Top 4 NHL Players of All Time
Determining the greatest players of all time in the National Hockey League is one of the most debatable and unanswerable questions of all time. While the sum total of a player’s career, number of accolades, stats and length of career play a factor in deciding which players can even be considered in this illustrious and exclusive group, opinion will vary with regard to the ranking and file that these players should fall into. Consider the different positions players play, the era in which they played and how the game has changed over time, it’s impossible to draw equal comparisons as such. No mathematical formula exists that all can unanimously agree on and where values can be plugged in to deliver a definitive answer.
Several Hall of Fame players or soon-to-be Hall of Famers can legitimately be considered greats in their own right. So, with that in mind, we list a few of these in this column as a sort of submission for consideration and to keep things on an even footing we’ll look exclusively at offensive players.
- Wayne Gretzky
Wayne Gretzky is one of the most recognisable names in the game around the world. The Canadian’s impeccable reputation, undeniable talent and achievements both in the NHL and for Canada are legendary. From a young age, Gretzky was a special hockey player, the kind of a once-in-a-generation talent that is like gold dust to sports. When he went pro, he quickly fulfilled the promise he showed as a young player and it wasn’t long before he was smashing multiple records held by his predecessors. Indeed, it’s not for nothing that he’s known to many as “The Great One.” Gretzky won four Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and finished his career with the Los Angeles Kings.
- Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux comes up against compatriot Wayne Gretzky in the GOAT debate constantly as the pair’s careers are compared with a fine tooth comb. It’s the case of 66 vs. 99. Opinion may be split about which is greater than the other but most hockey fans and armchair critics will agree that both were undeniably great in their own right. Lemieux was a one-of-a-kind talent that brought both physicality and dexterity to his game. He was a great one-on-one player with superb reach and nimble hands and like a conductor he would set the tone of a game. Remarkably, Lemieux even overcame cancer during his illustrious NHL career and returned to play for several years before retiring as a professional hockey player.
Lemieux only ever played with the Pittsburgh Penguins in his career but he won 2 Stanley Cups with his beloved franchise as a player. When he retired, he invested in the Penguins and became one its owners. As such, he’s won 3 additional Stanley Cups in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
- Jaromir Jagr
The Czech native Jaromir Jagr was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990, joining Mario Lemieux to create one of the league’s most lethal offensive lines in the 90s. Jagr impressed straight out of the gate and not just because he had one of the most recognisable ‘barnets’ in the league. In his first three seasons he played 231 games and scored 103 goals and 127 assists for a total of 230 points. He also added a Stanley Cup in his rookie and sophomore seasons to top off one of the most impressive starts in the NHL.
A team is lucky if it can get one generational player, never mind two in succession and just a few years apart. However, that’s exactly what happened as they struck gold with the Czech. Talk about defying the NHL odds. Jagr’s longevity is probably one of the most distinguishing – he’s played for nine NHL teams over 22 NHL seasons and won 10 individual awards in the process five Art Ross Trophies, one Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, three Ted Lindsay Awards and one Hart Trophy. He has two Stanley Cup titles, one Olympic gold medal (1990 with Czech Republic) and two Ice Hockey World Championships – making him a member of the Triple Gold Club.
- Sidney Crosby
Yet another Canadian emerges on the list of greats in the game. Although Crosby’s career is far from over, he’s already accomplished so much that the soon-to-be Hall of Famer is deservedly in the conversation. The Canadian starlet is merely 33 years old but he has his place in the rankings behind only Wayne Gretzky. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr if we compare the first 1000 games. He has 548 goals (fourth highest), 924 assists and 1472 points through his first 1000 games.
It’s safe to say as well that if he plays for several more years, he may well surpass the lot of them. It’s actually crazy to think he has at least another five to seven years in the game. And if. like Jaromir Jagr,. he continues playing into his 40s… well the sky is the limit. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team that drafted him first overall in 2005 as Lemieux’s heir apparent. Crosby also won two Olympic gold medals with Canada (2010 and 2014) and a gold medal at the Ice Hockey World Championships. As such, he is one of the select few players that can claim to be a member of the Triple Gold Club.