Joe Thornton and Evgeni Malkin really should have made the NHL’s Top 100

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The NHL unveiled the remainder of its top-100 players of all time on Friday night and as you might expect with a list like thi,s there is plenty of argument over who is — and is not — on it.

One of the more surprising developments was the fact that there were only six active players (Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Jaromir Jagr) to make the cut.

Three of them play for one team, the Chicago Blackhawks. And while that team has been great (three Stanley Cups in seven years) they are not the only team that has won multiple championships in this era.

The other surprising development: That a group of 58 people with an extensive knowledge of the NHL put their minds together and somehow came up with a list of 100 players in the history of the league that were/are better than Joe Thornton and Evgeni Malkin.

Mike Halford already put together a list of some of the notable omissions, but these two are the ones that really stand out from this era for me.

Let’s start with Thornton.

It probably shouldn’t be too much shock he did not make the cut in something like this because he has always been one of the most underappreciated players in the history of the league, and it always comes back to the rings argument and the fact he has never been on a team that was good enough to win a Stanley Cup. When his career is over we are going to look back at what he did and realize, “damn … that guy was pretty great and we probably should have talked about it more instead of looking at him as some kind of a choker.”

We are not trying to find the best players that played on the best teams here. We are trying to find the best players. When you look at Thornton’s career and what he has accomplished, it is one that is not only among the top-100, it is probably closer to the top half of that list.

He is an NHL MVP and scoring champion.

He is in the top-25 all-time in total points and assists. He is one of the NHL’s all-time greatest playmakers and will top the 1,000 assist mark for his career at some point in the second half of this season (keep in mind, only 85 players in the history of the league have topped 1,000 points).

Comparing players across generations is a tricky subject because the game changes so much. All you can really do is measure how players do against their peers, and when you look at Thornton’s career he has consistently been one of the top two-or-three most prolific scorers of his era. Break his career down into five-year segments and he is always among the top-five point producers in the league … and in many cases, first or second.

It is not like he has been some kind of a one-dimensional assist man that had no depth to his game, either. He has always been a dominant two-way player. Compare the individual performance to a player, like, say … Jonathan Toews (topped 70 points one time in his career, never finished higher than 12th in scoring, only twice finished in the top-20). As great as he is (and he is great) we’re talking about the top 100 players ever. One of only six active players. That is a high bar to reach.

The only thing that elevates a player like him over top of Thornton is the the championships, which, again, comes down to the team and not the individual player. Do we really think that if the Blackhawks  teams of 2010 or 2013 kept everything else the same and simply swapped Toews for Thornton that they wouldn’t have been just as dominant? That they wouldn’t have won a couple of Stanley Cups? They probably would have been better.

And that brings us to Malkin, whose omission is even more stunning because he not only has the individual performance that makes him worthy of a spot on the list, he also has the hardware — both team and individual — that seems to matter to the people that select these things.

Team success? Been a core player on two Stanley Cup winning teams (and another Stanley Cup Finalist)

Individual hardware? Two-time scoring champion. League MVP. Playoff MVP.

The only other players in the history of the league that can match that individual trophy collection are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Guy LaFleur, Bobby Orr and Sidney Crosby.

He also has a rookie of the year trophy in there as well.

He is one of the top-25 players in both regular season and postseason points per game. The only other active player in the top-25 of both? Crosby.

When looking at just his era his performance (as is Thornton’s) is right on par with Crosby and Ovechkin and every other all-time great in the history of the league.

Look, there are always going to be disagreements with these things.

They are subjective, and the whole purpose of them is to create a discussion. But they also carry weight when it comes to evaluating players. But it is also something that carries weight when analyzing players and their accomplishments. I can almost guarantee you at some point this season, probably in the playoffs, Jonathan Toews is going to be referred to as “one of the top-100 players of all time,” and how he was one of only six active players to make the cut. Even though there are probably a handful of players from his own era that did not make the list that have been better.

Specifically, Thornton and Malkin.

WATCH LIVE: Minnesota Wild at Detroit Red Wings

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The Minnesota Wild are looking to snap out of their recent slump that has seen them stumble down the stretch run of the regular season.

After getting embarrassed on home ice on Saturday afternoon against the Vancouver Canucks they are back in action on Sunday afternoon in Detroit against the Red Wings. It is their last ever visit to Joe Louis Arena before the building closes at the end of this season.

All of the action begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Follow all of the action there, or via our Live Stream.

Click here for the Live Stream

Preview: Wild look to bounce back from embarrassing loss

 

Crosby on criticism from Sens owner Melnyk: ‘He likes to hear himself talk, so let’s just leave it’

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One day after Ottawa Senators defenseman Marc Methot had the tip of his finger busted apart by a Sidney Crosby slash, team owner Eugene Melnyk made an appearance on Ottawa radio and sounded off on Crosby. Along with calling for a lengthy suspension for the Penguins’ captain, Melnyk referred to Crosby as a “whiner beyond belief.”

It was all part of a pretty eventful for week for Crosby that saw him not only extend his lead in the NHL goal scoring race, but also be involved in a couple of stick incidents (the slash on Methot, a spearing incident involving Ryan O'Reilly) that should have been penalized.

On Sunday, Crosby was finally asked about Melnyk’s criticism and he did not really seem to have much interest in addressing it.

“I’m just going to leave it,” Crosby said following the team’s morning skate. “He likes to hear himself talk, so let’s just leave it. It was four days ago.”

As bad as the result was (and it was terrible for Methot), the NHL was never going to suspend somebody for that type of slash.

The department of player safety has only suspended two players for slashing since it came into existence (it has also never suspended a player for spearing).

The bigger issue is that slashes like that are, unfortunately, accepted as part of the game and get overlooked so consistently during games.

NHL analyst Mike Johnson put together a pretty lengthy compilation over the weekend of Senators players (including Methot) being guilty of the same type of slashing incidents. They should be penalized, including this one. But the unfortunate result of this particular one was never going to escalate it to any sort of supplemental discipline. Keep in mind that earlier this season Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau had his hand broken in a game after he was on the receiving end of no fewer than 15 slashes from the Minnesota Wild, resulting in no discipline from the league (and only one penalty during the game).

This is not the first time Melnyk has gone off regarding an incident with the Penguins.

A few years back he launched a “forensic investigation” into determining whether or not Matt Cooke intentionally sliced Erik Karlsson‘s achilles tendon with his skate blade during the 2012-13 season. He continued to seek out ways to have Cooke punished for the incident following it.

It sure would be something if these two teams ended up meeting in the playoffs this season.

NHL on NBCSN: Penguins host Flyers as chase for top spot in Metropolitan continues

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The second game on the NBC networks on Sunday will feature Keystone state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers.

Puck drop is at 7 p.m. ET, and you can catch all of the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.

The Penguins, currently in a three-team race (along with the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets) for the Metropolitan Division crown, are still dealing with a mountain of injuries that has them playing without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Olli Maatta, and Ron Hainsey. Even with that injured list they are still finding a way to collect points in the standings and enter Sunday’s game with an 8-1-3 record over their past 12 games.

They enter the day three points back of the Capitals for the top spot in the division and the entire league.

They have dropped two consecutive games in a shootout and are looking to avoid what would be their first three-game losing streak since January (it is also their only three-game losing streak of the season).

Given that they have been without their second best player, pretty much an entire top-four on defense (including their No. 1 defenseman), and a couple of other key forwards this has been an incredible run over the past few weeks. It speaks not only to the depth of the organization, but also to the way the top players, specifically Sidney Crosby, have been able to carry the team through the injuries in recent weeks.

Crosby has eight goals and 12 points over the past eight games alone as he tries to secure his second goal scoring crown and keep pace with Connor McDavid in the Art Ross race.

On Sunday evening the Penguins will wrap up their season series with the Flyers and are looking to win it. The Penguins won the first two meetings of the season, including a 4-2 win in the Stadium Series at Heinz Field back in February. The Flyers however won the last meeting, shutting out the Penguins 4-0 in Philadelphia earlier this month.

While the Penguins are competing for the top spot in the NHL, the Flyers are simply looking to salvage something from a season that has turned into a pretty big disappointment after appearing to be trending in the right direction back in December when they put together a 10-game winning streak. Since that winning streak however the Flyers have gone just 15-22-5 and are going to miss the playoffs for the second time in three years and the third time in the past five.

The one bright spot for the Flyers this season has been the play of power forward Wayne Simmonds who is just one goal away from recording his second straight 30-goal season.

NHL on NBC: Wild look to bounce back after embarrassing loss

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With losses in 10 of their 13 games so far in the month of March the Minnesota Wild are fading during the stretch run of the 2016-17 season.

It is a slump that has almost certainly cost them the Central Division crown (something they seemed destined to win as recently as a month ago) and has caused some concern with the playoffs just around the corner.

Things seemed to only get worse on Saturday when they were embarrassed on home ice by the Vancouver Canucks, a defeat that prompted coach Bruce Boudreau to pretty much rip into his team’s effort.

The only good news is they do not have to wait long to get back on the ice and get rid of the sour taste that effort left.

They will be making their final trip to Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Detroit Red Wings. All of the action can be seen on NBC or via our Live Stream. Puck drop is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET.

While the Wild, a team that is headed to the playoffs and had been in contention for a division crown, is playing some of its worst hockey of the season right now, the Red Wings, a team going nowhere this season with nothing to play for, has put together a nice little run in recent weeks with a 3-1-1 record in its past five games, collecting seven out of a possible 10 points. Henrik Zetterberg, still the team’s best player even at age 36, has been playing especially well for the Red Wings over the last quarter of the season, collecting 30 points in his past 26 games. That includes five multi-point games in the month of March alone.

After Saturday’s loss to Vancouver the Wild now find themselves eight points back of the Blackhawks in the standings with eight games to play. This after the Wild held a five-point lead over the Blackhawks (with a game in hand) when the month of March began. That is a massive swing in the standings in a very short period of time, and will likely result in Boudreau failing to win a division title for just the second time in his career as an NHL coach.

Still, the Wild know they are going to the playoffs (they actually clinched a spot on Saturday, even with the loss to Vancouver) and they know they are now likely to be the second place team in the Central Division and get a first-round matchup with either the Nashville Predators or St. Louis Blues. Still, this is not the way they want to be heading into the playoffs.

They would probably like to start getting things back in the right direction on Sunday.