The NHL released their top-100 players this past weekend, and when you release a list like this, it inevitably leads to debates. I think we can all agree the 100 players are exceptional, however, I was surprised by a few.
When I saw the list, I felt Pierre Pilote was the most glaring omission. Pilote was in incredible defender. He won the Norris Trophy in 1963, 1964 and 1965. He was the runner-up in 1962, 1966 and 1967. He was a dominant defender, and an very good puckmover. My late father, who didn’t talk about many players, always mentioned Pilote.
I believe many lean heavily on Cup rings when making player rankings, and while Pilote did win one, I don’t agree it is an accurate factor of individual play. Great teams win Cups. You can be an incredible player, but if you don’t have enough quality players around you, you will not win.
The biggest surprise for me was Jonathan Toews. Toews has one 70+ point season. He won the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) once and the Conn Smyth (playoff MVP) in 2010. He has never finished in the top-three in Hart voting and has never been top-ten in scoring.
Toews is a highly competitive player. He is good in both ends of the ice, but he has never had a dominant offensive season. Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk, players of his era, are also considered solid two-way players, and both won the Selke three times. When Datsyuk won the Selke in 2008 and 2009, he had 97 points both seasons. He was dominant in both ends of the ice.
Bergeron’s five best offensive seasons have been 73, 70, 68, 64 and 62 points. Toews’ five best have been 76, 69, 68,68 and 66. Very similar offensively and Bergeron is regarded just as highly defensively. I will say, I believe Toews is a better offensive player, but, for me, when I hear great two-way player I think of Datsyuk or Jari Kurri. Players who would put up huge offensive numbers, and were also very solid in the defensive zone.
I won’t downplay Toews’ ability. He is an excellent player, but playing in Chicago, winning three Stanley Cups and being marketed by the NHL constantly has led many to ranking his on-ice abilities higher than I see them.
Compare Toews to Evgeni Malkin. They have played during the exact same era.
Toews has played 687 regular season games. He has produced 260 goals, 332 assists and 592 points.
Malkin has played 691 regular season games. he has scored 317 goals, 497 assistts and 814 points.
Malkin has 222 more points in four more games played.
They have both played 124 playoff games. Toews has 39-69-108, while Malkin has 48-81-129.
Malkin has won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP), was runner-up twice, he’s won the Art Ross Trophy twice (NHL leading scorer), he won the Conn Smyth in 2009, and he’s won two Stanley Cups.
If Toews gets the nod because he has a third Stanley Cup, then one could argue Glenn Anderson should have been in the top-100 because he’s won six, is fourth all-time in playoff scoring and has 1099 career points.
The reason I don’t value Stanley Cups when evaluating individual play is because teams win the Stanley Cup. The majority of winners have some great players, of course, but if Connor McDavid doesn’t win a Stanley Cup will that make him less dominant? I don’t think so.
The NHL is about business, and while I have no doubt the voters did a significant amount of research and time submitting their lists, I believe the NHL wanted a few active players included, and right now the Chicago Blackhawks are the darling of the NHL. They should be — they are a great team — but the NHL loves including them in most big events.
- I look forward to the year where no one analyzes the All-Star game. It doesn’t need to be fast-paced or intense. Young fans love it. As my buddy’s 10-year-old said to me, “How cool was it seeing Crosby and Ovechkin on the same team? I wonder how many goals they would score if they played together all season.”
The AS game is a reward for players and an opportunity for them to just have fun with no pressure. It’s a chance for young fans to see the best in the game in one place. We should just celebrate it for what it is, and not question whether this format or that format will make it better. They will never “make it better” for anyone who expects the game to be competitive.
- Something to watch during the final 31 games of the season: The Oilers haven’t had two players finish in the top-10 in the same season since 1988/1989 when Jari Kurri, eighth with 102 points, and Jimmy Carson, ninth with 100 points, did it. Currently Connor McDavid leads the NHL in scoring while Leon Draisaitl is 12th with 46 points. Mark Schiefele is seventh with 48, so Draisaitl is close and if they remain on the same line there is a good chance Edmonton will have two players in the top-ten.
- Arguably the biggest improvement for the Oilers has occurred on the road. The Oilers lead the NHL with 88 road goals. They used to be roadkill away from Edmonton, but even when Todd McLellan doesn’t have last change there are no glaring weaknesses for the opposition to expose.
Their road success is even more impressive when you compare it to their play at home. They are 23rd in home goals, 61, and are +5 in GF/GA ratio, while they are +16 on the road. The Oilers only have four home games over the next 33 days. They play the Wild tomorrow, host Chicago on Feb 11th, Arizona on the 14th and Philadelphia on the 16th. If they continue their strong road play through February, then home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs is a legitimate possibility.
- Having teammates near the top of the scoring race is usually the norm. Out of the current top-24, only six are without a teammate: Brad Marchand, Vladimir Tarasenko, Cam Atkinson, Nikita Kucherov, Jakub Voracek and Jeff Carter. The Jets and Penguins have three players, while the Oilers, Blackhawks, Capitals, Sharks, Stars and Wild have two.
- Our Draft Kings Fantasy Hockey pool is back. You can enter our free one here. We have $1000 spread out among winners. And for you serious players you should enter our $75,000 pool, which is only $4. You have to enter either one before 5 p.m. tomorrow. Good luck, do your research and win.
- Today on my show on TSN 1260 I’m honouring the great John Short. John turns 80 tomorrow. Between 2-5 p.m. today we will have many guests from John’s past on the show today, including Wayne Gretzky, sharing some stories. This is a surprise and John has no idea we are doing it. John influenced many sports fans over the years, and told and wrote many outstanding stories. I believe he deserves a day to be honoured. If you have a fond memory of John, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can read on air or I can forward it to him. Thank you.
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