NHL Power Rankings: The 50 Greatest Players in Hockey's History
Its a debate that has raged for years and will continue to rage long after this column.
Who are the greatest hockey players in the history of the great sport of hockey?
With this list, I tried to be a fair as possible in considering every aspect I possibly could.
Taking into account everything I could think of and not necessarily in this order: era they played, stamina, how injuries effected total numbers, of course statistics and the competition level they faced.
The results may surprise you as in going through this list it surprised me how far back I had to go to find some of the true greats of the game that some people may not know of but absolutely should.
Have fun, debate and enjoy the read. Hopefully you will have as much fun reading this as I had putting it together.
I was surprised at some the players I had to leave off, call it an honorable mention here are a few names not in this top 50:
Teemu Selanne, Ted Lindsay, Milt Schmidt, Bernie Geoffrion, Peter Stastny, Max Bentley and Bill Cook are just a few that get snubbed here.
You will see a lot of mentions of Awards and Trophies. The explanation of each is below:
Hart Trophy - Given to the leagues MVP for the Regular season.
Conn Smythe Trophy - Given to the leagues MVP for the playoffs.
Norris Trophy - Given to the outstanding defenseman for the regular season.
Calder Trophy - Given to the rookie of the year.
Vezina Trophy - Given to the outstanding goaltender in the regular season.
The Stanley Cup - The Holy Grail, given to the NHL champion.
EDIT - Please see the "prequel" to this column which add on 75-51 on this list here - http://bleacherreport.com/articles/643543-nhl-power-rankings-the-greatest-players-in-nhl-history-part-two-75-51
We start of the top 50 with:
50: Gilbert Perreault: Buffalo Sabres
The list of accomplishments in the 17 year career of the backbone of the "French Connection" line in Buffalo reads like a guide of what to do to get in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
His accolades include nine Time NHL All-Star, Calder Trophy Winner, Lady Byng Trophy Winner.
Perreault played all 17 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres and is the all time Sabres career leader in goals, assists, points, regular season games played, and shots on goal.
His career stats are 512 goals, 814 assists, 1,326 points with another 103 points in 90 playoff games.
His number 11 was retired by the Sabres and he is the only player to ever wear the number for the franchise.
49. Alexander Ovechkin: Washington Capitals
It is hard when you are talking about players that have only played five+ seasons in the NHL. Considering the goal starved era we are in right now what "The Great 8" has managed to do is nothing short of remarkable.
Five full NHL seasons, four 100+ point seasons, four 50+ goal seasons, one 60+ goal season and a fire to compete that is contagious to his team mates.
All before his 26th birthday.
Great things are in store for Ovechkin. All we have to do is watch.
48. Jari Kurri: Edmonton Oilers, LA Kings, NY Rangers, Anaheim, Colorado
Every "Great One" needs a wing man and there were few that could finish like Jari Kurri.
601 goals, 797 assists, 1,398 points in 1,251 games. Add to that 233 playoff points (3rd all time) in 200 playoff games and you have an offensive machine.
Kurri was the first Finnish player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Sure he may have stuck around to long to get to that 600 goal mark, but who is anyone to tell someone to retire?
At the time of his retirement, Kurri was the highest scoring European born and trained player in history, records that have since been broken by Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne.
Very good company indeed.
47. Bobby Clarke: Philadephia Flyers
Looking at Bobby Clarke's stats will not strike you as an all time eye popping elite numbers with 358 goals, 852 assists for 1,210 points. Clark is not a numbers compiler or a guy that was gonna just float through the NHL and get what he could.
He took everything he could.
What I mean by that is Bobby Clarke played the game, every shift, every second he was on that ice and gave 100% of himself.
There is not anything the opposition could do to Clarke to slow him down, hurt him or intimidate him.
Pucks to the face, punches to the face, scratched corneas, bruises, bumps, cuts sprains and brutal fights, Clarke played through it all and his signature toothless grin is as famous a picture as there is in hockey, especially in Philadelphia.
Clarke was also famous for "The Slash." Clarke's line played against the top Soviet line in the Summit Series. Whether Clarke was sent out to do it or not is a matter of debate, but Clarke laid a 2 hand slash over the ankle of top Soviet forward Valeri Kharlamov breaking his ankle.
Some people call this the turning point of the series that Canada rallied to win.
46. Chris Chelios: Canadiens, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Thrashers
That is the first word that pops into your mind when you talk about Chris Chelios, the first defenseman on this list.
Other words would be: tough, gritty, talented, leader and controversial.
Chelios could be considered the Gordie Howe of defenseman as he played professionally until 48 years of age retiring after a seven game stint with the Atlanta Thrashers after two seasons in the AHL.
I will never bash a player for not wanting to retire as it is obvious that Chelios has a love for the game. What 20+ year NHL veteran and sure fire Hall of Famer would play in the minor leagues for two years for anything but love of the game?
948 points in 1,651 games for a defenseman is a lofty achievement, add to that a plus 350 and 2,851 penalty minutes to his resume and you have one of the most amazing careers in NHL history.
45. Mike Gartner: Capitals, North Stars, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Coyotes
Call him a stat compiler if you must but Mike Garter's longevity was almost super human.
Yes, Gartner does hold the dubious distinction of being a player who has the second most career games played without ever appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It was not his fault he was traded in the New York Rangers Stanley Cup championship season for Glenn Anderson after becoming the first player in Rangers history to score 3 straight 40 goal seasons.
Would the Rangers not have won with Gartner in Anderson's place?
His career stats are eye popping. 708 goals, 627 assists, 1,335 points in 1,432 games.
Gartner player 22 years in the NHL, and still scored 30+ goals in his 20th and 21st NHL seasons.
Gartner was known as being the one of the if not the fastest player in the NHL, a distinction he held late into his career.
44: Dit Clapper: Boston Bruins
A perfect example of stats not making the man. To see why Clapper is on this list, you have to look a little deeper than pure numbers.
Clapper was the first player in the history of the league to play 20 seasons.
He earned NHL all star honors as a defenseman, and as a Right Wing.
Won three Stanley Cup championships, one as a player coach in 1929.
In 1947, on the night of his retirement, the league waived the customary waiting period and inducted Clapper into the Hall of Fame the night he retired and the Bruins retired his number 5 that very same night.
43. Sidney Crosby: Pittsburgh Penguins
Say what you will about including younger players on the list but what Crosby has done in his short career is truly remarkable.
Five NHL seasons, a Stanley Cup Championship, four 100+ point seasons and one 50+ goal campaign is not a bad way to start your career.
Often regarded as the best player in the game today, Crosby is still maturing at age 23 and will need to come back from his current concussion issues to rise higher on the list, something that is a forgone conclusion.
42. Johnny Bucyk: Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins
22 NHL seasons, 545 goals, 1,369 points.
That would be enough to get you on this list. That does not tell the whole story for Bucyk. Add to that 103 playoff points on 124 games Bucyk was the centerpiece of the Bruins after being traded to the Bruins from the Red Wings for a then past his prime Terry Sawchuk.
The trade is considered one of the most lopsided in NHL history.
Not considered a dirty player, Bucyk also had a knack for hip checks, something he would dish out on unsuspecting opponents from time to time.
Bucyk is also the oldest player to ever score 50 goals as he accomplished the feat at 35 years of age.
41: Bill Durnan: Montreal Canadiens
The first goaltender on this list is apropos. Durnan had a very short career in the NHL at only seven seasons.
Talk about making the most of your time.
Durnan was the first goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy as the leagues top goaltender in his first four seasons.
Proably the only reason he didn't win the award a fifth straight season was the Canadiens had a bad season in 1948.
What did Durnan do the following season? He captured the Vezina for a mind boggling fifth and sixth time in 1949 and 1950.
Durnan has also very different aspect to his game as he could catch the puck with either his right or left hand and wore a special glove on his traditional blocker hand that enabled him to catch the puck.
Also in 1948 he was named team captain of the Canadiens and his tendency to argue calls and delay games caused the NHL to outlaw a goaltender leaving his crease to talk to officials and "performing the duties of a captain."
It is affectionately called "The Durnan Rule."
Durnan retired at age 35 because he could not handle the stress of professional hockey. Who knows how many more awards he would have amassed.
40. Brett Hull: Flames, Blues, Stars, Red Wings
"The Golden Brett" aptly named after his famous father Bobby Hull.
Brett Hull was no slouch in the goal scoring department netting an incredible 741 goals in 1,269 NHL games.
Add to that total 103 goals in 207 playoff games and what you have is one of the most pure goal scorers in NHL history.
Hull is the only other player besides Wayne Gretzky to score 50 goals in 50 games more than once.
He won two Stanley Cups with Dallas and Detroit respectively and will long be remembered for his lethal wrist shot and accurate slap shot.
He scored the famous "toe goal" against the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup finals that is still disputed to this day and is regarded as the most controversial winning goal in Stanley Cup history.
He also had the best Strat-O-Matic hockey card i have ever seen after his 86 goal campaign.
For those that do not know what I am talking about, Google Strat-O-Matic and enjoy some fun with your hockey fan friends.
39. Charlie Conacher: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, NY Americans
Widely regarded as one of the very first power forwards in the games history Conacher scored 225 goals in 460 games over an 11 year career with the Maple Leafs.
He led the NHL five times in goals, and twice in overall points.
A Stanley Cup Champion in 1932 and a frustrating six times loser in the Stanley Cup Finals Conacher played in 49 playoff games scoring 35 points.
Nicknamed "The Big Bomber" for his size and heavy shot power forwards of today can trace their roots right here with Conacher.
38. Marcel Dionne: Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers
Marcel Dionne is one of the very best offensive players in the game. He was also one of more durable players in his 18 year career only missing a handful of games.
His stats? Mind Boggling. 731 goals, 1,040 assists, 1,771 points.
He is one of only six players to top 700 goals.
His accolades and awards are almost endless.
The only blemishes on Dionne was his lack of playoff success having only reached the second round of the playoffs a total of three times.
In the 49 playoff game he did play, Dionne scored 45 points asserting himself very well.
37. Brendan Shanahan: Devils, Blues, Whalers, Red Wings, Rangers
Brendan Shanahan is the prototypical power forward of the modern NHL era. His hands were soft as cotton and while he was dazzling you with his moves, he would run you over like a mack truck.
For 21 years, albeit for 5 different franchises, Shanahan terrorized everyone he played against with his scoring (656 career goals) and his toughness (2,489 Penalty minutes.)
A sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer Shanahan also added 130 playoff points to his totals.
His accolades include 3 Stanley Cup Championships and 8 All Star selections.
Power forwards in the NHL usually have a relatively short life span of superior productivity. That was not the case with Shanahan. He managed to stay relatively healthy, only missing more than 15 games once in a season due to injury and his production stayed high through his last season in New York, his last full season with 23 goals.
36. Patrick Roy: Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche
Money. No not the kind that folds up in your pockets or dwindles away in the stock market. The kind that wins.
Patrick Roy is quite simply money.
At 20 years old, he won the starting job and won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.
That alone would be a monumental achievement.
He was just getting warmed up.
Roy emerged as the premier goaltender in the NHL and if he did nothing else in his career he would have been a Hall of Famer.
Then 1993 rolled around.
If you have heard about the amazing run of the 1993 Canadiens, you know what I am referring to.
Anyone who watched the playoffs that year knows that Patrick Roy put on an absolute display of goaltending excellence not seen in a playoff run in this era.
Ten straight overtime wins where the Canadiens were most likely getting out shot by a wide margin.
Basically.. Roy won this Cup by himself.
He was not done winning cups. After the worst loss in Montreal Canadiens home history Roy felt that then coach Mario Tremblay left him in the game strictly to embarrass him as Tremblay and the volatile net minder had clashed many times before not only as coach and player, but as player and player.
Roy famously told Canadiens brass "Thats my last game in Montreal." It was.
Roy was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche and was the last piece if the puzzle they needed to capture the Stanley Cup in his first season there.
Roy would add another cup, giving him four total. His accolades are endless. 551 wins, 66 shutouts, a career 2.30 goals against average. His playoff totals? 151 wins, 23 shut outs, and a 2.30 goals against average.
35. Syl Apps: Toronto Maple Leafs
Can be considered the Joe Dimaggio of hockey.
High praise? Sure. But well earned.
432 points in 423 games is outstanding for the era he played in. 54 points in 67 playoff games is also a very healthy total.
Apps only played 10 seasons in the NHL and had his career interrupted by World War II and retired at the young age of 33.
Apps also famously ran for public office while still a player in the NHL in 1940.
Apps could have added easily 5 or 6 very productive seasons to his totals if not for war and his premature retirement but chose to retire early. One wonders what kind of numbers he could have put up.
34. Paul Coffey: Oilers, Penguins, Kings, Red Wings, Whalers, Flyers, Blackhawks
Add to his list of teams, The Hurricanes and Bruins.
Coffey is as talented as he was well traveled. A staple on the Dynasty teams of Edmonton he holds 11 records for scoring by a defenseman.
Often hailed as "the 4th forward" on the ice Coffey always thought offense. He has the record for most goals ever in a season by a defenseman with 48, a record that will probably never be broken.
His offensive totals are - 396 goals, 1,135 assists and 1,531 points. His playoff totals are 196 points in 194 games.
Coffey is currently ranked 12th all time in points overall. and won four Stanley Cups and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004.
33. Newsy Lalonde: Montreal Canadiens, New York Americans
Newsy Lalonde was there at the birth of the NHL and even scored in its first game back on December 19, 1917.
You could call Lalonde is one of two players along with the legendary Joe Malone considered to be first hockey superstar as he scored an absolutely remarkable 209 goals in only 183 games in the NHL and its predecessor, the NHA.
His career goals average - this is just goals now is 1.14 goals per game.
That is something we will never ever see over someones career. Granted there is no way to compare the NHL at its birth to the NHL of today but you can only play against who they put in front of you and there were a lot of other players that never matched Lalonde's absolutely amazing production.
Anyone who is a hockey fan should know who the fathers of hockey are and Lalonde deserves his place in NHL history.
32. Dickie Moore: Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, St. Louis Blues.
Two Art Ross Trophies, six Stanley Cup championships and a Hall of Fame induction.
Dickie Moore is one of a few players on this list that "what if" is attached to his name because his career was cut short by injuries.
Moore was knows for his tenacity and ability to go into the corners and come out with the puck. He skated on a line with Henri and Maurice Richard during the Canadiens dynasty years.
Moore finished with 608 points in 719 games but more importantly 110 points in 135 career playoff games.
Everyone loves a "Rocky" story. Moore came out of a two year retirement for the 1967-68 season for one last run. After struggling through 27 games during the regular season he caught lightning in a bottle in the playoffs and led the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals with 14 points in 17 games.
The Blues eventually lost the series to the Canadiens, but Moore showed the ability then that he could still compete at a high level.
Moore hung up the skates for good after that season.
31. Bryan Trottier: New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins
Trottier is the first of the Islander Dynasty era players to appear on this list.
"Trots" has a lot of hardware in his trophy case. An Art Ross Trophy, a Hart Trophy, six Stanley Cup Championships and a Conn Smythe Trophy as well as a member of the Hall of Fame.
524 goals, 901 assists, 1,425 points with 184 playoff points in 224 games.
As with many players on this list you cannot judge Trottier strictly on his astounding numbers.
After his 15 year run with the Islanders was over Trottier was picked up by the Penguins just in time to be a part of their 2 cup run in 1990-91 and 1991-92.
Trottier was often referred to as the glue that held the Islanders together and was the centerpiece of maybe the greatest team in the history of the game.
The Islanders won 19 straight playoff series, a record that will never be broken and may be the most unbreakable record in sports.
Being called "the glue" of that team is high praise indeed. Trottier was not only adept at scoring goals and a slick play maker, he was also known to be able to be a rugged as he needed to be by grinding, dishing out a thunderous check or standing up to attempts at intimidation.
30. Henri Richard: Montreal Canadiens
The "Pocket Rocket" is the gold standard when it comes to winning.
Charlie Sheen has nothing on Henri Richard.
11 Stanley Cup Championship rings as a player. That is the most in hockey, and is tied with Bill Russel of the NBA's Boston Celtics for the most in any professional sport.
Henri Richard was no slouch in the scoring department either netting 1,046 points in 1,256 games with 129 more points in 180 playoff games.
He skated on a line with his brother, the great Maurice "the Rocket" Richard but was a play maker, not a finisher which complimented his high scoring brother very well.
29. Joe Sakic: Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche
Joe Sakic spent all of his time with one NHL franchise in an era when this is almost unheard of even for the most elite of players.
Sakic started off as a monster on the offensive side of the game, and managed to stay that way even though he became responsible on the defensive side.
Two Time Stanley Cup Champion, Sakic finished his career with 625 goals, 1,016 assists for 1,641 points.
Add to that his playoff points total of 188 points and you have one of the all time greats of the game.
Sakic's wrist shot was universally heralded as the best in the game at the time and was feared by goaltenders.
The unquestioned leader of the Nordiques/Avalanche franchise was the epitomy of class over his whole career.
He is also what you would call a clutch player, as he holds the record for playoff overtime game winning goals with eight.
Sakic is universally accepted as one of the most respected athletes in the history of the NHL for his class and talent.
28. Niklas Lidstrom: Detroit Red Wings
Lidstrom is still going strong at 40 years old, in his 19th NHL season and all you can say about his game is one thing. Consistent.
Lidstrom is also something else. A Winner.
Just his stats alone would be an automatic entry into the hall of fame. Not counting this current season, he has 1,046 points in 1,412 games.
Add to that 175 playoff points in an astounding 247 career playoff games and your picture of Lidstrom will take shape.
Add to that 4 Stanley Cup championships, six Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy and has been a 12 time all star.
27. Dominik Hasek: Blackhawks, Sabres, Red Wings, Senators
The Dominator has a very modest beginning to his career coming up with the Chicago Blackhawks as Ed Belfour's back up.
Traded to Buffalo for goaltender Stephane Beauregard and future considerations which turned out to be Eric Daze, makes this an extremely one sided trade.
We cannot credit Buffalo for knowing Hasek would turn into one of the finest goaltenders to ever play the game.
An injury to Buffalo goaltender Grant Fuhr opened the door for Hasek and he began a run of success that boggles the mind.
Starting in 1993-94 Hasek played 58 games and posted a ridiculous 1.95 goals against average and a even more ridiculous .930 save percentage earning his first of six Vezina trophies.
More impressive than that, Hasek won two straight Hart Trophies in 1997 and 1998 as the league MVP, the first time ever a goaltender accomplished this feat.
The Dominator career numbers are simply sterling as he has the highest career save percentage of any goaltender at .922 and the highest save percentage in a single season with a absolutely stunning .937. Oh and his career goals against average? 2.20. Add to that playoff numbers of a 2.02 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.
26. Larry Robinson: Montreal Canadiens, Los Angeles Kings
Leadership, determination, heads up passing, rock solid defense.
Not all of the greatest players in the history of the game are goal scorers even though Robinson did score 208 goals over his regular season career.
Robinson was a tape to tape passer, getting himself 750 assists over his career plus another 117 in the playoffs.
Three times in his career he topped 60 assists.
If there is one player that can be considered a dominant defensive player its Larry Robinson.
A two time Norris Trophy winner and a Conn Smythe Trophy round out the remarkable career of "Big Bird."
25. Frank Mahovolich: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens
The "Big M" was a player than played much bigger than his 6'1" 200 pound frame would seem to indicate he could.
An offensive machine he totaled 533 total NHL goals and also added 89 more in five seasons with the WHA.
Mahovolich as as consistent as they came, although he never topped the 50 goal plateau he scored 40+ twice.
A member of six Stanley Cup winning teams and won the Calder Trophy a rookie of the year in 1958.
Not always popular with the Toronto fans, Mahovolich would suffer a couple bouts of depression and high tension.
He was admitted to the hospital to deal with these issues on two separate occasions. If his mind had been on hockey instead of dealing with these issues with the fans and Toronto coaching, who knows how many goals "The Big M" would have put up.
24. Steve Yzerman: Detroit Red Wings
"Stevie Y" is one of the most beloved athletes in Detroit sports history, and thats saying an awful lot.
Yzerman is not just about gaudy statistics with his 692 goals and 1,063 assists for 1,755 points.
Add to that his 185 playoff points in 196 playoff games.
Yzerman was anointed Red WIngs captain in 1986, becoming the youngest team captain in Red Wings history.
Yzerman was the catalyst in turning the Red Wings from their run of futility in the early 80s when they were known around the league as "The Dead Things" into a league power ever since.
He is one of the main reasons "HOCKEYTOWN" is written in bold black letters on Detroit ice.
He led the Red Wings to prominence with his amazing skill, leadership and determination.
23. Stan Mikita: Chicago Blackhawks
Stan Mikita was the best center of the 1960's in the NHL. His offensive numbers were most impressive in an era when goal scoring was not as prevalent in the late 70's and 80's.
541 goals, 926 assists and 1,467 points do not tell the whole story of "Stosh."
Mikita went from being one of the most penalized players in the game to a future Lady Byng Trophy winner.
Whether he decided it would prolong his career to not pile up penalty minutes is unclear. What is clear is he made the right decision.
Two Hart Trophies, four Art Ross Trophies, two Lady Byng Trophies and nine All Star Games gets Stan Mikita to number 23.
22. Martin Brodeur: New Jersey Devils
Some people would call Martin Brodeur the best goalie of all time, some would call him a product of an amazingly efficient defensive team.
I choose to call it somewhere in the middle with a big lean towards greatness.
How else can you explain this amazing career?
Brodeur holds nearly every major goaltending record and they increase with every win and shutout he posts with the Devils.
Most wins with 621, most shutouts with 114, most games played with 1,121 and most playoff shutouts with 23.
Keep in mind every one of these numbers are "and counting"
Add to everything three Stanley Cups, the Calder Trophy, four Vezina Trophies and ten all star selections.
21. Glenn Hall: Red WIngs, Blackhawks, Blues
Mr Goalie is not a nickname you earn for no reason and its certainly not the same reason Bob Ueker has the name "Mr. Baseball."
A winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and a two time Vezina Winner
How often does a goaltender play every single game in a season for his team? Not often but Hall did it an incredible seven consecutive seasons for the Blackhawks.
407 wins, 84 shutouts, and a career 2.49 goals against average are impressive numbers, but the most impressive stat is that Hall could play every game for seven years without a mask and not miss a game.
20. Jaromir Jagr: Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, New York Rangers
Now you see him, now you don't.
There not may be a better stick handling marvel to watch in the history of the game than Jagr.
When he paired on a line with Mario Lemieux, watch the magic happen.
Jagr was the first Czechoslovak born player who was ever drafted by an NHL franchise who did not defect.
His first name, Jaromir is also an anagram of "Mario Jr." in reference to team mate and hockey legend Mario Lemieux
Jagr's slick stick handling, effortless passing, smooth skating style are just the beginning of the arsenal of ways he could score goals or go tape to tape with a perfect pass.
His NHL offensive totals are 646 goals, 953 assists for 1,599 points in just 1,273 games. Add another 181 playoff points to that mix and you have one of the most gifted offensive talents the game ahas ever seen.
Jagr is still active in hockey having left the NHL for the Russian KHL three seasons ago. If he would have stuck around in the NHL, there is little doubt he would have topped 700 and may have had an outside shot at 800 if he was surrounded by talented players.
19. Howie Morenz: Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, NY Rangers
Howie Morenz was one of the first superstars of the NHL.
Blazing speed and an uncanny ability to find the net we can safely call him the first speedster of the NHL.
Morenz managed to pile up 472 points in 550 NHL games before his tragic death from complications from a broken leg suffered in a game against the Chicago Black Hawks in Montreal on January 28, 1937.
Morenz was so upset and depressed that the Canadiens were dropping in the standing without their superstar, that he fell into a deep depression while also fearing that his playing days were over.
On March 8th, while still in the hospital Morenz complained of chest pains and collapsed while trying to get to the bathroom.
He was only 34 years old.
Morenz' name is on the Stanley Cup three times, and also won a Hart Trophy as the leagues MVP in 1927.
One of the pioneering greats of the game will not be forgotten.
18. Phil Esposito: Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers
"Espo" was the premier scorer in the game, who set just about every offensive record in the game until guys like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux came along.
He held the record for most goals in a season (76) before Gretzky broke that, was the first player to score 100 points in a season and the first player to score 150 points in a season.
Esposito once was quoted as saying "Scoring is easy. You simply stand in the slot, take your beating and shoot the puck into the net.” If only it were that easy for everyone.
Score goals he did. An amazing 717 goals in 1,282 games.
What about assists? He had 873 of those too.
Two Stanley Cup Championships, five Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies, ten all star games all say Espo is one of the top three or four offensive players of all time and definitely the best of his generation.
17. Ray Bourque: Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche
Steady, consistent, rock solid.
Five Norris Trophies only begin to tell the story of Ray Bourque. 1,579 points (first all time by a defenseman) does not tell the whole story either.
He played for the Boston Bruins for 21 years and played on some good teams and was widely considered the best player to never win the Stanley Cup running into the Edmonton Oilers both times his Bruins made the finals.
Traded as his behest because he wanted that chance to win the cup and the Bruins had fallen out of contention, Bruins GM Harry Sinden worked out a deal to send Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche because he felt this gave Bourque the best chance to win.
In his first post season with the Avalanche they lost the Dallas Stars in the Conference finals.
The following season would be different as the Avalanche would come back from behind to beat the Devils in seven games giving Ray Bourque his first Stanley Cup championship in his last game he would ever play.
16. Guy Lafleur: Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Quebec Nordiques
Many people compared Jaromir Jagr to Mario Lemieux. I would compare Jagr to Guy Lafleur, one of the most offensively gifted players to ever lace on a pair of skates.
560 goals, 793 assists, 1,353 points are the number "The Flower" amassed in his NHL career.
Five Stanley Cup Championships, two Hart Trophies, three Art Ross Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy round out the hardware
Had Lafleur not retired after the 1984-85 season, he would have easily topped 600 goals.
He did come back with the Rangers and Nordiques, but he was not the same although he exhibited some of the magic that made him the Hall of Famer he is.
15. Denis Potvin: New York Islanders
Denis Potvin was the anchor of the New York Islanders dynasty and its unquestioned leader and team captain.
Potvin played 15 seasons in the NHL, a relatively small number considering the 20 years as is the standard for a player of his immense talent.
1,052 points, 310 goals in 1,060 games which is nearly a point a game for a defenseman. Add his playoff totals 165 points in 185 games, 4 Stanley Cup Championships and 3 Norris Trophies.
Despite what Rangers fans chant to this day, Potvin definitely does not suck.
14. Terry Sawchuck: Red Wings, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Kings, Rangers
Terry Sawchuck held the record for career shutouts (103) for 39 years until Martin Brodeur broke it.
447 wins and a sterling 2.52 goals against average are the stats and his accolades are four Vezina Trophies, four Stanley Cup Championships and the Calder Trophy.
Sawchuck set the standard for all goaltenders that came after him, and what a standard it is.
13. Eddie Shore: Boston Bruins, New York Americans
Old Time Hockey.
Ah the Hansen Brothers had it right.
Eddie Shore is the predecessor for players like Scott Stevens. Come into his zone, and you will pay the price.
Put your head down, you pay the price.
Tell him he doesn't care about opposing players, you pay the price.
Shore came up with the Boston Bruins in 1926 and played 15 seasons of old time smash mouth hockey winning two Stanley Cup Championships and an amazing four Hart Trophies as league MVP.
Some of his actions will make you shake your head. He once goaded two newly acquired players from the Canadiens into an altercation in practice which resulted in his own ear almost getting ripped off.
Shore? Until he was told he didn't even notice. That is old time hockey.
12. Mark Messier: Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks
Mark Messier was not just about his incredible durability and longevity. Through it all Messier was as gifted an offensive player as there ever was as he almost seemed to be created in the mold of Gordie Howe.
15 All Star games, six Stanley Cups, two time Hart Trophy winner and lets not forget about his 1,887 points which are second all time.
The NHL created the Mark Messier leadership award in 2006 to give to the player who best exemplifies leadership in a season as he is the only player to ever captain two separate teams to a championship.
Messier famously played a huge role in ending the New York Rangers Stanley Cup drought in 1994 after guaranteeing a win in game six in the semi finals against the Devils and scoring a Hat Trick.
Messier is also second all time to Gordie Howe in NHL games played with 1,756.
11. Jaques Plante: Canadiens, Rangers, Blues
You can describe Plante in one word - innovator.
He was the first goaltender to wear a mask full time and he was the first goaltender to regularly leave his crease to play the puck, two things that are as common as frozen water in the world of hockey now.
Lets not forget about his 434 wins, 82 shut outs and 2.38 goals against average.
Oh yeah, and don't forget about his 71 playoff wins and his 14 playoff shut outs.
Six Vezina Trophies, one Hart Trophy and five consecutive Stanley Cups all put Jacques Plante as the greatest goalie to ever play the game.
10. Mike Bossy: New York Islanders
Mike Bossy is quite simply the best pure goal scorer in NHL history.
His career was criminally cut short at age 30 by a back injury. Bossy recorded 9 straight 50+ goal seasons to start off his career after boldly predicting he would score 50 in his rookie season.
573 goals in only 752 games.
1,125 points in only 752 games.
Lets not overlook his playoff production of 85 goals and 160 points in 129 games.
Bossy shares two almost unfathomable records with Wayne Gretzky, one for 50+ goal seasons with 9, and one for most 60+ goal seasons with 5.
Think about what Bossy could have done with 8 or 9 more seasons.
A cornerstone member of the Islanders dynasty of the early 80's he won four Stanley Cup Championships.
9. Doug Harvey: Montreal Canadiens, NY Rangers, Red Wings, Blues
The standard bearer for what a defenseman is supposed to be in hockey.
Doug Harvey was the defender of a generation and of all time.
Seven Norris Trophies, six Stanley Cup Championships, eleven All Star selections.
Harvey played in an era when defenseman were supposed to do one thing, defend. He was such a great passer he managed to pile up 452 assists.
Harvey was also outspoken about what he felt was injustices to players and Owners "owning" players and was one of the pioneers of forming the NHL Players association.
8. Bobby Hull: Chicago Blackhawks
Where Stan Mikita was, there was Bobby Hull. They were the Bossy-Trottier or the Gretzky-Kurri of the sixties.
Bobby Hull was the marquee player of the sixties, the guy that people would pay to see back then.
Hull had the highest goal total in the original six era with 54 and was the first player to ever score more than 50.
Hull would pile up Three Art Ross Trpohies, two Hart Trophies and one Stanley Cup Championship.
Hull would be the highest profile player to join the rival Wold Hockey Association when he said he would jump to them for what was considered the absurd sum of 1 million dollars.
Winnipeg Jets owner worked with the other owners and came up with the sum and Hull jumped instantly giving the WHA credibility becoming its premier star.
Hulls stats are like his incrddible talent, simply stunning to look at.
610 goals and 1,170 points in the NHL and add to that 303 goals and 638 points in the WHA and you have one of the most amazing offensive players of all time.
Yes people, thats 913 career goals in what amounts to 1,474 games in both leagues.
7. Joe Malone: Montreal Canadiens, Quebec Bulldogs, Hamilton Tigers
Some people reading this are saying, who?
Joe Malone was Gretzky before Gretzky, Hull before Hull, Richard before Richard.
There is obviously no way to gauge what Joe Malone did in his era at the birth of the NHL against players that came after him, but to call Malone the Babe Ruth of hockey is not an exaggeration.
In his NHL and its predecessor the NHA, Joe Malone did one thing, score goals. He was the first player in the NHL to score 40 goals in the NHL's first season when he scored 44 goals. The thing about it is, he did it in a ridiculously low 20 games.
That's an average of scoring 2 goals a game. If someone kept up that pace for a season today they would score 164 goals.
Malone would top 40 goals three separate times in his NHA and NHL career, never playing more than 20 game while doing so. His career combined NHL and NHA statistics?
249 games. 322 goals. That's an insane pace of 1.29 goals per game.
Malone also won 3 Stanley Cup Championships in his day.
6. Jean Beliveau: Montreal Canadiens
Jean Beliveau was a 10 Time Stanley Cup Champion.
Oh you want more?
Ok, he scored 507 goals and had 712 assists for 1,219 points in 1,125 NHL regular-season games plus 79 goals and 97 assists for 176 points in 162 playoff games.
He also served as team captain in his final 10 seasons making him the longest serving Captain in team history, which was since tied by Saku Koivu.
He is the first ever winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, a two time Hart Trophy winner and also added one Art Ross Trophy.
Beliveau was a natural leader on the ice and was universally respected by all team mates and his opponents.
5. Bobby Orr: Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks
Bobby Orr was a pioneer.
Before Orr, defenseman were supposed to do one thing - Defend.
After Orr the term "offensive defenseman" is commonplace in the NHL.
Orr has so many firsts in his career, notable as:
First defenseman to score 30+ and 40+ goals in a season.
Only defenseman in history to win the Art Ross Trophy for most points in a season.
First player to have 100+ assists in a season.
Only player ever to win the Norris Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Hart Trophy, and Conn Smythe Trophy in one season. Something that probably will never happen again.
His hardware collection is second to none as far as a defenseman goes:
Two Stanley Cups, eight Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies and the Calder Trophy.
Orr famously scored not only his jumping Stanley Cup winning goal, he also scored the winning goal in the other Stanley Cup final that Boston won during his tenure in Boston.
His career stats: Only 657 games, 270 goals, 645 assists for 915 points. Add to that 92 playoff points in 74 games.
Let's not overlook Orr's ridiculous plus/minus for his career, which is +597.
Orr's career was cut criminally short at age 30 due to knee injuries that rendered his knee useless.
That does not mean Orr was not the finest defenseman ever to lace up skates, because that is exactly what he is.
4. Maurice Richard: Montreal Canadiens
In the era of the NHL before expansion Maurice "The Rocket" Richard was the premier goal scorer in the NHL.
The first ever player to score 50 goals, he did it in a remarkable 50 games that went unmatched until Mike Bossy and later Wayne Gretzky accomplished the feat.
He also was the first player to ever score 500 goals for a career.
His lifetime stats are 978 games, 544 goals, 965 points and 1,285 penalty minutes.
Add to those totals 82 goals and 126 points in the playoffs.
Richard was not all about goals. He has a fire to compete in his that bordered on insanity.
Search around at images of Richard and you will see "the stare." which was like a zone Richard would get into that was almost like he was possessed with the idea of winning and nothing or no one was going to get in his way.
His infractions include many attacks on other players and some on officials.
Richard won eight Stanley Cups in his 18 year career with Montreal, but if you could ask him, he would say we failed 10 of my seasons to win.
3. Gordie Howe: Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers
Mr. Hockey. That says it all doesn't it?
A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings, he won six Hart Trophies as the league's most valuable player and six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer.
Then there was Howe's legendary longevity as he is the only player in history to compete in the NHL in five different decades.
His accolades are nearly endless
23 time all-star, four time Stanley Cup Champion, six Art Ross Trophies, six Hart Trophies, Most NHL regular season games played: 1,767, Most NHL regular season games played with a single team: 1,687, Most NHL and WHA regular season games played: 2,186, Most NHL and WHA regular season and playoff games played: 2,421, Most NHL seasons played: 26 , Most NHL and WHA seasons played: 32, Most NHL regular season goals by a right winger: 801, Most NHL regular season assists by a right winger: 1,049, Most NHL regular season points by a right winger: 1,850, Most NHL regular season points by a father/son combo (with son Mark Howe: 2,592.)
Howe was notorious for his hard nosed play also as some have said that his ability to throw an elbow was nearly a part of his skating stride.
Mr. Hockey indeed.
2. Mario Lemieux: Pittsburgh Penguins
If there is one player that could possibly be number one on this list and not have people flaming me that I am insane it certainly is "Super" Mario Lemieux. There are two reasons Mario is not number one.
They are illness and injury.
Short of that if Lemieux had managed to stay healthy he may have very well scored 1,000 goals, and had upwards of 2,600 points.
Unfortunately we were robbed of what could have been the greatest career in NHL history. What we did get though when Mario was on the ice, was the slickest player to ever grace the sport of hockey.
Deceptively fast for his size, Lemieux had so many ways he could generate offense as their was literally no flaw to his game.
Mario played parts of 17 seasons over his 21 year career and played in only 915 regular season games. In those games he scored 690 goals and had a mammoth total of 1,723 points.
In those 21 years, the Penguins played a total of about 1,700 games. Lemieux played in just over half of them. A little match and you could see where he could have been in point totals. Add 30% to his goal total alone puts him at around 900 goals. Simply amazing.
Lemieux was not just about regular season success either, he also had a whopping 172 points and 76 goals in 107 playoff games.
Two Stanley Cups, the Calder Trophy, two Conn Smythe Trophies, six Art Ross Trophies, three Hart Trophies and had the customary three year waiting period to be elected into the Hall of Fame waived.
Lemieux was also about awe inspiring comebacks of which he had a few in his career.
Most famously after a bout with Cancer in a season (1992-93) where he was on pace to beat Gretzky's record for goals (92) and points (215). When he came back to the league after his treatments which cost him two months of the season, he was 16 points behind Buffalo's Pat LaFontaine for the scoring lead. When he came back to the league, he lifted the Penguins to a record 17 game winning streak and wound up besting LaFontaine by 12 points in the scoring race by earning 160 points in only 60 games.
1. Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, Blues, New York Rangers
The Great One. There is not really anything more that needs to be said about Wayne Gretzky that has not already been said, but I will try in this brief summary to explain the greatness that is number 99.
First, the hardware: four Stanley Cup Championships, nine Art Ross Trophies and 8 Hart Trophies.
If that is not enough Gretzky currently shares or holds 60 separate NHL records.
20 NHL seasons, 1,487 games, 894 goals, 1,963 assists, 2,857 points. Add to those record totals with 382 playoff points in 208 games.
There is nothing I can say to add to Wayne Gretzky's pure dominance over the rest of the NHL than to say he is the greatest hockey player to ever play the game.
I was alive to watch Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky play the sport that I love and I thank God for the privilege of being able to watch them dominate this sport like no one before and probably no one will ever again. We can only hope that someone comes along to show us the kind of talent that they displayed.
As far as I am concerned Gretzky and Lemieux are in a class by themselves with the greatest players in any sport that has ever been played.
High praise? Sure but in this case, well deserved.
It has been a lot of fun going through the greats of the game, and I am sure i will hear about some that have been left out and on the placement of some of the games greats.
Let us begin the debate.