After receiving hundreds of emails and dozens of comments, and after better focusing my definition of the term great, I have an updated, but not yet final, Top 36 list.
Although admittedly I'm using quite an unscientific formula, I decided to equally weigh career achievements and legacy, at 33% each. I then use the remaining 33% percent on a combination of statistics, ability and intangibles. I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies.
Here's the resulting but not yet final list, in no particular order:
In: Milt Schmidt, Paul Coffey, Niklas Lidstrom, Viacheslav Fetisov, and Jari Kurri.
Out: Syl Apps, Larry Robinson, Chris Chelios, Martin Brodeur and Henri Richard.
Firstly, other players still very much in contention, in no particular order, include: Joe Sakic, Borje Salming, Peter Stastny, Gilbert Perreault, Ron Francis, Teeder Kennedy, Max Bentley, Frank Boucher, Sergei Makarov, Igor Larionov, and Alexander Ragulin. I'm wondering if Lidstrom, Coffey, Jagr, Hull, Clarke and Bossy could fall out of 36 for one of these guys, especially Stastny. I also have soft spots for Boucher, Kennedy and Makarov.
Secondly, yep, I put Tretiak back in. I keep waffling on him, because I really do think his stats were padded against weak teams and he had his share of losses in big games. But his career accomplishments and especially his legacy weigh so heavily for him, that I have a tough time keeping him out. In my books, there were better goaltenders, but Tretiak had the greater career and greater impact.
There's been much campaigning for many other players, almost all of whom have been legitimate candidates and closely scrutinized. I could never cover them all, but here's a few comments on some popular choices currently sitting outside of the top 36:
Ron Francis: 4th all time leading scorer, 2 time Cup champ, complete player in most every way. Yet he was never the dominant center in his era, never an all star or top level national team participant. Almost ditto for Mike Gartner. Amazing players, incredible consistency and longevity, but maybe not a high enough career peak for me.
Marcel Dionne: Incredibly talent, but little to show in terms of playoff games, championships. I think every player on my list has multiple championships, be it Stanley Cup or Olympics/Worlds.
Cam Neely, Pavel Bure: Love them both, and pretty nice career peaks, but not enough longevity or championships.
Borje Salming: Huge impact, very very solid defender, but again maybe not the peak value I'm expecting.
The Final List: Monday
I'm going to do some camping in the next few days, and will seriously contemplate my final list. I will likely debut my final list on Monday, August 20th. I suspect there will be some more changes, so be sure to come back. In the meantime, I will be accessing the internet regularly while camping, and encourage more participation and input.