The Conference Finals have now begun, and of the four teams remaining only one has ever won a Stanley Cup. That team was Tampa Bay in 2004.
When thinking about this, all the greats started coming to mind, and I was appalled when looking at some of their stats and accomplishments in their time in the NHL.
Here is how I rank my Top Five Players of All-Time.
5. Mario Lemieux:
This is the hardest placement for me, because when I think of Lemieux I instantly put him up with Gretzky in scoring ability. It is even arguable to say that Lemieux was in fact a better scorer than Gretzky.
However, Lemieux’s career was significantly limited due to back injuries, and a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Even in just the 915 games Lemieux played in, he was able to record 690 goals, 1,033 assists and win back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992.
For individual awards, Lemieux was able to win the Calder in 1985, Conn Smythe in 1991, and 1992, Hart Memorial in 1988, 1993, and 1996, and the Ted Lindsay in 1986, 1988, 1993, and 1996.
He also won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in points in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1996, and 1997.
Had Lemieux’s career been longer, there is no doubt in my mind he would have been able to dominate for even longer than he did in the late eighties into the nineties.
4. Mark Messier:
Many people make the argument that Messier was overrated due to the fact that he won Stanley Cups on arguably the most dominant dynasty of all-time.
However, when taking a deeper look, Messier captained the 1990 Edmonton Oilers to their fifth Stanley Cup, and captained the 1994 New York Rangers to their first Stanley Cup in over fifty years.
That is why I place Messier as number four; along with the fact that he ranks third all-time in points.
Over the course of his lengthy career, Messier was able to record 694 goals and 1,193 assists in a total of 1,756 games played.
Messier won a total of six Stanley Cups. Five with Edmonton in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, and 1990, and one with New York in 1994.
Individually, Messier won the Conn Smythe in 1984, and both the Ted Lindsay and Hart Memorial Trophy in 1990 with the Oilers, and 1992 with the Rangers.
What sticks out to me is Messier’s ability to lead teams and get them to the Stanley Cup.
He even told reporters before a must win Game 6 against the Devils that the Rangers will win.
What did he do? Messier went out and got a hat-trick, leading his Rangers to force a Game 7 in which they would win to advance to the Stanley Cup.
3. Bobby Orr:
Orr had an even shorter career due to several severe knee injuries that required numerous reconstructive surgeries.
However, in just the 657 games Orr played in, he revolutionized the role of Defensemen, by scoring 270 goals and 645 assists.
Orr led the Boston Bruins to two Stanley Cups in 1970 and 1972, winning the Conn Smythe both times.
To add to his resume, Orr also won the Hart Memorial Trophy three years in a row in 1970, 1971, and 1972.
As a rookie, Orr won the Calder Trophy in 1967, along with eight Norris Trophies in a row from 1968-1975 as the league’s best Defenseman.
Orr also lead the league in scoring in 1970, and 1975, along with winning the Ted Lindsay Award in 1975 as well.
For the period of time that Orr played, he completely changed the game, and showed that a Defenseman can in fact be a scoring threat.
2. Gordie Howe:
Gordie Howe, a.k.a Mr. Hockey, dominated the NHL in the fifties into the late sixties, playing in a total of 1,767 games (not including his time spent in the WHA).
Howe was able to record 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and bring four Stanley Cups to Detroit in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955.
Mr. Hockey’s individual awards may seem limited compared to players listed above, but that is due to the fact that Howe played with several of the people that the Awards honor, such as Ted Lindsay, and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
But Howe was still able to accumulate numerous individual awards, such as the Art Ross Trophy in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957, and 1963, the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1960, and 1963, and also lead the league in goals in 1951, 1952, 1957, 1958, 1960, and 1963.
There’s not much more you could do to top this, but believe me, it is possible.
1. Wayne Gretzky:
Wayne Gretzky, a.k.a. The Great One, idolized Gordie Howe growing up and learned how to take the skills Howe had and take them to another level.
Gretzky played in 1,487 games, recording an all-time best 894 goals and 1,963 assists, for a total of 2,857 points.
The Great One was able to set just about every record possible, including 50 goals in 39 games, and 92 goals in one season (no one scored even 50 goals this season!)
Gretzky won four Stanley Cups with the Oilers in 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988, including the Conn Smythe in 1985 and 1988.
He also won the Art Ross in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, and 1991, along with the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and 1989, the Ted Lindsay Award in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1987.
Basically, Gretzky dominated the eighties, more than any player has ever dominated a decade.
Not to mention Gretzky had four seasons with over 200 points.
In my opinion, we will never see anyone dominate the NHL to the degree that Wayne Gretzky did, and no one will even come close to his records for a very long time.
Mario Lemieux: www.mariolemieux.org
Lemieux Stanley Cup: www.pinterest.com
Messier 1990 Stanley Cup: www.hhof.com
Messier 1994 Stanley Cup: www.bigmouthsports.com
Bobby Orr Stanley Cup: www.myhero.com
Bobby Orr: www.si.com
Gordie Howe: www.pinterest.com
Gordie Howe Awards: www.pinterest.com
Gretzky Stanley Cup: www.indystar.com
Gretzky Goal: www.proxy.espn.com
Gretzky Awards: www.timetotoast.com