NOT NECESSARILY STONED, BUT…

On what planet is Jonathan Toews a better hockey player than Evgeni Malkin?

Answer: Canada.

That’s the problem with ranking athletes, like the NHL 100 Greatest Players. It’s supposed to be the league’s best players over its 100-year history, but simply isn’t. Mistakes are made, perhaps because prejudice is indulged.

In the case of Malkin’s omission, the 58-man panel that selected the NHL 100 was predominantly Canadian and included exactly one Russian. Do you think maybe that had something to do with it?

Yeah, I know… “LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP, LEADERSHIP! TOEWS IS A GREAT LEADER!”

Whether that particular intangible is true or imagined, tangibles count, too.

Toews averages .86 points per game, Malkin 1.18. Toews has three Stanley Cups and a playoff MVP. Malkin has two Cups, two scoring titles, a playoff MVP and a top rookie. The difference in achievement is astonishing.

Only eight players have a scoring title, MVP and playoff MVP: Jean Beliveau, Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Guy Lafleur, Mario Lemieux, Malkin, Bobby Orr and Bryan Trottier. The other seven all made the NHL 100.

Toews’ two Olympic gold medals don’t matter. The NHL 100 is based on NHL accomplishments. International hockey doesn’t count.

If it does, put Slava Fetisov on the list, which he’s not. The legendary Soviet defenseman came to the NHL at 31, past his prime, but won two Cups with Detroit. Fetisov won Olympic gold twice with the Soviet Union, the Canada (World) Cup in 1981 and is arguably the second-best defenseman of all-time behind Orr.

Toews is real good. Just not as good as Malkin. Malkin is better than plenty of players in the NHL 100.

As Lemieux once famously said, “I judge myself by scoring titles and Stanley Cups, because nobody votes on those.” Stiff upper lip, Geno.

Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr completed the NHL All-Star weekend’s silliness by proclaiming Gordie Howe the best player ever, even though Howe wasn’t in a class with those three. But it was easiest to pick the dead guy. That way they didn’t have to debate each other about each other. I see what you did there.

Gretzky, a total failure as a coach, was enlisted to guide the Metro Division and finally won something. John Tortorella bailed because of a sick dog. The cheap pop for Gretzky was nauseating, but Tortorella showed some humanity, even if it was to an animal.

Then there’s this. Maybe Mario was high when he said Howe was the best ever.

 

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