Before I started working in fiction, I spent a good 20 years writing about puck. Recently, some chums and I were wondering which NHL clubs would have the best all-time rosters. Imagining the possibilities proved intriguing, so I decided to take a swing at putting together the best lineups (12 forwards, 6 defensemen, 2 goaltenders) for all the current NHL franchises, plus notable defunct squads like the Atlanta Flames, Atlanta Thrashers, California Golden Seals, Colorado Rockies, Hartford Whalers, Kansas City Scouts, Minnesota North Stars, and Quebec Nordiques.
And I’m trying to build a team here, not merely picking the most talented scorers. Natural positions mattered, although I had to get creative a few times, and thought went into line combinations, defensive pairings, and specialty teams.
Two other key points to keep in mind:
1. Only players who skated for the actual club, meaning city and team name, are eligible. Yes, I know Peter Stastny’s numbers technically belong to the Avalanche franchise, but he never played in Colorado, and he sure as hell isn’t a member of the Avalanche. Stastny is on the Nordiques. Joe Sakic, however, is on both the Nordiques and Avalanche. And Teemu Selanne qualifies as a Winnipeg Jet: same city, same team name. When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet. Unless you were a Jet in the WHA. Only NHL careers count.
And I decided to split the Atlanta and Calgary Flames because I can’t imagine any Calgary fans feel a strong emotional connection to the likes of Curt Bennett and Randy Manery.
2. Players can appear on more than one team; however, players are only considered if they played some of their best hockey for the team or if they at least did something significant. For instance, Wayne Gretzky made the Edmonton and Los Angeles rosters, but don’t look for him in St. Louis or New York.
Rankings were based on which team would be favored in a seven-game series. Obviously, there’s plenty to debate here. But remember, this is only an exhibition. This is not a competition. So please, as always, no wagering.
1. MONTREAL CANADIENS
Toe Blake-Jean Beliveau-Maurice Richard
Steve Shutt-Jacques Lemaire-Guy Lafleur
Dickie Moore-Howie Morenz-Bernie Geoffrion
Bob Gainey-Henri Richard-Yvan Cournoyer
Larry Robinson-Serge Savard
Doug Harvey-Tom Johnson
Jacque Laperriere-Guy Lapointe
Yvan Cournoyer-Jean Beliveau-Maurice Richard-Bernie Geoffrion-Doug Harvey
Steve Shutt-Jacques Lemaire-Guy Lafleur-Guy Lapointe-Larry Robinson
Bob Gainey-Jacques Lemaire-Larry Robinson-Serge Savard
Toe Blake-Howie Morenz-Doug Harvey-Tom Johnson
TOUGH CALLS: Chris Chelios could be on that third pair in place of Jacque Laperriere, but Laperriere gets the nod for playing his entire career in Montreal. I also went with Dryden over Plante, although neither would see the net over St. Patrick.
STRENGTHS: The Habs have three of the top 20 forwards ever (Richard, Beliveau, Lafleur), four of the best defensemen (Harvey, Robinson, Savard, Lapointe), and perhaps the best goaltender to ever don pads (Roy).
WEAKNESSES: While stacked with Hall-of-Famers at all three positions, Montreal’s forwards are a bit small and might have trouble matching lines with more modern clubs.
RANKING: Montreal is loaded. Sure, I could see some other teams beating them in a series, but the Habs would be the favorite against anyone, especially with Scotty Bowman behind the bench.
2. DETROIT RED WINGS
Ted Lindsay-Steve Yzerman-Gordie Howe
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom
Brendan Shanahan-Sergei Fedorov-Mickey Redmond
Alex Delvecchio-Norm Ullman-Sid Abel
Nicklas Lidstrom-Red Kelly
Marcel Pronovost-Jack Stewart
Vladimir Konstantinov-Reed Larson
Brendan Shanahan-Steve Yzerman-Gordie Howe-Sergei Fedorov-Nicklas Lidstrom
Henrik Zetterberg-Pavel Datsyuk-Tomas Holmstrom-Red Kelly-Reed Larson
Sergei Fedorov-Pavel Datsyuk-Nicklas Lidstrom-Red Kelly
Ted Lindsay-Steve Yzerman-Vladimir Konstantinov-Jack Stewart
TOUGH CALLS: Even though he doesn’t measure up with the Hall-of-Famers around him, Holmstrom played 1000 games for the Wings and was one of the best ever in front of the net. He belongs. Otherwise, there were some big names who were well past their primes when they skated with the Wings, like Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, Slava Fetisov, and Dominik Hasek, but the focus remained on guys who had played their best hockey in Detroit. Also had to fudge the positions a bit to cobble together that fourth line.
STRENGTHS: Unlike Montreal, whose roster was rooted in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Detroit has players spanning from the 1950s to the 2010s. And Yzerman, Fedorov, and Datsyuk would dominate at both ends of the ice, giving them an edge over most opponents.
WEAKNESSES: Good luck finding one. Perhaps the Wings could be seen as a little soft, but Howe, Shanahan, Stewart, and Konstantinov would keep folks honest.
RANKING: Mr. Hockey, three dominant centers, Lidstrom, and Sawchuk. The Wings have to be top three.
3. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Kevin Stevens-Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr
Chris Kunitz-Sidney Crosby-Patric Hornqvist
Jordan Staal-Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel
Jean Pronovost-Ron Francis-Rick Tocchet
Paul Coffey-Larry Murphy
Kris Letang-Ulf Samuelsson
Sergei Gonchar-Dave Burrows
Kevin Stevens-Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr-Ron Francis-Paul Coffey
Patric Hornqvist-Sidney Crosby-Phil Kessel-Evgeni Malkin-Sergei Gonchar
Mario Lemieux-Ron Francis-Larry Murphy-Ulf Samuelsson
Jordan Staal-Chris Kunitz-Kris Letang-Dave Burrows
TOUGH CALLS: Pittsburgh is loaded at right wing. Mark Recchi, Rick Kehoe, and Alexei Kovalev could all be on the team, but this club doesn’t need more goal-scorers. I even considered going with Pascal Dupuis since he was a great penalty-killer and made magic with Crosby and Kunitz. But Hornqvist’s work in front of the net makes him an all-timer, and he’d prevent his teammates from getting carried away with the fancy stuff. Stevens and Kunitz were obvious choices on the left side, but after that, the cupboard is pretty bare. Martin Straka was a standout from 1997-2001, killed penalties, and had explosive chemistry with Jagr, plus he’s 10th all-time in franchise scoring, so he’s deserving of consideration.
Ultimately, I monkeyed with some positions to get Staal and Pronovost on the left side. Staal actually played left wing with Malkin during their rookie seasons, and his size, checking, and penalty killing make him too valuable to leave off the roster. Pronovost was the best Penguin pre-Lemieux, and even though he’s getting flipped to the left side, pairing him with Francis seems a perfect fit.
Barrasso’s absence may be surprising, but it shouldn’t be. He’s a jerk. And Fleury is simply the better goalie, whether using stats or the eye test. Not even close.
STRENGTHS: Lemieux, Crosby, Malkin, and Francis up the middle. Add in Jagr and Coffey, and the Pens boast six of the top 40 scorers in NHL history (Career Points/Game: Lemieux 2nd, Crosby 6th, Malkin 13th, Jagr 25th, Coffey 28th, Francis 40th); Edmonton is second with four (Gretzky 1st, Kurri 21st, Coffey 28th, Messier 30th). Pittsburgh has 15 Art Ross Trophies; Chicago, Edmonton, and Montreal are tied for second with nine each. When it comes to scoring, it’s Pittsburgh and then everybody else.
When factoring in size, skill, speed, toughness, and character, this is the best collection of forwards imaginable, superior to even Montreal and Detroit.
WEAKNESSES: Defense and goaltending. The blue line will have plenty of offensive power with Coffey, Murphy, Gonchar, and Letang, but keeping pucks out of the net will be a problem. Samuelsson and Burrows are great defensive defensemen, but they can only do so much. The fun part will be betting on whether Coffey or Letang will make more catastrophic defensive mistakes.
Granted, Fleury doesn’t have any Vezinas, but he has three Cups (okay, one and a half) and has now led two franchises to the Final. He’s basically his generation’s Grant Fuhr, specializing in spectacular saves and one-on-one brilliance, and he’ll be put to the test. But he’s spent his entire career playing behind pedestrian defenses, so he’s the perfect man for the job.
RANKING: Can Pittsburgh score enough to cover for the vulnerable defense and goaltending? I just don’t know how anyone matches up with Lemieux, Crosby, Malkin, Francis, and Jagr. Pittsburgh could murder any team on any given night.
4. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Bobby Hull-Stan Mikita-Patrick Kane
Al Secord-Denis Savard-Steve Larmer
Dennis Hull-Jeremy Roenick-Tony Amonte
Marian Hossa-Jonathan Toews-Bill Mosienko
Chris Chelios-Pierre Pilote
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Doug Wilson-Bob Murray
Bobby Hull-Stan Mikita-Patrick Kane-Doug Wilson-Pierre Pilote
Denis Savard-Jeremy Roenick-Marian Hossa-Chris Chelios-Duncan Keith
Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa-Chris Chelios-Bob Murray
Jeremy Roenick-Tony Amonte-Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
TOUGH CALLS: Max and Doug Bentley teamed with Mosienko to form the legendary Pony Line, and they ripped up the NHL from 1945-1947. But they were all small, particularly by today’s standards, so Mosienko was their sole representative.
STRENGTHS: Speed and skill. Hull, Kane, Roenick, Amonte, Savard, Hossa, and Mosienko can all fly. That fourth line of Hossa, Toews, and Mosienko would also be a great shutdown trio that could produce points.
WEAKNESSES: Size is the main issue. Mikita, Kane, Savard, Mosienko, and Pilote are wee tiny.
RANKING: The top five teams are pretty clear from my perspective, but how one ranks them is the question. Chicago lacks Pittsburgh’s size, and while fast and talented, the Hawks couldn’t score with the Penguins.
5. BOSTON BRUINS
Wayne Cashman-Phil Esposito-Ken Hodge
Johnny Bucyk-Peter McNab-Cam Neely
Woody Dumart-Milt Schmidt-Terry O’Reilly
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rick Middleton
Bobby Orr-Ray Bourque
Eddie Shore-Zdeno Chara
Brad Park-Dit Clapper
Johnny Bucyk-Phil Esposito-Cam Neely-Bobby Orr-Ray Bourque
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rick Middleton-Eddie Shore-Zdeno Chara
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Bobby Orr-Ray Bourque
Milt Schmidt-Rick Middleton-Eddie Shore-Zdeno Chara
TOUGH CALLS: Wanted to keep the Kraut Line together, but Bobby Bauer lost out to Terry O’Reilly, who has to be in there.
STRENGTHS: Boston has the best blue line in NHL history. Orr is the unchallenged greatest defenseman ever, Bourque is no worse than third or fourth, Shore dominated his era, and good luck against Chara. Park would be a top-pair defender on any other team, yet he’s fifth on the Boston depth chart. And Dandy Dit Clapper, the Brent Burns of his day, rounds out the group.
WEAKNESSES: Even though the forward ranks are well balanced and deep, Boston lacks speed, and Marchand might be the most dynamic scorer up front. The goaltending is also suspect. Cheevers and Thomas got the nod over Tiny Thompson and Frank Brimsek because pre-1950s goaltending was...different. Hell, Cheevers is stretching it, but at least he has a cool mask and two rings.
RANKING: Big, physical, and deep, Boston would be brutal to play against. But the lack of speed and the goaltending issues keep the Bears out of the top four.
6. NEW YORK RANGERS
Vic Hadfield-Jean Ratelle-Rod Gilbert
Adam Graves-Mark Messier-Andy Bathgate
Steve Vickers-Walt Tkaczuk-Bryan Hextall
Bun Cook-Frank Boucher-Bill Cook
Brian Leetch-Brad Park
Harry Howell-Jim Neilson
Ron Greschner-Jeff Beukeboom
Vic Hadfield-Jean Ratelle-Rod Gilbert-Brian Leetch-Brad Park
Adam Graves-Mark Messier-Walt Tkaczuk-Andy Bathgate-Ron Greschner
Adam Graves-Mark Messier-Brian Leetch-Brad Park
Frank Boucher-Walt Tkaczuk-Harry Howell-Jim Neilson
TOUGH CALLS: Leaving Camille Henry off the roster hurt. I opted for Vickers, the bigger, stronger winger, and he also skated with Tkaczuk on New York’s Bulldog Line.
Beukeboom gets the start because the blue line was desperate for toughness. Other possibilities would have been McDonagh or even Girardi, who is fifth all-time among Rangers defensemen in games played. A young Zubov was also considered, but the group already had enough scoring in Leetch, Park, and Greschner.
Richter gets the net because his Stanley Cup ring is more impressive than Lundqvist’s fancy suits.
STRENGTHS: Solid lineup with a nice mix of generations. Plenty of goals from all four lines, and guys like Messier, Graves, and Tkaczuk add sandpaper and defensive responsibility to the high-flying GAG Line.
WEAKNESSES: The defense is vulnerable. Leetch has become a mythical figure in New York circles due to his Conn Smythe run, but he was no Larry Robinson back there. Beukeboom is the only intimidating presence, and he’s limited in every other aspect of his game. Richter is also a notch below the game’s truly great netminders, more Fleury or Cheevers than Roy or Sawchuk.
RANKING: The soft defense and goaltending would spell doom against the higher-ranked clubs.
7. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Busher Jackson-Syl Apps-Charlie Conacher
Frank Mahovlich-Mats Sundin-Ted Kennedy
Wendel Clark-Darryl Sittler-Lanny McDonald
Doug Gilmour-Dave Keon-George Armstrong
Tim Horton-Allan Stanley
King Clancy-Red Horner
Borje Salming-Ian Turnbull
Busher Jackson-Syl Apps-Charlie Conacher-Borje Salming-Ian Turnbull
Frank Mahovlich-Mats Sundin-Darryl Sittler-Doug Gilmour-King Clancy
Doug Gilmour-Dave Keon-Tim Horton-Allan Stanley
Mats Sundin-George Armstrong-King Clancy-Red Horner
TOUGH CALLS: While Auston Mathews will be there eventually, Toronto has too many legends worthy of roster spots. The abundance of center icemen also required shifting Gilmour and Kennedy to the wings, knocking longtime Leafs like Ron Ellis and Bob Pulford from consideration. Red Kelly deserved to make the cut, but he only played center in Toronto, so he’ll have to settle for anchoring Detroit’s all-time blue line. The great Syl Apps also replaced Gentleman Joe Primeau on the Kid Line with Jackson and Conacher.
On defense, Ian Turnbull may not be a legendary name like Bob Baun, but the group needed another scoring threat. Turnbull and Tomas Kaberle were the top contenders, but Turnbull played a lot with Salming.
STRENGTHS: Four lines deep, and the six centers offer plenty of versatility.
WEAKNESSES: Lots of solid to great point-producers, but no truly elite scorers. Charlie Conacher would fit the bill, having led the league in goals five times during the 1930s, but it would be nice to have someone at that level from the past 80 years or so.
RANKING: Toronto’s biggest problem is that all its best players are from before color TV. And all the good modern guys never won anything. Definitely a top-10 squad, but somewhere in the bottom five.
8. NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Clark Gillies-Bryan Trottier-Mike Bossy
John Tonelli-Butch Goring-Bobby Nystrom
Pat LaFontaine-John Tavares-Ziggy Palffy
Bob Bourne-Brent Sutter-Ed Westfall
Denis Potvin-Ken Morrow
Stefan Persson-Dave Langevin
Tomas Jonsson-Kenny Jonsson
Clark Gillies-Bryan Trottier-Mike Bossy-Denis Potvin-Stefan Persson
John Tavares-Pat LaFontaine-Ziggy Palffy-Tomas Jonsson-Kenny Jonsson
Butch Goring-Brian Trottier-Denis Potvin-Ken Morrow
Bob Bourne-Brent Sutter-Stefan Persson-Dave Langevin
TOUGH CALLS: The best Isles were pretty obvious. Not much debate on those names. The biggest decision was how to slot the centers, and LaFontaine slides over to the left wing to give Tavares a speedy game-breaker.
STRENGTHS: This club knows how to win. Lots of character and leadership. Offensively, Bossy is one of the top five pure goal-scorers in NHL history (I’d go Lemieux, Ovechkin, Bossy, and the Hulls), and that third line of LaFontaine, Tavares, and Palffy would light it up. The team’s biggest strength, though, is the gritty, two-way work from guys like Trottier, Gillies, Goring, Tonelli. Nystrom, Sutter, Bourne, and Westfall. Easily the best group of defensive-minded forwards.
WEAKNESSES: After Potvin and Morrow, that defense needs help. Good thing the forwards are so responsible.
RANKING: The Isles would be tough to play against. Forecheck, backcheck, paycheck, bro. But the better clubs would exploit those bottom two defensive pairs.
9. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Bill Barber-Bobby Clarke-Reggie Leach
John LeClair-Eric Lindros-Tim Kerr
Brian Propp-Rick MacLeish-Mark Recchi
Simon Gagne-Rod Brind’Amour-Rick Tocchet
Mark Howe-Brad McCrimmon
Chris Pronger-Kimmo Timonen
Eric Desjardins-Jim Watson
John LeClair-Eric Lindros-Tim Kerr-Mark Howe-Eric Desjardins
Bill Barber-Bobby Clarke-Reggie Leach-Chris Pronger-Kimmo Timonen
Bobby Clarke-Bill Barber-Mark Howe-Brad McCrimmon
Simon Gagne-Rick MacLeish-Chris Pronger-Kimmo Timonen
TOUGH CALLS: An argument could be made for Claude Giroux, but Brind’Amour is a better fit as the fourth-line center. And, as an added bonus, Brind’Amour never grabbed a cop’s ass.
On defense, Joe Watson and Andre Dupont lost out to Chris Pronger. While he only played one full season in Philly before injuries shortened his career, Pronger turned the Flyers into a Stanley Cup finalist and was easily the team’s best player, even at 35. If putting together the best possible Flyers team, Pronger has to be there.
An argument could be made for Pelle Lindbergh, as he’s probably the most talented goaltender in Philly history.
STRENGTHS: Lindros, LeClair, and Kerr. Holy hell. Good luck clearing the front of the net. The Broad Street Bullies are well represented, with Clarke providing the intense, fiery leadership that has often been lacking in Philly the past few decades. The Flyers have goals, grit, size, toughness, and enough rings amongst the core to challenge anyone.
WEAKNESSES: Even though the backline has two Hall-of-Famers in Howe and Pronger and two incredibly underrated gems in Desjardins and Timmonen, it’s a notch below the best. The same goes for the goaltending. Parent and Hextall would struggle. There’s a reason stand-up goalies no longer exist.
RANKING: The Flyers deserve to be in the top 10. They’re firmly in that same group as the Leafs, Rangers, and Islanders. But I favor the Leafs and Rangers’ legendary names and the Islanders’ four rings.
10. COLORADO AVALANCHE
Alex Tanguay-Joe Sakic-Milan Hejduk
Valeri Kamensky-Peter Forsberg-Claude Lemieux
Gabriel Landeskog-Nathan MacKinnon-Matt Duchene
Chris Drury-Stephane Yelle-Adam Deadmarsh
Ray Bourque-Adam Foote
Rob Blake-John-Michael Liles
Sandis Ozolinsh-Alexei Gusarov
Alex Tanguay-Joe Sakic-Milan Hejduk-Sandis Ozolinsh-Ray Bourque
Valeri Kamensky-Peter Forsberg-Claude Lemieux-Rob Blake-John-Michel Liles
Joe Sakic-Milan Hejduk-Ray Bourque-Adam Foote
Peter Forsberg-Stephane Yelle-Rob Blake-Alexei Gusarov
TOUGH CALLS: Liles making the team may seem odd, but he topped 10 goals in four of his seven seasons with the Avs and was a steady, reliable presence. I wavered between Jon Klemm and Gusarov. Klemm was Ozolinsh’s regular partner for the 1996 Cup, so keeping them together would make sense, but Goose would be a calming presence next to Ozolinsh too, and he had the more impressive tenure. Of course, during that ‘96 Cup run, Gusarov paired with Foote, but the Bourque-Foote combo from 2001 is an all-timer.
STRENGTHS: Gretzky-Messier, Lemieux-Francis, Crosby-Malkin, Yzerman-Fedorov, and Sakic-Forsberg. Those are your best one-two center punches in NHL history, so the Avs are starting with a great foundation in the middle. Hejduk was a pure sniper. Lemieux was clutch and hell to play against. And Kamensky, despite the numerous leg injuries robbing NHL fans of his true brilliance, was a game-breaker. The Kid Line of MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Duchene would skate circles around most everyone, and having another clutch scorer in Drury on the fourth line could prove invaluable.
The Big Three of Bourque, Blake, and Foote ranks among the greatest in NHL history, right there with Robinson, Savard, and Lapointe. But I’m most excited about Ozolinsh. He made it fun. And, of course, Roy is Roy.
WEAKNESSES: Sakic, Forsberg, Bourque, and Roy are four of the top 20 players of all-time. Unfortunately, depth is an issue. That third line would be dynamic, but they would get manhandled in their own end, and Yelle, Deadmarsh, Gusarov, and Liles were nice players but nowhere near the competition they’d be facing.
RANKING: Depth would be their undoing. But with Sakic and Forsberg, the Big Three on defense, and Roy in net, Colorado could hang with most clubs. And if Roy keeps things close, chances are Sakic, Lemieux, or Drury would find the winner.
11. EDMONTON OILERS
Esa Tikkanen-Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri
Ryan Smyth-Mark Messier-Glenn Anderson
Doug Weight-Connor McDavid-Craig Simpson
Dave Semenko-Craig MacTavish-Kelly Buchberger
Paul Coffey-Charlie Huddy
Kevin Lowe-Steve Smith
Randy Gregg-Jason Smith
Mark Messier-Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri-Glenn Anderson-Paul Coffey
Ryan Smyth-Connor McDavid-Craig Simpson-Kevin Lowe-Steve Smith
Wayne Gretzky-Jari Kurri-Paul Coffey-Charlie Huddy
Mark Messier-Glenn Anderson-Kevin Lowe-Steve Smith
TOUGH CALLS: The best Oiler between the Gretzky-Messier era and McDavid, Weight was The Guy for a generation of young Edmonton fans, but he shifts to left wing to accommodate 97. The Oil are also the first team on the list with a true fourth line, and that’s out of necessity. Edmonton has been a top-heavy franchise, boasting some of the most legendary names in the sport and then a whole lot of nothing. MacTavish, Buchberger, and Semenko won’t provide much offense, but all three are beloved in Edmonton and will check like demons. Semenko also ensures Gretzky and McDavid will have all the room they need. Mike Krushelnyski and Shawn Horcoff were other options on that fourth line.
And, yes, Chris Pronger’s lone season in Edmonton was remarkable, but you can’t make the all-time team when you lead the club to Game Seven of the Final and then demand a trade. Go spit.
STRENGTHS: Offense. Gretzky, Messier, and McDavid will score goals o’ plenty.
WEAKNESSES: The supporting cast is dreadful compared to the teams above them. The blue line is also surprisingly bad. Coffey is the only true offensive threat, and Gregg and Jason Smith, while both fan favorites and franchise cornerstones, wouldn’t make many rosters.
RANKING: Edmonton is a tough team to slot. Gretzky, Messier, McDavid, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey, and Fuhr would be enough to terrorize most opponents, but this club lacks the depth necessary to compete with the elite. I’d pick the much deeper Islanders and Flyers in a series, and Colorado has the edge on defense and in goal.
12. LOS ANGELES KINGS
Charlie Simmer-Marcel Dionne-Dave Taylor
Luc Robitaille-Wayne Gretzky-Bernie Nicholls
Tomas Sandstrom-Anze Kopitar-Ziggy Palffy
Jim Fox-Butch Goring-Dustin Brown
Drew Doughty-Rob Blake
Lubomir Visnovsky-Mattias Norstrom
Marty McSorley-Steve Duchesne
Luc Robitaille-Wayne Gretzky-Bernie Nicholls-Drew Doughty-Rob Blake
Charlie Simmer-Marcel Dionne-Ziggy Palffy-Lubomir Visnovsky-Steve Duchesne
Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown-Drew Doughty-Rob Blake
Butch Goring-Dave Taylor-Marty McSorely-Mattias Norstrom
TOUGH CALLS: Larry Murphy had three strong offensive seasons in L.A., but he wouldn’t find his steady defensive game until later in his career. I decided to go with Visnovsky because he’s cool and was a better fit with Norstrom. Muzzin, Martinez, Murdoch, Wells, Hardy, and O’Donnell could also be in there.
STRENGTHS: Up front, the Triple Crown Line leads the way, and then rolling Gretzky, Kopitar, and Goring down the middle is pretty great. Doughty and Blake are two elite stud defenders, and Quick has the two Cups and can steal games.
WEAKNESSES: While the Kings have playmakers and finishers up front, speed is an issue. And even though Kopitar and Goring would give the Kings a pair of two-way centers to cancel top scoring lines, the truly stacked teams like Montreal, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Chicago that can roll four lines of Hall-of-Famers would exploit Dionne and Gretzky defensively.
RANKING: When I started this project, I didn’t picture the Kings as a top-12 team. But that roster is swell. And the more I think about it, I might pick the Kings over the Oil.
13. WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Peter Bondra
Bengt-Ake Gustafsson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Alex Semin
Kelly Miller-Mike Ridley-Mike Gartner
Tom Wilson-Dale Hunter-Dino Ciccarelli
Scott Stevens-Calle Johansson
Kevin Hatcher-John Carlson
Sergei Gonchar-Rod Langway
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Alex Semin-Peter Bondra-Sergei Gonchar
Dino Ciccarelli-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Mike Gartner-Scott Stevens-Kevin Hatcher
Michal Pivonka-Peter Bondra-Scott Stevens-Calle Johansson
Mike Ridley-Kelly Miller-John Carlson-Rod Langway
TOUGH CALLS: The Caps could go eight deep on the blue line. I really wanted to put Al Iafrate and Sylvain Cote in there but opted for Gonchar and Carlson. A case could even be made for Larry Murphy, assuming you like “whooping” sounds. Up front, Tom Wilson making the team may seem bold, but that dude changes games, and I can only imagine the trouble he’d cause alongside Dale Hunter.
STRENGTHS: The top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Bondra would be ridiculous. And Gustafsson-Kuznetsov-Semin is a superbly skilled second line, even if a little suspect defensively. The third line has the speed and shot of Gartner teamed with the trusted Miller-Ridley combo, and then Hunter and Wilson, if not suspended, will anchor the fourth line with the equally obnoxious Ciccarelli. That’s a lot of skill, and Ovechkin, Bondra, and Gartner are three of the best goal-scorers in NHL history (G/G: Ovechkin 6th, Gartner 23rd, Bondra 42nd).
Washington’s back line is formidable. Leadership and toughness from Stevens, big offense from Gonchar and Hatcher, and sound, steady defense from Langway, Johansson, and Carlson. Really, if you add Iafrate and Cote to the mix, Washington has to be one of the top five deepest teams in terms of defensemen.
WEAKNESSES: Not much toughness beyond Wilson, Hunter, and Stevens. Thankfully, a young Scott Stevens was particularly frightening. Holtby is also a tier or two below the game’s truly great netminders.
RANKING: The more I look at the team, the more I like it. I moved the Caps up a few spots from my original ranking. Definitely in the 10-15 range.
14. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Patrik Elias-Jason Arnott-Petr Sykora
John MacLean-Kirk Muller-Claude Lemieux
Zach Parise-John Madden-Bill Guerin
Brendan Shanahan-Bobby Holik-Randy McKay
Scott Stevens-Ken Daneyko
Scott Niedermayer-Brian Rafalski
Bruce Driver-Tommy Albelin
Patrik Elias-Zach Parise-Petr Sykora-Jason Arnott-Scott Niedermayer
John MacLean-Kirk Muller-Claude Lemieux-Scott Stevens-Brian Rafalski
John Madden-Patrik Elias-Scott Stevens-Ken Daneyko
Kirk Muller-John MacLean-Scott Niedermayer-Brian Rafalski
TOUGH CALLS: Some might want Scott Gomez in there, but if the object is to win games, I’ll take Madden every time. Alexander Mogilny spent only two seasons in the Swamp, but he contributed to a Stanley Cup and then followed up with a 43-goal campaign and another strong playoff performance. He could definitely be in there to add some offensive punch, but Parise had the longer tenure, and Guerin and Shanahan are better fits with their size and toughness.
STRENGTHS: Same as they’ve always been: defense and goaltending. And placing a young Shanahan next to Holik and McKay gives the Crash Line a real wizard upgrade.
WEAKNESSES: Scoring will be at a premium, and El Diablo would struggle to skate with all the teams ahead of them.
RANKING: If the Stripes look the other way on clutching and grabbing, the Devils could still trap the hell out of most everyone. Wake me when it’s over.
15. CALGARY FLAMES
Gary Roberts-Joe Nieuwendyk-Theo Fleury
Johnny Gaudreau-Kent Nilsson-Jarome Iginla
Lanny McDonald-Doug Gilmour-Joe Mullen
Jim Peplinski-Joel Otto-Hakan Loob
Al MacInnis-Gary Suter
Paul Reinhart-*Dion Phaneuf
Robyn Regehr-Mark Giordano
Gary Roberts-Joe Niewendyk-Theo Fleury-Al MacInnis-Gary Suter
Jarome Iginla-Kent Nilsson-Joe Mullen-Paul Reinhart-Dion Phaneuf
Joe Nieuwendyk-Theo Fleury-Al MacInnis-Gary Suter
Joel Otto-Hakan Loob-Robyn Regehr-Dion Phaneuf
TOUGH CALLS: While Craig Conroy was a good soldier and teamed with Iginla for a Cup run, he’s not beating out those top four centers. A case could be made for Sergei Makarov, who had four strong seasons in Calgary, but his spot goes to Johnny Hockey.
*EDIT: I originally forgot Phaneuf! Sure, now he’s known as being an overpaid underachiever, but his first four years in Calgary were exceptional. He bumps Macoun.
STRENGTHS: This is a really talented, deep group of forwards. They’ve got everything, including 50-goal scorers (Iginla, Nieuwendyk, Roberts, Fleury, Loob, and McDonald), 100-point men (Nilsson, Fleury, Loob, Mullen), toughness (Roberts, Iginla, Peplinski, Otto), and gritty agitators (Gilmour, Fleury). And Joel Otto would be able to silence most no. 1 centers.
WEAKNESSES: After MacInnis and Suter, the defense is super-deluxe vulnerable. And even though Vernon gets the ceremonial nod for his ring, I’d probably start Kipper most nights.
RANKING: If the Flames had two more stud blueliners, they could be top-10 material.
16. ST. LOUIS BLUES
Brendan Shanahan-Adam Oates-Brett Hull
Pavol Demitra-Bernie Federko-Vladimir Tarasenko
Keith Tkachuk-Red Berenson-David Backes
Brian Sutter-Garry Unger-Joe Mullen
Al MacInnis-Chris Pronger
Scott Stevens-Alex Pietrangelo
Barclay Plager-Barret Jackman
Brendan Shanahan-Adam Oates-Brett Hull-Al MacInnis-Chris Pronger
Pavol Demitra-Bernie Federko-Vladimir Tarasenko-Scott Stevens-Alex Pietrangelo
Brent Sutter-David Backes-Al MacInnis-Chris Pronger
Adam Oates Brett Hull-Scott Stevens-Alex Pietrangelo
TOUGH CALLS: Jackman may be a surprising name, but his 803 career games are the most for any Blues defender and trails only Federko (927) all-time, so he gets the lifetime-achievement award.
STRENGTHS: Hull and Oates. ‘Nuff said. But that second line of Demitra-Federko-Tarasenko would also be fun, plus Tkachuk and Backes would bring the pain on Berenson’s wings. Just a nice mix of goals, skill, and size up front.
And get a load of that top four. Folks might complain about Stevens making the cut since he was only there for one year, but he was the team’s captain and led the Blues to within one point of the President’s Trophy. And then the worst arbitration ruling in the history of civilization sent Stevens to New Jersey and changed the fortunes of two franchises.
WEAKNESSES: Liut and Joseph are excellent netminders, but they’re not top tier. And size/defense up the middle would be an issue when facing elite centers.
RANKING: The Blues are the best team on the list to never win a Stanley Cup.
17. DALLAS STARS
Jere Lehtinen-Mike Modano-Brett Hull
Brenden Morrow-Joe Nieuwendyk-Jamie Langenbrunner
Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Loui Eriksson
Bill Guerin-Steve Ott-Grant Marshall
Sergei Zubov-Derian Hatcher
Richard Matvichuk-Darryl Sydor
Craig Ludwig-Stephane Robidas
Jere Lehtinen-Mike Modano-Joe Nieuwendyk-Brett Hull-Sergei Zubov
Tyler Seguin-Jamie Benn-Loui Eriksson-Darryl Sydor-Stephane Robidas
Mike Modano-Jere Lehtinen-Derian Hatcher-Richard Matvichuk
Jamie Benn-Joe Nieuwendyk-Craig Ludwig-Stephane Robidas
TOUGH CALLS: Obviously, Neal Broten would be there if this included Minnesota North Stars, but his time in Dallas lasted just 96 games. The same goes for other North Stars greats like Dino Ciccarelli and Brian Bellows.
STRENGTHS: That blue line is sneaky good. Zubov is one of the most underrated defensemen in NHL history, and he peaked in Dallas. But the real strength is in Hatcher, Matvichuk, and Ludwig, three no-nonsense, defensive defensemen who blocked more shots than Prohibition. And Belfour posted two seasons with sub-2.00 goals-against averages playing behind Ken Hitchcock’s system in the Dead Puck Era.
WEAKNESSES: Speed. Outside Modano and Seguin, the rest of the club is somewhat plodding. And the fourth line features Steve Ott and Grant Marshall, so yeah, not exactly the Montreal Canadiens.
RANKING: A good solid club. Unfortunately, the Stars lack the truly elite scorers and skaters to challenge the best teams.
18. ANAHEIM DUCKS
Paul Kariya-Steve Rucchin-Teemu Selanne
Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Bobby Ryan
Chris Kunitz-Andy McDonald-Rickard Rakell
Rob Niedermayer-Samuel Pahlsson-Travis Moen
Scott Niedermayer-Francois Beauchemin
Chris Pronger-Ruslan Salei
Hampus Lindholm-Cam Fowler
Paul Kariya-Steve Rucchin-Teemu Selanne-Scott Niedermayer-Chris Pronger
Corey Perry-Ryan Getzlaf-Bobby Ryan-Hampus Lindholm-Cam Fowler
Ryan Getzlaf-Samuel Pahlsson-Scott Niedermayer-Francois Beauchemin
Steve Rucchin-Paul Kariya-Chris Pronger-Ruslan Salei
TOUGH CALLS: Rounding out the top six on defense was tricky, but I opted for some current “stars” in Lindholm and Fowler over the likes of Oleg Tverdovsky or Keith Carney.
STRENGTHS: Selanne-Kariya and Getzlaf-Perry give the Ducks two dynamic scoring duos, and the fourth line of Niedermayer-Pahlsson-Moen, while not much in the way of offense, would at least be able to neutralize one of the opposition’s top lines.
Anaheim’s true strength is on the back end. Either Pronger or Scott Niedermayer would be on the ice like 95% of the time, and pre-equipment-reduction Giguere had a Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup.
WEAKNESSES: Guys like Rucchin, Ryan, Rakell, McDonald, Lindholm, Fowler, Beauchemin, Salei, and that fourth line would never be considered for spots with the top 15 franchises.
RANKING: Selanne-Kariya, Getzlaf-Perry, Pronger-Niedermayer, and Giguere would make the Ducks a tough out.
19. BUFFALO SABRES
Rick Martin-Gilbert Perreault-Rene Robert
Dave Andreychuk-Pat LaFontaine-Alexander Mogilny
Thomas Vanek-Dale Hawerchuk-Mike Foligno
Craig Ramsay-Don Luce-Danny Gare
Phil Housley-Jim Schoenfeld
Alexei Zhitnik-Mike Ramsey
Bill Hajt-Jocelyn Guevremont
Rick Martin-Gilbert Perreault-Rene Robert-Phil Housley-Jocelyn Guevremont
Dave Andreychuk-Pat LaFontaine-Dale Hawerchuk-Alexander Mogilny-Alexei Zhitnik
Don Luce-Craig Ramsay-Jim Schoenfeld-Bill Hajt
Gilbert Perreault-Mike Foligno-Alexei Zhitnik-Mike Ramsey
TOUGH CALLS: Jack Eichel will get there eventually. Hawerchuk quietly had some impressive seasons in Buffalo, including an 80-assist campaign, so he edges Pierre Turgeon for the third-line center spot. Miroslav Satan is probably the other notable scorer to miss the cut, and Michael Peca was a worthy candidate for a checking role. I also really wanted to get Brad May, Rob Ray, and Matthew Barnaby in there to make things fun.
On defense, Zhitnik spent 10 years in Buffalo and had a bit more well-rounded game than Doug Bodger or Jay McKee.
STRENGTHS: The Flying Frenchman and the Andreychuk-LaFontaine-Mogilny line would be dynamic, and the checking line of Ramsay-Luce-Gare is as good as it gets. And with Dominik Hasek in net, the Sabres could beat anyone on any given night.
WEAKNESSES: That blue line is rough. And Buffalo has never won anything. Ever.
RANKING: This would be a fun team, and Hasek would always give them a puncher’s chance, but elite squads would run wild against those defensemen.
20. QUEBEC NORDIQUES
Anton Stastny-Peter Stastny-Marian Stastny
Mats Sundin-Joe Sakic-Owen Nolan
Marc Tardif-Peter Forsberg-Real Cloutier
Michel Goulet-Dale Hunter-Wilf Paiement
Normand Rochefort-Mario Marois
Randy Moller-Jeff Brown
Steve Finn-Curtis Leschyshyn
Michel Goulet-Peter Stastny-Anton Stastny-Joe Sakic-Jeff Brown
Peter Forsberg-Mats Sundin-Owen Nolan-Normand Rochefort-Mario Marois
Dale Hunter-Michel Goulet-Normand Rochefort-Mario Marois
Joe Sakic-Mats Sundin-Randy Moller-Steve Finn
TOUGH CALLS: Sure, Forsberg only had one season in Quebec, but he’s Peter f’n Forsberg! He also had 50 points in 47 games and won the Calder, so he makes the damn team. Also had to slide Sundin to left wing for Sakic and Nolan, bringing back memories of NHLPA 93 and NHL 94.
The Quebec franchise was always devoid of defensive talent. Steve Duchesne had a remarkable 20-goal, 82-point season in his one year in Quebec, but I went with foot soldiers who toiled thankless minutes on pretty lousy teams. And Jeff Brown got the nod over Duchesne because he spent parts of five years in Quebec and produced his own 21-goal campaign, along with a pair of 16-goal efforts.
The goaltending prospects are even worse than the blue line. Dan Bouchard, Mario Gosselin, Clint Malarchuk, and Ron Tugnutt were other possibilities, but I went with Fiset and Thibault, who were the tandem in 1994-95, the franchise’s final year in Quebec, when the Nords went 30-13-5 and earned the top seed in the East. Plus, Fiset had that swank igloo helmet.
STRENGTHS: With the Stastny brothers, Goulet, Hunter, and the young versions of Sakic, Sundin, Nolan, and Forsberg, this team is loaded up front.
WEAKNESSES: The defense and goaltending are weaker than a politician’s scruples.
RANKING: This team would be damn entertaining. Sadly, fun doesn’t win games.
21. WINNIPEG JETS
Brian Mullen-Dale Hawerchuk-Paul MacLean
Keith Tkachuk-Alexei Zhamnov-Teemu Selanne
Patrik Laine-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler
Laurie Boschman-Thomas Steen-Doug Smail
Teppo Numminen-Randy Carlyle
Phil Housley-Fredrik Olausson
Dave Babych-Dustin Byfuglien
Keith Tkachuk-Alexei Zhamnov-Teemu Selanne-Phil Housley-Fredrik Olausson
Patrik Laine-Dale Hawerchuk-Mark Scheifele-Blake Wheeler-Dustin Byfuglien
Thomas Steen-Doug Smail-Teppo Numminen-Randy Carlyle
Laurie Boschman-Blake Wheeler-Dave Babych-Dustin Byfuglien
TOUGH CALLS: The key point to remember is that this is for NHL Winnipeg players only. No WHA Jets allowed. No Bobby Hull. No Ulf Nilsson. No Anders Hedberg.
STRENGTHS: Nice depth up the middle and four balanced lines that could produce offense.
WEAKNESSES: Goaltending is the big problem, and the defense would be capable but a bit soft on the top two pairs. Winnipeg also has a shocking lack of playoff success, let alone a championship pedigree.
RANKING: The goaltending and the lack of big-game experience would be crippling.
22. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Brad Richards-Vincent Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis
Ondrej Palat-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov
Fredrik Modin-Brian Bradley-Vinny Prospal
Rob Zamuner-Tyler Johnson-Dave Andreychuk
Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman
Dan Boyle-Pavel Kubina
Roman Hamrlik-Cory Sarich
Dave Andreychuk-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov-Brian Bradley-Victor Hedman
Vinnie Prospal-Vincent Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis-Brad Richards-Dan Boyle
Vincent Lecavalier-Martin St. Louis-Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman
Tyler Johnson-Rob Zamuner-Pavel Kubina-Cory Sarich
TOUGH CALLS: Andreychuk didn’t play his best hockey in Tampa, but he was a big part of that Cup team, so he gets a fourth-line spot.
STRENGTHS: Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards, Stamkos, and Kucherov make the top two lines lethal, Hedman is a rock on the blue line, and Khabibulin could stand on his head.
WEAKNESSES: The bottom two lines and the defense are ordinary, at best.
RANKING: The core group won a Cup, so that’s enough to separate the Bolts from their competition.
23. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Pavel Bure
Markus Naslund-Ryan Kesler-Todd Bertuzzi
Alexander Mogilny-Thomas Gradin-Tony Tanti
Don Lever-Trevor Linden-Stan Smyl
Mattias Ohlund-Ed Jovanovski
Sami Salo-Kevin Bieksa
Harold Snepsts-Alex Edler
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Pavel Bure-Alexander Mogilny-Sami Salo
Markus Naslund-Trevor Linden-Tony Tanti-Ed Jovanovski-Alex Edler
Trevor Linden-Stan Smyl-Harold Snepsts-Kevin Bieksa
Ryan Kesler-Pavel Bure-Mattias Ohlund-Ed Jovanovski
TOUGH CALLS: Jyrki Lumme, Doug Lidster, and Dennis Kearns could have all been on the team. But I opted for the toughness of Bieksa and the underappreciated, heavier-shooting Salo and Edler.
STRENGTHS: Bure with the playmaking and smarts of the Sedin Twins would be devastating. Then the second line has Kesler between Naslund and Bertuzzi, marking a substantial upgrade over their normal center of Brendan Morrison. Mogilny-Gradin-Tanti would also be deadly, Linden and Smyl provide plenty of character on that fourth line, and Luongo gives the Canucks a goaltending edge over the clubs lower on the list.
WEAKNESSES: No Norris Trophies in sight.
RANKING: Considering its blue line and lack of championships, Vancouver fits somewhere in the 18-22 range.
24. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Filip Forsberg-Jason Arnott-Alexander Radulov
Martin Erat-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist
Steve Sullivan-Greg Johnson-J. P. Dumont
Craig Smith-Mike Fisher-Scott Walker
Shea Weber-Ryan Suter
Roman Josi-Mattias Ekholm
Kimmo Timonen-P. K. Subban
Filip Forsberg-Jason Arnott-Alexander Radulov-Shea Weber-Ryan Suter
Steve Sullivan-David Legwand-Patric Hornqvist-Roman Josi-P. K. Subban
David Legwand-Scott Walker-Shea Weber-Ryan Suter
Greg Johnson-Steve Sullivan-Roman Josi-Mattias Ekholm
TOUGH CALLS: Ryan Ellis didn’t make the cut. Weber and Suter have to be the top pair, and it’s impossible to have an all-time Nashville team without Timonen, who spent eight years with the Preds and put up five seasons with at least 10 goals and 40 points. So that leaves the current Big Four competing for the final three spots. Josi could be an NHL all-timer when his career’s done, and Subban has that hammer from the point. That leaves Ekholm or Ellis. I’ll take Ekholm.
STRENGTHS: The blue line is spectacular. Hard to believe such a young franchise has had so many great defensemen.
WEAKNESSES: When Arnott and Legwand are your top two centers, you’ve got worry.
RANKING: If the Preds had forwards even half as good as their blue line, they’d be top 20.
25. OTTAWA SENATORS
Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson
Marian Hossa-Alexei Yashin-Martin Havlat
Shawn McEachern-Radek Bonk-Mark Stone
Magnus Arvedson-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil
Erik Karlsson-Zdeno Chara
Chris Phillips-Anton Volchenkov
Wade Redden-Norm MacIver
Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson-Erik Karlsson-Zdeno Chara
Marian Hossa-Alexei Yashin-Martin Havlat-Wade Redden-Norm MacIver
Mike Fisher-Magnus Arvedson-Erik Karlsson-Zdeno Chara
Radek Bonk-Daniel Alfredsson-Chris Phillips-Anton Volchenkov
TOUGH CALLS: Finding a sixth defenseman was brutal. Norm Maciver gets the start because…why the hell not? Maciver only had one notable year in Ottawa, but it was a hell of a year. In 1992-93, he led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 63 points. Karel Rachunek and Marc Methot would be other contenders.
STRENGTHS: Those top two lines are pretty dangerous, and Karlsson and Chara skating as the top pair would be unreal, perhaps even the best pairing in NHL history considering their unique attributes. Also, Phillips and Volchenkov weren’t dynamic, but they were a great shutdown pair and rock solid in their own end. That’s a real nice top four.
WEAKNESSES: Depth and goaltending, which is pretty much the same issue for all these lower-ranked clubs. I also don’t see Spezza and Yashin gutting it out to win many battles.
RANKING: No championship experience, but those top two lines and the Karlsson-Chara fantasy keeps Ottawa ahead of the teams beneath them.
26. SAN JOSE SHARKS
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Jonathan Cheechoo
Jeff Friesen-Joe Pavelski-Owen Nolan
Marco Sturm-Logan Couture-Ryan Clowe
Johan Garpenlov-Igor Larionov-Sergei Makarov
Brent Burns-Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Sandis Ozolinsh-Mike Rathje
Dan Boyle-Scott Hannan
Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Jonathan Cheechoo-Joe Pavelski-Brent Burns
Jeff Friesen-Logan Couture-Owen Nolan-Sandis Ozolinsh-Dan Boyle
Patrick Marleau-Marco Sturm-Brent Burns-Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Joe Pavelski-Owen Nolan-Mike Rathje-Scott Hannan
TOUGH CALLS: Could have went a few different ways with the fourth line, but the Garpenlov-Larionov-Makarov unit represents that glorious 1994 playoff run. Justin Braun and Brad Stuart were contenders on defense. And Arturs Irbe would be the third netminder. Irbe like wall. Chomp, chomp, chomp.
STRENGTHS: The magic of Thornton and Cheechoo, obviously. But watching Brent Burns and Sandis Ozolinsh roaming the ice would be worth the price of admission.
WEAKNESSES: The same old song: depth and goaltending.
RANKING: I still like Anaheim, Nashville, and Ottawa a bit better.
27. FLORIDA PANTHERS
Stephen Weiss-Viktor Kozlov-Pavel Bure
Radek Dvorak-Olli Jokinen-Nathan Horton
Jonathan Huberdeau-Alexander Barkov-Jaromir Jagr
Rob Niedermayer-Brian Skrudland-Scott Mellanby
Ed Jovanovski-Robert Svehla
Jay Bouwmeester-Aaron Ekblad
Brian Campbell-Paul Laus
Viktor Kozlov-Alexander Barkov-Pavel Bure-Jay Bouwmeester-Aaron Ekblad
Nathan Horton-Olli Jokinen-Jaromir Jagr-Brian Campbell-Robert Svehla
Olli Jokinen-Radek Dvorak-Robert Svehla-Paul Laus
Viktor Kozlov-Pavel Bure-Jay Bouwmeester-Aaron Ekblad
TOUGH CALLS: Bill Lindsay and Dave Lowry, who helped define the 1996 team, missed out to more talented Cats. Ray Whitney also had two stellar seasons in Florida, but it wasn’t enough to bump Weiss, the franchise leader in games played.
STRENGTHS: Bure and Old Man Jagr on the same team would sell tickets. Kozlov, Jokinen, and Barkov are three big centers, and Skrudland can check anyone.
On defense, Svehla is one of the most underrated defensemen in recent memory, and you can do a lot worse than young Jovanovski, Bouwmeester, and Ekblad.
WEAKNESSES: No proven winners, and the top three lines could stand more grit.
RANKING: When I started out, I had Florida slotted last. But this roster isn’t bad, particularly if Barkov develops into the dominant force I think he’ll be. Luongo is the difference-maker, giving Florida better goaltending than the teams beneath them.
28. MINNESOTA WILD
Pavol Demitra-Mikko Koivu-Marian Gaborik
Zach Parise-Eric-Staal-Mikael Granlund
Andrew Brunette-Brian Rolston-Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Jason Zucker-Charlie Coyle-Cal Clutterbuck
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Brent Burns-Nick Schultz
Mathew Dumba-Jonas Brodin
Pavol Demitra-Mikko Koivu-Marian Gaborik-Brent Burns-Mathew Dumba
Zach Parise-Eric Staal-Mikael Granlund-Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Mikko Koivu-Marian Gaborik-Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Brian Rolston-Cal Clutterbuck-Brent Burns-Nick Schultz
TOUGH CALLS: Again, no Minnesota North Stars. So, yeah, not much competition.
STRENGTHS: This is actually a pretty solid lineup if we’re playing regular-season games against normal professional teams. And reliving Demitra and Gaborik would be fun.
WEAKNESSES: Offense. Defense. Goaltending.
RANKING: It is what it is.
29. CAROLINA HURRICANES
Sami Kapanen-Ron Francis-Jeff O’Neill
Cory Stillman-Eric Staal-Erik Cole
Ray Whitney-Rod Brind’Amour-Justin Williams
Jeff Skinner-Matt Cullen-Tuomo Ruutu
Glen Wesley-Bret Hedican
Sean Hill-Joni Pitkanen
Justin Faulk-Aaron Ward
Sami Kapanen-Rod Brind’Amour-Jeff O’Neill-Ron Francis-Justin Faulk
Jeff Skinner-Eric Staal-Erik Cole-Ray Whitney-Glen Wesley
Rod Brind’Amour-Ron Francis-Glen Wesley-Jeff Hedican
Eric Staal-Erik Cole-Tim Gleason-Joni Pitkanen
TOUGH CALLS: Filling out the top six defenders was tricky due to the shocking lack of credible candidates. Aaron Ward got the nod for being part of both Cup runs, and Hill somehow turned into a goal-scorer whenever he lived in Carolina. Hill spent five seasons with the Canes over two tours of duty and posted a pair of 13-goal seasons. He never had more than 7 goals in any of his seasons with Montreal, Anaheim, Ottawa, St. Louis, Florida, Long Island, or Minnesota.
STRENGTHS: Being near the beach?
WEAKNESSES: That blue line.
RANKING: Hard to believe this franchise has a Cup.
30. HARTFORD WHALERS
Kevin Dineen-Ron Francis-Pat Verbeek
Sylvain Turgeon-Mike Rogers-Blaine Stoughton
Geoff Sanderson-Andrew Cassels-Ray Ferraro
Dave Tippett-Bobby Holik-Gordie Howe
Ulf Samuelsson-Mark Howe
Chris Pronger-Joel Quenneville
Dave Babych-Adam Burt
Kevin Dineen-Ron Francis-Pat Verbeek-Geoff Sanderson-Mark Howe
Sylvain Turgeon-Mike Rogers-Blaine Stoughton-Ray Ferraro-Chris Pronger
Ron Francis-Kevin Dineen-Ulf Samuelsson-Mark Howe
Bobby Holik-Dave Tippett-Chris Pronger-Joel Quenneville
TOUGH CALLS: Had to move Ferrarro to the right side to flank the early 90s duo of Sanderson and Cassels. Brendan Shanahan had a 40-goal season in Hartford, but his refusal to play for the team pretty much harpooned the Whale, so fuck ‘im. Old Man Gordie gets a ceremonial start on the fourth line, edging out the likes of Ray Neufeld, Dean Evason, and Paul MacDermid.
STRENGTHS: The top line of Dineen-Francis-Verbeek used to be dynamite. And don’t sleep on that second line. Rogers and Stoughton went buckwild in 1979-80 and 1980-81, combining for 183 goals and 383 points over their two seasons together. Even after Rogers left town, Stoughton had seasons of 52 and 45 goals. So, this Whale team could snipe.
WEAKNESSES: Holik and the 51-year-old Howe would be the only size and toughness up front, and outside of the younger Howe on defense, there isn’t much speed or skill along the blue line.
RANKING: Save the Whale.
31. MINNESOTA NORTH STARS
Steve Payne-Neal Broten-Brian Bellows
Tom McCarthy-Bobby Smith-Dino Ciccarelli
J.P. Parise-Mike Modano-Bill Goldsworthy
Dennis Hextall-Tim Young-Al MacAdam
Craig Hartsburg-Brad Maxwell
Fred Barrett-Curt Giles
Lou Nanne-Tom Reid
Steve Payne-Bobby Smith-Dino Ciccarelli-Neal Broten-Craig Hartsburg
J. P. Parise-Mike Modano-Brian Bellows-Bill Goldsworthy-Brad Maxwell
Neal Broten-Al MacAdam-Craig Hartsburg-Brad Maxwell
Bobby Smith-Tom McCarthy-Lou Nanne-Tom Reid
TOUGH CALLS: Dave Gagner and Danny Grant were considered for the forward ranks, while Mark Tinordi and Gordie Roberts could have easily found a home on defense. In the end, since there were no true standout defensemen outside of Hartsburg, I went with the longest tenures.
STRENGTHS: Aside from the nifty uniforms, this squad isn’t much of a threat.
WEAKNESSES: Imagine Jon Casey against the best goal-scorers in history. Egad.
RANKING: The Wild are better.
32. ATLANTA FLAMES
Eric Vail-Tom Lysiak-Willi Plett
Bob MacMillan-Guy Chouinard-Jean Pronovost
Curt Bennett-Kent Nilsson-Rey Comeau
Larry Romanchych-Bill Clement-Bob Leiter
Ken Houston-Randy Manery
Pat Quinn-Paul Reinhart
Ed Kea-Dave Shand
Eric Vail-Tom Lysiak-Willi Plett-Kent Nilsson-Ken Houston
Bob MacMillan-Guy Chouinard-Jean Pronovost-Paul Reinhart-Randy Manery
Tom Lysiak-Eric Vail-Ken Houston-Randy Manery
Bill Clement-Bob MacMillan-Pat Quinn-Dave Shand
TOUGH CALL: Nilsson only had one year in Atlanta, so he slots behind Lysiak and Chouinard.
STRENGTHS: Lysiak, Vail, and Chouinard were no joke, and MacMillan had his 108-point season in Atlanta.
WEAKNESSES: Depth and goaltending.
RANKING: They earned their defunct status.
33. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Artemi Panarin-Ryan Johansen-Rick Nash
David Vyborny-Sergei Fedorov-Nikolai Zherdev
Nick Foligno-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert-Boone Jenner-R. J. Umberger
Seth Jones-Zach Werenski
Rostislav Klesla-Fydor Tyutin
David Savard-Jack Johnson
Artemi Panarin-Ryan Johansen-Rick Nash-Seth Jones-Zach Werenski
David Vyborny-Nikolai Zherdev-Cam Atkinson-Sergei Fedorov-Jack Johnson
Brandon Dubinsky-Rick Nash-Seth Jones-David Savard
Matt Calvert-Cam Atkinson-Rostislav Klesla-Fydor Tyutin
TOUGH CALLS: All with a pulse were welcome.
STRENGTHS: Panarin and Nash.
WEAKNESSES: More than that damn cannon can solve.
RANKING: Torts is gonna be pissed.
34. PHOENIX COYOTES
Keith Tkachuk-Jeremy Roenick-Shane Doan
Derek Stepan-Clayton Keller-Radim Vrbata
Ladislav Nagy-Daymond Langkow-Mike Johnson
Ray Whitney-Martin Hanzal-Mikkel Boedker
Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Teppo Numminen
Ed Jovanovski-Keith Yandle
Zbenyk Michalek-Derek Morris
Keith Tkachuk-Jeremy Roenick-Shane Doan-Oliver-Ekman-Larson-Keith Yandle
Ladislav Nagy-Derek Stepan-Clayton Keller-Ed Jovanovski-Derek Morris
Jeremy Roenick-Keith Tkachuk-Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Teppo Numminen
Daymond Langkow-Shane Doan-Ed Jovanovski-Zbenyk Michalek
TOUGH CALLS: Who cares?
STRENGTHS: That Tkachuk-Roenick-Doan line is swell. And it would be cool to see OEL pair with Teppo.
WEAKNESSES: Throw a rock.
RANKING: Hey, they tried.
35. ATLANTA THRASHERS
Ilya Kovalchuk-Marc Savard-Marian Hossa
Dany Heatley-Ray Ferraro-Vyacheslav Kozlov
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Donald Audette
Evander Kane-Bobby Holik-Chris Thorburn
Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien
Niclas Havelid-Frantisek Kaberle
Andy Sutton-Yannick Tremblay
Dany Heatley-Marc Savard-Marian Hossa-Ilya Kovalchuk-Dustin Byfuglien
Andrew Ladd-Ray Ferraro-Vyacheslav Kozlov-Tobias Enstrom-Yannick Tremblay
Marc Savard-Marian Hossa-Niclas Havelid-Frantisek Kaberle
Bobby Holik-Andrew Ladd-Andy Sutton-Dustin Byfuglien
TOUGH CALLS: The Thrashers were actually stacked on left wing, so Kozlov got flipped. Audette had 39 goals in his 78 games with the Thrashers, basically making him Atlanta’s Pavel Bure. Kane and Ladd, despite their brief stints in town, were miles ahead of any other contenders in terms of talent. Chris Tamer and Garnet Exelby could easily be on the blue line somewhere. Byfuglien only had the one season with the Thrashers, but he bagged 20 goals.
STRENGTHS: Kovalchuk, Hossa, and Heatley are legit.
WEAKNESSES: The center depth is atrocious. Holik is the only one of the four that could ride a roller coaster.
RANKING: They got cancelled for a reason.
36. COLORADO ROCKIES
Lanny McDonald-Paul Gardner-Wilf Paiement
Gary Croteau-Brent Ashton-Rene Robert
Don Lever-Steve Tambellini-Bob MacMillan
Merlin Malinowski-Jack Valiquette-Ron Delorme
Rob Ramage-Barry Beck
Joel Quenneville-Mike McEwen
Mike Kitchen-John Van Boxmeer
Lanny McDonald-Paul Gardner-Wilf Paiement-Rob Ramage-Barry Beck
Gary Croteau-Brent Ashton-Rene Robert-Mike McEwen-John Van Boxmeer
Brent Ashton-Gary Croteau-Rob Ramage-Barry Beck
Jack Valiquette-Merlin Malinowski-Joel Quenneville-Mike Kitchen
TOUGH CALLS: Chico Resch could have been the backup, but Plasse got the honor due to playing the most games of any Rockies netminder.
STRENGTHS: McDonald, Robert, Paiement, Gardner, Lever, and Ashton provide decent scoring threats. Rob Ramage is also a pretty solid no. 1 defender, and Beck, McEwen, and Van Boxmeer could contribute offense.
RANKING: They’re not even the best Colorado Rockies franchise.
37. VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson-Reilly Smith
James Neal-Eric Haula-Alex Tuch
David Perron-Cody Eakins-Tomas Tartar
Tomas Nosek-Pierre-Edouard Bellemare-Ryan Reaves
Nate Schmidt-Shea Theodore
Deryk Engelland-Brayden McNabb
Colin Miller-Luca Sbisa
TOUGH CALLS: Nope.
STRENGTHS: Fleury could steal a game against anyone.
WEAKNESSES: Lack of history.
38. CALIFORNIA [OAKLAND] GOLDEN SEALS
Joey Johnston-Dennis Maruk-Al MacAdam
Rick Hampton-Walt McKechnie-Bill Hicke
Gerry Ehman-Dave Gardner-Bob Murdoch
Gary Jarrett-Ted Hampson-Norm Ferguson
Carol Vadnais-Mike Christie
Bob Stewart-Jim Neilson
Bert Marshall-Len Frig
Joey Johnstone-Dennis Maruk-Al MacAdam-Bill Hicke-Carol Vadnais
Rick Hampton-Walt McKechnie-Bob Murdoch-Bob Stewart-Jim Neilson
Dennis Maruk-Al MacAdam-Carol Vadnais-Jim Neilson
Joey Johnstone-Walt McKechnie-Bob Stewart-Mike Christie
TOUGH CALLS: Yeah, like I know who half these guys are.
STRENGTHS: White skates.
WEAKNESSES: White skates.
RANKING: Hey, they’re still the best professional hockey team ever named after seals.
39. KANSAS CITY SCOUTS
Robin Burns-Guy Charron-Wilf Paiement
Gary Croteau-Craig Patrick-Simon Nolet
Randy Rota-Dave Hudson-Chuck Arnason
Norm Dube-Ed Gilbert-Fred Harvey
Dennis Patterson-Gary Bergman
Larry Johnston-Jean-Guy Legace
Jim McElmury-Brent Hughes
Robin Burns-Guy Charron-Simon Nolet-Dennis Patterson-Gary Bergman
Gary Croteau-Craig Patrick-Wilf Paiement-Larry Johnston-Jean-Guy Legace
Craig Patrick-Gary Croteau-Dennis Patterson-Gary Bergman
Guy Charron-Wilf Paiement-Larry Johnston-Jean-Guy Legace
TOUGH CALLS: Really?
RANKING: The Scouts were quite possibly the worst team ever assembled, going 27-110-23 over their two seasons in the NHL.