Hell Hath No Fury Like A Finn Scorned...
Let's do this. Norte's 'Dream Team' got me riled up (it probably sent Jari Kurri off on an eating binge). So, I feel the need to respond with my own. While I will adhere to Norte's rule of players playing their natural position, I'm taking it to a new level. This is a real TEAM, not just a bunch of Hall of Fame inductees lined up at every position. Teams need chemistry; foot soldiers; guys to do the dirty work. Therefore some of my selections may not necessarily be the best that ever played their respective positions, but, they are guys who I feel are/were among the best at what they do/did. Guys with special skill-sets that are intrinsic to team success. Here we go...
LW - Ryan Smyth
C - Wayne Gretzky
RW - Jari Kurri
This might be the perfect line. Before you roll your eyes and call me a homer, consider this: Gretzky and Kurri were at their best with a guy who could 'plug' a little; someone with a little grit. Esa Tikkanen, for example, was the best foil they had. His dirty work as the disturber on that line, allowed them the space and time to work the magic. Mike Krushelnyski once scored 43 goals with them by just going to the net with his stick down. While I considered Bert Olmstead for the prized spot on the left flank, Ryan Smyth is quite simply the best at what he does - retrieving loose pucks, deflections, and collecting garbage. He's one of the best corner-men in the history of the game, and he has no peers in his 'office' in front of the net. Imagine 'Captain Canada' in front of the net and Gretzky behind it. Combine that with arguably the best pure shooter the game has ever seen and this line would flirt with 200 goals a season.
When it comes to building a dream team, you can't have 99 without 17. It's kinda like having just one of the Sedin brothers. Pointless, Norte...pointless.
LW - Mark Messier
C - Mario Lemieux
RW - Guy Lafleur
Silky, smooth skill between a pair of bats outta hell. Most people forget that Messier was a natural left winger that was converted into a center several years into his Oiler career (my scouting department is better than Norte's, therefore this has to be considered the steal of the draft). This line speaks for itself really.
LW - Frank Mahovlich
C - Jean Beliveau
RW - Maurice Richard
After the first two units run you ragged, these three beasts jump over the boards. A trio that's big, strong, and can all skate. Each of them scored a least 47 goals at one time in their career, and each of them excelled in the playoffs.
Interesting note: I once read that Mahovlich, who is considered one of the greatest Leaf players ever, felt that he never reached his potential with Toronto because of the pressure that Punch Imlach put on him. According to 'The Big M', his constant battles with the legendary Leafs coach sapped his enjoyment of the game. The stats seem to bear this out (slightly), as his career best totals came in Montreal later in his career.
LW - Bob Gainey
C - Dave Keon
RW - Claude Provost
The shutdown line nonpareil. Throw these guys out against the other teams' best line and relax. Dave Keon, one of the best two-way players in history, anchors the unit. Keon was a great skater, and could do a little bit of everything - score, kill penalties, and had that lethal backhand.
Legendary Russian coach Viktor Tikhonov called Bob Gainey they world's best all-around player. The NHL practically invented the Selke Trophy to honor him. A great leader, with a superb wrist shot to boot, he also scored over 20 goals four times.
On the right, we have another defensive stalwart in Claude Provost. Provost garnered a lot of attention throughout his career for making Bobby Hull his bitch. Montreal coach Toe Blake assigned Provost the task of shadowing the Hawks winger, which he carried out with aplomb. He once held Bobby Hull to ONE SHOT, in an entire playoff series.
LD - Bobby Orr
RD - Doug Harvey
The best pure offensive defenceman and the most complete defenceman to ever play. Orr needs no words. My team has 'dream' doctors too, so his knees are just fine.
Harvey was a leader, a PP quarterback, a shot blocker...he did it all. I once saw him do a spin-o-rama at the point (to avoid a rushing checker) that would make Denis Savard blush...he scored on the play too. Sick.
LD - Larry Robinson
RD - Paul Coffey
Robinson was a sight to behold. A huge man who could rush the puck, hit like a wrecking ball, and could be just about the nastiest SOB you ever saw. 'Big Bird' had a long fuse, but when he dropped the gloves you had little chance. My dad (from Montreal) regaled me with many tales of the great Canadiens teams from the 50's, 60's and 70's, but one of his favorite moments came when the Habs met the 'Broadstreet Bullies' in the 1976 playoffs. Robinson destroyed Flyers enforcer (er, goon) Dave Schultz and led Montreal to a sweep of the two-time defending Cup champs. I had never seen it until I found it on Youtube while writing this. Wow. Watch:
Phew, that was fun. Remember bench clearing brawls? Crazy. Oh yeah, Paul Coffey...
A member of the Mensa Society, Paul Coffey rivaled Jean Beliveau as the most fluid, beautiful skater in the game. Effortless. A pure offensive defenceman, he was probably on the cusp of eclipsing Orr as the best offensive d-man (the guy scored 48 goals in one season...as a defenceman!) but lacked the drive to reach his potential. Orr was undoubtedly a better all-around player, but Coffey was near his equal offensively. Blasphemous, I know.
LD - Chris Pronger
RD - Scott Niedermayer
Geez, I could have just cut and pasted from the Ducks media guide...
As much as it pains me to say it, Chris Pronger is the best defencemen of the last 20 years, and I don't think it's close. Bourque? Lidstrom? They're good, but Pronger is better. I had the privilege to watch Pronger for 100+ games in an Oiler uniform and I've never seen a player who understands the position like he does. His reads are impeccable, his stick positioning is perfect, and his passes are flawless. Orr and Coffey had physical gifts that changed the game and made them great, Pronger has a mental gift. He sees the game like nobody else and he doesn't make mistakes. Of course, packaging that cerebral side into a 6'6", 240 pound frame with a mean streak and a booming shot doesn't hurt. His only weakness was the leash his wife had around his nutsack.
It's scary to think that Scott Niedermayer might still be underrated. I mean they guy did play in New Jersey and Anaheim. Can you imagine if he played in a major Canadian market? Exceptional speed and agility that made him impossible to beat 1-on-1, and great instincts for the game. A complete defencemen...the modern day Doug Harvey if you will.
Pretty sure this team goes 82-0...unless my coach, Keith Jones, screws it up.