Next season, the National Hockey League will celebrate its 100th anniversary and there is going to be a lot of talk about who belongs on the All-Century team. While that will be nearly impossible to narrow down, we thought it might be easier to break it down by some of the teams that have found success in the league and finding out who would make the cut. To make it a bit tougher on ourselves, we decided to use just one line per team, using each position instead of just “forwards.”
There are sure to be a lot of arguments over what the first line of an all-time franchise team would look like and hopefully that’s the argument instead of the choice of 16 teams that would feature the best lines. Another fun argument would be to put these 16 all-time teams into a tournament and see who comes out on top (thankfully video games might help us do that).
So let’s take a look at 16 of the best franchises in NHL history, and the best player of all-time at all of the starting positions. There are a lot of Stanley Cup titles and Hall of Famers on the list, but not at every position. Let the conversations begin as we start on the west coast with a team named after a Disney movie.
16 Anaheim Ducks
C: Ryan Getlzaf, LW: Paul Kariya, RW: Teemu Selanne, D: Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, G: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
The Anaheim Ducks don’t have a long history as they were founded in 1993, but they have had a solid history that has included a pair of conference championships and a Stanley Cup win. Their all-time starting lineup is also impressive, with the legendary pair of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne leading the way at left and right wing, respectively.
At center is Ryan Getzlaf, who has spent his entire career thus far with the Ducks and has scored 745 career points through the first three games of the 2016-17 season. Playing at defense is the tandem of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Meanwhile in goal, Jean-Sebastien Giguere gets the nod after having spent nine seasons with the squad that included a Stanley Cup victory. Saku Koivu misses the cut while Corey Perry hopes to someday make the list.
15 Calgary Flames
C: Joe Nieuwendyk, LW: Gary Roberts, RW: Jarome Iginla, D: Al MacInnis and Gary Suter, G: Miikka Kiprusoff
In more than 40 years and three conference championships since their inception, it was clear to see that the Calgary Flames have had a lot of talent at right wing. Still, the honor has to go to Jarome Iginla, who nearly won a Stanley Cup and posted 1,095 career points in his 16 seasons with Calgary. The forwards that join him are left winger Gary Roberts and center Joe Nieuwendyk.
It was a pretty clear choice for the top defense spot, which went to Al MacInnis. He is joined by Gary Suter, who was also a member of the 1988-89 Flames team that won the Stanley Cup. The Flames are joined by the 2006 Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff, who posted a record of 305-192-68 in Calgary. Those that just missed include Theo Fleury, Mike Vernon and Lanny McDonald.
14 Dallas Stars
C: Mike Modano, LW: Jamie Benn, RW: Brett Hull, D: Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor, G: Ed Belfour
Including their run in Minnesota, the Dallas Stars have been around for 50 years and won their only Stanley Cup in the 1998-99 season. It’s pretty clear who the center for the team would be, as Mike Modano is considered to be the greatest Stars player in history, as he was named to seven All-Star Teams, was inducted into the Hall of Fame and played all but one of his 21 NHL seasons with the franchise.
Right wing is also an easy call with Brett Hull taking the honor, while defense was a bit tougher, but Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor (narrowly ahead of Derian Hatcher) are chosen here. Left wing hasn’t had a deep history for the Stars, so the young Jamie Benn is already thrust into position. Rounding it out at goalie is Ed Belfour, who posted a 160-95-44 record with Dallas. Jere Lehtinen and Marty Turco barely miss the cut.
13 New York Islanders
C: Bryan Trottier, LW: Clark Gillies, RW: Mike Bossy, D: Denis Potvin and Ken Morrow, G: Billy Smith.
Younger fans probably don’t even realize just how good the New York Islanders used to be, as they won four straight Stanley Cup titles from 1980 to 1983. Though their all-time team doesn’t quite have the name recognition as some of the others on the list, it’s still a solid squad that is topped by right winger Mike Bossy. Center and fellow Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier joins him on the front line with Clark Gillies playing the left wing position.
Three more Hall of Fame members back up the forwards, with the top defensive pair being made up of Denis Potvin and Ken Morrow. Finally, Billy Smith is the goalie for this bunch, while Bob Nystrom misses the cut. Just make sure to leave room for John Tavares, who appears to be well on his way to joining the list of greatest Islanders players ever.
12 Los Angeles Kings
C: Marcel Dionne, LW: Luc Robitaille, RW: Dave Taylor, D: Drew Doughty and Rob Blake, G: Jonathan Quick
The Los Angeles Kings have found most of their success recently with two Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014, but their all-time roster is surprisingly stacked. The team is captained by left winger Luc Robitaille, who spent 14 years as a King with 1,154 career points and was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Joining him on the front line is center Marcel Dionne (yes, we know Gretzky played in LA and he'll make another team) and right winger Dave Taylor.
The defensive pairing is quite young, as seven-time All-Star Rob Blake is joined by current player Drew Doughty as the top defensemen in Kings history. At goalie is another current member, with Jonathan Quick leading the way. Quick has helped win two Stanley Cup titles, and a career record of 252-162-51, all with Los Angeles.
11 Edmonton Oilers
C: Wayne Gretzky, LW: Ryan Smyth RW: Jari Kurri, D: Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy, G: Grant Fuhr
People joke about the Oilers these days, but they were no joke in the 1980s when they were winning Stanley Cups left and right. The reason why Wayne Gretzky was not on the Kings All-Time team was because we put him here with his original squad in Edmonton and Dionne played there longer with more points. We're not delusional, but if we only looked at Talent, Gretz would be starting a center for the Oilers, Kings, Rangers and Blues. Gretzky scored 1,669 points with Edmonton and played more games with the team than any of his other stops.
While Gretzky doesn’t really need help, he is joined on the front line by wingers Jari Kurri (right) and Ryan Smyth (left). The defensemen hold up pretty well, too, as Paul Coffey and Charlie Huddy lead the way. In goal is Grant Fuhr, who spent his first 10 years with Edmonton, posting a record of 226-117-54 and four Stanley Cup titles.
10 New Jersey Devils
C: Scott Gomez, LW: Patrik Elias, RW: Claude Lemieux, D: Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer, G: Martin Brodeur
Moving from Colorado to New Jersey in 1982, the Devils have three Stanley Cups since 1995 and boast a solid all-time starting lineup. Claude Lemieux gets the nod at right wing, even if he spent one fewer season in New Jersey than he did Montreal. As for the opposite side, it’s Patrik Elias, a player definitely known for being a Devil having spent 21 seasons there. In the middle, we have Scott Gomez, who was one of the best centers in the NHL before he left New Jersey.
Scoring on this Devils team would be no easy task, as the selections for the top defensive pairing belong to the Scotts; Stevens and Niedermayer (his second team on this list). Of course, goalie is an easy choice as Martin Brodeur is basically royalty to the Devils fans. Brodeur posted a record of 688-394-154 in his 21 seasons with New Jersey.
9 Pittsburgh Penguins
C: Mario Lemieux, LW: Kevin Stevens, RW: Jaromir Jagr, D: Larry Murphy and Kris Letang, G: Marc-Andre Fleury
Selecting members of the Pittsburgh Penguins was fairly easy with the exception of the center position. Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could make the all-time starting lineup for just about any team except for this one, as Mario Lemieux is given the honor. It seems natural to team Lemieux up with his former teammates that he was successful with, as right winger Jaromir Jagr and left winger Kevin Stevens are also part of the Penguins roster.
Pittsburgh has a surprisingly low amount of notable defensemen, which is why the names are a bit mediocre compared to some. Larry Murphy gets the first position, while the other goes to current player Kris Letang, who is not yet 30 years old, but has spent a decade in Pittsburgh. As for goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury is a natural fit having spent the past 13 years of his life with the team.
8 New York Rangers
C: Marc Messier, LW: Adam Graves, RW: Rod Gilbert, D: Brian Leetch and Brad Park, G: Henrik Lundqvist
Despite playing in the Big Apple and having a good amount of success throughout the years, the New York Rangers don’t exactly have the scariest all-time team. This team is headlined by defenseman Brian Leetch, considered by many to be the franchise’s greatest player. He is joined at defense by Brad Park. The other headliner is Mark Messier, who was overshadowed by Wayne Gretzky on the Oilers all-time roster, and would also get consideration for best all-time Ranger.
Rod Gilbert joins the fray at right wing while Adam Graves plays on the opposite side. The hardest decision to make came at the goalie position as the Rangers had the great Mike Richter. However, this spot goes to Henrik Lundqvist, a surefire Hall of Fame member that has a better record than Richter and a Vezina Trophy to boot.
7 Buffalo Sabres
C: Gilbert Perreault, LW: Rick Martin, RW: Danny Gare, D: Phil Housley and Bill Hajt, G: Dominik Hasek
You might not know this, but the Buffalo Sabres actually have one of the best winning percentages in NHL history and they’re not exactly new at 46 years old. The Sabres don’t have a Stanley Cup title, but their regular season success has produced a lot of stars. The most notable one is goalie Dominik Hasek. “The Dominator” spent nine seasons with Buffalo, posting a 234-170-70 record to go along with an impressive .926 save percentage.
In front of Hasek is the defensive pairing of Phil Housley and Bill Hajt, although Housley was clearly the better of the two. The forwards for the team are led by center Gilbert Perreault. On his right side is Danny Gare, and Rick Martin is to his left. There aren’t many Hall of Famers on this squad, but it’s still an impressive one.
6 Chicago Blackhawks
C: Stan Mikita, LW: Bobby Hull, RW: Patrick Kane, D: Duncan Keith and Chris Chelios, G: Tony Esposito
In the midst of what could be considered a dynasty, the Chicago Blackhawks have a surprising lack of youth in their all-time greatest lineup (for now). Just two current players make the list, with the first being right winger Patrick Kane. The other is defenseman Duncan Keith. Together, the two have helped the Blackhawks win their three most recent Stanley Cups.
Keith is paired up at defense by a pretty obvious choice in the form of Chris Chelios, who was still beloved despite playing for Detroit. The center and left wing pairing of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull might be the best on this list and the starting lineup would ensure that goalie Tony Esposito wouldn’t get much work. Legends that don’t make the cut are Jonathan Toews, Jeremy Roenick, Steve Larmer and Denis Savard.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs
C: Dave Keon, LW: Wendel Clark, RW: George Armstrong, D: Borje Salming and Tim Horton, G: Johnny Bower
Despite falling on hard times lately, the Toronto Maple Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups, cementing themselves as one of the greatest franchises of all-time. Unlike many of the other teams on the list, you have to go quite a ways back to find the all-time roster. The wingers on this team are George Armstrong at right and Wendel Clark at left. Armstrong is a Hall of Famer that played for more than 20 years while Clark played 13 seasons, scoring 441 points.
Dave Keon is the standout for this team, as the eight-time All-Star is the best center in franchise history. Behind him on defense is the team of Borje Salming and Tim Horton, who was much more than a coffee and donut store namesake. Finally, Johnny Bower rounds out the list at goalie, who won four Stanley Cups in his career, spending his final 12 NHL seasons with Toronto.
4 Detroit Red Wings
C: Steve Yzerman, LW: Ted Lindsay, RW: Gordie Howe, D: Nicklas Lidstrom and Marcel Pronovost, G: Terry Sawchuk
So far it appears that the Blackhawks have the most impressive all-time team on the list, but the Red Wings are right there with them. One of the few greatest players of all-time (if not the best) starts at right wing, in the form of Gordie Howe. Standing to his left is Steve Yzerman, who became the fan favorite upon Howe’s retirement. Also up front is Ted Lindsay, who is certainly no slouch.
The defensive unit is just as solid, with the recently retired Nicklas Lidstrom as the greatest defenseman in Red Wings history. Along with him is Marcel Pronovost and Terry Sawchuk is between the pipes. You know the team is good when the third line center would end up being Sergei Fedorov, behind Yzerman and Pavel Datsyuk.
3 Boston Bruins
C: Phil Esposito, LW: John Bucyk, RW: Cam Neely, D: Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque, G: Gerry Cheevers
With six Stanley Cups in their pocket (and the most recent coming in 2011), the Boston Bruins are one of the historic franchises part of the Original Six. Despite their recent success, the Bruins lineup has a lot of throwback players and their lineup is made up entirely of Hall of Famers. We start with Cam Neely at right wing, who is actually the youngest of the bunch despite retiring in 1996 at 30 years old.
John Bucyk plays opposite of Neely at left wing, with Phil Esposito leading the way at center. The defensemen are second to none, with Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque manning the unit, two of the all-time greats. The final piece of the puzzle is two-time Stanley Cup champion Gerry Cheevers, who finished his 12 years in Boston with a record of 229-101-74.
2 Philadelphia Flyers
C: Bobby Clarke, LW: Bill Barber, RW: Claude Giroux, D: Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins, G: Bernie Parent
A natural rival of the Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers (two-time Stanley Cup champions) post a tough lineup that would definitely leave some bruises. The center for the team is Bobby Clarke, who spent his entire career with the Flyers, posting 1,210 career points and eight All-Star appearances, helping the Flyers to win their two Stanley Cups. Joining him is left winger Bill Barber (a former teammate) and right winger Claude Giroux, who is new blood that is currently on the roster and has played both right wing and center.
The first defenseman was an easy pick and it’s the versatile Mark Howe that could also play left wing. Joining him is Eric Desjardins, the only 1990s player in the lineup. The goalie for the all-time Flyers team is another member of the 1970s squads that helped win two titles, Bernie Parent. Parent is a Hall of Famer and five-time All-Star that spent 10 seasons on Broad Street. Eric Lindros and Ron Hextall, as great as they were, did not make the cut.
1 Montreal Canadiens
C: Jean Beliveau, LW: Steve Shutt, RW: Maurice Richard, D: Larry Robinson and Doug Harvey, G: Patrick Roy
The final team on our list is naturally the one that has the most Stanley Cups at 24, the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal has gone without a title since 1993, but are clearly the most historic franchise in the league. Their lineup is led by right winger Maurice “Rocket” Richard, who spent his entire career with Montreal, scoring 544 goals. He is joined by Steve Shutt on the opposite wing, with the majestic Jean Beliveau in the middle.
Standing at defense for the Canadiens is 10-time All-Star Larry Robinson and 13-time All-Star Doug Harvey. This squad won an insane amount of Stanley Cups in their career and we haven’t even got to the goaltender. Patrick Roy is considered by many to be the greatest goalie to ever play and he joins the Canadiens roster despite also spending eight solid seasons with the Avalanche. Notable names that didn’t make it include Guy Lafleur, as well as legendary goalies Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and Georges Vezina.