Where does Nicklas Lidstrom rank amongst the all-time greatest defenseman? (Getty Images)
The good things in life, I must confess, reach new standards each time they come around. An excellent meal instantly becomes one of the best I’ve ever had. A fabulous vacation becomes the trip of a lifetime. I often stretch the limits of hyperbole.
And that was the genesis behind our special fall magazine project, the Top 100 Players of All-Time by Position. A reprise of our 1997 magazine, The Top 100 Players of All-time, this year’s collector’s edition – available on newsstands next week and online Oct. 18 – updates the ranking with players who have starred in the league since 1997.
I was convinced the exploits of Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek in the late 1990s and the first decade of this century would put one of them at the top of the chart among all-time goaltenders. So I was mildly surprised that our panel of experts kept Terry Sawchuk as the game’s best-ever stopper.
Since our 1997 publication, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom has won six Norris Trophies, a Conn Smythe and been decorated with 11 all-star team berths. Surely that’s enough, I presumed, to see him placed No. 2 among all-time defensemen behind Bobby Orr. But after listening to our panel and re-evaluating the careers of Doug Harvey, Eddie Shore and Ray Bourque, it made sense that Lidstrom came in at No. 5, just ahead of Denis Potvin.
It’s rankings such as these that will make our fall magazine a springboard for discussion and debate.
Our 1997 top 100 ranking – launched on the 50th anniversary of The Hockey News – has been recognized as the authoritative list in the industry because of the breadth and depth of hockey knowledge of the 50-member voting committee. But since that time, 27 players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and deserved consideration on an updated list.
That’s why new names such as Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Peter Forsberg, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Teemu Selanne and more are among the top 20 players all-time at their position.
One thing we didn’t do for this year’s ranking is mess around with the order of players who were already retired by 1997. We did that as a tribute to the 50-member panel from that year, all of them former players, coaches, managers or students of the game. For example, Sawchuk finished ahead of Jacques Plante who finished ahead of Glenn Hall according to that esteemed panel, so who are we to declare otherwise 13 years later?
But slotting in the Roys and Brodeurs and Haseks among the all-time goaltending greats is what made this project exciting.
And we’re getting good feedback early. The guys and gals who work at our printing plant loved the product and brought pages with them to read during their breaks, not to mention their sessions as part of the Heavy Hitters Club, where they congregate with chicken wings and ale.
“It’s a great vehicle to entice further debate among hockey fanatics,” said Paul McInnis. “Comparison by position is easier than ranking everyone on one list, but still prompts debate.”
We hope you enjoy this new issue.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com with his blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.