There is not much to be excited about this year when it comes to hockey. Overpaid players and spendthrift owners have made sure of that. Let’s all thank them and start a slow clap.
So let’s all avoid the negative and try and remember the good times. That is why I decided to come up with the ultimate lineup for winning the most important game of a players career; game 7 of The Stanley Cup Final. This is obviously not going to fit everyone’s tastes but I figure let me get my opinion out there and maybe start a discussion. This also is not purely based on stats but rather a combination of stats, grit and the clutch-factor. Enjoy
The ‘Tender – Patrick Roy
No one was more cocky and egotistical than King Patrick. What afforded him these traits was the fact that he was the guy that you wanted to close it out. His four cups don’t tell the whole story. He was able to win 2 cups for 2 Canadiens squads that were mediocre to good at very best while posting goals against averages of 1.93 and 2.13. In an era of high scoring that was quite a feat.
Colorado was a very stacked team for the 1996 cup win and Roy was solid all the way with 2.10 GAA. But for me, the most telling stat of all, was the numbers he put up to win hockey’s holy grail in 2001. He was able to register a 1.70 GAA and a save percentage of .934…at the age of 35 years old! That made him the only player to win 3 Conn Smythe’s (MVP in the playoffs). Not only that, he did it in 3 different decades. Think about that for a second. It is a feat that will never be matched. His 151 career playoff wins also seems insurmountable. Even the mighty Martin Brodeur is 38 wins behind. For those reasons, welcome aboard Patrick.
This is truly one of the hardest categories for me to fill except of course for Bobby Orr. He had 8 straight Norris Trophy wins, 3 straight Hart Trophies, 2 Conn Smythe’s, 915 career points and career plus/minus of +597 in a minuscule 657 NHL games. His records might be harder to break than Gretzky’s.
Orr was the most revolutionary player that hockey had ever seen. Watch any footage of him online and it looked as if everyone else was in slo-mo. He was an offensive dynamo but was also fast enough to come back on D before the opposition even knew what happened. In the 35 games that Boston played in the 1970 and 1972 playoff runs, his 44 points would further add to his legend. Welcome aboard Bobby!
Coming out of left field, a man that plays the type of hockey that I grew up loving, Scott Stevens. What about Coffey, Robinson, Bourque, Lindstrom? I say what about a man who won the Smythe while only scoring 11 points in 2000. He won that trophy because of his amazing leadership abilities. He could change a game with one of his hits. Ask Paul Kariya or Ron Francis to try and spell the word ‘cat’ anymore. He instilled a fear of death in his opponents and that is what made him so deadly. He was a shut-down marvel and that is exactly what you need in the big game.
The front 3 are not based on left-wing, right-wing and center positions but just an assembly line of 3 forwards that I would choose. It is going to be 3 men that best display hockey’s excitement, grit and tradition.
Wayne Gretzky. The most dominant player in his sport ever. Better than Michael Jordan in basketball, Pete Rose in baseball and even Michael Phelps in swimming. Over 3,200 career points (when you include playoffs), 50 career hat-tricks, countless awards and NHL records that were never meant to broken. His numbers are just ridiculous. His numbers remind of a scene in Austn Powers when Dr. Evil does not quite get the value of money in modern times and asks for a ransom of “1 billion gazillion trillion shabidy doo da dollars”. They are just so over the top. Former teammates would describe his talent saying that if you were to shut off the lights in the arena, Wayne would know exactly where everyone was on the ice. It is that uncanny and unmatched hockey sense that made him phenomenal. I mean have you seen the man skate? He looked like Bambi out there! Always looked awkward but knew what to do in every situation. His ability to create and control the game put him on my front-line.
The Moose. True hockey fans will already know him just by that nickname. Mark Messier was arguably one of the best captains in NHL history. Besides the fact that he is second all time in points behind Gretzky, he led his teams to a whopping 6 Stanley Cups. He led the Oilers to their 5th cup during the post-Gretzky era (not an easy feat) and then went to Broadway and helped steer one of the most impassioned Cup drives ever in 1994. Many have tried this since in many sports, but Messier guaranteed a victory in game 6 of the Eastern Conference final against the New Jersey Devils that year. He also added a hat-trick in that game. He guaranteed it, he iced it and 8 games later, the Rangers won their first cup in 54 years. He could score, he could hit and he could clobber you into next century. He always had the fire burning on the inside and wore the Canada jersey with the pride and spirit that we are all about.
Mario Lemieux. The only player who was probably capable of ever catching Gretzky, had he’d not been plagued by injuries throughout his career. their point-per-game was just about the same. They both blew away the rest of the league in scoring races on multiple occasions and both led their teams to multiple cups. Lemieux even brought that winning spirit as an owner in his later life as the Penguins won their third cup in 2009.
He was amazing. The morning of his last radiation treatment was March 2nd, 1993. He played a game that night against the Flyers. He scored 1 goal and added an assist. In a day and age where players whine about a sprained pinky, Lemieux went out after months of his body taking beatings from the cancer treatment and did what he did best; leading the way by example. Hockey may be a brutal hard-hitting sport but it i nothing compared what cancer will do to you. If he was tough enough to go through and make a couple of comebacks and still dominate, then he is more than fitting to be on this dream team. He was the personification of guts and glory. Too big to shut down and too smart to corner. he truly was the magnificent.
I really had fun writing this one and I know people will be reading this and thinking whether I have lost my mind. There could have been dozens of other players here instead but you cannot argue the merit of each of these choices. This team is a perfect combination of size, grit, finesse, talent, attitude and most importantly leadership. Try and come up with 6 players that could beat these six in full-on tilt and you will be hard-pressed to do so.