NHL 100: Why Sidney Crosby and today’s stars kill your idols

Greg Wyshynski

The National Hockey League will reveal the rest of its list (a.k.a. the guys still breathing) of the “100 Greatest NHL Players” on Friday night at a ceremony in Los Angeles, hosted by handsome gentleman Jon Hamm.

You can expect two things from this event: That the representation of modern players, both in their selections and their quantity, will be unsatisfactory; and that the players won’t be ranked, which is a huge bummer because that’s literally all we care about.

So along with Dave Lozo, my “Puck Soup” podcasting buddy and a writer for Vice Sports, and Sean “Down Goes Brown” McIndoe, who is Lozo’s “Biscuits” podcasting buddy and the funniest hockey writer alive, we decided to remedy this.

“The 100 Greatest Players In NHL History (And Other Stuff): An Arbitrary Collection of Arbitrary Lists” is our new book, just released in time for the NHL Top 100. We have created our own list of the top 100 players, using our own set of criteria and categories. Along with a slew of other NHL-centric lists, like the “Top 100 NHL Players Whose Names Sound Like Sex Things”…

“The 100 Greatest Players In NHL History (And Other Stuff): An Arbitrary Collection of Arbitrary Lists” by Dave Lozo, Sean McIndoe and Greg Wyshynski is available for $5.99 (US) at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, iBooks and Kobo.

Here are 10 lessons I learned about comparing the past and present from helping to put this list together:

1 – Don’t Fear The Present

Perhaps the greatest lesson: That we’re watching the most skilled players, in the best condition, in the history of the National Hockey League.

Today’s players are faster, stronger, better trained and better equipped than any other generation. Skaters have to fight through defensive systems and goalies that are better skilled, or certainly better coached, than they’ve ever been.

So while the NHL’s list probably isn’t going to include many players competing in today’s game – or at least the right ones – I’m proud that our list found room for the obvious NHL 2.0 players like Alex Ovechkin along with guys like Joe Thornton, Duncan Keith, Zdeno Chara and, yes, Erik Karlsson, whose accomplishments demand that he makes this list.

2 – Balancing The Eras

In order to create the list, we used a few distinct scoring categories.

  • Consistency. Whether a player produced at a reasonably consistent rate throughout his career.

  • Peak Years. How dominant was this player at his absolute best?

  • Influence. How much impact did this player have on the League? On his peers? On hockey culture?

  • Complete Players (for skaters). This is for the Art Ross winner who leads his team in shorties, or the Norris winner who isn’t just top three in points for defenseman but rather is, like, a defenseman.

  • Big Games (for goalies). We had to keep the categories even for skaters and goalies, so this is what we cooked up for the netminders: How well they played in critical games or rounds?

  • Entertainment. The players that married elite skill with being a box office draw – or simply a dazzling on-ice presence – got their due in our ranking.

  • Awards. Each player received one point for each major individual award they won: Hart, Norris, Calder, Vezina, Conn Smythe. They received a point for every time they led the NHL in goals or assists. They received a point for every postseason all-star team they made. There were no points for midseason all-star game selections, or for other trophies like the Selke or Lady Byng.

  • Bonus Points. A collection of completely subjective points, up to three for each author, that could be handed to a player as part of the evaluation.

This allowed us to better weigh the eras in which the players competed, as well as their impact.

And it allowed us, through the bonus points, to break some close ties.

What did we learn from these categories? Mostly that some players simply had the misfortune of playing at the same time as another legend at their position. What would Dale Hawerchuk have been were it not for Gretzky’s shadow? Likely higher than No. 98. What would Brad Park have been were it not for Bobby Orr? Likely higher than No. 52. And what would a collection of defensemen from the 1990s and 2000s have been without Bourque and Lidstrom gobbling up all the Norris Trophies? Ask someone like Niedermayer or Pronger.

3 – Jarome Iginla Is An All-Timer

There’s some concern he won’t make the “NHL 100” list. If he doesn’t, it’s pitchforks and torches time, because what he accomplished in his era is nothing short of extraordinary.

For 12 straight (non-lockout-jacked-up) NHL seasons, Iginla had 30 goals. There have been longer streaks – Mike Gartner had 15 straight from 1979-94 – but only Jaromir Jagr can claim to have accomplished something similar during the Dead Puck Era. That included 52 goals in 2001-02, when the average goals per game was 2.62, which at the time was the lowest average since 1956.

He was a prototypical power forward, and the best one of his era. He has to make the list.

4 – Patrick Kane And Jonathan Toews Aren’t All-Timers, Yet

It’s expected that both of these Chicago Blackhawks stars will be on the “NHL 100” list, given their attendance at the All-Star Game. Neither of them made our list.

There’s a case for Kane, in that he’s won seven awards and is fourth among active players in points-per-game. But it’s really going to be all about the next four to five years, and how much longer he can stretch that productivity. He’s close, but not there yet.

Toews … I mean, he passes the eye test as a complete player, and there’s no denying his accomplishments. But Top 100 of all time? With those numbers? I don’t know if you can quite justify it.

5 – Ranking Goalies Is Hell On Earth

I will reveal that Dominik Hasek is our top-rated goaltender, which should come as no surprise to anyone that saw him at his peak of dominance. But figuring out Martin Brodeur vs. Patrick Roy was hard enough; comparing them to guys like Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Bill Durnan and Bernie Parent (among others) was perhaps the hardest task of the list.

The equipment changes, the coaching, the systems, all of makes these cross-generation debates difficult. So in the end, we relied on the criteria and the context, especially when it came to “peak years” and “big games.”

And yeah, you can pick a bone with the latter category: Did that save percentage significantly jump from his regular-season performance to something extraordinary in the postseason? If you had to play one game for everything you owned, would you want this guy to be your goalie? But when mixing skaters and goalies (another headache), it was the best we could do.

6 – Kill Your Idols

We began with a list of roughly 170 players, compiled through our assessment of recent players and through previously published Top 100 lists from authors like Stan “The Man” Fischler, The Hockey News and hockey historian Joe Pelletier.

The list from The Hockey News was from 1998, and it’s amazing how quickly things change. Adding Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Zdeno Chara, Duncan Keith and Erik Karlsson to that list – and they all made ours – pushes out some names that otherwise might have seen entrenched. For example, Dit Clapper was No. 41 on The Hockey News list; he didn’t make ours.

Conversely, adding players like Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin (both of whom made our list) to it forces calls on a guy like Mike Gartner, who has all-time stats but can’t be called one of the Top 100 players in NHL history in 2017.

Addition means subtraction, and that means tough calls. Did I want Henri Richard on the list? Yes. Did I want him more than Joe Thornton? Not a chance.

And finally …

7 – Sidney Crosby Is The No. 14 Player In NHL History

Alas, you’re going to have to order the book for the full list and analysis, but we’ll go head and tell you that Sidney Crosby is No. 14 all-time. He’s the highest-ranking active player – yes, ahead of Jagr – and right behind Patrick Roy.

Crosby’s career is a work in progress, but there’s no denying his accomplishments. He’s the gold standard for his era. And if his era is, in fact, as good as we proclaim it to be, then Crosby deserves a place in the Top 15. Within a few years, perhaps even higher.

“The 100 Greatest Players In NHL History (And Other Stuff): An Arbitrary Collection of Arbitrary Lists” by Dave Lozo, Sean McIndoe and Greg Wyshynski is available for $5.99 (US) at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, iBooks and Kobo.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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