50 All-Time Hockey Greats Who Would Struggle in the NHL Today

Brad KurtzbergContributor IJuly 25, 2012

50 All-Time Hockey Greats Who Would Struggle in the NHL Today

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    We've all heard it so many times before: Players today are bigger, stronger and faster than they ever were before. This is true in all sports; not just in hockey.

    If you've ever had the chance to watch an old game from the 1950s through the 1990s on NHL Network or ESPN Classic, you can see how much slower the game used to be back then.

    In addition, training methods are so different then they were in the past. Hockey is now a full-time job. Players no longer have offseason jobs and then have to get back into shape during training camp. Players now train all year long using modern nutritional information and the latest exercise regimens.

    The game is also coached differently than it was then. The use of video to scout opponents has forever changed the game and added strategy that did not exist 30 years ago.

    So the question is often asked: How would the superstars of the past fare in today's game?

    Please note that I am taking nothing away from these hockey greats by including them on this list. They are all still among the greatest to lace up their skates and play the game. I just feel that these players would have trouble adjusting to the modern game because of how they played the game back then.

    I'm sure there are others that I missed, so feel free to comment and add your own all-time greats that you feel belong on this list.

    Keep in mind that the order in the list is not very important.

50. Mike Palmateer

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    Goalie Mike Palmateer had small stature but a lightning-fast glove when he played for the Maple Leafs in the 1970s.

    Palmateer's lack of size (he played at 5'9" and 170 pounds) and the very different style that goalies play today would make playing in the NHL in 2012 a struggle for Palmateer.

49. Dave Schultz

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    Dave Schultz is one of the best enforcers in NHL history. He was the biggest fighter among the Broad Street Bullies teams that battled their way to a pair of Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.

    Schultz still holds the NHL record for penalty minutes in a season with 472 back in 1974-75.

    "The Hammer" was not without talent. Although few people remember it, Schultz did score 20 goals for the Flyers in 1973-74 and totaled a career-high 36 points that season.

    But Schultz's skating and other skills were barely adequate for the NHL of the 1970s. Today, Schultz would face a few issues. He couldn't skate well enough to keep up with modern players, and he would end up making his team shorthanded too often with the modern instigator rule in place.

48. Jerry Korab

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    Jerry "King Kong" Korab was a big, tough defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres who reached the Stanley Cup final three times in his first five NHL seasons.

    Korab's biggest issue today would be skating speed. The big defender was a great player in his own zone in the 1970s, but today, he would have trouble keeping up with the faster pace of the NHL in 2012.

47. 'Shorty' Green

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    "Shorty" Green was a star in the early days of the NHL playing for the Hamilton Tigers and New York Americans.

    Green weighed only 152 pounds, a weight that would make it nearly impossible for him to thrive in the modern NHL.

    Green was a World War I veteran and played a physical style despite his small stature, but in today's game, he would be just a bit too small to thrive.

46. Roy 'Shrimp' Worters

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    Yes, times have changed since 1920s and 30s when Roy "Shrimp" Worters played for the old Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Americans.

    Worters is a bona fide Hall of Famer, elected back in 1969. Four times in his career, Worters had a goals against average of under 2.00 in a season, including an unbelievable 1.15 GAA in 38 games with the Americans in 1928-29.

    So why would Worters struggle in today's NHL? Can you imagine a modern goalie standing only 5'3" and weighing just 135 pounds? Even with today's oversized equipment, opposing players would see a lot of net behind Worters and his effectiveness would be limited.

45. Charlie Simmer

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    Charlie Simmer was a great goal scorer for the Kings and part of Los Angeles' famed Triple Crown Line.

    Even in the late 1970s and early 80s, Simmer was considered a below average skater, and it delayed the start of his NHL career. In today's game, Simmer would have a lot of trouble keeping up with the pace of play.

44. Tie Domi

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    Like many enforcers from the past, Domi would have issues if he tried to play in today's NHL. Back in his playing days in the 1990s and 2000s, Domi's non-fighting skills were barely adequate.

    Today, he would have a hard time keeping up with the modern NHL's bigger and faster players.

43. John Ogrodnick

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    John Ogrodnick was a good goal scorer for the Red Wings and Rangers in the 1980s, scoring a career-high 55 in 1984-85.

    But even back in the 80s, scouts said Ogrodnick was a slow skater. In 2012, he would have a lot of trouble keeping up with the faster pace of the modern game.

42. King Clancy

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    "King" Clancy did it all in professional hockey. He was a Hall of Fame defenseman, a coach and a referee. He probably would have resurfaced the ice and sold programs if he was asked to.

    But Clancy was just 5'7" and weighed a mere 155 pounds. There are very few forwards who could play at that size in the modern NHL, let alone a defenseman who has to be more physical and impede the progress of today's bigger and faster players.

41. Pierre Larouche

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    "Lucky" Pierre Larouche scored 50 goals in a season for both the Penguins and Canadiens and 48 in one season for the Rangers.

    The biggest obstacles for Larouche in today's NHL would be his lack of bulk (he played at roughly 175 pounds) and his refusal to play smart hockey in his own zone. It was barely tolerated by coaches back in his playing days and would never be tolerated today by coaches who rely more on defensive systems that require all players to buy into.

40. Black Jack Stewart

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    Jack "Black Jack" Stewart was the hardest hitting defenseman of his day when he starred for the Red Wings and Blackhawks from 1938 until 1950.

    Stewart would be considered a little on the small side for a defenseman today, but his biggest issue would be keeping up with the speed of today's game. Even with modern training and equipment, "Black Jack" would have trouble hitting what he couldn't catch.

39. Tiny Thompson

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    Cecil "Tiny" Thompson was a Hall of Fame goalie with the Bruins and Red Wings between 1928 and 1940. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959.

    The moniker "Tiny" was actually ironic: As a teenager, Thompson was the tallest player on his team and the nickname stuck.

    Thompson was no giant. He stood 5'10" and weighed 180 pounds. In today's NHL, this would be considered small for a goalie.

    Thompson would have a big adjustment playing the butterfly style and in handling the faster shots from today's bigger, stronger players.

38. Derian Hatcher

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    Derian Hatcher was a big, tough physical defenseman who used his 6'5", 225-pound frame to his advantage during his career with the Stars and Flyers.

    Hatcher was a leader and excellent in his own zone, but he excelled during the height of the "Dead Puck Era," which featured a lot of clutching and grabbing.

    After the lockout, Hatcher had trouble keeping up with the quicker pace of the game. If he were playing today, his lack of foot speed would be a big issue for the Serling Heights, Michigan, native.

37. Glenn 'Chico' Resch

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    In his playing days, Glenn "Chico" Resch helped lead the Islanders to one of the most stunning playoff runs in NHL history in 1975. The feisty goalie was generously listed at 5'9" and 165 pounds.

    In today's NHL, the top goalies are all much larger than Resch was, and his small size would make it difficult for "Chico" to succeed in the modern game.

36. Dave 'Tiger' Williams

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    "Tiger" Williams was one of the most popular players for both the Leafs and Canucks during his NHL career during the 1970s and 80s.

    Williams was one of the greatest fighters of his day, but he could also score goals, including a career-high 35 for Vancouver in 1980-81.

    The big issue facing Williams if he were playing today is his speed. "Tiger" wasn't exactly considered fast during his playing days and would struggle even more in the modern NHL.

35. Terry O'Reilly

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    Tough Terry O'Reilly used his rugged style and dogged determination to become one of the most popular players ever to don a Bruins uniform.

    O'Reilly's biggest handicap in the new NHL would be his lack of skating speed. He would have a tough time keeping up with opposing players and would probably be a bit of a defensive liability, something he never was back in his playing days in Boston.

34. Mike Rogers

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    Speedy Mike Rogers was a high-scoring center for the Whalers and Rangers. He had three consecutive seasons of 100 points or more from 1980-82.

    The two issues Rogers would face in today's NHL would be the improved defensive strategy employed by today's well-coached teams and Rogers' lack of size at 5'9" and 170 pounds.

33. Eddie Shore

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    Eddie Shore was one of the toughest players in NHL history. While Shore may have some trouble adjusting to the speed of the modern game, his biggest issue would probably be getting too many visits from Brendan Shanahan.

    In addition to the infamous Ace Bailey incident, Shore once punched a referee and once had such a violent fight with new teammates in practice that he nearly lost his ear.

    Many of Shore's hard hits would cross the line as head shots in this day and age and he would have a big adjustment to make if he were to thrive in today's NHL.

32. Bert Olmstead

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    Bert Olmstead was a big, tough forward for the Canadiens and Maple Leafs in the 1950s and early 60s. He had good size for his era at 6'2"and 175 pounds and was a very determined player who always gave an all out effort.

    But Olmstead's big weakness back then was his mediocre skating. If he was a below-average skater in the 1950s, he would not be able to keep pace with today's fourth line players.

    While I wouldn't doubt Olmstead's effort and desire, his pedestrian skating would have hurt him in today's NHL.

31. Terry Sawchuk

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    Terry Sawchuk struggled throughout his NHL career with self-doubt about his weight and job security. He overcame those obstacles back in the day, but you have to wonder if he could survive in the modern NHL if he were alive and playing today.

    Sawchuk was often a bit surly with teammates and the media. His refusal to cooperate with the media would result in fines in 2012 and only add to the issues he had back then. In fact, in this modern era of the Internet and social media, every move Sawchuk made both on and off the ice (he had problems with alcohol and a reputation as a womanizer) would be put under a microscope and endless fodder for all kinds of media.

    Sawchuk was an innovator and one of the all-time great goalies, but would his off-the-ice and personal issues doom his career if he played today?

30. Bernie 'Boom-Boom' Geoffrion

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    "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion was one of the best goal scorers of his day and earned his nickname because of his hard shot. In fact, Geoffrion is considered one of the first people to popularize the use the slapshot in the NHL.

    But Geoffrion would have a number of issues in today's NHL. He stood only 5'9" and weighed just 170 pounds, which would make him one of the smallest players in the game today.

    Geoffrion was also not considered an elite skater back in the 1950s and 60s, and today, he would also be among the slowest players in the league.

29. Gump Worsley

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    Lorne "Gump" Worsley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980. He was one of the most colorful characters in NHL history and a very good goalie on some awful Rangers teams and some great Canadiens teams during his career.

    Worsley would have a few issues if he played in the NHL today. The first and obvious one is his size. Gumper stood just 5'7" and weighed just 155 pounds.

    Gump was also afraid to fly, so much so that he actually had a nervous breakdown during a flight late in his career. Today, Worsley would have to fly all over the 30-team NHL. It would be a lot tougher on him than the old days of train travel during the Original Six Era.

28. Stan Mikita

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    Stan Mikita was one of the best centers in the NHL back in the 1960s and 70s.

    Size would definitely be an issue for Mikita today. The former Blackhawk captain stood only 5'9" and weighed 170 pounds.

    Mikita would also be unable to use his famous banana-curved stick, which helped make his wrist shots and slap shots dip and dive in unpredictable ways that drove goalies crazy.

    Mikita had great hockey smarts and didn't back down to anybody in his playing days, but because of his lack of size and inability to use his favorite stick, he would probably be less effective today than he was 40 years ago.

27. Rod Langway

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    Langway was a big strong defenseman who starred for the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals between 1978 and 1993.

    His steady defensive play helped Langway become captain of the Capitals and win the Norris Trophy in 1983 and 1984. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002.

    The big issue for Langway today would be his lack of foot speed. Today's quicker forwards would likely cause problems for Langway that he certainly didn't face back in his playing days.

26. Clark Gillies

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    Gillies was one of best power forwards of his era and was a major part of the Islanders dynasty that won four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983.

    "Jethro" was big, physical and had a good scoring touch as well.

    The only thing that would hold Gillies back in today's game would be his lack of speed. He was a good skater, strong on his feet, but had only average speed at best for his playing era. Today, he would have a hard time checking opposing players if he couldn't catch up to them.

25. Phil Esposito

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    Phil Esposito ranks as one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time. He used his strength and large frame to set up in front of opposing goals and score on rebounds, tips and deflections.

    But big Espo was a fairly slow skater back in the 1960s and 70s. In today's NHL, he simply wouldn't be able to keep up with most opponents.

24. Scott Stevens

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    Hall of Famer Scott Stevens earned a reputation as the hardest hitter of his, and perhaps any, era. He helped lead the Devils to three Stanley Cup titles and served as captain of the Devils.

    There would be two issues facing Stevens in the modern NHL. The first would that Stevens had average skating speed during his playing days, which were the height of the Dead Puck Era. Today, his speed would be considered below average at best.

    Second, many of the hard hits Stevens delivered during his career would be considered head shots in today's NHL and cause him to be suspended. Could he change his style and make the adjustment? Probably. But it would also probably reduce his effectiveness somewhat as well.

23. Dick Duff

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    Dick Duff won six Stanley Cups during his playing days with the Maple Leafs and Canadiens.

    He was never a prolific goal scorer, but he earned a spot in the Hall of Fame for his steady play.

    Duff weighed only 163 pounds in his playing days, which made him one of the smaller players in the NHL back then. In today's NHL, his size would be a major issue for him.

22. Denis Savard

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    Denis Savard scored 473 career goals for the Blackhawks, Lightning and Canadiens.

    Savard would face two issues in today's NHL: First, his lack of size. He weighed only 170 pounds in his playing day, which was relatively small for then. Today, it would leave him as one of the lightest players in the league.

    The other issue that would affect Savard's game is the way defense is played now. Savard relied on his speed and made some beautiful end-to-end rushes to score goals and set up his teammates. In today's NHL, defensive strategy has evolved, and we almost never see a player go coast-to-coast the way Savard did in the 1980s and 90s.

21. Ted Lindsay

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    Ted Lindsay is one of the greatest Red Wings of all-time. He was one tough hockey player back in the 1940s and 50s.

    Lindsay's biggest issue today would be his lack of size. It's hard to believe "Terrible Ted," a man who never backed down from anybody on the ice, stood just 5'8" and weighed roughly 165 pounds.

    It is doubtful someone of Lindsay's size and lack of speed would be able to take the physical pounding of an 82-game NHL schedule in this day and age.

20. Henri Richard

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    While not as famous as his brother Maurice, Henri Richard was a steady point producer for the Canadiens for 21 seasons, winning 11 Stanley Cups.

    Because he was younger and smaller than his brother, "The Rocket," Henri became known as "The Pocket Rocket."

    Size would be the biggest impediment to Richard's success in today's NHL. "The Pocket Rocket" stood just 5'7" and weighed just 160 pounds during his playing days.

19. Kevin Lowe

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    Kevin Lowe won six Stanley Cups playing for the Oilers and Rangers back in the 1980s and 90s. He was never a big goal scorer on those high-powered Oilers teams, but earned his keep by being smart and effective in his own end.

    Lowe would almost certainly have a tough time keeping up with today's faster players, as he wasn't known for his speed in his playing days.

18. Guy Lafleur

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    The image of Guy Lafleur that lingers in people's memories was the Canadiens star streaking down the right wing, his blond hair flying as he attacked opposing goalies.

    Lafleur was the most dangerous goal scorer in the league in the late 1970s and helped the Habs win four straight Stanley Cups from 1976-1979.

    In today's NHL, defenses just wouldn't allow the long rushes that made Lafleur so dangerous. Teams scout opponents so much better and are so much more fundamentally sound on defense, that Lafleur's chances would be a lot more limited than they were back in his playing days.

17. Rick Middleton

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    Rick Middleton wasn't fast even back in his prime playing days of the late 1970s and 80s. He could make good moves with the puck, but was never considered very fast.

    In today's NHL, Middleton would be even more limited by his lack of speed. His 175-pound frame would also limit him over the long haul. You wonder if he could take the physical pounding against today's bigger and stronger players.

16. Marcel Dionne

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    Marcel Dionne was one of the most prolific point producers in NHL history playing for the Red Wings, Kings and Rangers. In Los Angeles, he centered the famed Triple Crown Line with wingers Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor, one of the best units of all-time.

    But Dionne was not known for his speed for most of his playing career, and he was just 5'8" and 180 pounds. Could he have thrived in today's NHL with bigger and faster opponents and defensive scouting and film study? These would have been major obstacles Dionne would have to overcome if he was playing in 2012.

15. Pat Verbeek

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    Pesky Pat Verbeek scored more than 1,000 points in a successful NHL career than lasted nearly 20 years.

    But Verbeek would have more trouble in today's NHL. Verbeek stood just 5'9". The "Little Ball of Hate" never backed down from anybody during his playing career and regularly picked up 100 penalty minutes or more per season, but would he be able to keep up that pace and be as effective against today's bigger and stronger players?

14. Dale Hunter

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    Gritty Dale Hunter was the heat and soul of the Washington Capitals in the 1990s, and he helped lead the team to the Stanley Cup final in 1998.

    Hunter was never fleet a foot, and if he were playing today, would probably have a tough time keeping up with the quicker pace of the modern game.

    Hunter's other issue would be this: He often crossed the line between tough and dirty during his career. Many of his actions would lead to unwanted conferences with Brendan Shanahan today unless he adjusted his style of play. It was that gritty style, however, that helped make him so effective.

13. Dino Ciccarelli

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    Dino Ciccarelli was a gritty goal scorer who scored most of his goals from fairly close in. He was effective despite his lack of size, often absorbing hits and cross checks while stationing himself near the opponent's goal.

    In addition to his lack of size, Ciccarelli was never a great skater, and his lack of foot speed would have an adverse effect on his ability to play in this era as compared to the 1980's and 90s.

12. Yvan Cournoyer

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    Speedy Yvan Cournoyer was a dangerous goal scorer and power-play threat for the Montreal Canadiens in the 1960s and 70s.

    The big issue "The Roadrunner" would face in the modern NHL is size: He stood only 5'7" and weighed 170 pounds during his playing days. It would make him one of the smallest players in the game today.

11. Rene Robert

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    Rene Robert was part of Buffalo's famed "French Connection" line, along with Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin. He had a career-best 100 points in 1974-75 as he helped lead Buffalo to its first ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

    Robert would struggle in the modern NHL because of his lack of size. He was small back in the 1970s at 5'9" and just 165 pounds. That would make the modern grind a difficult one for the Sabres superstar.

10. Rogie Vachon

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    Rogie Vachon was a very good goalie for the Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings in the 1960s and 70s and was the first star players the Kings ever had.

    Vachon's biggest issue today would be his height. The future Kings GM had fast reflexes, but opponents would see a lot of net behind the the 5'8", 160-pound Vachon.

9. Randy Carlyle

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    Randy Carlyle was a reliable All-Star defenseman for the Penguins and Jets back in the 1980s.

    Today, Carlyle's lack of skating speed and his average-at-best height for a defenseman at 5'10" and 200 pounds would make things more difficult for Carlyle on the ice.

8. Chris Nilan

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    Chris Nilan was one of the toughest players in the NHL in the 1980s with the Canadiens, Rangers and Bruins.

    While "Knuckles" could probably still drop the gloves with anybody in the game today, his limited skating speed and other hockey skills would be an obstacle to his success in 2012.

7. Arturs Irbe

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    Latvian Arturs Irbe was a very good goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks in the 1990s and early 2000s.

    The biggest handicap Irbe would have today is his lack of size. The former All-Star stood only 5'8" and weighed only 190 pounds, small for a modern-day goalie.

6. Rod Gilbert

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    Rod Gilbert was the right wing on the "Goal-a-Game" or GAG line for the Rangers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Gilbert remains the Blueshirts' all-time leader in points and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

    Gilbert's biggest issue in the NHL today would be his size. He stood only 5'9" and weighed just 175 pounds, which was very average in 1972 but would make him very small 40 years later.

5. Jim Schoenfeld

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    Big Jim Schoenfeld was a tough defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres in the 1970s. He often teamed with Jerry Korab to create one of the better defensive duos of the mid-1970s.

    But like Korab, Schoenfeld would have trouble keeping up with the speed of the modern game. His skating just wouldn't be good enough to make him a star in today's NHL.

4. Turk Broda

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    Turk Broda won five Stanley Cups during his Hall of Fame career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1930s and 40s. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1967.

    While weight was always an issue for Broda during his playing days, it's hard to believe he was just 5'9" and weighed roughly 165 pounds, very small for a goalie today.

3. Camille Henry

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    Camille Henry was a star for the New York Rangers in the 1950s and 60s. Henry was good enough to beat out Jean Beliveau for the Calder Trophy in 1953-54.

    But size would be a big issue for Henry in today's NHL. "The Eel" stood 5'10", but weighed just 152 pounds in his playing days, which would not be enough to compete against professionals in 2012.

2. Johnny Bower

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    Veteran Johnny Bower helped lead the Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cup titles in the 1960s.

    Bower was a scrappy veteran who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.

    At just 5'9" and 170 pounds, Bower would have difficulty in today's NHL and would be one of the smallest goalies in the league.

1. Bobby Clarke

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    Bobby Clarke is known as one of the most determined players in NHL history. He served as captain of the Flyers in the 1970s and 80s and led the team to two Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and 1975.

    Clarke would face two major issues if he were playing today. The first is his skating, which was only adequate back in his playing days and would be well below-average in the present day NHL.

    The second issue would have been a bigger one: Clarke's playing style often crossed the line between physical and dirty. The Flin Flon, Manitoba, native earned a reputation for using his stick or elbows and then letting his fellow "Broad Street Bullies" throw punches to "defend" him.

    If Clarke didn't seriously modify his style of play, he would be suspended with regularity and possibly run out of the league in 2012.