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March 8, 2014
LCS Top 100: 60-51
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
The Finnish Flash blitzed the NHL for 76 goals and 132 points that year, shattering all existing records for rookie scoring. His game was all about speed. You couldn't go faster without a flux capacitor. And he also played with an edge. He hit. A lot. It's difficult explaining just how cool he was. Be sure and click the video link down below to watch a special detailing his rookie season.
Unfortunately, Selanne had to fight through a knee injury early in his sophomore season and then suffered a torn Achilles, limiting him to just 25 goals in 51 games. Even though he'd eventually regain his powerful stride, Selanne never quite recaptured the same freakish speed he displayed as a rookie.
Selanne, who at 40 remains a solid contributor with the Ducks, had back-to-back 50-goal seasons and two 100-point efforts in his first tour of duty in Anaheim, teaming with Paul Kariya to bring some respect to an otherwise preposterous Disney logo. After three mostly forgettable seasons with the Sharks and a complete disgrace in Colorado, Selanne had knee surgery during the lockout and enjoyed a late-career renaissance in Anaheim, posting back-to-back 40-goal seasons in helping the Ducks drink from the Cup.
MacInnis used his overpowering slapper to ring up seven 20-goal seasons and 340 career goals, ranking him third all-time among NHL defenders. And he kept his drives low and on net, never sacrificing accuracy for power. MacInnis topped out at 28 goals three times and had his best statistical season in 1990-91, going for 28 goals and 103 points.
While not particularly physical or nimble on his skates, MacInnis had good size, took the body, and played a positionally sound game. He was a plus-373 for his career, finishing plus or even in every season except his last, which spanned only three games before an eye injury forced him into retirement.
During his remarkable 23-year career, Francis led the NHL in assists twice (1995, 1996) and recorded 16 seasons with at least 50 helpers, including nine 60-assist seasons and one spectacular 92-assist effort in 1996. Francis only reached 30 goals three times, bagging a career-high 32 in 1990. That lack of goal production keeps him from ranking with the truly elite centers. Even though he wasn't a spectacular goal-scorer, Francis was as dependable as they come, recording 20 20-goal seasons.
Francis was the ultimate professional. He adjusted to being the No. 2 center in Pittsburgh behind Mario Lemieux without a second thought and thrived in the role, providing the Penguins with the defensive conscience they had always lacked. He took all the big draws, killed penalties, and worked with the same quiet determination each and every shift. And when Lemieux missed games, which happened quite a bit, Francis always stepped up and shouldered the increased scoring load, as evidenced by his performance against the Rangers in the 1992 playoffs..
Fedorov's two-way game compared favorably to the likes of Peter Forsberg, except Fedorov was faster and the better goal-scorer. Fedorov cracked 30 goals 10 times, going for a career-high 51 goals and 120 points in 1993-94 to win the Hart. Fedorov also won three Cups with the Wings, raising his game when it mattered most and going for 19 or more points in five postseasons.
A strong case could be made for Fedorov ranking much higher on the list. But I just always saw him as a really great No. 2 center. Granted, a lot of that had to do with him slotting behind Steve Yzerman and sacrificing stats to fit within Detroit's team concept. Then again, that doesn't mean he still couldn't have scored more. He averaged more than a point per game in only seven of his 18 seasons. There were a whole lot of 60-point efforts in there. Was it unselfishness or a lack of intensity? With his talent, Fedorov should have been 90-100 points in the bank.
Fedorov's role with the Wings wasn't much different from Francis' position in Pittsburgh, yet Francis still found a way to play defense and put up points. I ranked Fedorov slightly ahead of Francis simply on the strength of his immense physical gifts and his much higher goal-scoring ceiling, but if Fedorov had Francis' determination, he would have been Top 25 material. Fedorov just always seemed a little too comfortable being a No. 2 center. He had more to give.
Stewart got his nickname because he used to poison dinner guests and then bury them beneath his cellar. Oh wait, that wasn't Stewart. That was me. Actually, they used to call Stewart Old Poison because he was an ornery son of a bitch who dished out more cheap shots than a crooked bartender.
When he wasn't slashing or cross-checking his hapless victims, Stewart camped out in front of the net and knocked home pucks. He played 15 seasons with the Maroons, Boston Bruins, and New York Americans, capturing another Hart Trophy and recording nine 20-goal campaigns, including a career-high 39 goals in 1930. Stewart retired in 1940 as the league's all-time leading goal-scorer, and his 324 markers held the crown until Maurice Richard passed him in 1952.
Neely had just put together back-to-back 50-goal seasons when he had his infamous run-in with Ulf Samuelsson in the 1991 Wales Conference Finals. Complications from the subsequent knee injury forced him to miss most of the next two seasons and then accept part-time duty after that. Despite playing in constant pain, Neely continued to pile up goals, scoring 50 in the first 44 games he played in 1993-94.
From 1989 to 1994, Neely scored 176 goals in 216 games. That per-game average would equate to 67 goals over a full 82-game schedule. But who knows how many he could of scored had he stayed healthy. He was just entering his prime. And he had one of the game's premier passers in Adam Oates as his center. It may sound silly, but Neely could have gone for 80. Easy.
An absolute monster, Neely was as close to unstoppable as it gets. He was Paul Bunyan on skates, and pity the poor bastard who got in his way. Neely hit harder than Colt 45. It hurts me to have him this low on the list. If Neely's perfectly healthy and at the peak of his abilities, how many wingers are you picking ahead of him? The problem is we only have two full seasons of greatness and another spectacular partial season. Not sure that's enough of a sample size to put him on par with the super deluxe greats.
One of my personal favorite Bure moves featured him challenging a defensemen with speed and then pulling the puck to his backhand. The second the defender flinched, Bure would chip the puck back the other way and do a 360 spin to his forehand, retrieving the biscuit behind the befuddled blueliner for a clean breakaway. Aw, that was great, that was fun. And it was one of about a thousand sick moves Bure had up his sleeve.
Hell, I'm just going to say it. Pavel Bure was the coolest, most thrilling player in NHL history. He led the league in goals three times and posted five 50-goal seasons, including back-to-back 60-goal campaigns (1993, 1994). In the modern era, only Mike Bossy (0.76), Mario Lemieux (0.75), and Alexander Ovechkin (0.66) have scored at a better clip than Bure's 0.62 goals-per-game average. And that number would no doubt be higher had Bure not suffered through recurring knee injuries starting in his fifth season.
Bure was a one-man show. To try and put his brilliance in perspective, in his four years with the Florida Panthers, Bure scored 152 goals in 223 games. For the Florida Panthers! His supporting cast included a whole lot of nothing. Not a single 30-goal scorer and only five 20-goal men in all four seasons combined. In 2000-01, the Panthers managed only 200 goals the entire season. Bure scored 59 of them. The next-highest scorer on the team, Viktor Kozlov, had 14 goals and 37 points. Yet Bure still had his 59 goals and 92 points. How is that even possible?
Apps played his entire 10-year career with Toronto, scoring 201 goals and 432 points in 423 games. As captain, Apps led the Maple Leafs to three Stanley Cup championships, including an improbable comeback in the 1941-42 Finals to stun the Red Wings after falling behind 0-3 in the series.
A brilliant skater, Apps mesmerized the opposition with his stickhandling and creativity. His remarkable personal character also carried on to the ice, where Apps had only 56 penalty minutes in 10 years. He went the entire 1941-42 season without taking a single penalty. They don't make 'em like Apps anymore.