The modern day NHL product may not have scoring at the same levels of the 1980s, but it’s filled with speed and youth and excitement that’s almost unprecedented. It’s clear that there is some sort of change going on in the league.
We want to ask you, excluding the obvious Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, which all-time great NHLers you’d like to see in today’s game at their peak. You can have a look at the video above, but we take a closer look at some of them below, and you can vote on who your pick would be.
Though Peter Forsberg’s career was cut short due to having three defenders draped over his back most nights, would he have been better without the clutching and grabbing? The natural instinct is to say yes, but there’s something to be said for players who invite physicality and thrive off it — Forsberg was one of those. He also used to dish out quite a bit of punishment, too. Today’s best players keep more of their attention on the puck and less on shaking checks and throwing hits.
Forsberg undoubtedly would have been more productive if he could have avoided injury, but if he played today, would he be as creative and successful without the demanding physical forces he worked against in the 1990s?
The Russian Rocket would fit right in to today’s NHL.
His speed-above-all-else approach and ability to move goaltenders left to right, as opposed to blasting shots through them, is what many of today’s players need to do to stand out.
Exhibit A: Goalies today would still have trouble moving left to right to stop this move.
If we’re asking who would thrive in the NHL of 2016-17, certain names come to mind that represent opportunities lost.
Paul Kariya, though he finished his 989-game career with an incredible 989 points, would have theoretically had the chance to play maybe a few hundred more games had he grown up in a game with fewer head shots and a greater ability to prevent and treat concussions — which Kariya suffered too many of over his tenure in the league (Jeff Skinner, anyone?).
Had Kariya played today, just imagine the Johnny Gaudreau-like performances uninhibited by the Scott Stevens Express or a Gary Suter mauling.
Would Mark Messier be a hero or villain in the NHL of 2016-17?
He is largely revered as one of the greatest players and leaders in hockey history, and yet the borderline dirty play that accompanied his 1,887 points was once viewed as simply Mark being Mark. Now, Messier would have a hard time remaining a fan favourite if he was being called into the NHL Player Safety office every month.
This is an interesting one.
While Hasek is certainly one of the best goaltenders off all-time, a list like this is a constant refrain that reminds us players are so much a product of their own time. Hasek confounded shooters in the 1990s with unpredictable play, the ability to take away anything down low, and flopping around like a fish out of water. Would that work today?
Again, bear with us, of course Hasek’s talent would carry him a long way. But there might be a weakness shooters would find today in Hasek’s game. A sometimes desperate and unconventional Hasek style might be better picked apart by the incredible accuracy and speed of the types of shots we see coming off sticks that have improved with technology (weight, whip).
Just for the entertainment, yes.
Sure, this might fire up the comments section, but Patrick Roy’s sound efficiency would do well in today’s NHL. His butterfly style, while it’s evolved since his time, could be slightly tweaked to be appropriate now.
Like Kariya, here’s a player we’d all love to see play in an era where stars didn’t receive as much physical punishment. Yes, Bobby Orr fought his own battles — he had more penalty minutes (953) than points (915) — but there isn’t an offensive defenceman who has to do the same today.
The game is so heavily influenced by this Hall of Famer — think Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, Duncan Keith — that there’s no doubt Orr would fit right in. Boston could use him, too.
If he could play without a helmet, seeing his eyes again would be worth it alone.
Maurice Richard was one of the first true power forwards in the league and he did without size (by today’s standards). His never-say-die style will always have a place in the game.
Of course, so much of what made up the narrative of his unbelievable career was the francophone identity and its relationship with the rest of the league. It helped define what it meant to be a Canadien and a Quebecer. And while fans may not want that to influence roster decisions, it would no doubt be a welcome addition to Montreal to have a player represent an entire province the way Rocket did.
Unless he came back and signed with the Predators…