Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All-Short Team

With Theo Fleury back to his scoring/pest/short ways for the Calgary Flames, I got to wondering "Who are the best little men in the history of the game?" First, we'll qualify 'Little Man' and a player listed as 5'9" or less by HockeyReference.com. Second, we're not going to consider the pre-Original Six players, since humans in general were smaller back then. Let's say 1950 onward for our sample size. Third, we're not looking for a full team here...there are very few <5'9" defensemen to have played the game. And obviously Darren Pang is our goalie (sorry Chris Terreri fans!).

Line 1:
Marcel Dionne/Stan Mikita/Ted Lindsay

-This line has it all: speed, vision, grit, class and the ability to put the puck in the net. Three Hall of Famers in every sense. Three Art Ross winners here as well.

Line 2:
Henri Richard/Ivan Cournoyer/Bernie Geoffrion

-Well-rounded hockey played by this line. All three knew how to defend, pass and score. And Boom Boom invented the slap shot!

Line 3:
Joe Mullen/Pat Verbeek/Theo Fleury

-Joey from Hell's Kitchen, The Little Ball of Hate, and Toothless Theo. I dare any coach in the NHL today to produce a line that would beat the hell out of you, then score on you, as often as this one would. Also of note, Fleury is the shortest player (listed at 5'6") of all the forwards on this list. He was gone for so long, I'm not including him in the 'In Progress' section

Honorable Mention:
Rod Gilbert, Butch Goring, Dennis Maruk, Neil Broten, Cliff Ronning, Ray Ferraro

In Progress:
Martin St. Louis, Mike Cammalleri, Brian Gionta, Steve Sullivan

What jumped out at me while compiling this list is the number of amazingly gifted, Hall of Fame-caliber players under 5'9". There have been few players of their stature to have played the game but of those who made it, most have been exceptional. Dionna, Mikita, Lindsay, Geoffrion and St. Louis combined to win 9 scoring titles.

What also jumped at me was the number of French Canadian players on this list. Not coincidentally, there are also quite a few Montreal Canadians who have been successful despite their size. Perhaps this season is an homage to the past for the Canadiens, when smaller players dominated the game.

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