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Hockey's 100 Greatest Players- An Early Breakdown

There is a slight lull in hockey news following draft weekend and preceding the upcoming free agency period. So I will take this time to seek more input into my summer project - The 100 Greatest Hockey Players of All Time. Email me at or tweet me @HockeyLegends

I think it is important to have an appropriate balance of players from each position and each era. It is tough to compare forwards to defenders, and tougher yet to compare goaltenders to all skaters, and tougher yet to compare any of them from era to era. So I am purposefully trying to find the right balance when it comes to properly representing the three major positions (forwards, defense, goaltenders) in my top 100 list.

I currently have a list of 120 players ranked (with another 30 noted), though I am constantly shuffling them all around still. But as of this publishing my top 100 list can be broken down as follows:

Goalies: 14
Centers: 33
Right Wings: 14
Left Wings: 13
Defense: 25

Here are my era breakdowns:

Pre-1950: 23
Original Six (1950-1967) - 24
Post Expansion (1967-current) - 53

I would like your feed back on whether you think that this is close to an appropriate ratio, and if not what should be that ratio?

Also I wanted to give a hint in to how I'm constructing my list players. Firstly, I made individual lists ranking players by positions and by eras, as well as European/International stars. Now these rankings are still an evolving piece of work, too, but I took these rankings and then started making a list of 120 by grouping players into groups of 10s.

How many goaltenders or defensemen should I include in each group of ten? I am currently thinking of consciously including at least 1 goalie and 2 defensemen in each grouping.

Also, how early and how often should I be including pre-1950 players? Dispersing the players in this group is a huge challenge.

By ranking the players by positions and eras and then grouping them in 10s, the top 120 list has actually come together relatively fast, much to my surprise. I then constantly go over each group of 10, ranking and re-ranking based on my core values, all of which are completely subjective to my own perspectives and baises, of career resumes and legacies followed by ability.

Once each I sort of settle on each group of 10 then I start comparing the one group to the next and look to promote or demote where warranted. Of course, the original lists kind of act as a stop-gap measure. If I decide to move Larry Robinson up to a higher grouping, that is all fine and dandy so long as I don't move him higher than the defenseman I have ranked directly above him, or I have to review my defenseman rankings. Therefore Robinson is automatically grouped based by his positional and era ranking. Once he's grouped, I have to figure out where I think he ranks compared to forwards and goalies who end up in the similar grouping. It is a on going process, with many adjustments happening constantly.

Just to give you a hint, here are a few players who currently sit outside of the top 100, though they are far from eliminated from contention: Jean Ratelle, Mike Gartner, Boris Mikhailov, Earl Seibert, Jacques Lemaire and Grant Fuhr. My reaction right now is that I am not pleased that these and a few other players are not in the top 100.

I would greatly value your input on:

  • Positional and era ratios: Are the numbers of players in each appropriate for a list of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time.
  • The process I am using.
I am open to any feedback so that I can improve my methodology here in the earliest stages of this lengthy project. Email me at or tweet me @HockeyLegends


reoddai said…
I think that you pre1950 group should be smaller. If you look at olymoic records (check 100m sprint by year) over time, you can see how the fatest in say 1910 wpuld compare to the fastest now, or even 10th place now. Improvements in conditoning, techniques, ability to be a dedicated proffessional can all affect 'best'.

If you want to do best by era, then your beeakdown looks good. But best all time? 25% of the last decade feels high when you consider that most of those players in that era were only part time hockey players.


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