Imagine yourself as coach of a team tied late in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There’s one minute left. At your disposal for the game’s final shift you have any five skaters from the NHL’s past or present. In their prime. Of course you’ll need a premiere backstopper as well. Use any criteria of your choosing, but the bottom line is: you’re trying to punch one home with one final push and earn Lord Stanley’s glory.
The four of us at OFB have each of our All-Time Fives (plus goalie) and accompanying rationale below. We invite all OFB readers– regulars and first-timers alike — to submit their selections as comments to this post over the course of the next 20 days. We’ll accept entries through midnight of Christmas Eve. Then, with a Christmas morning cup of joe, we’ll announce an OFB All Time Five, plus their goalie, based on reader comment/selections merged with our own.
|Bobby Hull||Wayne Gretzky||Gordie Howe|
|Doug Harvey||Bobby Orr|
|Alex Ovechkin||Steve Yzerman||Guy LaFleur|
|Scott Stevens||Al MacInnis|
|Alex Ovechkin||Wayne Gretzky||Cam Neely|
|Scott Stevens||Paul Coffey|
|Alex Ovechkin||Mark Messier||Gordie Howe|
|Scott Stevens||Bobby Orr|
When they name a hat trick after you, you know you’re good. Orr of course revolutionized the defenseman’s position and has to be on the short list of greatest players ever. Doug Harvey’s sad ending in no way diminishes his accomplishments, including seven Norris Trophies. Patty Roy: Zany, whacky, and the guy I want between the pipes when it’s all on the line.
I’m restricting my list to players I actually saw play, thus eliminating obviously brilliant players like Bobby Orr (whom I’ve only seen in a few highlight reels), Rocket Richard, Gordie Howe, etc. The toughest pick for me was the incredible wealth of stellar RW — how do you choose between Cam Neeley, Mike Bossy, Rod Gilbert, and The Flower? Well I went with LaFleur; his speed and grace on the ice is one of my earliest hockey memories. Ovi is the best LW I’ve ever seen, bar none; I’d take his play the past 1.5 years over anyone, though Bobby Hull is a close second.Scott Stevens is an absolute rock. Al MacInnis is, I believe, a perfect complement to Stevens, and had the most-feared shot in the game (though I came within a hair of selecting the great Ray Bourque instead). Plus I’m happy to have a Nova Scotia guy in here. Martin Brodeur is the best combination of reliable performance and the ability to steal any game; guys like Roy and Hasek are fantastic, but give me Marty’s steady brilliance back there any day.With all this talent, who better than Stevie Y to lead them? A consummate on-ice warrior and undeniably talented player, Yzerman may not have Gretzky’s moves or Lemieux’s flash, but he’s the one I’d choose when it’s all on the line.
Like OC, I’ve limited my selections to those I have seen play. Yes, I know this cuts out some major forces in hockey history, but it still leaves me with some hard choices. Ovechkin may be a homer pick, and it may definitely be a gamble of a pick as he’s only been in the league barely over a year. That being said, he looks to be the real deal. Gretzky — Seriously, do I need to explain this pick? On the right, Cam Neely, this was a tough pick. But if you look at the line as a whole with Gretzky in his “office” behind the net and Ovechkin’s offensive and physical prowess, I think you go with a power forward. He was a forechecker, a body checker, a fighter, a scorer and a hall of famer. On D, Scott Stevens played for the Caps for 9 seasons, but this is no homer pick. His leadership, his defensive play, his relentless hitting, and his 3 Stanley Cups in under 10 years, make him a solid choice. Paul Coffey was another tough choice. Coffey won 4 Stanley Cups, 3 Norris Trophies and ranks second in scoring all-time among defencemen. After a stay-at-home defenceman in Stevens, I think you go with offense, and I went with Coffey. In goal, Patrick Roy — winner of the Vezina Trophy in ’89, ’90, and ’92; Stanley Cup winner in ’86 and ’93 with Montreal and ’96 and ’01 with Colorado; Conn Smythe winner in ’86, ’93, and ’01. Most games played, most wins, most playoff games played, most playoff wins, and most Conn Smyte Trophy Wins. Shall I go on?
I sought a blend of blinding speed and guile and guts. I wanted BraveHearts, skaters with proven pedigrees of performing in prime time. I needed a cornerman who wouldn’t lose a battle (Howe), a pivot commonly thought of as the captains’ captain (Messier), and game-breaking flair and sick wrists on the other wing (AO). My blueliners were easy calls. The greatest hockey player of all time, # 4, paired with ever the most perfectly positioned rearguard and brutally physical stay-at-home hulk (Scotty). In net, I wanted size and technical perfection, but because he never played in the NHL I couldn’t select Vladimir Tretiak. My guys in front of the crease wouldn’t have much puck chasing time, so I needed a guy who thrived with limited work. Easy call — Dryden.