Before I get into this, I'd like to set up some criteria as well as a bit of an explanation.
Firstly, I will delve into each position with no more than four and no less than two from each spot being discussed. Each position has plenty of people who deserve some attention, but let's not let this drag, shall we?
Secondly, I understand that not all of my choices are universally agreed upon. I love the feedback and the debate that is going on, but please, don't get on me for not including a certain guy. I feel that my selections were justified and there is no true right/wrong answer here. But keep the comments and opinions coming as I love to hear who you think should have been included.
Now onto the list!
We'll kick things off with the centermen. Trust me when I say that it bothered me a bit to exclude a few names. One of those being Joe Sakic.
"Super" Joe has been a staple for the Quebec/Colorado since the 1988-89 season. Showing great leadership qualities, Sakic has been the team's captain since the 1992-93 season.
Sakic is also one of the more prolific scorers in the game's history, posting 1,629 points over his 20 year career. Despite only posting one 50 goal season, Sakic still has 623 career markers. He's also been a point-a-game player in every season but four, one of which was a lockout year.
So why does Sakic deserve consideration? A consummate leader and quietly productive, Sakic has been one of the game's best for nearly two decades. A tremendous skater and blessed with the most deadly wrist shot in hockey, Sakic is one of the greatest to ever play the position.
Another centerman whom I felt was deserving on being on the list: Montreal icon Jean Beliveau.
Beliveau joined the Habs for the 1953-54 season and took the league by storm, winning a scoring title, a Conn Smythe and a pair of MVP's. He would also lead the Habs to ten Stanley Cup titles and finished his career as Montreal's longest service captain, posting 507 goals and 1,219 points.
So why Beliveau? One of Montreal's all-time stars, Beliveau was a powerful skater and a composed, confident leader both on and off the ice. He's also a proven winner as his name appears on the Stanley Cup a record 17 times (ten as a player, seven as an executive).
The next centerman to gain consideration is a member of the famed "Triple Crown" line. He was the second overall pick in the 1971 NHL Draft. He is Marcel Dionne.
Dionne began his career with the Red Wings, but left after four seasons of losing, landing the richest deal (at the time) in NHL history, earning $300k a year. He would never achieve playoff success, as his Kings teams never passed the second round.
Dionne left as the third of six men to hit 700 goals, amassing, 731 in his career and finished fifth in points with 1,771. Also, for all his career scoring achievements, the six-time All-Star won just one scoring title and he won that by the virtue of a tie-breaker.
In 1979-80, he and Wayne Gretzky tied for the league lead in points. Dionne, however, finished with two more goals, giving him the award.
So why Dionne? The man very obviously could put the puck in the net. He also had a desire to win, which eventually fueled both his trades (he was also dealt from the Kings to the Rangers, where he finished out his career), and a love for the game.
The last centerman on the "Honorable Mention" list is Boston legend Phil Esposito.
Espo began his career as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, staying for four productive seasons. It's when he moved to Boston, however, that he took off.
He became the greatest scorer of his generation, setting a then-record for goals (76) and points (152) in a season, winning five scoring titles and a pair of MVP's while leading the Bruins to a pair of Stanley Cup victories. He also won the first Lester B. Pearson award, given to the league MVP as voted upon by the players.
In 1975-76, Espo was traded to the Rangers. While not the same force he was during his peak, he was still an effective scorer before retiring in 1980-81.
So why Espo? One of the most prolific scorers of his era, he made up for less than spectacular skating skills by being a dominant force in front of the net. As he put it: "Scoring is easy. You stand in the slot, take your beating and put the puck in the net." That kind of confidence helps, too.
Only a pair of left wingers warranted serious consideration for the All-Time Team, the first being a member of the Production Line, Alex Delvecchio.
Delvecchio set NHL records for most games (1,549) and season (22) spent with one team, excelling at both left wing and center while appearing in 13 All-Star games. Delvecchio also had very respectable numbers during that period, posting 456 goals and over 1,200 points.
So why Delvecchio? He was a leader on and off the ice, as evidence by his 12 seasons as Red Wings captain. A tough guy who played the game like a gentleman, he also consistently produced while maintaining a level of sportsmanship few have been able to match.
The other left winger on the list spent a little time playing with the above-mentioned Esposito. He is Boston's Johnny Bucyk.
Entering the league with Detroit in 1954-55, Bucyk endured two unproductive years in the Motor City before being shipped to Boston. There, he became a consistent scorer before eventually becoming a key cog for the Big Bad Bruins teams of the '70s.
Bucyk was amongst the biggest players in the game at 6'0", 215 and had a penchant for delivering devastating hip checks, though he played a very clean style. He left as the Bruins leader in goals, assists and points, though Ray Bourque has since passed him in the assists and points category.
Why Bucyk? Although never considered the best at his position, he was a solid scorer and a huge hitter. He may not have been the greatest scorer, posting just one season of 50+ goals, but he was consistent, hitting the 20 goal mark 16 times in his career.
On the right side, we have two more additions. One is a current player, one is a bit old school.
Our first Honorable Mention is current New York Rangers star Jaromir Jagr.
Jagr broke into the league in 1990-91 after being selected with the 5th pick in the 1990 draft, Jagr made a name for himself with his high-scoring abilities and that ridiculous perm/mullet.
Winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two years, Jagr would break out in his third season. Over the course of his career, he has become one of the game's greatest scorers, setting records for points and goals in a career by a European-born player.
He was also recognized by the hockey community for his greatness. Winning a Hart Trophy in 1999 (and being a finalist four other times), he also collected the Art Ross Trophy an impressive five times.
So why Jagr? His scoring prowess has made him a sure-fire Hall of Famer. Despite not playing a particularly physical game, his size and ability allow him to carry opponents and dominate offensively. In some circles, he is recognized as the greatest non-Canadian player of all-time, an impressive distinction.
Joining him on the right side is yet another ghost from Canadiens past. A streak of flowing hair, it's "The Flower" Guy LaFleur.
LaFleur became an incredibly popular player for an incredibly popular Montreal team, enticing chants of "Guy! Guy! Guy!" from the crowd.
He would develop into one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL during his early years, hitting at least 50 goals and 100 points for six consecutive seasons. He retired during the 1984-85 season, unhappy with his production and ice time. LaFleur would make a brief return with the New York Rangers before finally calling it quits.
Guy left the game as the Canadiens all-time leading scorer with 1,246 points in his 14 seasons of service. His hardware case was also quite full while picking up three scoring titles, a pair of MVPs, three Lester Pearson awards and a Conn Smythe.
So why a dose of Flower Power? LaFleur was a graceful skater with a deft scoring touch, his trademark blond hair being the only thing opponents would be left seeing. It may be hard to find a more popular player on this team than LaFleur.
Ah, to the defensemen we go. I think I'll limit this to three, as there are several ways to go about this and lots of guys that can be included.
The first defenseman to get "Honorable Mention" is Edmonton's Paul Coffey.
Coffey is regarded as one of the greatest offensive defensemen of his time, if not all-time. He ranks second in points, assists and goals amongst defensemen and has the record for goals in a season by a defenseman with 48.
He would eventually move on to Detroit, enjoying moderate success before bouncing around for the final few years of his career, eventually ending it in Boston.
He collected a bit of hardware during his playing days, picking up three Norris Trophies and four Stanley Cups. He also played in 14 All-Star games.
So why Coffey? He was one of the greatest skaters the game has seen. Adding another dimension to the position, Coffey was like a fourth forward on most occasions. His 48 goals in the 1985-86 season will likely never be surpassed.
Boston seems to be prominent on this list, making it's third addition. One of the tougher choices for me to leave off the initial team, Eddie Shore makes the Honorable Mention.
As mean and nasty as they come, Shore was known for flattening players and keeping low so that he would be harder to hit. He is also the only defenseman in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy four times.
Despite being one of the first truly offensive defensemen, Shore was known for his violence.
His most famous incident involved teammate Billy Coutu. During their first practice, Shore kept strutting back and forth in front of Coutu. Coutu responded by body slamming, head butting and elbowing Shore. He then picked up the puck and made a rush at Shore. When they collided, Shore's ear was nearly torn off, with him barely noticing, while Coutu flew through the air, crashing into the ice and being knocked out cold.
Shore was told that the ear would have to be amputated, but found a doctor to sew it back on, refusing anaesthetic and watching the process in a mirror.
So why Eddie Shore? Aside from the fact that he scored goals at a time when defensemen didn't really do such a thing, I mean, did you read that story? He's crazy!
But really, he was tough as nails and was a feared hitter, as well as being great at his position. And you really didn't want to mess with him.
For this last spot, there were several guys whom I considered and was again left with a tough choice. But the honor goes to Flames/Blues Hall of Famer Al MacInnis.
His legendary slapshot might be his claim to fame, but he was also a pretty good defenseman. Winning the 1989 Conn Smythe for the Champion Flames was a start. Capturing the 1998-99 Norris wasn't too shabby.
But it's his longevity and stats that really grab your attention. He's third all-time in points, assists and goals by a defenseman, doing such over a 22 year career. He may have gone even longer if a detached retina didn't force him to retire.
So why MacInnis? He was consistent for such a long time and struck fear into the hearts of goalies like few could. He once shattered the mask of Blues goalie Mike Luit, prompting Luit to comment: "there are two kinds of hard. Hard and MacInnis hard."
Say no more.
We now come to the netminder portion of our show and there are only two guys I felt truly awful about having to leave off
The first is, you guessed it, another Montreal legend and the innovator of the goalie mask. He is Jacques Plante.
Aside from being the first goaltender to wear a mask during a regular season game, Plante also was the first to play the puck behind the net, head-manning it to his defensemen.
Winning six Stanley Cups in his ten seasons in Montreal, Plante amassed an impressive 434 victories and 82 shutouts. He would go on to play for several more seasons, not quite matching the success he attained in Montreal.
So why Plante? He thought outside the box, with the mask and his puck-handling abilities. He also was a very good goaltender as evidence by his stats and Stanley Cup pedigree. He is simply one of the greatest to have ever played.
Our final selection is currently a back up. I know, I know. That sentence may look odd, but considering he was a dominant starter for most of his career, it makes a bit more sense. The final selection is the human slinky, Dominik Hasek.
After being selected with the 199th pick in the 1983 draft, Hasek was forced to sit as a backup behind Ed Belfour during his time with the Blackhawks. It was his trade to Buffalo, for checker Christian Ruutu, that allowed his career to take off.
Beginning in 1993-94, Hasek amassed 223 victories for the Sabres, collecting six Vezina Trophies and a pair of Hart's (the first goaltender to do so since Jacques Plante) before leaving Buffalo for Detroit in 2001-2002.
Hasek currently has 389 victories, an impressive mark considering he didn't become a starter until age 28.
His legacy will be the unorthodox way in which he made stops, flopping around on the ice and using every part of his body to make a save. He also became known in goaltending circles for dropping his stick and covering the puck with his blocker, rather than the glove.
So why Domink Hasek? He was the most dominant goalie of the late '90s, is the only goalie to win the Pearson and to win the Hart twice. He carried a very pedestrian Sabres team to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1999 as well as several other playoff apparances.
They didn't call him the Dominator for nothing.
And that, my friends, is it. With all due respect to those left off, this is the cream of the crop and the best of the best.
Until next time.