heartbeat. The 19-time All-Star Ray Bourque was class personified, and the highest scoring defenseman in NHL history. A five-time Norris Trophy winner, and finally a well-deserved Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche, where he still played like the Bourque of his prime on defense.
9) Mark Messier (LW/C, Edmonton Oilers - 1979-2004): Moose is, and always will be one of my all-time favorite players, and he will always be considered one of the greatest players ever. A 15-time All-Star, six-time Stanley Cup winner, and an ice general, Mess simply focused his will to win onto his teammates. As in who can ever forget the Game 6 guarantee against the New Jersey Devils, besides New Jersey? Third on the NHL’s all-time points list with 1887 points, I doubt in my life I’ll see another as great.
8) Bobby Hull (LW, Chicago Blackhawks - 1958-80): The Golden Jet has 610 NHL goals and tacked on another 303 WHL goals, with nine 50+ goal seasons. The first NHL star to defect to the World Hockey Association, Hull continued to dominate all the way to the Hall of Fame and is the greatest left wing the professional hockey establishment has ever had.
7) Nicklas Lidstrom (D, Detroit Red Wings - 1992-2012): In all the years I’ve watched hockey, I have never seen a player who made the game look so effortless. Lidstrom is a seven-time Norris Trophy winner and a four-time Cup winner as well, and he captained the 2008 Red Wings to his fourth Cup. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in the 2002 Cup run on a team with nine players in the NHL’s top 100 and nine Hall of Famers. There was never a better rearguard.
6) Martin Broduer (G, New Jersey Devils - 1992-2015): I had a real debate with myself over placing Brodeur here over Patrick Roy, and the argument continues, but Marty was as steady as she goes. A generational talent who backstopped a team that was defense first, and earned three Stanley Cups to show for the effort. Most wins all-time (691), four-time Vezina Trophy winner, five-time Jennings Trophy winner, and 125 shutouts. Enough said.
5) Jaromir Jagr (RW, Pittsburgh Penguins - 1991-current): I’m just amazed at the level Jags continues to meet with his play, and he keeps adding to his totals. This year hurts with line mates on long term IR (Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov), but even so, last season Jagr passed Mark Messier for second all-time in points and Gordie Howe for second all-time in goals. Makes me wonder what his numbers would be had he not sandbagged in Washington and left for the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia for three seasons.
4) Bobby Orr (D, Boston Bruins - 1967-79): At this point, these men are way too humble to lay claim as the greatest of their sport, but in an interview, it was confirmed the players think Gordie Howe was the greatest ever. So, Bobby Orr is fourth. He was the man who transitioned the position of defense. The eight-time Norris Trophy winner played until his knees gave out, and his legacy was set forever. He's now a successful player agent.
3) Gordie Howe (RW, Detroit Red Wings - 1947-80): Mr. Hockey was simply one of the greatest players of all-time, and a legendary scorer with the ferocity to match his ability. He played effectively well into his forties in the WHA, where he got his first 100-point season as a pro at age 40.
2) Mario Lemieux (C, Pittsburgh Penguins - 1985-2006): A friend of mine who played with Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh and against Wayne Gretzky always told me stories of how much better Mario was than Wayne. Had Mario played the same 93% of his games as Gretz did, I may have him number one overall, and I have absolutely zero issues with him here. He was simply the best player I have ever seen play the game.
1) Wayne Gretzky (C, Edmonton Oilers - 1979-99): The numbers do not lie, and 61 league records can back that up. Four Stanley Cups, eight straight MVP Awards, nine total, 10 Art Ross Trophies, and the only player to ever eclipse the 200-point plateau, something he accomplished four times over five years. The Great One scored 92 goals in one season and has more assists than any other player has total points.
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