Since I recently put together a list of the top 10 greatest Philadelphia Flyers of all time, I thought it only fair that I give the same treatment for their opponents in this year’s Stanley Cup final.
One of the original six franchises, the Blackhawks have not enjoyed the success of Montreal, Toronto or Detroit when it comes to Stanley Cup championships, but they have seen some legendary players in their locker room over the years. The cream of the crop of this list of the top 10 Chicago Blackhawks of all time would merit serious consideration on the list of the top 10 NHL players of all time. They may have only tasted Stanley Cup glory 3 times since they arrived in the NHL in 1926, but these great players have given the fans something to cheer about during the lean years. Here are my picks for the top 10 greatest Chicago Blackhawks of all time:
10 - Jeremy Roenick
Love him or hate him, you can't claim that J.R. wasn't a spectacular player when he broke into the NHL with the Blackhawks in the 1988-89 season. He only played 20 games that first year, but made an immediate impact with 18 points. That was just the beginning for Roenick, who eclipsed the 100 point barrier 3 straight times in the early 1990s, and enjoyed back to back 50+ goal seasons over that span. Always controversial, always entertaining, J.R.'s accomplishments are good enough to eke on to this list as one of the best Blackhawks ever.
9 - Doug Wilson
Known for his howitzer-like slapshot, Doug Wilson was one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL during the 1980s. He quarterbacked the Chicago powerplay, and his 85 points in the 1981-82 season earned him the Norris trophy that year. He played 14 seasons for the Blackhawks, piling up 779 points during his time there, and it was a testament to his leadership that when the San Jose Sharks took him in the dispersal draft that preceded their entry into the NHL they named him their captain.
8 - Steve Larmer
This iron man right winger once played 884 consecutive NHL games, the most ever for a single team. He was a model of consistency for the Blackhawks, putting up 30 or more goals in all but 2 of his seasons (28, 29) with the club. 5 times he eclipsed the 40 goal mark, including his best season in 1990-91 where he had 44 goals and 101 points. Larmer dwelled in the shadow of star players like Denis Savard and Jeremy Roenick and never seemed to get the attention his accomplishments deserved, but with over 1,000 career points, most of them in a Blackhawks' uniform, it is easy to see how valuable he was to his club during his career.
7 - Chris Chelios
If this 3 time Norris trophy winner had spent more of his career with the Blackhawks there is no question he would be much higher up this list. Still, during his 9 seasons in Chicago this Illinois native made a huge impact, and was a fan favorite. He earned 2 of his Norris trophies as a member of the Blackhawks, and captained the team as well. He helped the Blackhawks make it to the 1992 Stanley Cup final, and earned 487 points during his time there.
6 - Pierre Pilote
Pierre Pilote is widely considered the best defenseman to ever play for the Blackhawks, and thus is an easy choice for a spot on this list. He won 3 Norris trophies during the 1960s as the NHL's best defenseman. He won a Stanley Cup with the team in 1961, and the following season was named the captain of the team. He racked up nearly 500 points during his NHL career, and in 1975 was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
5 - Denis Savard
In one of the greatest gaffs in NHL draft history the Montreal Canadiens passed over this francophone superstar in the 1980 NHL entry draft, allowing Chicago to snap him up with the number 3 pick that year. Nicknamed Savvy for his clever puck-handling skills, Savard immediately proved that the Canadiens had made a poor decision in passing him over. In the first 8 years of his career with the Blackhawks, Savard eclipsed 100 points on 5 separate occasions, including an incredible 131 point season in 1987-88. Most of his 1,338 career points came as a member of the club, and he is the third leading scorer in Chicago Blackhawks' history.
4 - Tony Esposito
You know the competition is tough when Hall of Famer Tony O can only crack the number 4 spot on the list of the greatest Blackhawks. Though he had played a few games with Montreal the previous season, his career really began with Chicago in the 1969-70 season. He won the Calder trophy that year as the NHL's best rookie, racking up an incredible 15 shutouts that season, a modern day NHL record that still stands today. He was one of the best goalies in the game during the 1970s, capturing the Vezina trophy on 3 separate occasions, and playing for Team Canada at the legendary 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets.
3 - Glenn Hall
Wow, back to back goalies on the list. The man they called Mr. Goalie tended the nets for the Blackhawks in the 1950s and 1960s, and much of his incredible 502 game playing streak was played in a Blackhawk uniform. He backstopped the Blackhawks to their last Stanley Cup in 1961, and won 3 Vezina trophies. He won a Calder trophy with the Red Wings, and a Conn Smythe with the St. Louis Blues, but Mr. Goalie's greatest years came as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
2 - Stan Mikita
Stan Mikita spent his entire NHL Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Blackhawks, and his 1,467 career points are the most in the history of the team. He was arguably the most dominant centerman in the 1960s, helping Chicago to a Stanley Cup in 1961, and leading the league in scoring on 4 separate occasions. He was also twice awarded the Hart trophy as league MVP and played in the All Star game 9 times. His current ranking of 12th all time in NHL scoring history show just what a deadly offensive threat this Slovakian great really was.
1 - Bobby Hull
At the number 1 spot of the top 10 best Blackhawks of all time is one of the truly legendary superstars of the game. Dubbed The Golden Jet for his incredible skating speed, Hull was an unstoppable force on the left wing for the Blackhawks. He and Stan Mikita were one of the greatest one-two punches in NHL history. Hull won the Art Ross as the league's leading scorer 3 different times, and won back to back Hart trophies in 1965 and 1966. He was known for curving his blade, and unleashing wicked slapshots that threatened to take goalies' heads off. 5 times in his career he eclipsed the 50 goal mark, and he finished his career with 610 overall, second most ever at the time of his retirement. It is staggering to think what his goal-scoring numbers would have been had he not defected to rival league WHA during the 1970s. He racked up an additional 303 goals in that league. One of the purest snipers the game has ever seen.
Younger fans of the team may be wondering why Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane aren’t on this list. While I have little doubt that they one day will bump a pair of players off this list, this young superstar duo aren’t there yet. If they can bring a Stanley Cup to the Hawks for the first time in almost 50 years it will go a long way to cementing their legacy.