Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Could an all-time team made up of NHL brothers beat one made up of NHL fathers and sons?

Cayden Primeau made his NHL debut last week, playing goal for the Montreal Canadiens two years after being drafted in the seventh round. It’s a great story, especially when you remember that Primeau’s father Keith was a longtime NHLer. Keith’s brother Wayne also played in the league, which was nice for them except for that time that it wasn’t.

Battling brothers. Proud fathers and sons. It feels like there’s a story idea in there somewhere. And luckily, one reader found it for me:

Oh hell yes, we’re doing that. Thank you, Lee. (And thanks to everyone else who takes the time to send me weird YouTube clips, obscure trivia and ideas for bizarre stories nobody else would write. You are all the greatest.)

Team Father/Son vs. Team Brother, from all of NHL history. Which side can build the best team? Let’s do this.

But first, as always, some ground rules:

  • We’re going to build lines and defense pairings, but we’re not going to get too caught up in who plays where. We might have some guys switch wings or move around a bit. They’re stars, they’ll figure it out.
  • We’re using Peak Production rules here, which is to say that if you get a player, you get them at their very best. They’re healthy, motivated and at the height of their powers.
  • Most importantly, and maybe most controversially: We’re going to institute a rule that everyone on this roster has to have played at least 250 NHL games as a skater or 100 games as a goalie. Call it the Brent Gretzky rule. Yes, we could build out a pair of rosters that were front-loaded with mega-stars and then pad them out with a fourth line of guys like Alain Lemieux, Paul Messier and Brett Lindros. But that’s not fun. That’s just naming superstars who happened to have relatives who played hockey, and that’s most of them. We want our rosters to feature guys who made their own name in the game. Or at least came close enough that we can squeeze them in without feeling guilty.

OK, let’s make this happen. We’ll start up front with the top lines, which means both sides are breaking out their big guns.

First lines

Team Brother: Phil Esposito, Maurice Richard, Frank Mahovlich

Team Father/Son: Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Peter Stastny

Yikes. Good luck to anyone trying to shut down either unit; you could make a good case that we’ve got four of the top ten players in hockey history here. That includes Howe, the single greatest player we’ll find on either roster, which gives Team Father/Son a strong start. Mr. Hockey and the Golden Jet together would be close to unstoppable, with a combined 1,400 NHL goals between just two guys (and nearly 500 more if we count the WHA). But they’re facing a killer trio from Team Brother, with the first 50-goal scorer, the first 100-point player and the Big M there to feed them both.

Stastny is notable for a few reasons. For one, he’s the weak link on Team Father/Son’s top line, which isn’t exactly an insult given who he’s playing with. But more importantly, you may be questioning why he’s even on Team Father/Son at all. You could absolutely put him on Team Brother instead, on a line with Anton and Marian. Having run through the various combinations, he ends up fitting a bit better on Team Father/Son, but there may not be a player in league history who presents a tougher call.

Second lines

Team Brother: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Henri Richard

Team Father/Son: Brett Hull, Zach Parise, J.P. Parise

Both teams have some decent scoring depth. There’s more balance on Team Brother, with three Hall-of-Famers. But Team Father/Son has the most dominant player in Hull and his 741 goals, plus a pair of All-Stars who saw action in some of the most important international tournaments ever played.

Also, a quick clerical matter: We made the call to deny Team Father/Son eligibility to Howie Morenz and Bernie Geoffrion; Howie was Boom Boom’s father-in-law, which doesn’t quite fit the spirit of the thing. Any complaints or challenges can be filed with the official Down Goes Brown Office of Appeals (my trashcan).

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