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Greatest centers on one team ever

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Watching the Penguins tear the Sens apart yesterday the way a small boy may pick the wings off of a fly I was struck by the center play of the Penguins more than anything else. Crosby a goal and an assist. Malkin three helpers. Bonino chipped in two assists. Cullen a goal. And in the dot after early struggles overall the foursome won 23 of 33 faceoffs. They savaged Ottawa from the center position from start to finish and it got me thinking, were do these Penguins Centers rank all time?


  Clearly Crosby and Malkin will be enshrined in the hall as no doubt first ballot HOFers.It seldom occurs where a team has two players with parallel careers at the same position. Bonino is a brilliant 3C who can turn on the offense and Cullen is sneaky good on the fourth line and can bump up when needed as his offense is still a part of his game.


  To me, the greatest combo's of Centers all time would have to include:


JEAN BELIVEAU, JACQUES LEMAIRE HENRI RICHARD AND RALPH BACKSTROM. Beliveau and the pocket rocket shared the position along with Backstrom for nearly a decade in the sixties but them Lemaire joined the trio, giving three HOFers and Backstrom whose speed and quickness made him extraordinarily valuable as a secret weapon. This quartet from the late sixties into the seventies was elite.


STEVE YZERMAN, SERGEI FEDOROV, IGOR LARIONOV AND KRIS DRAPER Every one of these guys brought something special to the table for the Wings teams who won in 97-98 and 02. Larionov, 'the professor' was cerebral and among the games greatest passers, Draper was the games best 4th line center of his day and on the short list of all time, Fedorov provided offense and surprising power, Yzerman played a complete 200 foot game as well as anyone. three Hall of Fame centers under one roof.


WAYNE GRETZKY, MARK MESSIER CRAIG MACTAVISH AND MIKE KRUSHELKYSKI. The bottom two were usually pretty damn good, Craig Mactavish was a solid contributor, Mike Krushelnyski could certainly play and was underrated for his career, but lets face it Gretzky was the greatest player of all time and Messier may have been the best leader ever, Gretzky wound up first all time in scoring and Messier is third. Those two alone deserve this list.


MARIO LEMIEUX, BRIAN TROTTIER AND RON FRANCIS Lemieux is of course on the Mount Rushmore of Hockey greatness alongside Gretzky, Orr and Howe and was brilliant as the Pens won back to back cups in the early nineties, Trottier was clearly fading fast but as a 3C still brought something every night as he won his 5th and 6th career cups, the biggie of course was Francis who came over in a trade to transform the Pens and create nightly mismatches making them unstoppable.


Those are mine, I dont quite rank the Pens current grouping up there but they are IMHO close, another cup win for Crosby/Malkin and I believe they enter the conversation. Hard to argue against the Gretzky grouping but what all of these groupings have on common is multiple cup wins.

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Great topic yave. Pretty tough to top that Oiler depth at centre. The current Pens definitely have an advantage with 2 #1 centres.


I'm hoping a few years from now we're having the same conversation about the Flyers D.

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They weren't in their prime at this point, but how about the centers' names on this roster Primeau, Roenick, Zhamnov and Sharp. Not too shabby. These were the centers on the 2003-2004 Flyers, who lost in seven to the eventual Cup champs, Tampa Bay. They were all All-Stars at one point or another in their careers. Unfortunately, only Primeau and Roenick were playing at close to their best level at that point.

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Such a cool topic. 


@yave1964: You've thought to and beyond where my brain 

could go quickly or extendedly with this thread. I'd have to go 

a-peekin' and a-thinkin' before coming close to catching up. :)


Gretzky and Messier are the ones among the ones for me. 

The first who popped into my noggin. That kind of

extra insane offensive :sorcerer:ry comin at teams in an era with

so much firewagon hockey. 


Yeah, uh coach, who'd you say again was this team's first-line center?




And their second-line center? 




Any words of inspiration for us? 


One minute please . . . :beer: :beer: :beer:


In a couple healthy seasons for both Gretz and Moose, they 

combined for over 300 points! 


I can see why Mike Bossy called the Islander Cup victory over 

the Oilers the one that meant the most to him. 


It's amazed me for years that the Penguins have boasted 

both Malkin and Crosby on their team. Especially nowadays 

with salary restrictions making scouting, drafting, trading, 

and so forth even more important to get right. Is either one 

up for a new contract soon? 


Edited by thenewestlights

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Don't remember the years, but back inna day, Canadiens had Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, and Ralph Backstrom as their one, two and three centers.  Backstrom had the skating and offensive skills to have been a first line center for any other team, but he was the ultimate team player, and accepted his role for Montreal.  I know that times change, and players now are better than in the old days.  But, those three were  dominant, and are my favorites.

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Sorry, this is kind of a repeat of my friend Yave's post.  I'm tired from working in my garden, and full of Jameson's.

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    • 1
      Great topic yave. Pretty tough to top that Oiler depth at centre. The current Pens definitely have an advantage with 2 #1 centres.   I'm hoping a few years from now we're having the same conversation about the Flyers D.
    • 1
      We should do a series with "worst" centers squad to make the finals.
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