Former Bruins well represented on NHL’s top 100 players list
In a weekend full of celebrating the current crop of the best players in the world, former National Hockey League greats are getting the recognition they deserve as well.
As part of the NHL’s centennial celebration throughout the 2017 calendar year, the league revealed it’s top 100 players of all-time on Friday during All-Star weekend festivities in Los Angeles.
As with the rest of the Original Six franchises, the Bruins are well represented on the list. Fifteen former players who donned the Black and Gold at one point during their historic careers appeared in the full reveal of the top 100 players on Friday.
Most of the names are obvious to Bruins fans: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Adam Oates, Brad Park and the late Eddie Shore and Milt Schmidt. Others were here for a pit stop, including Brian Leetch, Jaromir Jagr (one of six current players on the list), Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Paul Coffey.
Here are some of the highlights from the historic names on the list.
Bruins stats: 631 GP, 264 G, 624 A, 888 P
Career stats: 657 GP, 270 G, 645 A, 915 P
Ask any casual hockey fan who the greatest Bruin of all time and they’ll answer with No. 4. The accolades speak for itself: eight Norris Trophies, three Hart Trophies, two Art Ross Awards and a two-time Stanley Cup champion. Orr’s game-winner on Mother’s Day, 1970, is etched in Boston sports and NHL lore forever.
He changed the way the game was played as a defenseman with his awe-inspiring puck handling and stellar play in his own end. Even with his chronic knee problems throughout his legendary career, Orr still amazed the Hub of Hockey with his dazzling skating and puck handling.
Revered all throughout the league, Orr’s Hall of Fame career was full of magical moments both on and off the ice.
Bruins and career stats: 776 GP, 229 G, 346 A, 575 P
They called him the ultimate Bruin for a reason. From the time he debuted in 1936, Schmidt spent his entire hockey career in Black and Gold – with the exception of his two-year coaching stint with the Washington Capitals in 1974-75 and 1975-76. He is the only man in franchise history to serve as a player, captain, coach and general manager. For a player who lost a few years of his career while serving in the Canadian military during World War II, Schmidt posted impressive numbers during his era.
Whether it was his play on the Kraut line with Woody Dumart and Bobby Bauer, guiding the Bruins to a couple of Stanley Cup final appearances behind the bench, scouting Orr when he was a teenage prodigy or making a blockbuster deal as GM to acquire Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield from Chicago, the late Schmidt did it all during his illustrious career in Boston.
Bruins stats: 550 GP, 105 G, 179 A, 284 P
Career stats: 553 GP, 105 G, 179 A, 284 P
The first all-time great in the early Bruins years, Shore was not only the best player but also the team’s best fighter. At the time, his name was up there with the likes of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth as the best athletes of his era.
Beginning with his first year in 1926-27, Shore guided the Bruins to their first three Stanley Cups in franchise history and captured the Hart Trophy on four occasions.
Shore was part of one of the most infamous and unfortunate moments in league history in 1933 when he hospitalized former Maple Leaf Ace Bailey ending his career. A few months later, Shore accepted an invitation to play in a benefit for Bailey and shook the former Leafs’ hand as the two reconciled their differences. That moment is one of the best in All-Star Game history.
Bruins stats: 1,518 GP, 395 G, 1,111 A, 1,506 P
Career stats: 1,612 GP, 410 G, 1,169 A, 1,579 P
The talent on the Bruins’ blue-line didn’t stop with Orr following his trade to Chicago. Just a few years later, Harry Sinden drafted Bourque with the eighth overall pick in the 1979 NHL Draft.
For 21 years, Bourque dazzled Bruins fans with a strong physical presence and tremendous offensive instinct. He earned five Norris Trophies, including four in a five-year span from 1987-91, and captained the B’s to two Stanley Cup Final appearances losing to Edmonton both times in 1988 and 1990 and, in front of the home crowd, scored the winning goal in the 1996 All-Star Game earning him MVP honors.
Unfortunately for Bruins fans, they had to cheer on Bourque’s quest for a Stanley Cup with another organization as the Black and Gold, who were in rebuilding mode, sent him to Colorado in March of 2000. With his new home and the Hub of Hockey still cheering him on, Bourque finally got to kiss Lord’s Stanley Cup with fellow Hall of Famers Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and the rest of the Avalanche in 2001. One of the best teams in the last 15-plus years capped off their season when Sakic skated the Cup over to Bourque, who, with tears flowing down from his eyes, lifted and skated with Stanley to the joy of Avs, Bruins and hockey fans everywhere.
Bruins stats: 625 GP, 459 G, 553 A, 1,012 P
Career stats: 1,282 GP, 717 G, 873 A, 1,590 P
“Jesus saves, Espo scores on the rebound.”
Throughout his playing career, Esposito was at the right place at the right time. He was one of the final pieces of the puzzle that sparked a hockey phenomenon in Boston.
Acquired before the 1967-68 season, Esposito showed some promise in Chicago before arriving in Boston. Upon arriving, his career took off as he scored 40 or more goals in six of his seven seasons in Boston that included a career-high 76 in 1970-71. His accolades include five Art Ross Trophies, two Hart’s and two Stanley Cups. He also played a pivotal role in the historic Summit Series where Team Canada came back from a 3-2 series deficit to defeat the mighty Soviet Union.
Esposito was traded to the Rangers in 1975-76 as part of the Brad Park deal. His best moments happened in Boston no doubt. His personality and hustle resonates for many Bruins fans today.
Bruins stats: 1,436 GP, 545 G, 794 A, 1,339 P
Career stats: 1,540 GP, 556 G, 813 A, 1,369 P
The third member of the list from the “Big Bad Bruins” era, Bucyk served as the team captain during the greatest run in franchise history.
Bucyk went through some growing pains upon arriving in Boston, however. After two straight postseason appearances, Bucyk and the rest of the Bruins would miss the playoffs eight consecutive seasons before snapping that skid in 1967-68.
He was one of the more consistent Bruins during their time of futility in the early to mid 60’s with regular 15-25 goal seasons. It all came full circle for Bucyk and company in the latter half of the decade as the “Chief” played the best hockey of his legendary career between 1969-70 and 1975-76 having scored 30 or more goals in all but one year in that span.
The two-time Lady Byng Award winner is still with the Bruins organization today, serving as the team’s ambassador.
Bruins stats: 501 GP, 100 G, 317 A, 417 P
Career stats: 1,113 GP, 213 G, 683 A, 896 P
For several years, Brad Park was on the other side of the Bruins-Rangers rivalry in the late 60’s and early 70’s. More often than not, Park and the Rangers would come up short against the Bruins, including the 1972 Stanley Cup Final.
A few years later, Park would come over to Boston as part of the Esposito trade. Coached by the colorful Don Cherry, Park’s work ethic and two-way play on the blue-line sparked the Bruins to a pair of Stanley Cup appearances in the post-“Big Bad Bruins” era.
His most famous Bruins moment, however, came in 1983 when his overtime winner sparked the Bruins past the Sabres in the Adams Division finals. Park and the Bruins would run into the buzzsaw of the Islanders dynasty in the early 80’s in the next round and left for Detroit the next season where he finished the final two years of his Hall of Fame career.
Bruins stats: 419 GP, 155 G, 295 A, 450 P
Career stats: 1,281 GP, 491 G, 776 A, 1,267 P
Another member of the Esposito trade, Ratelle dazzled Rangers fans for the majority of his career playing on the famous “GAG” line with Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield. The trio was good for at least one goal per game as one of the more formidable scoring units during their time
Some of Ratelle’s success from New York carried over to Boston where he tallied 20 or more goals in five of his six seasons in Black and Gold. The former Ranger and member of Team Canada’s Summit Series win over the Soviets was known to be one of the finer gentlemen during his era and captured two Lady Byng Awards and was the recipient of the Pearson Award (now the Ted Lindsey Award) during his first season in Boston.
Bruins stats: 368 GP, 142 G, 357 A, 499 P
Career stats: 1,337 GP, 341 G, 1,079 A, 1,420 P
In an era dominated by Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, Oates was a model of consistency. From his playmaking to his swift passing and faceoff prowess, Oates was a reliable center for several years.
From the time he was acquired in 1992 from the St. Louis Blues, Oates gave the Black and Gold another weapon with Bourque and Cam Neely. With Neely, Bourque and a rookie by the name of Joey Juneau, Oates had his best season in his first full year in Boston – 1992-93 – where he tallied career highs in goals (45), assists (97) and points (142).
Like Bourque, Oates had to go elsewhere to try to capture that elusive Stanley Cup. He failed in both attempts with the Capitals (1998) and Ducks (2003). Though his stats took a hit, there’s no denying that Oates had an impact on those young Caps and Ducks squads as a leader and veteran presence.
Bruins stats: 11 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 P
Career stats: 1,679 GP, 758 G, 1,139 A, 1,897 P
His illustrious career is still going, and no one can see it stopping anytime soon even when he turns 45 in February.
Jagr’s career began back in 1990 and since then he’s never looked back. The ageless wonder has five Art Ross Trophies and two Hart Trophies to his credit, as well as a pair of Stanley Cups during his first two years in Pittsburgh.
Though his production wasn’t as good when he was acquired by the Bruins in 2013, his swagger was still there. That season was Jagr’s most recent Stanley Cup Final appearance, but he definitely deserves another Cup before his illustrious career comes to a close.
At the very least, his trademark mullet is as good as ever.
Bruins stats: 61 GP, 5 G, 27 A, 32 P
Career stats: 1,241 GP, 247 G, 781 A, 1,038 P
Arguably the best American-born defenseman of all-time, Leetch spent the majority of his career with the Rangers. The former Boston College Eagle was the first American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 1994 when he sparked the Blueshirts to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.
The two-time Norris winner was a staple on Team USA’s international teams, including the 1996 World Cup of Hockey in their upset of Team Canada in the Gold Medal round. Leetch finished his career in Boston just a few short miles away from his alma mater where he tallied 32 points in his swan song season of 2005-06.
Bruins stats: 18 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 P
Career stats: 1,409 GP, 396 G, 1,135 A, 1,531 P
He wasn’t just a compliment on the mid-to-late 80’s Oilers dynasty, he was a staple. With their talented crop of forwards, Coffey was the first piece of Edmonton’s up-tempo offense. His swift passing and hard slap shot gave guys like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jarri Kurri, Glen Anderson and countless others time and space to work with.
Coffey’s talents carried over to Pittsburgh where he won another Cup with Jagr, Mario Lemieux and Ron Francis (to name a few). His 21-year career also included stops in LA, Detroit, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Carolina and Boston before the four-time Norris trophy called it a career in 2000-01.
Bruins stats: 57 GP, 15-32-5, 3.67 GAA, .896 SV%
Career stats: 608 GP, 271-198-121, 2.55 GAA, .907 SV%
At a time where the Bruins were set with Gerry Cheevers between the pipes, Parent was just hopeful to help the Flyers survive their expansion years. What they got was the greatest goalie in the history of their franchise.
Learning under his boyhood idol Jacques Plante, Parent’s greatness would have to wait after signing with the rival WHA in 1972-73. He would come back to the Flyers the following year and never looked back, winning back-to-back Vezina Trophies, Conn Smythe Trophies and Stanley Cups in 1973-74 and 1974-75. His shutout of the Bruins in Game 6 of the 1974 Final remains one of the historic moments in Philadelphia sports lore.
Bruins stats: 8 GP, 7-1-0, 2.00 GAA
Career stats: 837 GP, 434-247-146, 2.38 GAA, .919 SV%
Like a few other names on this list, Plante came to Boston towards the end of his career. His greatness came before that in revolutionizing the goaltending position.
Plante became the first goalie to wear a mask after bleeding profusely and breaking his cheekbone following a slapshot to the face. Thankfully for Plante, it didn’t hinder his game as he helped the Canadiens to six Stanley Cups and earned himself seven Vezina Trophies and a Hart Trophy throughout his illustrious career.
Bruins stats: 102 GP, 40-43-19, 2.53 GAA .915 SV%
Career stats: 837 GP, 446-332-171, 2.38 GAA, .919 SV%
Spending the majority of his career with the Red Wings, Sawchuk came to Boston for a brief two-year stint in 1955. He’s best known for his time in Detroit, however, leading the Wings to three Stanley Cups in four years to go along with his four Vezina Trophies. Unlike Plante, Sawchuk was the last goalie to adopt the goalie mask.
Sawchuk’s later stops included Toronto – where he split goaltending duties with Johnny Brower and was part of the last Leafs’ Cup team in 1967 – New York and Los Angeles before his untimely death in 1970.