Wednesday, July 1, 2020

What’s the best roster you could make out of NHL stars who were clearly not the best player in history to have those initials?

What’s the best possible roster you could make out of NHL stars who were clearly not the best player in league history to have those initials? Let’s find out!

A few ground rules:

  • We’re going to let be our guide on the question of the “best” players. This turns out to be deceptively simple since their search engine defaults to sorting by a player’s importance. I think this is based largely (but not entirely) on point shares, which isn’t a perfect stat but will work well enough for our purposes. We search for a set of initials, and the first result that matches them is the best player and can’t be on our roster.
  • Except … I know this is all subjective, but I did run into a few cases where the search engine was just wrong, or at least where it felt like the top two guys were too close to call. When that happens, I reserve the right to overrule the site and disqualify a player we could otherwise use. This will make things harder, but it also means I won’t have to wade through 100 comments from people who think I took the easy way out because Mats Sundin is clearly better than Martin St. Louis no matter what some computer says. Remember, we said “clearly not the best,” so we only want guys where there’s no real case to be made that they could be at the top of their list.
  • Active players are in play, but we only get credit for what they’ve done in their careers so far. Connor McDavid has two Art Ross trophies, but with less than 500 career points might not make the roster yet. (And he’s already the best C.M. in league history, so we couldn’t use him anyway.)
  • We’re using whatever was considered a player’s most common name during their playing days.
  • We’re filling out a 20-man roster with four centers, four right wings, four left wings, six defensemen and a goalie.

Sounds like fun? (Crickets chirp.) Awesome, let’s do this!

We’ll start with the obvious problem: By definition, we’re not going to be able to use any of the NHL’s true all-time greats. Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux … they’re all out.

That applies to pretty much all of the second tier too. It would be nice if a pair of top 10 players had been considerate enough to double up on initials, but that doesn’t really happen. There isn’t an NHL equivalent to the NBA’s Michael Jordan/Magic Johnson combo.

Well, except for maybe one: Who’s the best player in NHL history to have the initials D.H.?

That’s a tough one. You could make a case for Dominik Hasek, who might be the best goaltender of all-time. But there’s also Doug Harvey, who won seven Norris Trophies in eight years and was almost universally ranked as the best defenseman ever during the pre-Bobby Orr era.

I’d lean to Hasek, but the hockey-reference results go with Harvey. It’s a tough one because whichever way I go I’m going to have a big chunk of hockey fans mad at me. So I’m not going to pick at all, and instead, declare this one a tie – neither Hasek nor Harvey clearly fit our criteria, so neither can make our team.

The good news is that the D.H. listing still offers some possibilities, including Dany Heatley and Dale Hunter. But I’m going to go with 1980s legend Dale Hawerchuk, who can’t lay claim to a place in Hasek or Harvey’s tier but will slot in nicely as one of our centers.

And while we’re building from the middle, we should grab another obvious choice: Adam Oates, who brings us 1,400 points and a reputation as one of the greatest setup men of all time but still can’t get near the A.O. title when Alexander Ovechkin is around.

Let’s fill in a few more forward spots. Jean Beliveau is a consensus top-10 player of all-time, which means we can safely grab 500-goal man Johnny Bucyk at LW. And we find another strong LW choice in former MVP Taylor Hall, who’s available thanks to the 24-year career of Hall-of-Famer Tim Horton.

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