Best Of The Best.
Well, sort of. Firstly they separate players pre and post 1967, which is fair enough. It is awfully tough to compare modern players with those of the Original Six or even earlier than that.
They also rank the players only by position, stopping shy of truly proclaiming who is the Best of the Best. Gretzky vs Orr? This book doesn't go quite that far..
Regardless, it's a neat book, wonderfully presented and full of great photography and good reading. Check it out on Hockey Book Reviews.com.
But I wanted to make special mention of Phil Esposito, who only ranked 7th in the Modern Era: Center category. Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux hold down the top two spots, to no one's surprise. More contemporary players Steve Yzerman, Mark Messier, Joe Sakic and Bryan Trottier also outrank Espo.
Yet Espo always fell in the shadows of teammate Bobby Orr. It is as if all of Esposito's accomplishments with the Boston Bruins - all the NHL records, 2 Stanley Cups, 2 Hart trophies, 5 Art Ross trophies - are all asterisked because Esposito played with Orr.
Time undoubtedly has played a role in the diminishing of Esposito's greatness. Nowadays he is best remembered for his passionate play at the 1972 Summit Series, perhaps the only time he escaped Orr's shadow. Younger fans may only know him as an outspoken personality.
Does Phil Esposito deserve a higher standing amongst the best centers since 1967? It would be hard to displace Yzerman, Messier, Sakic or Trottier, even though they combined for only one Art Ross Trophy compared to Espo's five. It is certainly no slight to be in the same grouping.
That being said, I firmly believe that Phil Esposito's accomplishments deserve to be better remembered by the eyes of history.