Past And Present: Top 16 NHL Teams’ All-Time Greatest Roster

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.

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.

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.

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.

12 Los Angeles Kings

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

10 New Jersey Devils

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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.

9 Pittsburgh Penguins

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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.

8 New York Rangers

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

6 Chicago Blackhawks

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Past And Present: Top 16 NHL Teams’ All-Time Greatest Roster