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ScottM

The Top 10 Playmakers of All Time

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ArtRossTrophyLarge.jpg

 

This list is somewhat of a sequel to my top 10 scorers list. Personally, I found it much harder. There were so many players that I felt deserved serious consideration, and, well, a list of 10 players doesn't leave a lot of room. It felt like no matter who I chose, it couldn't be anywhere near perfect, so I just gave it my best shot. Here goes...

 

#10 Stan Mikita
926 assists in 1,394 NHL games. 0.66 APG
 
The Chicago Blackhawks had a deadly duo in Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull. While Hull racked up his 50-goal seasons, Mikita established himself as the best assist man of the 1960's, leading the league in helpers three times and points four times. For his efforts, he won a pair of MVP's.
 
#9 Bill Cowley
353 assists in 549 NHL games. 0.64 APG
 
Cowley was one of the first true playmakers in the game. Long before Gretzky and Lemieux appeared on the scene, Cowley poster a nearly 2 PPG season in 1943-44. He led the league in assists three times and posted four 40+ assist seasons in the much shorter seasons of the 1930's and 40's. Cowley won the Hart Trophy in 1941 and 1943.

 

#8 Bobby Clarke
852 assists in 1,144 NHL games. 0.74 APG
 
What made Reggie Leach and Bill Barber so great? Mostly, it was their insane talent, but Bobby Clarke certainly helped them pad their stats. A three-time Hart Trophy winner, Clarke twice led the league in assists, and in 1976 helped Leach become the first player other than Phil Esposito to score at least 60 goals in a season.
 
#7 Elmer Lach
408 assists in 664 NHL games. 0.61 APG
 
Every goal scorer needs a setup man, and for Maurice Richard, that man was Elmer Lach. Lach led the NHL in assists three times and in points twice, doing each and winning the Hart in the Rocket's 50 goal season.
 
#6 Adam Oates
1,079 assists in 1,337 NHL games. 0.81 APG
 
Without Adam Oates, Brett Hull was a great goal scorer, as evidenced by his 741 career tallies. With Adam Oates, a 50 goal scorer was a 70 and 80 goal scorer. Hull himself gave Oates a lot of credit for his success, once saying he was never quite the same without his former linemate. Oates led the NHL in assists three times. That's good enough for the sixth spot in a crowded field.
 
#5 Peter Stastny
789 asssists in 977 NHL games. 0.81 APG
 
Quick. Who was the second-leading points getter of the 1980's? The answer is Peter Stastny. That's a lot of points in the high-scoring 1980's. Stastny's numbers might be even better if he had been able to join the league before he was 24 years old. He's not only one of the best early European players, he's one of the game's best passers. 
 
#4 Gordie Howe
1,383 assists in 2,186 NHL and WHA games. 0.63 APG
 
Maurice Richard was the unquestioned best goal-scorer of his day, and his era rival Gordie Howe was the best playmaker. Howe was a three time assist leader and six time points champion. Mr. Hockey is still among the career leaders in many NHL scoring categories to this day.
 
#3 Mario Lemieux
1,033 assists in 915 NHL games. 1.13 APG
 
Super Mario's career was shortened by injuries and sickness, but the same cannot be said of his talent. He's one of only three players to post a 100+ assist season, he led the league in assists three times, in points six times, and is one of only two players to average over 1 APG.
 
#2 Wayne Gretzky
2,027 assists in 1,527 NHL and WHA games. 1.29 APG
 
Random fact of the day: If Wayne Gretzky had never scored a goal, he'd still be the NHL's all-time leading scorer. The Great One led the league in assists 16 times, including two times very near the end of his career. He also won the Art Ross a ridiculous 11 times.
 
#1 Bobby Orr
645 assists in 657 NHL games. 0.98
 
How can Wayne Gretzky not be #1 on this list? Because of Bobby Orr. Like Lemieux, Orr's career was injury-shortened, but in his short career, he revolutionized the game. He's the only defenseman to lead the Art Ross. He won three consecutive Hart Trophies, something no other defenseman has done. He changed the way his position was played. If he was a forward and was more dedicated to offense, there's no telling what kind of numbers he might have posted, even in 657 games.
 
When you don't find the name you were certain would be there, don't take it as a slight. Just to repeat, there were a ton of deserving players, but I couldn't squeeze them all in. If you disagree with my list, feel free to make your own. Let the debate begin.

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This is a travesty.  You leave Gilbert Perrault off this list?  You but a corner grinder like Clarke in and Makita?  And Adam Oates?  Perrault was ten times better than him.  Joke

 

And I knew that would be how many people would feel. Hence the disclaimers. That list was HARD.

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This is a travesty.  You leave Gilbert Perrault off this list?  You but a corner grinder like Clarke in and Makita?  And Adam Oates?  Perrault was ten times better than him.  Joke

My god, its like you expect Perreault to be on every list, simple fact is, he never led the league in any offensive category. Great player, but you really need to remove your nostalgia glasses.....

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And I knew that would be how many people would feel. Hence the disclaimers. That list was HARD.

Was it your intention to leave out active players? if not, i would have definitely added Joe Thornton(basically a better version of Adam Oates IMO) and Sidney Crosby

 

Here is a comparison for Joe and Adam...

 

Joe Thornton

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Adam Oates

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I full heartedly believe it is far more impressive to put up 90 assists in the 2000s than it is to put up 90 assists in the early high scoring 90s...

 

And as you can see, Joe Thornton led the league in assists with 2 of his 90 point seasons, Adam Oates had 1 time where he led the league in assists in which he had 90 assists.

And you have to consider the fact that during their primes, Adam Oates played with Brett Hull while Joe Thornton played with Jonathan Cheechoo...

I know you can bring up the fact that Adam Oates would have led the league in assists more with Lemieux and Gretzky out of the picture....

But if you also bring Crosby out of the picture( i am fully aware Gretzky/Lemieux and Crosby are not comparable...but Crosby has the best hockey IQ since those 2...) Then Joe Thornton would have led the league more in APG.

 

 

And fully expect me to bring up stats when you make these kinds of lists, thats as annoying as it could get :)

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Was it your intention to leave out active players? if not, i would have definitely added Joe Thornton(basically a better version of Adam Oates IMO) and Sidney Crosby

 

I full heartedly believe it is far more impressive to put up 90 assists in the 2000s than it is to put up 90 assists in the early high scoring 90s...

 

And as you can see, Joe Thornton led the league in assists with 2 of his 90 point seasons, Adam Oates had 1 time where he led the league in assists in which he had 90 assists.

And you have to consider the fact that during their primes, Adam Oates played with Brett Hull while Joe Thornton played with Jonathan Cheechoo...

I know you can bring up the fact that Adam Oates would have led the league in assists more with Lemieux and Gretzky out of the picture....

But if you also bring Crosby out of the picture( i am fully aware Gretzky/Lemieux and Crosby are not comparable...but Crosby has the best hockey IQ since those 2...) Then Joe Thornton would have led the league more in APG.

 

 

And fully expect me to bring up stats when you make these kinds of lists, thats as annoying as it could get :)

 

I removed the lists only for the sake of shortening the quote. Lol.

 

Crosby and Thornton were both extremely close to making the list. Like I said in the original post, there were just SO many players I could have chosen from. I'm not fully satisfied with my own list for that reason. If I did another one in 6 months, it might very well look different depending on my thought process that day. I feel like a broken record, but I just couldn't squeeze everybody that deserved to make the list into 10 spots. For that reason, I really don't have any intentions to defend against criticism of specific selections. It was just tough.

 

And I don't mind the lists one bit. They contribute to a good discussion, so bring them on!

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I removed the lists only for the sake of shortening the quote. Lol.

 

Crosby and Thornton were both extremely close to making the list. Like I said in the original post, there were just SO many players I could have chosen from. I'm not fully satisfied with my own list for that reason. If I did another one in 6 months, it might very well look different depending on my thought process that day. I feel like a broken record, but I just couldn't squeeze everybody that deserved to make the list into 10 spots. For that reason, I really don't have any intentions to defend against criticism of specific selections. It was just tough.

 

And I don't mind the lists one bit. They contribute to a good discussion, so bring them on!

Ok, so what was your justification putting Adam Oates in the list but not Joe Thornton?

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Ok, so what was your justification putting Adam Oates in the list but not Joe Thornton?

 

All I could say would be to repeat my previous post. I think the top four (maybe five) should be more or less unassailable, but after that, it's open season. Lol

 

Gee Scott, looks like you have them coming at you with pitchforks!!  LOL

 

Yeah, but I expected as much. If my list was that much of a debate with myself, what else should I expect? It got some discussion going, at least. That's what I was hoping for.

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Gee Scott, looks like you have them coming at you with pitchforks!!  LOL

 

I'm not sure if I'd be wise to do a goalies list. That might get me crucified. Lol

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All I could say would be to repeat my previous post. I think the top four (maybe five) should be more or less unassailable, but after that, it's open season. Lol

 

 

Yeah, but I expected as much. If my list was that much of a debate with myself, what else should I expect? It got some discussion going, at least. That's what I was hoping for.

Oh, and where is Tanner Glass??? His hockey IQ is second to none!!!...

 

TANNERSWING.gif

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glasssucks.gif

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Oh, and where is Tanner Glass??? His hockey IQ is second to none!!!...

 

No ninja? I'm hurt.

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No ninja? I'm hurt.

I apologize, It was not my intention for you to lose any brain cells....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Actually I believe I am the main cause of brain damage for people on this site....

Edited by JagerMeister

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Scott I appreciate what you do with these lists. Lord knows I can't commit the time they take. I understand the complexity of sorting the positions out. I don't, however, find your top three unassailable, as you put it. Orr was a great player, but he just doesn't rate with Gretzky and Lemieux in quite the way many here think he does.

Your own stats support his being third or lower. Just because he was a defenseman doesn't make him a greater playmaker. He played like a forward much of the time anyway. All due respect to Orr, he just wasn't Gretzky or Lemieux.

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Scott I appreciate what you do with these lists. Lord knows I can't commit the time they take. I understand the complexity of sorting the positions out. I don't, however, find your top three unassailable, as you put it. Orr was a great player, but he just doesn't rate with Gretzky and Lemieux in quite the way many here think he does.

Your own stats support his being third or lower. Just because he was a defenseman doesn't make him a greater playmaker. He played like a forward much of the time anyway. All due respect to Orr, he just wasn't Gretzky or Lemieux.

 Besides offense, Orr was literally better in every other aspect of the game, winning an Art Ross as a defenseman is insane no matter how you put it...

He did play like a forward, but unlike Gretzky and Lemieux, he actually played defense...and was one hell of a player on both sides of the ice...

Imagine if he only focused on offense without any defensive responsibility, then that would give him even more time to produce.

 

However, I would not put ANYONE over Gretzky when it comes down to playmaking ability...

Edited by JagerMeister

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Scott I appreciate what you do with these lists. Lord knows I can't commit the time they take. I understand the complexity of sorting the positions out. I don't, however, find your top three unassailable, as you put it. Orr was a great player, but he just doesn't rate with Gretzky and Lemieux in quite the way many here think he does.

Your own stats support his being third or lower. Just because he was a defenseman doesn't make him a greater playmaker. He played like a forward much of the time anyway. All due respect to Orr, he just wasn't Gretzky or Lemieux.

 

I didn't necessarily mean the rankings for the top four were unassailable. I wouldn't argue with anyone that wanted to put them into any order. I simply meant that I don't think that they could be excluded from such a list, while a case could potentially be made with anyone else on the list with someone else. Rank those four in whatever order you want, but I just don't think they can be excluded.

 

While I said I wouldn't really defend or debate most of the players on the list, I will make a little bit of a case for Orr at #1. The 70's didn't feature nearly the level of offense that the 80's did. That's why I gave a little more weight to his numbers than I did Gretzky or even Lemieux. To me, Orr is definitely number one, but I won't try to talk anyone out of saying the same about any one of those other three guys.

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 Besides offense, Orr was literally better in every other aspect of the game, winning an Art Ross as a defenseman is insane no matter how you put it...

He did play like a forward, but unlike Gretzky and Lemieux, he actually played defense...and was one hell of a player on both sides of the ice...

Imagine if he only focused on offense without any defensive responsibility, then that would give him even more time to produce.

 

However, I would not put ANYONE over Gretzky when it comes down to playmaking ability...

 

Jager and I cross posted, so I'll edit to acknowledge that. I have no problem with anything either of you guys said. There are strong arguments to be made, and I certainly won't deny that.

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@JagerMeister

Better in every other aspect of the game? That's quite a stretch. In fact it's completely false. Lol.

@ScottM

The game was different in his day too. But fair enough.

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@JagerMeister

Better in every other aspect of the game? That's quite a stretch. In fact it's completely false. Lol.

@ScottM

The game was different in his day too. But fair enough.

 

I'll defend Jager a bit there. Gretzky's offensive numbers were definitely bigger than Orr's. Chalk that up to the position gap, the era, or whatever you want, but Orr was a better defender, a better skater, and better with physical play (even if it did destroy his knees). It's probably not fair to say that Orr had better vision of the game, since I think they were pretty even there. Gretzky's huge offensive numbers and his ability to see the whole game (the latter of which he shared with Orr) are why he's so widely viewed as the best ever.

 

And yes, fair enough on the disagreement on Gretzk/Lemieux vs. Orr from my view too. Agree to disagree. I think that battle will rage on forever. Lol

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Allow me to throw another list into this debate. This one was made by the NHL. I have to say that I have some MAJOR issues with it.

 

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As good as I think Oates was, he's too high on the list. Where in the world is Mr. Hockey? And I don't think I can go along with Sedin making the top 10. Outside of Orr, anyone pre-1980's was ignored.

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I was going to write up a big thing, go over all sorts of era-adjusted material, but I'll just go with some stuff I did over 10 years ago:

 

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Allow me to throw another list into this debate. This one was made by the NHL. I have to say that I have some MAJOR issues with it.

 

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As good as I think Oates was, he's too high on the list. Where in the world is Mr. Hockey? And I don't think I can go along with Sedin making the top 10. Outside of Orr, anyone pre-1980's was ignored.

Mikita was on the list, I would remove Peter Stastny and Henrik Sedin, in what universe is Oates a better playmaker than Lemieux? Compared to some of the things NHL writers have wrote in the past...this is not too bad, Its more of the order i dont agree with.

 

 

Forsberg and Crosby certainly deserve to be there IMO

 

It's just that their injured careers makes it harder to put them on an all time list

Edited by JagerMeister

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Mikita was on the list, I would remove Peter Stastny and Henrik Sedin, in what universe is Oates a better playmaker than Lemieux? Compared to some of the things NHL writers have wrote in the past...this is not too bad, Its more of the order i dont agree with.

 

 

Forsberg and Crosby certainly deserve to be there IMO

 

It's just that their injured careers makes it harder to put them on an all time list

 

You're right about Mikita... duh... Long week. Lol

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I'll defend Jager a bit there. Gretzky's offensive numbers were definitely bigger than Orr's. Chalk that up to the position gap, the era, or whatever you want, but Orr was a better defender, a better skater, and better with physical play (even if it did destroy his knees). It's probably not fair to say that Orr had better vision of the game, since I think they were pretty even there. Gretzky's huge offensive numbers and his ability to see the whole game (the latter of which he shared with Orr) are why he's so widely viewed as the best ever.

And yes, fair enough on the disagreement on Gretzk/Lemieux vs. Orr from my view too. Agree to disagree. I think that battle will rage on forever. Lol

In my eyes Orr was better defensively and physically, but Gretzky was the better stick handler, skater, and had better vision than Orr. And obviously Gretzky's numbers were astronomical.

I don't put a whole lot into the defenseman vs forward argument for a few reasons. Primarily Orr spent a lot of time leading the rush. And in fairness, how do you count secondary assists? Defenseman secondaries tend to be break out passes while a forward's tend to be offensive zone creativity... So how does anyone even begin to judge all that?

I have felt Bobby Orr was one of the game's greats but still not at the Gretzky/Lemieux tier all of my life. Those two were just magical players. But we all have opinions. Just thought Jager's comment was over the top.

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The author of that nhl.com article could have at least had the class to title it "The top 10 playmakers of the last 30 years + Stan Mikita" instead of being "in NHL history".

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In my eyes Orr was better defensively and physically, but Gretzky was the better stick handler, skater, and had better vision than Orr. And obviously Gretzky's numbers were astronomical.

I don't put a whole lot into the defenseman vs forward argument for a few reasons. Primarily Orr spent a lot of time leading the rush. And in fairness, how do you count secondary assists? Defenseman secondaries tend to be break out passes while a forward's tend to be offensive zone creativity... So how does anyone even begin to judge all that?

I have felt Bobby Orr was one of the game's greats but still not at the Gretzky/Lemieux tier all of my life. Those two were just magical players. But we all have opinions. Just thought Jager's comment was over the top.

 

There's definitely something to be said about the fact that Orr joined and led the rush so much. No other defenseman has done that the way Orr did -- at least not to the degree he did -- and that's why he was the lone defenseman on the list. Paul Coffey was my second highest, but there were too many guys I couldn't justify putting him in over for the fact that you gave.

 

Yeah, Gretzky was probably a better stick handler, but I stick with Orr as the better skater easily. He was one of the fastest ever, and didn't have that awkward stance that Gretzky so often had. Maybe it's an aesthetics thing, but Gretzky just can't compare in my mind.

 

All of this shows why this list was so hard to create. There are so many aspects of the game that contribute to playmaking, whereas a great shot is good enough to make a scorers list. It also makes the discussion more interesting.

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There's definitely something to be said about the fact that Orr joined and led the rush so much. No other defenseman has done that the way Orr did -- at least not to the degree he did -- and that's why he was the lone defenseman on the list. Paul Coffey was my second highest, but there were too many guys I couldn't justify putting him in over for the fact that you gave.

 

Yeah, Gretzky was probably a better stick handler, but I stick with Orr as the better skater easily. He was one of the fastest ever, and didn't have that awkward stance that Gretzky so often had. Maybe it's an aesthetics thing, but Gretzky just can't compare in my mind.

 

All of this shows why this list was so hard to create. There are so many aspects of the game that contribute to playmaking, whereas a great shot is good enough to make a scorers list. It also makes the discussion more interesting.

And positioning

 

In my eyes Orr was better defensively and physically, but Gretzky was the better stick handler, skater, and had better vision than Orr. And obviously Gretzky's numbers were astronomical.

I don't put a whole lot into the defenseman vs forward argument for a few reasons. Primarily Orr spent a lot of time leading the rush. And in fairness, how do you count secondary assists? Defenseman secondaries tend to be break out passes while a forward's tend to be offensive zone creativity... So how does anyone even begin to judge all that?

I have felt Bobby Orr was one of the game's greats but still not at the Gretzky/Lemieux tier all of my life. Those two were just magical players. But we all have opinions. Just thought Jager's comment was over the top.

Might as well add who was the better puck blocker while you're at it.....

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      The author of that nhl.com article could have at least had the class to title it "The top 10 playmakers of the last 30 years + Stan Mikita" instead of being "in NHL history".
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      What??????????????   I have only seen video of Orr. But Gretzky is not in the same universe when it comes to skating. In fact, watching Orr skate in those videos, I question whether anyone has ever equaled his skating. Pavel Bure maybe since. Not just speed, but agility and change direction on a dime while stickhandling at top speed. And are the videos playing tricks on me? or is he using a straight blade with no curve?
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      Nobody who actually saw both Orr and Gretzky play would dream of saying that Gretzky was a better skater than Orr. I could easily come up with a long list of players who were better skaters than Gretzky. There was nothing at all special about his skating. His hockey IQ, his hands, his vision and passing, even his shot- yes. His skating, no.
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      What does that have to do with being a playmaker? If he were a top playmaker, should he have not, ummm, lead the league in assists or somesuch a few times? Or scored over 70 assists when other top playmakers at the time were scoring 90?

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