April 19, 2014
LCS Top 100: 90-81
by Michael Menser Dell, Editor-in-Chief
90. Luc Robitaille: Always knocked for his skating, Robitaille slipped to the 9th round of the 1984 Draft as teams shied away from his heavy feet. Idiots. Lucky Luc wasted little time proving his critics wrong, ringing up 45 goals and 84 points in his first year with Los Angeles to win the Calder Trophy. It was only the beginning.
Robitaille rattled off eight consecutive 40-goal seasons to start his career, lighting the lamp a career-high 63 times in 1992-93. A pure goal-scorer, Robitaille relied on guile, instincts, and a deadly accurate shot to riddle goaltenders. He could shoot a puck through a keyhole and, unlike a lot of snipers, thrived in high-traffic areas. It added up to 668 goals in 1431 games. He also managed to get out of Detroit with a Stanley Cup, which is better than most people, who just have their wallets stolen and cars set ablaze.
If there’s one regret in Robitaille’s career it would be his one year in Pittsburgh. Sure, he scored 23 goals in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season and added another seven in 12 playoff games, but his timing couldn’t have been worse. He joined the Penguins just as Mario Lemieux was taking time off to recover from cancer. Robitaille never got to skate with 66. Oh, what could have been.
89. Scott Niedermayer: Shackled in New Jersey’s stifling defensive system, Niedermayer never put up the eye-popping stats of most of the blueliners on our list. He only topped 50 points twice in his 12 full seasons with the Devils.
If you look at his numbers, Niedermayer had 112 goals and 476 points in 892 games in New Jersey, good for a 0.13 goals per game and 0.53 points per game. In his five years in Anaheim, Niedermayer enjoyed two 60-points seasons and went for 60 goals and 264 points in 371 games, bumping his per-game averages to 0.16 goals and 0.71 points.
But one thing always bugged me about Niedermayer’s lack of production in New Jersey: didn’t the Devils ever have power plays? Can’t blame it all on the system.
Stats or no stats, Niedermayer makes the list because of his skating. His effortless stride allowed him to chase down pucks and cut off on-rushing forwards with shocking ease. While hardly physical, Niedermayer played a flawless positional game and controlled the defensive zone with his speed and skill. And he was a winner, owning four Stanley Cup rings, two Olympic Gold Medals, a World Championships Gold, a World Juniors Gold, a Memorial Cup, a World Cup, and three, count ‘em, three All Valley Karate Tournaments.
Suck it, Daniel-san.
88. Dave Keon: A brilliant two-way player, Keon played 15 seasons with the Maple Leafs, enjoying four Stanley Cup championships but also having to suffer through the start of the Harold Ballard debacle. While Keon cracked 30 goals only twice in his career, he was a clutch scorer during Toronto’s three consecutive Cups from 1962-64, connecting for 19 goals in 36 games. Yet when the Leafs won the Cup again in 1967, Keon managed just three goals and eight points in 12 games. No problem. His overall game still earned him the Conn Smythe. And that tells you all you need to know about Keon.
87. Tony Esposito: Eli Manning to Phil’s Peyton, Tony Esposito carved out his own place in hockey history, emerging as one of the game’s great goaltenders of the 1970s. After one year as a backup in Montreal, Esposito exploded on the scene with the Blackhawks in 1969-70, posting a career-high 38 wins and an NHL record 15 shutouts. The performance earned Esposito the Calder Trophy and his first of three Vezinas. He’d continue to dominate throughout the decade, collecting seven consecutive 30-win seasons while playing an exciting, athletic style between the pipes.
86. Babe Dye: Before the Maple Leafs, the St. Patricks called Toronto home. And Babe Dye was the club’s brightest star, leading the league in points twice (1923, 1925) and goals three times (1921, 1923, 1925). From 1920 to 1925, Dye scored 146 goals in just 118 games. He led the St. Patricks to the 1922 Stanley Cup, scoring a record nine times in the finals. Long live the St. Pats.
85. Chris Pronger: Call me crazy, but I find Pronger endlessly entertaining. Granted, he’s never elbowed me in the teeth, stomped on my leg, or swiped my souvenir puck, but I can’t help but like the miserable jackass. At 6’6”, 220-pounds, Pronger is one of the most imposing blueliners in NHL history. But there’s plenty of skill to go along with his nasty demeanor, as he’s managed nine 10-goal seasons and five 50-point campaigns. More importantly, Pronger’s been to the Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams in the past five years. That’s no coincidence.
84: Elmer Lach: Lach centered the legendary Punch Line, setting the table for Rocket Richard and Toe Blake. An exceptional playmaker, Lach led the NHL in assists three times (1945, 1946, 1952) and points twice (1945, 1948). He captured the scoring title and the Hart Trophy in 1945, recording a career-high 80 points in the 50-game schedule to earn MVP honors despite Richard going for 50 goals. Lach also looked a lot like ALF, so that’s pretty cool.
83. Max Bentley: In the early 1940s, Max Bentley centered his older brother Doug and Bill Mosienko on Chicago’s famed Pony Line. The trio used speed and finesse to overwhelm the opposition, with the younger Bentley doing most of the damage.
After scoring 70 points in only 47 games in 1942-43, Bentley served in World War II and missed the next two full seasons. It did little to disrupt his scoring dominance. Bentley returned to action in the 1945-46 season, winning the Hart Trophy and two straight scoring titles with 60 goals and 133 points over 107 games.
Quick like a bunny, Bentley was a dazzling stickhandler and skater, capable of darting through defenses with one spectacular maneuver after another. In 1947, the Hawks traded Bentley to the Maple Leafs in exchange for five players. While Chicago struggled without its star, Bentley went on to help the Leafs win three Stanley Cups.
82. Dit Clapper: An All-Star at right wing and defense, Clapper spent his entire 20-year career with the Boston Bruins, helping the Bears to three Stanley Cups. Clapper started out as a winger and scored a remarkable 41 goals and 60 points in 1929-30 despite only a 44-game schedule. After 10 seasons on the wing, which included two more 20-goal efforts, Clapper switched to defense and joined forces with the great Eddie Shore. Known for his affable nature off the ice, Clapper was one of the strongest defenders of his era, playing an honest, hard-working, physical style that endeared him to teammates and opponents alike.
81. Turk Broda: Ever wonder what it would be like if that fat kid from “Stand By Me” played goal? Well, allow me to present one Mr. Turk Broda.
Broda liked to eat. He liked hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken and hot dogs. And even though he was soft in the middle, not unlike his beloved jelly donuts, Broda could still stop pucks with the best of them. Broda was Patrick Roy before Patrick Roy, earning a reputation as the game’s best clutch goaltender. Broda won five Stanley Cups over a seven-year span with the Maple Leafs and posted a 1.98 goals-against average in 101 career playoff games. Pass the gravy.
[100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1]