With the NHL celebrating their centennial anniversary, the festivities and pageantry has garnered much positive attention for the sport’s brand. This past weekend was marquee for the NHL. They celebrated an All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles and unveiled the highly anticipated “top 100” list. With the list already extremely subjective by nature, as all players of different positions and eras were posed against each other, there was sure to be much drama and scrutiny as a result. Overall, it is really hard to completely mess a list like this up. For the most part, you are dealing with 80 shoo-ins and only have to decipher between the last 20 or so spots. There was not too many flaws with the list, but here are a few of the list’s biggest snubs and surprises.
- Dale Hawerchuk- Complete injustice for Dale Hawerchuk to not be on the list. Hawerchuk, in fact, should have been one of the players to be a sure bet on the list. There should not be much debate as his numbers speak for themselves. 13th in all time PPG with 1409 points in 1188 games. Hawerchuk was overshadowed playing in the era of Gretzky and Lemieux. However, if there was ever an automatic qualifier for the list, top 15 in ppg should be one of them. Too much of an offensive force to be left off the list regardless of Hawerchuk never winning the Stanley Cup.
- Evgeni Malkin- Legacy suffers from never being best player on his team. “Geno” has long slipped under the radar, being cast under the shadow of Sidney Crosby. Though never holding the spotlight, Malkin has thrived and managed to win two scoring titles, a Hart, a Calder, and a Conn Smythe Trophy. Malkin proved his game-breaking ability in the 2009 playoffs, amassing a whopping 36 point in only 24 games. That is 7th all time in points in a single postseason run. It is also first, by far, in the new post-2005 lockout era of the NHL. In fact, not only did Malkin lead the Penguins in 2009 postseason scoring, but also in regular season scoring. Pretty remarkable that; although the 2009 Penguins will be remembered as the first time Crosby won the cup, Malkin was actually the leading scorer in the regular and postseason. In no way am I contending that Malkin is better than Crosby. But to discount his contributions by leaving him off the list is blasphemous. 14th in all time PPG, it is a crime that Evgeni Malkin was not on the list.
- Joe Thornton- There was a time where Joe Thornton was the clear-cut best player in the NHL. Thornton has blessed fans for years with terrific passing and vision that has set him above his peers. In 2005-2006, “Jumbo Joe” became the first player to ever win the Hart Trophy while getting traded midseason. The statistic that truly shows Thornton’s worth is the 92 points he had in 58 games with San Jose immediately after being traded. That ppg rate Thornton posted in 2005-2006 over a career would be third all time. For him to step in and immediately dominate in a new conference and system at such a historic rate is just crazy to fathom. Thornton also showed an immunity to age last year. At age 36 Joe Thornton was tied for 4th in NHL scoring with 82 point in 82 games. Although having no Cups to his name hurts his chances, Thornton still did enough to land himself a spot on the list.
- Ed Belfour- Belfour is one of the most accomplished goaltenders of all time. By this virtue alone he belongs on this list. “Eddie the Eagle” managed to win two Vezina Trophies, even though his career coincided with the likes of Roy, Brodeur, and Hasek. Belfour’s defining moment came in the 1999 playoffs, when Belfour was seemingly unbeatable. Belfour posted a sv% of .930, a gaa of 1.67, and three shutouts with a 16-7 record. It was a travesty in itself that his teammate Joe Nieuwendyk took the Conn Smythe trophy from his grasp. 3rd all time in wins, 9th in shutouts, four Jennings Trophies, two Vezina Trophies, and a Stanley Cup Champion, Belfour has quietly been one of the most decorated and accomplished goaltenders of all time.
- Joe Nieuwendyk- The aforementioned travesty of Nieuwendyk taking the Conn Smythe from Belfour also continues almost two decades later. Nieuwendyk stole a spot from Belfour on this list as well. Don’t get me wrong, Nieuwendyk was a terrific player, and I am not casting any aspersions at him as I understand he is a Hall of Famer. Any player with 564 goals, 1126 points, and three Stanley Cups has accomplished all anyone can ask for. But if we go to Calgary, where he had his most prolific offensive seasons, would people really put him on this list over Jarome Iginla? In Dallas, where he won his second Stanley Cup, would people put Nieuwendyk on over Belfour? Nieuwendyk was a terrific and accomplished center. However, he fit more as a complimentary piece to put a team over the edge and never as a standalone elite talent.
- Duncan Keith- The workhorse defenseman of a mini dynasty, winning three Stanley Cups in six seasons, Keith has done it all. Winning two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe, there is no doubt that Keith will be remembered as the key defensive cog on Chicago’s great championship run. The true shock of it all is that once upon a time, the young kids in Chicago appeared poised for greatness. It felt like just yesterday Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were breaking into the league. Now, years later, Cups have been won and legacies cemented. Though accomplished, Duncan Keith would not be on mine, or many other top 100 lists. It is debatable whether he was ever the league’s best defenseman during his career. Was he better than a prime Chara, Karlsson, or Doughty? Probably not. The accomplishments and acclaim are there, but it is still extremely surprising to see Keith on this list when you think of the overall range and scope of the league’s history.
Overall, the NHL did not do too bad of a job on the list. The whole point is to be extremely exclusive, and there is bound to be some fanbases left upset. There were some omissions that are inexcusable, but it could be much worse. The list created a healthy debate and buzz. It is a great way for the NHL to kick of their centennial celebration in style.