Thursday, 28 October 2010

TBC: Top 100 Players By Position

I'm a pretty regular reader of The Hockey News. They always present excellent pieces, and their writers have exceptional insight and information that they include in their articles. Occasionally, they will produce a "Collector's Edition" of their publication that normally generates some buzz about the sport. They have seemingly done this again as I received their newest publication entitled "Top 100 Players of All-Time by Position". There is always debate and discussion whenever a publication narrows down their sport or industry by the top however-many, but The Hockey News goes one step further in examining the sport by position, and ranking players according to their position rather than ranking them overall. Needless to say, this effort by The Hockey News should generate conversation if nothing else.

There shouldn't be a lot of surprise about who made the list. Names like Gretzky, Orr, Howe, Lafleur, Béliveau, Lemieux, Bourque, Coffey, Roy, and Hasek are almost given that they will appear on the list. And while this list has a lot of the same feeling as the 1997 Top 100 Players of All-Time, it is very interesting to see who made the new list after having been left off the first list. Also, the list has seen some players rise above others as their accomplishments over the last decade have given them a more impressive resumé since that 1998 list came out.

There are some players who I think should be included on the list that were left off through some process. Valeri Kharlamov? Vladislav Tretiak? Where are these iconic players? They are normally regarded as two of the top players to have ever laced up skates in hockey, but neither appeared in the NHL. Why do they not get a nod on the Top 100 Players of All-Time by Position? Perhaps THN needs to name it more succinctly as the NHL's Top 100.

Regardless of this oversight, the top 50 players from 1997's THN Top 100 Players of All-Time are all ranked within this book except one player. Max Bentley of the Chicago Blackhawks no longer appears amongst the top twenty centermen to have played the game. Of course, there are many players who could have moved ahead of the former Blackhawk, but it seems hard to believe that a large number of centermen have improved that much over the last 13 years. Guys like Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic certainly have reason to be ranked ahead after leading their teams to Stanley Cups as well as being icons in their own rights, but Max Bentley has been omitted as one of the top centermen over the last 13 years after having been voted better than both Yzerman and Sakic. And if Bentley was on the list 13 years ago and Marcel Dionne was not, how is Dionne now better than Bentley?

There are many other questions that one may find when reading this Collector's Edition of THN. Questions that I have are as follows:

  • Is Nicklas Lidstrom really a better defenceman than Denis Potvin, Larry Robinson, Al MacInnis, Scott Niedermayer, and Brian Leetch? I could make a case for him against each man, but to say he's all-around better than a man like Robinson seems very hard to justify. That's not saying Lidstrom doesn't deserve his spot on the list; he just doesn't seem to be better than at least two of the listed men.
  • Should Peter Forsberg be ahead of Sidney Crosby? Should either of them even be on the list, especially Crosby at this point in his career?
  • The list of left wingers is mediocre at best. Alex Ovechkin ranks four spots better than Brendan Shanahan, five better than Michel Goulet, and twelve spots better than Henrik Zetterberg. I get that Ovechkin is an amazing talent, but Henrik and Brendan have Stanley Cup rings while Goulet was a scoring machine no matter which team of which he was a part.
  • Alex Mogilny makes the list for right wingers. Aside from a few great years in Buffalo, why would he be on this list? Mogilny was talented and could score when healthy, but the man could hardly be considered a contemporary of players like Gartner, Bossy, Jagr, and Kurri.
  • If given the option of these three goalies, who would rank highest in your view: Bernie Parent, Tony Esposito, and Turk Broda? Goaltenders are always tough to rank, in my view, but there seems to be a definite Canadien flavor on this list. And while I can't argue with any of the selections, I can tell you that Johnny Bower is not on this list. And that seems very odd.
Overall, the magazine does generate a lot of debate. My father and I had a discussion over whether Phil Esposito should be higher than his seventh spot on the centers list, but there is no right or wrong answer in terms of how one justifies one's choosing of who ranks ahead of whom. Just as your favorite team is a subjective view, so are how the players are ranked, and it's clear that some may disagree with the panel that The Hockey News asked to participate.

Head out and get this magazine. Let the debate begin. I'm very certain that you'll find some disagreement, but the discussion you may have with others should enlighten both debaters as the list brings you new appreciation of certain players.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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