NHL History: 14 Players We Wish We Could Still See Play
Since the other teams ended last season ahead of the remaining teams, they are going to get a more powerful personnel wish.
The other column allowed teams to pick any player currently in the league. These teams can pick any player from their franchise history.
The other column put only one limitation: No player could be chosen twice. This column has the additional stipulation that teams can only select players who played for that franchise, but they get them at the peak of their careers.
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Yeah, you thought I would put Wayne Gretzky there, didn't you?
Of course he is the best Edmonton Oiler ever. He is probably the best player ever.
But he is not what the Oilers need most. They have great young forwards they want to develop.
What they need is great players on their blue line to get those players the puck. Paul Coffey is made to order: 1531 points in 1409 games with multiple 40 goal seasons.
(Of course I would actually pick Gretzky! But what fun would such obvious picks be for a list?)
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See, at least this one is interesting. I could have just as easily chosen Peter Forsberg.
Foppa (or should we say Floppa?) was better at diving to get the hooking call, but a surprisingly strong skater when he wanted to be. He was more physical than Sakic and probably his equal in almost every other area.
But Joe had two things Forsberg did not—Health and the best wrist shot I ever saw. I want a guy I can count on and so does Colorado. They had that for almost Joe's entire career.
I would have chosen Patrick Roy because a wall in net always trumps any skater. But Roy is really more of a Montreal Canadien than a Colorado Av, and since Sakic is the face of the franchise's history since moving to Colorado, he seemed the right choice.
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The Panthers upgraded their blue line this offseason, but are relying on goalie Jose Theodore who is years past his prime because former Panther goalie Tomas Vokoun signed with the Washington Capitals over the summer.
Statistically, he was the franchise's best goalie during his time in South Beach. Thus, the single best player they could add from their franchise history would be Vokoun. But as an active player, he is not someone who belongs on a list of players we wish we could see because we still can.
No problem. Florida has another goalie who is even better in their history (though statistically second to Vokoun that early in his career), Roberto Luongo. Oh, yeah, still active...
I could certainly have gone with Ed Belfour, who was washed up by the time he hit Miami but was a quality player. But he is needed elsewhere (see later in the list), so the next area for improvement is a forward.
The leading scorer in a Florida uniform was Olli Jokinen. But even if he were no longer playing, he is not a player one should wish he could see.
The best player to ever don a Panthers uniform was without a doubt Pavel Bure. Add his speed and skill (779 points in 702 games, including 251 in 223 as a Panther) to their roster that includes a solid blue line and they make the playoffs.
New York Islanders
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Much like the franchise that dethroned them as four-time champions of the league, the New York Islanders have good young forwards. Like Edmonton, they lack sufficient players on the blue line to get them the puck in great position.
Hall of Fame defenceman Denis Potvin, who played his entire career with the New York Islanders, is a perfect fit: He scored more than a point per game over his career until February 22nd of his final season. He was part of all four Islander Cups, and was a team captain.
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Originally I had selected Alexei Yashin for the Ottawa Senators. I did so reluctantly because he is not really one of the players fans should most wish they could see again, even in his prime.
While the Sens needed a puck-moving defenceman more than a forward, the best retired player who had patrolled the blue line for Ottawa was Wade Redden. My reasoning was Redden was more likely to return to come out of retirement than Yashin, and was not as good a player with or after Ottawa as Yashin was.
I could have chosen Dominik Hasek, who plays a position where the Sens are in need (with apologies to Wisconsin Badger hero Brian Elliot). But Hasek's stay in Ottawa was not a pleasant one, and his selection was likely to bring up resentment over his time in Canada's capital.
The best skaters to don a Sens uniform (the current franchise only) are either still with the team (Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Chris Phillips) or elsewhere in the league (Mike Fisher, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Zdeno Chara or Dany Heatley, who would also bring up resentment).
I chose not to select former great Peter Bondra because he played so little in Ottawa, and passed over Pavol Demitra for that reason as well as the potential that he would return to the league.
That all changed hours ago, as the plane carrying his KHL team, Lokamotiv Yaroslavl, crashed. With one other tribute on this list (see later) and the selection of Yashin being unsatisfactory, this was a perfect opportunity to honour another of several former NHL players fallen since last spring.
Despite playing only 59 games over three seasons with Ottawa, scoring 26 points with 10 PIM, he was drafted by them 227th in 1993. He was a four-time All-Star selection, won the Lady Byng Trophy (excellence and gentlemanly play) in 2000 and led the 2010 Olympics in scoring at 35.
Demitra was a great faceoff artist and a good skater, making him an asset on the defensive end of the ice. But he also was a skilled player, scoring 768 points in 847 career NHL games and had three goals in three career All-Star games.
Winnipeg Jets (Atlanta Thrashers)
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The Winnipeg Jets competed for a playoff berth last season and should be even better this season. However, they are neither set well enough nor weak enough on any one unit to narrow the talent search.
Since this incarnation of the Jets had its entire history as the Atlanta Thrashers, there is only about a decade to choose from. Ray Ferraro is clearly the best retired player to ever don a Thrashers uniform.
Chicken Parm, as he is known for his favourite dish, was a great player before he was a great analyst. He scored 898 points in 1258 games, and was a tough defender for a little guy, racking up 1288 penalty minutes.
While his best seasons were with the Hartford Whalers, he did have 76 points in 81 games at the age of 36 with the Thrashers. At his peak, he would be a great addition to this team's top line
Columbus Blue Jackets
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The Columbus Blue Jackets are another team lacking in history. But there have been a couple Hall of Fame-calibre players come through Ohio—Adam Foote and Sergei Fedorov.
Now that they have added a couple forwards, what the 2011-12 squad needs more than anything is a great puck-moving defenceman. At his peak, Foote could help out a power play, but he would hardly be called a puck-mover.
He also was not the player that Sergei Fedorov was. Besides, at his peak Fedorov would have brought Anna Kournikova to Columbus, and that would have helped attendance.
He was a multiple Selke winner as the best defensive forward in the game and still managed to score 1179 points in 1248 games. He played last season in his native Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, but it is safe to say his NHL career is over and he can thus be on this list.
New Jersey Devils
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Scott Stevens was the most frightening hitter I have ever watched play. Sure, a lot of his hits would come with fines and even suspensions nowadays with concerns over concussions, but they were mostly legal at the time.
He also happens to be exactly what the New Jersey Devils need. Arguably the best goalie ever, Martin Brodeur, has looked bad in the past couple seasons more because of the lack of defensive support than his age.
Stevens would keep the crease clear for his former teammate and strike fear into skilled players currently able to enter the zone full speed with their heads down to generate a scoring chance.
He finished the 1993-94 season a whopping plus-53, but also put up 78 points. At his prime, he could also score enough points to give his team a boost on both ends; for his career, he finished plus-393 with 908 points (and 2785 PIM!) in 1,635 games.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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In a franchise as storied as the Toronto Maple Leafs, there are many choices for players to bring back.
They could use a goalie like Curtis Joseph again. As a Wisconsin Badgers fan, I considered allowing my bias to pick him.
They have a pretty good blue line, but Bjorn Salming (768 points and 1292 PIM over 1099 games) or Tim Horton (458 points and 1389 PIM in 1185 games) of cafe fame would be good choices.
Among forwards, there is Mats Sundin (833 points in 832 games) and Darryl Sittler (916 in 844) were the most productive players in franchise history.
But my favourite player of all-time is on this team. The only shirt I own representing someone not on my own team, the San Jose Sharks, has his number.
Doug Gilmore was an incredible leader, and one of the best two-way forwards in the game. He is not the best Maple Leaf of all-time, but he is plenty good (452 points in 393 games as a Leaf and 1414 in 1474 over his career) to make them a playoff team.
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The Minnesota Wild have been a team with very good defence and goaltending throughout their 10-season existence. But this year, they have some scoring forwards and are not deep on the blue line.
Unfortunately, like the other expansion franchises, they are lacking in retired players worthy of this list.
However, one of the many tragic deaths to take place recently happens to be a beloved Minnesota icon who did much for the community. Derek Boogaard was not a player who got much ice time throughout his career, but he was one of the great enforcers in NHL history and I honour his memory with a spot on this list.
St. Louis Blues
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With a couple additions to an already solid groups of forwards, the St. Louis Blues have a good chance to make the playoffs this season.
They already possess a fantastic goalie and have a couple good players on the blue line. But they could use a veteran to anchor that unit which has arguably the hardest shot in the history of the game.
Al MacInnis has been the defensive partner tutoring greats like Chris Pronger. He could move the puck and play defence, but no one was more feared on the power play. His 452 points in 613 games tell only half the story, since teams thought twice about even taking penalties because of him.
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He might have been washed up by the time he played for the Hartford Whalers, now the Carolina Hurricanes. But there is absolutely no way I am going to leave Mr. Hockey (TM) off this list.
He played in five decades. Even if the last was mostly a victory lap, that is a great accomplishment for a golfer, much less a hockey player. Gordie Howe is the greatest player of all-time:
Wayne Gretzky may have scored more points than Howe (1850 in 1767 games), but he was nowhere near the physical intimidator Howe was (1685 PIM). The Gordie Howe Hat Trick (a fight, goal, and assist in one game) was named after him because of his multiple talents.
Since he did play with Hartford when they were in the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings are not on this list, he qualifies. There is no player better than him at his peak, so he carries the Canes to contenders for their division title.
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The Calgary Flames are running out of time to give standout goalie Miikka Kiprusoff a Stanley Cup. They have reached Game 7 of the Cup Finals in 2004, but have not won a playoff series since.
In 2010-11, they missed the playoffs entirely even though they finished with a better record the New York Rangers, the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
As with many non-playoff teams, they have a number of holes. Many analysts feel the one thing they have missed most is a playmaker to get the puck to Jerome Iginla, but recent trades of Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf have left them especially weak on the back end.
Since Al MacInnis was rightly assigned to the St. Louis Blues, the best defenceman to ever don a Flames uniform is Madison, Wisconsin native Gary Suter.
He scored at least a point a season three times in his career, all with Calgary. He played 617 of his 1145 games with the Flames, where he scored 565 of his 845 points and had 872 of his 1349 PIM. In a weak division, Suter in the peak of his career gets the Flames in the playoffs and gives them one more shot at the Cup before Kipper declines too much to make it happen.
The Dallas Stars literally missed the playoffs in 2010-11 by one goal on the final day of the season.
Usually, that does not prompt a roster overhaul. However, when your most skilled forward departs via free agency, you are not left with much choice.
In the process, the Stars gained a lot of depth among their skaters. But the player who makes the most impact on any team is the goalie and only one goalie in Stars history (including their time in Minnesota) has his name etched on the Stanley Cup.
Sure, any sensible person recognizes that by the rules of the time the goal that made that happen should not have counted. But regardless, Ed Belfour is the best goalie in franchise history.
A joke off the ice (Belfour offered an officer "a m-billion dollars" to let him go after just one of his arrests for drunk driving) and in his stint in San Jose between Chicago and Dallas, he nonetheless built a Hall of Fame resume in those two cities.
Even a washed up Belfour was not an embarrassment in Toronto and Florida at the end of his career.
He was a six-time All Star, a four-time winner of the William Jennings award (goes to goalie on team with fewest goals against), two-time Vezina Trophy winner (best goalie as voted by league GMs) and rookie of the year in 1991. Put him back on the Stars in his prime and maybe he has a chance to earn a Cup.