Here’s the best NHL team $18 can buy

I love Dream Teams, so when I saw Matt Henderson’s tweet asking to create one using the NHL legends below I immediately went to work.


(via mhenderson95)

It’s tempting to start any Dream Team with Wayne Gretzky, but with an $18 salary cap my choice at center starts with a blend of production and leadership: Mark Messier ($2).

The second all-time leading NHL scorer (1,887 points) spent 25 seasons in the NHL, six as a Stanley Cup champion – five with the Edmonton Oilers and one with the New York Rangers, where he guaranteed victory in a must-win Eastern Conference finals Game 6 at the Meadowlands against the New Jersey Devils. The Blueshirt captain would score a hat trick in that game and eventually end New York’s 54-year championship drought.

At left wing, “The Golden Jet,” Bobby Hull ($4) is the right choice.

Hull led the Chicago Black Hawks to his only NHL Stanley Cup title in 1961, but solidified himself in the Hockey Hall of Fame with 610 career goals and 1,170 points. Plus, his slap shot “created mayhem” in the NHL.

“It’s hard to put into words,” former Rangers goalie Ed Giacomin said of Hull’s slapper. “It would rise or dip. You’d pull up when you should really be ducking. It played games with your mind.”

On the right side, we again go for value with the Islanders’ great Mike Bossy ($2). During his career (19977 to 1987) no one in the NHL scored more goals than Bossy (573). Not Gretzky (543). Not Marcel Dionne (461). Nobody.

The Hall of Famer scorer was also a key part in creating the Islanders’ dynasty that won four straight Stanley Cups from 1979-80 to 1982-83, including the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs most valuable player in 1982.

On the blue line, you have to start with Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom ($5). During his 20 seasons in Hockeytown he set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team plus raised the Cup four times and was voted the league’s best defenseman seven times.

From 2007 to 2013, ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, when Lidstrom was on the ice 56 percent of shots went in Detroit’s favor, most among blueliners with at least 3,000 minutes over that span.

My other selection at defense is also in the Top 10 of this list: Boston’s Zedeno Chara ($1). No other player is a better value in terms of height (Chara is listed at 6-foot-nine-inches without skates) and he has some hardware of his own: Norris Trophy in 2008-09 and a Stanley Cup ring during the 2010-11 season.

The last selection is actually my first choice across the board: netminder Dominik Hasek ($4).

The one and only Dominator led the NHL in save percentage for six straight seasons (1993-94 through 1998-99) and peaked in 1997-98 when he went 33-23-13 with 13 shutouts and a .932 save percentage. And while some say Martin Brodeur is better because of the win totals, a closer look reveals the New Jersey netminder is not even close: from 1993-94 until 2001-02, Dominik Hasek faced 1,060 more shots than Martin Brodeur, and gave up 135 fewer goals.

Hasek was even more dominant in a team context. The 2002 Red Wings were great, but his Sabres teams were pretty average. Altogether, his teams won 343 out of 706 games from 1994-2002. The Devils were a consistently dominant team in front of Brodeur, with 380 wins in the same time period. They were not just better defensively but offensively as well, outscoring Hasek’s teams by 116 goals.

What about the playoffs? Well, Brodeur certainly had more playoff opportunities because of the strength of his teams, playing 114 playoff games to Hasek’s 90. His 67-47 record was also slightly better than the Dominator’s 52-37. However, Brodeur’s winning percentage of .588 was below New Jersey’s regular season average of .615, while Hasek’s playoff win mark of .584 was much better than his team’s seasonal rate of .559, indicating that the Dominator carried his team in the postseason.

As we discussed on my podcast Crashing the Net last night, Hasek is not only one of the greatest goaltender of all time, he should be regarded as one of the most valuable as well.

Disagree? Let me know how you spend your $18 in the comments below.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · May 29, 2014