Welcome to the 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend. Saturday will have the All-Stars skills competition. Sunday will have the All-Star Games. Tonight, at 9:30 PM ET, the National Hockey League will be announcing the NHL 100, or the 100 Greatest NHL Players. As part of the league’s centennial celebration, they have put together a list of the 100 best players in NHL history. It’s not a ranked list; they’re not going to argue who was better than who. Just that the people listed are among the best ever.
The league announced a third of the list on January 1. Thirty-three players who primarily played through the league’s first fifty years, 1917 through 1966, have been announced. It features legends such as Gordie Howe, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Georges Vezina, Eddie Shore, and Jean Beliveau. The remaining 67 players are from 1967 through today and they will be announced tonight. It will be a part of the NHL’s 100th Anniversary Special, which will be live on NBC SN at 9:30 PM ET. (A pre-show is at 9 PM ET) It will be hosted by Jon Hamm with special guest, John Legend.
Since there’s a break in the schedule, let’s ask a fun question: Which Devils would be on the NHL 100? Obviously, no Devils made it in the first 33 players. There are 67 left, who would be on the list that represented the Devils at one point in their career? Please let me know who you expect or want to see named in the comments. Here are my thoughts, considering that the panel may be picking these 67 players throughout all eras from 1967 to today. Some great players may be on the outside just for that alone. Note: Any numbers from here on out come from Hockey-Reference:
Former Devils That Absolutely, Totally Will Be On the NHL 100 List
Martin Brodeur - He’s among the most accomplished goaltenders of all time. The legendary goaltender has four Vezinas, three Stanley Cups, several records such as the most career shutouts and regular season wins, and a stupid rule made to limit his skillset. He’s done more than enough to justify his greatness - and a statue. It would be a scandal if Brodeur is not on this list.
Jaromir Jagr - I thought the Devils signing Jagr was a bad idea. It turned out to be a great idea as he still had game as a 42-year old. He’s 44 and he still takes defenders to school. Jagr has been an offensive force since 1990 and he’s now second all-time in career points with 1,897 and third all-time in career goals with 758. He’d be in the Hall of Fame when he stops playing, which may be a long ways away still. He has to be on this list. He just has to be.
Larry Robinson - “Big Bird” was a dominant defenseman for one of the most dominant dynasties in NHL history: the 1970s Montreal Canadiens. Robinson won the Norris twice (1977, 1980), won the Conn Smythe once (1978), was named to six different NHL All Star teams, played for eighteen years, almost topped a thousand points as a defenseman, entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995, and played a big role in five Cups with Montreal with a smaller role in 1986 with the Canadiens. While I wonder how many players they’ll take from those teams, Robinson is surely a shoe-in. His coaching career - which includes a 2000 Stanley Cup win with New Jersey - is just icing on the cake.
Former Devils That I Feel Confident Will Make the NHL 100 List
Scott Stevens - The hard-hitting defenseman was a two-way monster throughout the 1980s and became one of the league’s premier defensive defensemen and captains in the 1990s through to the end of his career. Stevens’ dominance was enough to make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, shortly after his last season in 2003-04. I would think being in the Hall is pretty much a requirement for anyone who isn’t still active (e.g. Jagr) to be on this list. The only thing that makes me doubt his inclusion would be how many defenders of his era would be picked. It’s a small doubt, but it’s there. That also makes me doubt this other Devil’s inclusion.
Scott Niedermayer - Niedermayer skated effortlessly for 18 years in the NHL, 13 for the Devils and 5 for the Ducks. He helped those teams to earn four Stanley Cup rings and he is notably the only Devils defenseman to have ever won the Norris Trophy in 2003. He also won the Conn Smythe in 2007 in the Ducks’ lone Cup victory. Like Stevens, Niedermayer was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame just three seasons after his career ended in 2013. Niedermayer turned out to be a dominant leader from the back end and would find ways to contribute as his career went on. That Niedermayer was always a point-producer helps make his greatness standout. I’m confident he’ll be there with Stevens.
Peter Stastny - Peter Stastny was the best of the Stastny brothers. He entered the NHL at age 24, signing with the Quebec Nordiques in 1980. He immediately put up the points and became one of the premier scorers in a decade known for high-scoring action. By the end of his career, he put up 1,239 points in 977 NHL games. Stastny joined the Devils in the later stages of his career, but he was able to contribute in the four years he spent with the Devils. Shortly after his career ended in St. Louis, he entered the Hall in 1998. I would think the NHL 100 will have some European representation and Stastny would definitely meet that. That helps his case. What may hold him back Stastny never won any awards as a player beyond the Calder trophy in the 1980-81 season. He never won any championships or made any NHL All Star teams (not the All Star Game, the teams the league announces at the end of the season). That said, only one man put up more points in the 1980s than Statsny: Wayne Gretzky. So I think he’ll be on the list.
Brendan Shanahan - Shanahan was the reason for many NHL teams to look for the prototypical power forward. A big forward who can dole out a lot of pain on the body and on the scoreboard. Power forward fits Shanahan’s game to a ‘T.’ While he racked up the PIMs with his mean streak, he racked up the points: 1,354 in 1,524 games with his excellent shot. Shanahan was initially drafted by the Devils and played with them for several years (and played his last season with him), although he largely made his mark in St. Louis and with Detroit. Shanahan made two first All-Star teams (1994, 2000), one second All-Star team (2001), won the King Clancy trophy in 2003, and won three Cups with Detroit (1997, 1998, 2002). It doesn’t hurt that he’s close with the league. Like Stevens and Niedermayer, Shanahan quickly entered the Hall of Fame after retirement in 2013. I think that all adds up to inclusion on a greatest ever list.
Former Devils I’m Not Sure Will Make the NHL 100 List
Lanny McDonald - OK, he’s not a former Devil, he’s a former Colorado Rockie. But the Rockies were the Devils before they moved to New Jersey so he counts. McDonald was a dominant scorer for Toronto in the 1970s. He was traded to Colorado and would be the franchises one “name” player before he was dealt to Calgary. As a veteran, while the points were not as prolific, he was a solid contributor as the Flames rose to be a contending team and won their only Stanley Cup in 1989. He also won the Bill Masterson Trophy in 1983 and the King Clancy Trophy in 1988 along with two second All Star team appearances (1977, 1983). McDonald was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. I know he’s well regarded so I think it’s likely he’s on the list, but we’re also talking about someone with 500 career goals and 1,003 career points. Impressive as those totals are on their own, there have been others who have done more. He may be on the outside compared to how many other forwards from his era get in.
Doug Gilmour - Gilmour was a popular forward everywhere he went. It was a big deal when the Devils traded for him in 1996; he was beloved in Toronto. And it was all for good reason. Gilmour just made things happen; he was an intense player whether it was driving the play forward or defending an opposing player. Doug Gilmour did end up 18th all-time in points with 1,414 and nearly did so at a point-per-game pace and that may be his way in. He was a regular Selke contender with the Leafs, during the peak of his career and he won the trophy in 1993. He also won a Cup with Calgary in 1989 and made the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011. I could see him not making the list considering who else could be in at forward between the 1980s and 1990s.
Former Devils That Had Great Careers But I Don’t Think Will Make the NHL 100 List
Viacheslav Fetisov - Fetisov was the Russian player who effectively opened “the Iron Curtain” when the Devils were able to negotiate his release from his contract in the Soviet Union to play in the NHL. For that alone, I think he could make this list because this event was so important for many future Russian players to come over when they did. Fetisov also turned out to be a good defenseman. The only issue is that he came to the NHL at the age of 31 and he was never not all that prolific of a defenseman. Only 543 games, 228 points, and being just a part of two Cup winning teams for Detroit. It’s hardly reflective of being one of the 100 greatest NHL players ever. If this was a list of NHL’s 100 most important players or the best international players to have been in the NHL, then Fetisov would absolutely be in it without question. If the panel is focused solely on what he did in the NHL, then I don’t think he’ll make it.
Jacques Lemaire - OK, he wasn’t a former Devils player. He was a former Devils coach. Three times. But he was a great coach for the Devils. He also did get inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player in 1985. Lemaire was one of the best two-way forwards on those Montreal teams that dominated the 1970s. He wasn’t a bad scorer either with 835 points in 853 games. His biggest achievement: rings. He won eight Stanley Cups as a player and a ninth as coach of the New Jersey Devils’ first Cup win in 1995. If coaching and winning Cups is what this list is about, then he would probably be in. But it’s a list of players and Lemaire’s only awards as a player were those Stanley Cup rings. He’s probably happy to have those - and two Jack Adams Awards as a coach. (Aside: Adam Oates will likely make this list as he was an assist machine but he wasn’t a great Devils coach so I’m not including him in this post.)
Phil Housley - Phil Housley was a defenseman that just scored, scored, and scored some more. His least productive season was his last one in 2002-03 when he put up 29 points in 58 games. For any defenseman, that’s pretty good. For Housley, it was a far cry from his many years in Buffalo and Winnipeg when he put up as few as 62 in a season and as many as 97. Housley was only a Devil for 83 games - and he still managed to put up 75 points those games. His productive ways ended up with 1,232 points and an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015. I don’t think he’ll make it if only because his points are his resume. Housley’s honors are limited to just the all rookie team in 1983 and the second All-Star team in 1992. Unless this list is loaded with scorers from the 1980s or the panel is more impressed with a defenseman scoring as much as he did, I don’t think he’ll make the list.
Igor Larionov - It certainly would not be for his time with the Devils. But “The Professor” was one of the first Russian players to come over to the NHL after Fetisov’s arrival opened the door. Larionov turned out to be very smart checking forward. He also had a very successful international career as the center of the dominant KLM line. That international play, I think, drove his Hall of Fame selection in 2008. However, like Fetisov, I don’t think he did enough in the NHL to justify inclusion among the greatest 100 players of all time. Unless the panel is going to take international play into account, I don’t think Larionov’s 644 points in 975 games will be enough.
Patrik Elias - I love Elias. But I do not think he has enough to justify a spot in the Hall of Fame. He hasn’t won any awards. He’s New Jersey’s all time leading scorer but is not ranked highly on any all-time lists (he’s 76th in points with 1,025). I think this list is going to be nearly or entirely all Hall of Fame or future Hall of Fame players. If this was a list of greatest European players or the 100 best since 2000, then I think Elias has a chance to make those lists. I’d be happily surprised if he’s named tonight. But I don’t see it.
No Hall of Fame? No Way.
In quick summary, these would be players like Alexander Mogilny (hmm...), Claude Lemieux (if this was an all-pest list, then he’s in), Neal Broten, Bernie Nicholls, and Ilya Kova...no, I’m not going there and you can’t make me.
As always, I could be wrong
We’ll find out tonight at 9:30 PM ET on NBC SN.