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Saturday, 16 October 2010

TBC: We Are The Champions

If there was ever a debate that could never be settled in the world of hockey, it is the one where a person determines which NHL team was the best of all-time. Of course, the team would have had to win a Stanley Cup as a way to determine if they truly were a great team, so that automatically eliminates the San Jose Sharks over the last decade. I kid, Sharks fans, I kid. There is one publication that may have the expertise and experience to make such a determination, though, and that's why I'm here today. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present We Are The Champions, written by The Hockey News, edited by Edward Fraser, and published by Transcontinental Books. There are a large number of teams that have won the Stanley Cup from 1917 up to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup victory in 2009, and The Hockey News considers all of these teams in their efforts to rank the best 25 teams in NHL history.

I can't imagine this was an easy job as there have been some juggernaut teams that have played in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens could have a Top-25 all to themselves, but they only appear four times on the all-time best list. The Edmonton Oilers had their incredible dynasty in the 1980s interrupted by the Canadiens and the Flames, so you could put all three of those teams in there. The New York Islanders had their dynasty interrupted by those Oilers, and the Philadelphia Flyers ended the run by the Montreal Canadiens, so you'd have to give a nod to those teams as well. But which of those teams made it? From what year did those teams come?

We Are The Champions brings forth some excellent points. As Managing Editor Edward Fraser writes in the introduction,

"How can you really compare collections from the Original Six years against those built under the oppression of the salary cap? Or what about those dynasties? How much stock should go towards an organization's maintenance of longevity? And what exactly makes a great team? Is it individual talent or a collective effort? There's only one factor that wasn't up for debate. As Alex Ovechkin simply, but brilliantly stated early in his career: 'Cups is Cups.' No championship, no consideration."
In knowing what factor was the first consideration tackled by the team of professionals at The Hockey News, we can automatically eliminate all those teams who have yet to hoist a Stanley Cup in their franchise histories. From there, there had to be some other considerations. I'll allow Mr. Fraser to continue. From the introduction, "In the end, we looked at all the above angles and more, and arrived at a list we feel represents a fair ranking based on how the team performed and excelled against the competition of its time."

Now that you know how the list was set up, let the debate begin. Who should be the top team of all-time? How did the Canadiens only rank four times? Do any teams from 2000 and beyond make the list? In regards to the Canadiens, Mr. Fraser did concede that the list could have fit a number of Canadiens teams on it: "We only chose one season from each dynasty or club that won multiple Cups in a short period of time. This was done in order to avoid repetition and, quite frankly, to prevent this work from reading like a biography of the Montreal Canadiens, who could easily occupy 15 of the spots without this proviso." So there you have it.

What makes We Are The Champions even more enjoyable is that after the best NHL teams of all-time are ranked, the writers from The Hockey News went ahead and picked the best team from each developmental league, junior league, the NCAA, and international squads. Like they did with the NHL's all-time best teams, each team that was selected by THN received a full story on that team's season and accomplishments to give the reader some retrospect as to why THN ranked that team as the best all-time team from that league.

Still want more? THN also provides the best team from each NHL franchise's history at the end of the book. They go all thirty NHL teams, and choose one team from each team's history as the best team to have ever laced up the skates in that franchise's history. Some teams don't have a deep history, so those ones are probably easier to choose. But how do you choose a "best team ever" for a team like the St. Louis Blues? The Florida Panthers? The Vancouver Canucks? The Buffalo Sabres? Again, once THN finally decided on the best season in franchise history, they provide evidence for their choice.

We Are The Champions will do one thing for certain, and that is cause debate amongst hockey fans. The choices are based on subjective factors, so there is bound to be some disagreement with the rankings given to each team. There may even be disagreement on the chosen year of the teams, but that's why this type of book is good. It gets everyone talking about hockey, and makes readers look deeper and find reasons as to why they may agree or disagree with a team's ranking. Because of the book's ability to make readers talk about and debate the subject of which team is the all-time best, We Are The Champions certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. Honestly, this type of book is always a good read in my humble opinion.

Just as a note before you navigate away from this site, We Are The Champions goes on sale on October 26, 2010. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy from Random House Canada, and a huge thank you goes out to them for sending me this excellent book. Look for it at your local bookstore next week!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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