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Thursday, December 23, 2004

And the winner is....

The Best Skater

To kick off my adventure into naming the best players to ever lace 'em up in the NHL, I'll start with the best skater. Just to preface my little quest to crown the winners in each category, I will admit that I have not had the opportunity to see many of the past greats play the game.

To clarify, anything pre-1980 is, shall we say, a little fuzzy. Most of my knowledge of Orr, Mikita and Esposito comes from literature, video tapes & re-runs, and timeless stories passed down from generations before me.

However, most of the notable players from 1980 until the present day are fairly clear in my memory bank. Nonetheless, because of my limited amount of pre-80's viewing experience, some of my opinions may be slightly biased.

That aside, let's get to it.

In my opinion, the best skater to ever grace the ice is none other than 14 time all-star, Paul Coffey.

That probably comes as little suprise to most of you. Coffey had it all. Speed, acceleration, stride, and agility. His career total of 1,531 points ranks second for defenseman, behind only Ray Bourque who had 1579. He glided with incredible ease and it felt almost like a guilty pleasure to watch him gracefully show his skill.

If you include the playoffs, Coffey scored more goals than any other defenseman to play the game - 455 of them, compared to 451 for Bourque - and there's no doubt his endless speed was a key factor in his ability to pot the number of goals that he did.

Coffey was not only the best skater in the game, he was one of the best defensemen ever. Twice Coffey scored more than 40 goals in a season - he had 48 in 1985/1986, along with a career high 138 points - and 5 times he eclipsed the 100 point mark.

My pick for runner up as the best skater, which is actually a tie, goes to these two players:

Scott Niedermayer and Bobby Orr. Some may think that my bias shines through here, and perhaps even more so because I hail from Kamloops and had the opportunity to see Niedermayer's entire junior career. However, I have seen Orr play many, many times - although admittedly not live - which I think is enough for me to formulate my opinion.

Top that off with one of Orr's biggest trumpet blowers, my father, enlightening me with endless ringing endorsements of one of the best players to ever play the game, and I'd say that I'm qualified to objectively consider the alternatives. That said, I still consider Niedermayer to be on the same level as Orr, and have aptly called it a draw for second spot.

Other notables in this category include Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Bure, Mike Gartner and Guy Lafleur.


  • At 6:50 AM, Blogger Jim in MI said…

    I'm certainly old enough to have seen all the players you mentioned, and I would include Sergei Federov as one of the most powerful skaters I've observed. Don't forget, Scotty even used him as a defenseman.

  • At 4:54 PM, Blogger Brett Mirtle said…

    True enough Jim. I admit that it was an oversight on my part - consider him added to the list next to Bure.


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