Who is the greatest player in the history of each NHL franchise? If you poll 100 hockey fans on the subject, you'll surely come up with some names that will be constants on everyone's list. By the same token, you'll have certain teams where the picks are wildly different.
When compiling this list, various factors went into the thought process: talent, what the player meant to the franchise, leadership qualities and tenure were some of the items that were considered when making a pick.
There will surely be some picks that people disagree with, just as there will be some that others wholeheartedly agree with, and that's the beauty of a list like this—it opens the door for discussion and dialogue.
Without further ado, the greatest player in the history of each NHL franchise.
The Finnish Flash did not spend his entire career with the Anaheim Ducks, but they are the team he is most identified with. When he was traded from the Winnipeg Jets to the Anaheim Ducks during the 1995-96 season, the Jets fans were not happy. Not only were they losing their franchise at the end of the season, but they had lost their best player during the season.
Once in Anaheim, he teamed up with Paul Kariya to create a fearsome duo, finishing second and third in league scoring, respectively, in 1997 and 1999. In 2000, the duo ranked fourth (Kariya) and fifth (Selanne) in scoring. As an individual, Selanne would lead the league in goals in 1998 and 1999. In March 2001, he would be traded to the Sharks.
Selanne would return to the Ducks in 2005-06 and remains with the team to this day.
Selanne is the Ducks all-time leader in career points, points in a season, career goals, goals in a season, career hat tricks, career assists, assists in a season, career power-play goals and power-play goals in a season.
It would be hard to argue that someone other than Selanne deserves to be ranked at the top of the heap in Anaheim.
Bobby Orr's career was dramatically shortened due to knee injuries. Orr reinvented the role of the defenseman in the NHL, rushing the puck from end to end, controlling the puck like it was on a string.
Orr's records will most likely never be broken:
- Most points in an NHL season by a defenseman: 139
- Most assists in an NHL season by a defenseman: 102
- Highest plus/minus in an NHL season: plus-124
Orr played in 631 games for the Bruins, racking up 888 points. It's hard to imagine just how good he could have been if he had remained healthy for his entire career. Even with his shortened career, some consider Orr the greatest player to ever lace up a pair of skates.
In one of the most regrettable trades in Chicago Blackhawks history, the team sent a young Dominik Hasek to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Stephane Beauregard and future considerations.
The trade would give the Sabres the best player in franchise history and arguably one of the best goaltenders in the history of the NHL. Hasek would spend nine seasons in Buffalo, compiling a record of 234-170-70.
During his stint in Buffalo, Hasek earned two Hart Trophies, two Lester B. Pearson Awards and six Vezina Awards.
As a member of the Sabres, Hasek was in net for Brett Hull's 1999 Stanley Cup-winning goal.
Hasek will always be remembered for his awkward goaltending style that was as unconventional as it was effective.
If you polled NHL fans and asked them which current NHL player is most deserving of a Stanley Cup before they retire, it's a safe bet that many would name Jarome Iginla.
Iginla is one of those rare players that has spent every professional game of his career with the same franchise, racking up 1,135 games with the Flames.
If you open up the Flames' record book, you'll find Iginla's name in there a lot. He has the following career records for the franchise: most seasons, most points and most goals. In addition to those records, he is always in the running for league-wide accolades, such as the Art Ross Trophy, the Rocket Richard Trophy, the Lester B. Person trophy and the King Clancy Trophy.
Iginla is one of the finest leaders in the NHL and if the Flames do trade their long-time leader this season, you can bet that the list of suitors for this talented player will be a long one.
Ron Francis played 1,186 games with the Carolina Hurricanes franchise and while those numbers are nothing to sneeze at, when you consider he added another 545 games during his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs, you get the idea that Francis was something pretty special.
Francis, one of the classiest players to ever set foot on an NHL ice surface, holds career records for the franchise in games played, points, assists and goals.
A member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Francis was a three-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy as well as a recipient of the Selke Trophy and King Clancy Trophy.
Not only was Francis the best player in franchise history, he was also one of the NHL's all-time greats.
The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most storied franchises in the NHL. With that being said, the choice of who the best player in Blackhawks history is came down to just two names: Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
While Mikita played more games with the 'Hawks and had more points, the nod went to Hull, who was one of the first true NHL superstars. He skated faster than anyone, he shot harder than anyone and he talked louder than anyone. Bobby Hull was a fan's dream and an owner's nightmare.
During his career with the Blackhawks, he would win three Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies and one Lady Byng Trophy, as well as a Stanley Cup.
Joe Sakic spent his entire career with the Quebec/Colorado franchise, playing 1,378 games over the course of 20 NHL seasons. If there's a career record listed for the franchise, odds are that Joe Sakic's name is next to it.
As captain of the hockey club for 17 seasons, Sakic led the team with a quiet intensity that earned him respect throughout the NHL. During his tenure as captain, the team captured nine straight division championships. The club also raised the Stanley Cup on tow occasions.
Sakic retired in July 2009. When the Avalanche began the 2009-10 season, one of the first things they did was raise Sakic's retired No. 19 to the rafters.
The Columbus Blue Jackets joined the NHL for the 2000-01 season. The player that would become the face of the franchise joined the team for the 2002-03 season.
Nash's tenure and talent have put him at the top or near the top of every scoring record for the Blue Jackets.
Nash, a solid team-first player, has only experienced four playoff games during his NHL career, and it does not appear that will be changing any time soon. Despite this, Nash, a player who could generate a huge amount of trade interest, has not stirred the pot in Columbus and seems to truly want to win with the team that drafted him first overall in the 2002 entry draft.
Mike Modano, the man that many consider the best American-born player in the history of the NHL, is a pretty easy choice when it comes to picking the best player to ever suit up for the Dallas Stars franchise.
Modano, drafted first overall in the 1988 draft, played all but 40 of his 1,499 NHL games with the Stars franchise. A glance at the franchise's record book reveals that Modano will hold many team records for a very long time. His goal total is 215 more than the man in second place, Brian Bellows, while his point total of 1,359 dwarfs that of second-ranked Neal Broten, who had 867 points. Modano even has name in the top 10 in franchise penalty minutes.
Modano, only the second American-born player to be drafted first overall and the leading American-born goal scorer, was a hero to many developing American hockey players.
The Dallas organization showed how much Modano meant to them when they signed him to a one-day contract so he could retire as a Star.
The Detroit Red Wings have had their fair share of superstar players, players such as Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ted Lindsay and Terry Sawchuk. But one name stands out above them all: Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.
Howe played 1,809 games with the Wings, scoring 786 goals and adding 1,023 assists to that total, both franchise records. When you consider he is also third in penalty minutes, behind only Bob Probert and Joey Kocur, well, you get the idea that his reputation as a hard-nosed player who could dish it out as well as take it was well earned.
Over the course of his career, Howe earned six Art Ross Trophies as well as six Hart Trophies. Howe's longevity as well as his talent make him a fairly easy pick as the Wings' best player ever.
Once thought to be too small to play as a professional, Wayne Gretzky ended up rewriting the NHL record book. No. 99 was so talented, it's almost unfair to put him on this list.
If there was ever a Mt. Rushmore of sports, Gretzky would undoubtedly represent the NHL.
While with the Oilers, Gretzky played 696 games, ranking him eighth overall in franchise history. In those 696 games, he scored an amazing 1,669 points, which translates to nearly 2.4 points per game.
Gretzky was not a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player, he was a once-in-the-history-of-the-sport type of player, and the Edmonton Oilers franchise will always remember him as their best player ever.
This one was a toss up—do you go with the John Vanbiesbrouck or do you go with Roberto Luongo? Vanbiesbrouck had the better record and lower goals-against average of the two, while Luongo had the better save percentage.
The tiebreaker then was playoff performance. In his five seasons with the Panthers, Luongo played in exactly zero playoff games, while Vanbiesbrouck led the team to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals.
You could make an argument that Wayne Gretzky could top the list of the greatest player in Los Angeles Kings history, but honestly, no one did more (with less) for the Kings than Marcel Dionne.
Gretzky had Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake, Steve Duchesne, Jari Kurri and Kelly Hrudey among his teammates. Dionne, well, he didn't have all that much to work with, mostly Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer and, for a brief time, Rogie Vachon.
In the 12 years he spent with the Kings, the team had only four winning seasons, yet Dionne was able to dominate, scoring 550 goals and adding 757 assists during his 921-game tenure.
It's probably not out of line to speculate that hockey in Los Angeles may have never survived had Dionne not joined the Kings.
The third overall pick of the 2000 NHL entry draft, Marian Gaborik was the shining star of the Minnesota Wild. At least, for a short while.
When his rookie contract expired, negotiations between the Wild and Gaborik became contentious and he missed the start of the 2003-04 season before agreeing to a new contract. Once under contract, injuries kept him from playing a full NHL season during the length of that contract.
When his deal expired, Gaborik moved on and signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent.
Gaborik played 502 games for the Wild, scoring 219 goals and adding 218 assists. He remains the team's all-time leader in goals and points.
It's the eyes that draw you in when you look at Maurice Richard, scary to the point where if you saw him barreling toward you with the puck on his stick, your first inclination may very well have been to just let him pass you by unimpeded.
Where a player like Wayne Gretzky dazzled you with his skill, "The Rocket," while possessing unnatural hockey ability, let it be known that his force of will was stronger than anything any opponent could muster.
Richard was the first player to score 50 goals in a season and the first player to score 500 goals in a career.
In 978 games with the Canadiens, he scored 544 goals and added 421 assists. Richard would win eight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens, including four straight.
Richard was named to the NHL All-Star team for 14 consecutive seasons.
Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber has had his name linked to much trade speculation as the season has progressed, a testament to how valuable of a player he is to the Nashville Predators and how coveted he is by other NHL clubs.
Weber is widely considered to be one of the top three defensemen in the league right now, the other two—Nicklas Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara—have both captured the Norris Trophy, and many feel that it is a matter of when and not if Weber will take the award home for himself.
Weber has only played 431 games with the Preds, which ranks him No. 10 all time on the games played list and even tough several players have played significantly more games for the team than he has, they have not delivered on the same level of Weber.
Much like Wayne Gretzky was a gimme for the top spot with the Edmonton Oilers, so was Martin Brodeur with the New Jersey Devils.
A quick glance at the list of goaltending records will tell you that Brodeur has been a special player during the course of the 1,148 games he has played in net for the New Jersey Devils.
He holds NHL career records in most wins, most shutouts, most games, most minutes and most consecutive seasons, with 30 or more wins among his many other records.
Yes, it is true that Brodeur is not the same player he was earlier in his career, but there was a stretch of many years that he was the king of the crease.
Mike Bossy was one of the most naturally-talented goal scorers that ever played in the NHL. Over the course of an injury-shortened career, Bossy scored 573 goals while playing in just 752 games.
Bossy, passed over by 12 teams at the NHL draft, made each of those teams regret that decision, scoring 53 goals as a rookie and earning the Calder Trophy as the league's bet first-year player. Bossy would score fewer than 50 goals in a season only once, in his 63-game final season on the Island.
Bossy would retire due to back injuries at the age of 32.
To this day, no player has averaged more goals per game (.76) than Bossy did over the course of his career.
One way to make sure you are remembered fondly as a hockey player is to end a Stanley Cup drought, and that is exactly what Mark Messier did with the New York Rangers. It also didn't hurt that he was one of the best NHL captains in the history of the game.
Messier spent two stints with the Rangers, but it is that first one (from 1991-97) that he is most remembered for, leading the team to the 1994 Stanley Cup.
If ever there was an NHL player who could be called his team's General, Mark Messier was it. He knew how to get the best out of those that surrounded him, knowing what buttons to push and when to push them.
During his 698 games with the Rangers, he accumulated 691 points, but he'll always be remembered for that Cup.
Much like Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson is one of those players that fans would like to see win a Stanley Cup before he retires. And much like Iginla, that seems like it will only happen with a trade.
Alfredsson slipped past every NHL team multiple times during the 1994 entry draft. He was ultimately selected by Ottawa in the sixth round, with the 133rd pick. Alfredsson would join the hockey club for the 1996 season, having an immediate impact by putting up 61 points and winning the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie.
Alfredsson has spent 1,080 games with the Senators, and he's the franchise leader in games played, goals, assists, points and many more career scoring records.
Alfredsson has not requested a trade, but you can rest assured that the Senators will get multiple inquiries about the team's greatest player ever when the trade deadline nears.
Bobby Clarke retired in 1984 after playing 1,144 games with the Philadelphia Flyers and ever since that day, every captain the team has ever had has been measured against what No. 16 did for the orange and black.
Clarke was considered too small by some teams who passed him by in the draft, while others were concerned about him being a diabetic. The Flyers took a chance on him in the second round of the 1969 draft.
That chance gave them a gritty, talented, hard-working leader to hitch their wagon to, and they did just that, becoming the first expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Clarke was a talented player, there is no doubting that fact, but what stood out about him was his determination and work ethic. Bobby Clarke didn't want to win, he had to win.
To this day, no player is as beloved by the Philadelphia Flyers fans as Bobby Clarke.
Before the Phoenix Coyotes became the Phoenix Coyotes, they were the Winnipeg Jets, and in 1981, they selected one Dale Hawerchuk with the first pick in the NHL entry draft.
He would join the team for the 1981-82 season and immediately make a huge impact, earning the Calder trophy for his 103-point season. In total, he would play nine seasons in Winnipeg, scoring more than 100 points during six of those seasons.
Hawerchuk's point total for the 713 games he played for the franchise was 929 points, almost 200 more than the active points leader, Shane Doan.
When a player manages to score on their first shot in their first NHL game, it is either pure luck or a sign that the player is something very special. When Mario Lemieux accomplished the feat in his first game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was a sign that he was the latter.
Sadly, the NHL never got to see the level of greatness that Lemieux could have attained. Injuries and illness conspired to keep Lemieux off the ice for a significant amount of time. Of a possible 1,428 games, he was only able to compete in 915.
Yet, even with the reduced number of games, he sits seventh all time in NHL scoring with 1,723 points. His points per game average second to only Wayne Gretzky.
Of the top 35 all-time scorers in the league, he is the only one that played in less than 1,000 NHL games and while we can appreciate his greatness, it's hard not to wonder "what if" when it comes to Lemieux.
Picking a player to call the all-time best for the St. Louis Blues was not easy, but ultimately, I gave the nod to Bernie Federko over Brett Hull.
True, Hull was a more talented player, but far too often Hull got by on that talent alone, sometimes seeming like he played hockey not because he loved the sport, but simply because it was a task he was good at.
While a player like Hull craved the attention, Federko toiled while away becoming a fan favorite by force of will, consistently racking up points. By the time his career with the Blues ended, he would lead the franchise in games played (927) as well as points (1,073.)
This may be a somewhat controversial pick since Joe Thornton does not have the tenure nor the points totals that some other Sharks players have. And then there is that pesky talk of how he bombs in the playoffs.
That playoff talk should be nothing more than whispers at this point, as Thornton has averaged just under a point per game in his last two playoff seasons, and he has become the face of the franchise.
In just 490 games with the Sharks, he has become the second-highest scorer in franchise history. His 570 points are second only to Patrick Marleau's 786 points in 1,062 games.
Thornton has been unfairly judged by his inability to deliver a Stanley Cup to the Sharks, for even without that Cup, he is still the best player in franchise history.
A diminutive player who was obtained by the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Calgary Flames released him, Martin St-Louis has gone from undrafted footnote to the best player in Tampa Bay Lightning history.
St-Louis has played 812 games with the Lightning, scoring 780 points, which puts him second in franchise scoring behind the player that was once seen as the franchise's savior, Vincent Lecavalier. It should be noted that Lecavalier's 814 points have come in 964 games with the franchise.
In 2004, St-Louis took home the Hart, Art Ross and Lester B. Pearson Awards, while the team took home the Stanley Cup.
The 36-year-old St-Louis has not slowed with age, putting up more than 90 points in each of his last two seasons.
Thanks to the calls of Foster Hewitt, the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Syl Apps became a superstar during the radio age.
Apps hoisted the Stanley Cup three times as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The man who followed him as the Toronto Maple Leafs captain, Ted Kennedy, said that Alps was "as fine a man as ever lived."
Apps may be a controversial choice here, as some modern-day players outscored him and will be remembered more fondly than Apps, but in a franchise as storied as the Toronto Maple Leafs, Apps stands at the top of the heap.
While Henrik Sedin is knocking on the door and may very well one day become the best player in Vancouver Canucks history, he's not quite there yet, as that title belongs to long-time captain Markus Naslund.
Naslund played 884 games with the Canucks, racking up 756 points. His offensive numbers make him the franchise leader in points and goals.
Naslund came to the Canucks in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In return, the Penguins received Alek Stojanov, who only played 45 games with Pittsburgh before he found himself out of the NHL.
While his grip on the top spot may be tenuous, Naslund remains top dog in Canucks history.
Surely a controversial pick, but for now, Dale Hunter gets the nod as the greatest player to ever suit up for the Washington Capitals.
I hate to say it, but the jury is still out on just how great a player Alex Ovechkin is. Ovie may be more talented than Hunter, but as a leader, Hunter, now the coach of the Capitals, takes that competition hands down.
As much as Bobby Clarke represented the Flyers, Dale Hunter represented the Capitals.
Hunter remains the only player to score 1,000 points and accumulate 3,000 penalty minutes. Hunter belongs here for his competitive nature as well as his talent.
Ilya Kovalchuk came to the Atlanta Thrashers as the first pick in the 2001 entry draft. A prolific goal scorer, Kovalchuk would share the Rocket Richard Trophy with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash after scoring 41 goals in 2004.
Kovalchuk played well for the franchise that is now the Winnipeg Jets. He remains the leader in games played for the franchise with 594 and is by far the franchise leader in points (615) and goals (328).
While he did not leave the Thrashers on the best of terms, he is, without a doubt, the best player to ever play for the franchise.