NHL's Best of the Best

April WeinerCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2011

NHL's Best of the Best

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    Sports Illustrated Kids published "The Best of Everything Hockey Book." The book is, as its title implies, the best of everything hockey-related.

    So, since we are huge hockey fans, we thought we'd create our own list: "NHL's Best of the Best: 2011 Edition."

    We take a look at the best of everything hockey-related. The list is a mix of the best recently and the best throughout history.

    It's also a mix of serious- best skater, best player at- type deals to fun stuff, like best NHL commercial.

    So without further ado, here's the NHL's Best of the Best.

Best Skater: Sergei Fedorov

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    Former NHL great Sergei Fedorov has long been admired for his skating prowess.

    He frequently won the faster skater challenges at NHL All-Star Weekends and beat another renowned skater, Pavel Bure, in this video to be considered the fastest skater.

Best Uniform: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the NHL's Original Six teams. To this day, they're the most valuable and one of the most profitable clubs in the league.

    They have won 13 Stanley Cups, the second-most in the league, behind rivals the Montreal Canadiens.

    As one of the oldest franchises in league and hockey history, who better to honor with the distinction of "Best Uniform?"

    Their jersey is a classic and a symbol of Canadian pride.

Best Goalie Mask: Mike Richter

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    Mike Richter spent his entire 14-year career playing for the New York Rangers. His dominant goaltending led the Rangers to Stanley Cup victory in 1994 over the Vancouver Canucks.

    He's also one of the greatest American goaltenders in hockey history.

    As the star of New York and proud American, Richter put his patriotism on his mask, in the form of the Statue of Liberty.

Best Arena (Atmosphere): Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec

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    Despite outsiders' cracks at the NHL, most franchises in the league have loyal and loud fanbases cheering the home team on at their arena.

    However, as far as atmosphere goes, the atmosphere in Canadian arenas is unparalleled and Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens, is impossible to top in terms of being consistently and historically deafening.

Best Arena (Amenities): CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA

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    CONSOL Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, opened at the beginning of the 2010-11 season. By December, Sports Business Journal had already named it as the best arena in the NHL.

    It makes sense, as it's the newest building in the league and has all the latest state-of-the-art amenities for the organization, visiting teams and fans.  

    It's a huge step up over Mellon Arena, the previous home to the Penguins.

Best Coach: Scotty Bowman

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    Scotty Bowman coached 30 seasons in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

    He holds the NHL records for most wins in NHL history during both the regular season and playoffs. He also has the most Stanley Cups of any coach, with nine.

    During Bowman's career, he won two Jack Adams Awards.

Best General Manager in Recent History: Ken Holland

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    Ken Holland has been a member of the Detroit Red Wings organization for almost 30 years. He began as a player, working his way up to scout, assistant general manager and goaltending coach, to entering his current role in 1997.

    In his almost 13 seasons as Red Wings GM, the Wings have won three Stanley Cup championships and one while Holland was assistant GM.

    During Holland's tenure as GM, the team has also won their division eight times, won the President's Trophy four times and have won the most games of any team in the league.

Best Owner: Mike Ilitch

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    Michael Ilitch, Sr. bought the Detroit Red Wings in 1982. The Wings were had just missed their fourth consecutive playoffs and hadn't won the Stanley Cup in over 25 years.

    Ilitch turned the franchise around into a legitimate contender and a franchise that has missed the playoffs only three times during his time as owner. The team is currently on a streak of making the playoffs every year for 20 consecutive years.

    The team has advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals six times during Ilitch's tenure and won four Stanley Cup championships.

Best Captain: Steve Yzerman

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    Steve Yzerman's nickname is "The Captain," so how could anyone else be deemed the best captain in NHL history?

    Yzerman was named captain at 21 and would serve as captain of the Detroit Red Wings for twenty years and dress for over 1,300 games, the longest-tenured captain in NHL history.

    While captain, Yzerman led the Wings to three Stanley Cup championships.

Best Fighter: Bob Probert

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    Bob Probert was known and will be remembered primarily as a fighter and bodyguard during his time with the Detroit Red Wings.

    He was particularly protective of captain Steve Yzerman.

    Probert was one of the most intimidating enforcers of his day and will be remembered for fighting anyone, including memorable bouts against other feared enforcers of the time.

Best Official: Bill McCreary

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    At the end of this past season, Bill McCreary retired after 27 years working as an NHL official. He was the longest-tenured official to date.

    McCreary also holds the record for most conescutive Stanley Cup Finals officiated, officiating the SCF between 1994 and 2007, then again in 2009.

    He has also officiated in international games, most notably officiating the 2010 Vancouver Olympics gold medal game.

Best Wrist Shot: Joe Sakic

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    Joe Sakic sits at number 15 on the list of NHL career goal leaders, with 625 goals scored throughout his illustrious career.

    Sakic's shot of choice was his wrist shot.

    His lightning-quick wrister often made it past goalies before they even knew it had left his stick.

Best Slap Shot: Al MacInnis

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    Al MacInnis was renowned for his hard slap shot, the hardest the NHL has ever seen. His slap shot is what got him to the NHL, as he wasn't a complete player when the Calgary Flames first drafted him.

    However, he grew into a complete player; a HHOF-worthy player.

    MacInnis ended his career as the third most productive defenseman in league history, behind Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey, thanks in part to his intimidating slap shot.

Best Deke: Pavel Datsyuk

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    Pavel Datsyuk may not have invented the deke move, but he for sure perfected it.

    Datsyuk has become one of the greatest goal scorers and hardest players to defend against because of the "Datsyukian Dekes."

    No one dekes as well as Datsyuk.

Best Hitter: Scott Stevens

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    Scott Stevens was one of the greatest defenseman in hockey history and will always be remembered for his bone-crushing checks.

    He really knew how to throw the body around and used his 6'1", 215 pound frame to his advantage.

Best Goalie with Glove: Bill Durnan

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    Bill Durnan was a fantastic goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, winning six Vezina Trophies as the best goaltender in the league.

    He won four of those consecutively, from 1943-47, in his first four seasons playing professionally.

    Durnan was incredible with his glove. He was ambidexterous, so he was able to make glove saves with either his right or his left glove.

     Photo Courtesy of: Hockeygoalies.org

Best Goalie Ever: Patrick Roy

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    Patrick Roy, the Hall of Fame goalie of the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche, is widely regarded as the best goaltender in NHL history.

    Roy won four Stanley Cup championships and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy three times, the most of any player.

    He also won three Vezina Trophies and five Jennings Trophies (the fewest goals allowed each season).

Best Save of 2010-11 Season: Pekka Rinne on Shawn Horcoff

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    The best save of the 2010-11 season was Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne's amazing stick save on the Edmonton Oilers Shawn Horcoff.

    Generally, a stick save is a goaltender using his stick to make a save on a player.

    In this case, Rinne's stick literally did all the work.

Best Game in NHL History: March 24, 1936

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     On March 24, 1936, the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Maroons played each other.

    The game was tight and no one scored in regulation, forcing overtime. One overtime period passed and another and another. Still no score.

    The game took six overtime periods for the first and winning goal of the game to finally be scored. It was the longest game in NHL history, taking 116:30.

    Obviously, there's no way of knowing how magnificent that game truly was; however, I think we can all imagine that would have been a pretty spectacular game.

    Photo courtesy of: TopTenz.net

Best Rivalry Between Teams: Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche

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    The rivalry between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings has long been documented.

    The two teams typically had to go through the other to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, as evidenced by the fact that five Stanley Cups were won between the two teams from 1996-2002.

    The rivalry saw many fights on the ice, off the ice, between goaltenders (including two Patrick Roy fights) and even between the coaches on the benches. This all made for an intense rivalry.

Best Rivalry Between Players: Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Gordie Howe

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    Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Gordie Howe's rivalry was like today's Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby rivalry.

    It was a rivalry between the two biggest superstars of the time and a battle between the number nines.

    The two competed for scoring titles and against each other in Stanley Cup Finals. They would also fight each other on occasion.

    However, they still had a healthy respect for one another.

Best Fight in NHL History: John Mariucci vs Black Jack Stewart

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    Legend has it that the longest fight in hockey history came in the 1940s between Detroit Red Wings Black Jack Stewart and Chicago Blackhawks John Mariucci.

    Supposedly, their bout lasted for 20 minutes; a mighty feat considering that most players seem exhausted after not even a minute of fighting.

    Since we have no photographic or video proof of that lengthy bout, the runner-up best fight that we do have video evidence of was between Red Wings Bob Probert and Pittsburgh Penguins Marty McSorley.

Best Goal of 2010-11 Season: Bobby Ryan Scores with Mikko Koivu's Stick

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    On the surface, this goal by Anaheim Ducks forward Bobby Ryan against the Minnesota Wild may not seem all that impressive.

    However, as one can see in the video, Ryan's stick was taken from him, so he picked up Mikko Koivu's abandoned stick from the ice.

    He went on to score with Koivu's stick. This is impressive when considering how particular players generally are about their sticks and the fact that it was a left-shooting stick, when Ryan shoots right.  

Best Shootout Goal of 2010-11 Season: Mikhail Grabovski

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    There were many impressive shootout goals in the 2010-11 season.

    However, one that stands out in particular, was Toronto Maple Leafs Mikhail Grabovski against the St. Louis Blues.

    Grabovski employs the spin-o-rama move and scores a beautiful goal.

Best Penalty Killer: Guy Carbonneau

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    Guy Carbonneau was one of the greatest penalty killers of his time. He was always on the ice while his team, the Montreal Canadiens, was short-handed.

    Carbonneau was particularly effective on the 5-on-3 penalty kill.

    Additionally, he scored 32 career shorthanded goals; a very respectable amount.

Best on the Power Play: Dave Andreychuk

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    Tampa Bay Lightning legend Dave Andreychuk holds the NHL record for most career power play goals.

    In 1,639 career games, Andreychuk scored 640 goals; 274 of them were on the PP. That's a little over 40 percent of his goal total.

    That's an effective power play unit.

Best Power Play Quarterback: Bobby Orr

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    Bobby Orr has to be the greatest power play quarterback of all time. He quarterbacked one of the most dominant power plays in history: the 1960s-70s Boston Bruins PP.

    Orr was on the ice for 535 Bruins PP goals and had a PP percentage of 97 percent, according to Hockey-Reference.com.

Best Line: Detroit Red Wings' Production Line

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    The best line in NHL history has to be the Detroit Red Wings' Production Line, made up of Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay.

    They were called The Production Line because of their offensive production.

    One year that the three played together, in 1950, the three forwards finished as the top three scoring leaders in the league. That has never happened again.

Best Defensive Pairing: Larry Robinson and Serge Savard

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    The best defensive pairing in NHL history has to be Larry Robinson and Serge Savard of the Montreal Canadiens.

    The success of the pairing is demonstrated by individual stats. Robinson is the career leader in plus/minus rating, with an incredible plus rating of 730.

    In addition to being fantastic on defense, the pair combined for over 1,300 career points.

Best Defensive Forward: Bob Gainey

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    Bob Gainey was a left wing who played his entire career, 1973-89, for the Montreal Canadiens.

    Despite being a forward, Gainey was known for being defensive-minded. Gainey was recognized for his stellar defensive play, winning four Selke Trophies, consecutively, in his career.

    During Gainey's tenure with the Canadiens, the team won four straight Stanley Cup championships. He won his fifth Cup, as a player, a few years later.

Best Offensive Defenseman: Bobby Orr

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    Bobby Orr created the offensive defenseman. Before Orr, defenseman played defense and forwards scored points.

    However, Orr brought on the era of offensive defenseman.

    He is currently 11th in career scoring amongst defenseman, scoring 915 points. However, everyone ahead of him on that list played at least 1,000 games; some as much as 1,600 games. Whereas Orr only played 657 games.

    If given another 1,000 games, Orr probably would have had a considerable lead over everyone else.

Best Coach's Facial Expression: Bruce Boudreau

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    We've seen how animated Bruce Boudreau can get behind the bench and how upset he can get via the HBO 24/7 special.

    He definitely has some of the best facial expressions among coaches in the league, including this angry expression.

    It's not just Boudreau's face either; he's got his hands and arms involved too.

    Photo courtesy of: Czabe.blogspot.com

Best-Dressed Player: Henrik Lundqvist

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    European men generally put a little more effort into their appearance than North American men. With so many European players in the NHL, it should come as no surprise that there are many stylish NHLers.

    Perhaps the best-dressed NHL player is Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.

    In addition to having a great sense of style, Lundqvist has the face and body of a model. Sean Avery should get him a modeling gig in the fashion world.

    Photo courtesy of: hlundqvist.blogspot.com

Best Number One Overall Pick: Mario Lemieux

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    Mario Lemieux was the first overall draft pick of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins and he would go on to become not only the best player in club history, but the savior of the franchise.

    Despite multiple health issues that sidelined him and forced retirement, Lemieux still managed to be one of the best players in league history.

    Lemieux scored over 1,700 points and almost 700 goals in his NHL career. He led the team to two Stanley Cup championships as a player and won one as majority owner.

Best Player Undrafted: Martin St. Louis

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    Martin St. Louis went undrafted coming out of the University of Vermont. Perhaps St. Louis was overlooked because of his small stature, he's listed as 5'8", or perhaps it was something else.

    In any case, St. Louis finally ended up in the NHL, playing for the Calgary Flames and their organization, before finally landing a stable position with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    He helped the team win its first Stanley Cup championship in 2004 and was a huge part of the team's success this past season.

    It's amazing to think that all 30 NHL teams passed on him at one point.

Best Playoff Beard: Scott Niedermayer

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    Scott Niedermayer may have had a partially gray beard when he won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks, but he wasn't old by any stretch of the imagination.

    That's what makes it so awesome; it's very misleading.

Best NHL Commercial: NHL Road Trip

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    The NHL has had many great commercials over the years, but my favorite has to be the NHL Road Trip commercial.

    From Alex Ovechkin and his thick Russian accent pretending to be Sidney Crosby ordering room service to the Staals having a pillow fight, this commercial has it all.

    The Swedish twins commercial is a very close second.

Best American Player: Mike Modano

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    As it stands right now, Mike Modano has to remain the best American NHL player.

    After all, Modano holds multiple NHL records among American players, including most goals by an American-born player (561), most points (1,374), most playoff points (145) and most games by an American forward (1,499).

    Note: These are based on current numbers

    One day, a player like Zach Parise has a good chance of breaking Modano's records.

Best Canadian Player: Wayne Gretzky

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    This one's a no-brainer. Wayne Gretzky is one of the greatest players in NHL and hockey history and easily the greatest goal-scorers.

    Gretzky holds most NHL records as they pertain to scoring. Most notably, holding the single-season goals record with 92.

Best Russian Player: Pavel Bure

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    While the former Soviet Union and Russia have produced many talented hockey players, Pavel Bure is almost in a league of his own.

    He's one of the most prolific Russian or otherwise goalscorers of all time. He scored over 50 goals five times during his NHL career and twice he scored 60 goals.

    Unfortunately, multiple knee injuries prevented Bure from further cementing himself in the record books.

Best Swedish Player: Nicklas Lidstrom

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    There have been many great Swedish NHL players, but none as great as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.

    In 19, going on 20, NHL seasons, Lidstrom has so far won four Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies as the league's best defenseman.

    With one more Norris Trophy, he'll tie Bobby Orr's record for most Norris Trophies.

Best Finnish Player: Teemu Selanne

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    Teemu Selanne has to be considered the greatest Finnish-born NHL player.

    Selanne made his mark immediately with the original Winnipeg Jets, winning the Calder Trophy after setting records for most goals and points by a rookie. His records have yet to be broken.

    At 40 years old, "The Finnish Flash" showed no signs of slowing down, outplaying most of the younger players in the NHL.

Best Czech Player: Jaromir Jagr

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    During the prime of his career, Jaromir Jagr was one of the greatest players in the NHL.

    He won two Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins and won five Art Ross Trophies, as the league leader in scoring.

    Jagr won the Hart Trophy once and nominated five other times; he also won the Lester B. Pearson Award (players' MVP) three times.

    It'll be interesting to see what else he can accomplish with another season in the NHL.

Best Interviewee: Chris Pronger

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    Chris Pronger takes some flak for his media personality; however, he should be considered the best interviewee for two reasons.

    One, he's generally entertaining and two, he's a very willing interviewee, who knows all of the reporters by name.

    How many other players can you say the same thing about?

Best Answer Ever: Patrick Roy Responds to Jeremy Roenick

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    After Jeremy Roenick was chirping Patrick Roy, Roy came back with one of the greatest comebacks in the history of comebacks.

    "I can't really hear what Jeremy is saying because I have my two Stanley Cup rings plugging my ears."


Best Commentator: Joe Beninati

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    Joe Beninati is a commentator for the Washington Capitals and for Versus network hockey games.

    He's the voice of reason, especially when working with his Capitals commentator partner Craig Laughlin.

Best NHL Bromance: Alexander Semin and Alex Ovechkin

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    Since they first became teammates with the Washington Capitals, the Russian Alexes, Semin and Ovechkin, have become close pals.

    They're roommates on the road and seem to have a lot of fun together.

    They come up with creative solutions to problems together and they even have a secret handshake ritual, if they can both figure out their parts.

Best Sign: Hey Ref, Are You Pregnant? You Missed Two Periods

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    There are many creative signs that people bring to sporting events and to hockey games.

    Often, people complain about "blind refs" and refs that miss what's in front of them, but this sign takes it to the next level.

    "Hey ref, are you pregnant? Because you missed two periods."

    It's both entertaining and a jab at the officiating.

    Photo courtesy of: alexovetjkin.blogspot.com.

Best NHL Tradition: Throwing Hats on the Ice for a Hat Trick

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    One of the most creative fan traditions at hockey game is the tradition that fans throw their hats on the ice after a hat trick.

    To my knowledge, no other sport has a tradition of throwing things purposely onto the playing surface; usually it's more spontaneous.

Best Thing Thrown on the Ice: Part of the Bench

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    There are many things thrown on the ice at NHL games. As mentioned in the preceding slide, hats are thrown on the ice for hat tricks, octopi are thrown in Detroit and rats are thrown in Florida.

    Those are just three examples. Many other things have been thrown onto the ice in fits of rage. The best is New Jersey Devils coach Robbie Ftorek throwing part of the bench onto the ice.

    I've never seen that before or since.