With the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals currently underway, featuring an Original Six clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins I thought it a good time to look back at the top 10 players in the history of each of these storied franchises. Tomorrow will be the Bruins’ turn, but today I’ll focus on the Hawks. Here are my picks for the top 10 Chicago Blackhawks of all time:
10 – Jonathan Toews – Some will argue this baby-faced twenty-five year old needs to build his resume a bit more before showing up on this list. Well, when you look at his body of work to date it is hard to deny him a spot, and you have to think he is going to move up fast as the years pass. In 2010 he captained the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years, becoming the second youngest player in NHL history to captain his club to a cup win, and winning the Conn Smythe for good measure. Though not an offensive dynamo like teammate Patrick Kane, Toews certainly knows where the net is and he has amassed an impressive 372 points in just 408 career games, despite playing a defense-first style of hockey that was recognized this season when he was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy. This year, after leading the Hawks to the President’s Trophy in the regular season he has willed them into the Stanley Cup Finals once again, and has a good shot at hoisting his second Stanley Cup in four years.
9 – Jeremy Roenick – Though today he is remembered more for his outspoken personality during his playing days than his hockey ability, Jeremy Roenick was a superstar early on in his career while plying his trade for the Chicago Blackhawks. Roenick broke the 50 goal mark twice and the 100 point barrier three times during his tenure with the Hawks, and was one of the most dynamic players of that era. In 1992 he notched 22 points in just 18 games, helping the Hawks reach the Stanley Cup Finals before they finally bowed out to Mario Lemieux’s powerful Pittsburgh Penguins. Though he only spent seven seasons with the club, he still earned a deserving spot on the list of the best Blackhawks of all time.
8 – Chris Chelios – Another player that spent less than half his career with the Hawks, but will always be remembered first and foremost as a Blackhawk, Chris Chelios was a tough-as-nails blueliner with plenty of offensive ability to boot. Chelios won two of his three career Norris Trophies while playing for the Hawks, and, like Roenick, had a huge impact during the Hawks’ 1992 Stanley Cup Final run. Chelios racked up 487 points and almost 1,500 minutes in penalties during his nine year stint with the team.
7 – Steve Larmer – One of the most durable players ever to grace an NHL rink, Steve Larmer played 884 consecutive games for the Blackhawks, setting a record for the most consecutive games played for a single team, and trailing only Doug Jarvis for the NHL’s all-time iron man streak. However, Larmer’s ability to suit up through injury was just part of his legend with the Hawks. He was one of the game’s most consistent sniper during his time with the club, never scoring fewer than 28 goals in any of his 11 seasons as a Hawk. He scored 40+ goals on four separate occasions, including his rookie year, when his 43 goals and 90 points earned him the Calder Trophy.
6 – Denis Savard – One of the most exciting, creative players to ever play the game, Denis Savard was a steal for the Chicago Blackhawks when they were able to snag him with the third overall pick in the 1980 NHL Entry Drat, the teams before him having selected Doug Wickenheiser and Dave Babych. Savard had been a superstar in junior and made a seamless transition to the NHL, racking up 315 total points over his first three NHL seasons. He enjoyed five 100+ point seasons with the team, including a career-high 131 in 1987-88. He went on to play for both the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but ultimately finished up in Chicago, fittingly retiring as a Blackhawk.
5 – Tony Esposito – Though not as famous as his big brother Phil in NHL circles, in Chicago “Tony O” carved his own legend, setting NHL records along the way. In the 1969-70 season Esposito had a rookie campaign for the ages, posting a league record 15 shutouts, 38 wins and a minuscule 2.17 goals against average in just 63 games played, earning himself a shiny Calder Trophy in the process. Two seasons later he was arguably even better, setting another mark with a 1.77 GAA and adding nine more donuts in just 48 games. Though he never led his team to Stanley Cup victory he did earn three Vezina Trophies and was one of the most dominant goaltenders of the 1970s.
4 – Pierre Pilote – Those who claim that Chris Chelios is the greatest defenseman to every play for the Hawks are overlooking this man. This Hall of Famer was a rock on the back end during the Blackhawks’ glory days of the 1960s. He helped them win a Stanley Cup in 1961, and won a trio of Norris Trophies over the course of that decade. He scored nearly 500 points while playing for the Hawks, heady totals for a blueliner before Bobby Orr came along and redefined the position.
3 – Glenn Hall – As great as Tony Esposito was, it is the guy known as Mr. Goalie who gets my vote as the greatest Chicago Blackhawks goalie of all time. Though Hall started his career with the rival Detroit Red Wings he spent the bulk of his playing days with the Hawks. During that time he set an iron man record that will never be broken, appearing in 502 straight games, most with the Hawks. He was between the pipes when the Hawks won their cup in 1961, the last one they’d win for nearly five decades, and earned a pair of Vezina Trophies during his tenure there as well. He went on to finish his career with the Blues, nabbing himself another Vezina and a Conn Smythe Trophy there as well, but, like many others on this list who went on to play in other cities, Mr. Goalie will always be remembered as a Hawk.
2 – Stan Mikita – As you can see from the list above the Blackhawks have had many great stars grace their roster over the several decades they’ve been in existence. However, none have come close to amassing the point totals this man did. His 1,467 career points are the most in team history, and he led the entire NHL in scoring on four separate occasions. He was also a two time Hart Trophy winner, played in nine All-Star Games and was another member of that famous 1961 Stanley Cup winning squad that is considered by many to be the greatest Hawks team ever assembled.
1 – Bobby Hull – As great as Stan Mikita was, I have to give his teammate, legendary NHL superstar Bobby Hull, the nod as the best Chicago Blackhawks player of all time. Hull took a couple seasons to find his rhythm in the NHL, notching just 31 total goals over his first two seasons, but as time went by he blossomed into the NHL’s deadliest sniper. His combination of breathtaking speed and a blistering shot made him a nightmare for opposing defenders and goalies to stop. He was the first player to score more than 50 goals in a season (Maurice Richard and Bernie Geoffrion each had exactly 50) and hit the 50 goal mark in five separate seasons. In all, Hull had 608 goals for the team, won a pair of Hart Trophies and three Art Ross Trophies, and if he had not jumped ship for the rival WHA in the early 1970s you can bet those totals would be a lot higher.