"The 100 Greatest NHL Players" for all its pomp and circumstance is a marketing tool for the league. It's important to extract as much enjoyment as possible from this without getting too angry about the snubs that littered the list revealed in Los Angeles on Friday night.
Everyone on the "Blue Ribbon" panel who curated the list, however, should have to answer for the omission of Evgeni Malkin because there's no excuse for it on any level.
There were a handful of decisions that will leave you shaking your head, but Malkin—who coincidentally withdrew from the All-Star weekend Wednesday when it was announced he had a lower-body injury—failing to make the cut calls into question the legitimacy of the list, the panel and the league itself.
Why even bother if you're ignoring Malkin?
Let's consider all the subjective reasoning that could be used for placing someone on this "esteemed" yet arbitrary list, and how Malkin passes with flying colors in all of them.
Winning/Playoffs: Malkin has two Stanley Cups in 10 seasons. During those Cup runs, he had 20 goals and 54 points in 47 games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2009 with 36 points in 24 contests. He is 22nd all time in postseason points per game (1.04) and trails only Sidney Crosby (1.11) among active players. Malkin has been more productive in his playoff career than active list members Patrick Kane (0.984), Alex Ovechkin (0.976), Jaromir Jagr (0.966) and Jonathan Toews (0.871).
Regular season dominance: Malkin has two scoring titles, a Hart Trophy and a Calder Trophy. He finished second in Hart voting two other times and second in points one other time. Injuries are the only thing that have slowed him in his career but he has averaged more than a point per game in all but one season in an era when offense has become scarce. Malkin is 14th all time in points per game (1.18) and trails only Crosby (1.33) among active players. Malkin has been more productive in the regular season than list members Ovechkin (1.14), Jagr (1.13), Kane (1.00) and Toews (0.86).
Malkin's omission makes absolutely no sense. Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Marketability: If we agree this list is simply a tool to promote some of the best players in the NHL today, why would you sack Malkin and go with, say, Bob Gainey? Even if for some odd reason you think they are comparable players, why side with the 63-year-old left winger who had 239 goals in his career? Because he won four Cups with the Canadiens before 1980? Was he that good defensively? Really? Why not get one of the best, most talented players in the league today in front of NBC's cameras this weekend? Where's the logic from a pure marketing standpoint? Could it be because Gainey probably has a lot of friends on the "Blue Ribbon" panel that's loaded with people who work for the NHL but hate hockey today?
The "Blue Ribbon" panel must be comprised of old dudes that hate new hockey and still foam at the mouth at the thought of the Summit Series. Because there is no objective way any sane person could consider Toews a superior hockey player to Malkin. The only way Toews makes this list over Malkin is because Toews reminds the old-timey dudes of old-timey hockey played almost exclusively by Canadians, while league people remain under the impression that fans love the Blackhawks.
Toews having one more Stanley Cup and one more Selke Trophy does not overcome the fact that he produces points at a rate slightly better than that of Paul Reinhart and Brian Bellows. Toews has never cracked 70 points in his career.
Toews is a fantastic hockey player, but he's not Malkin.
With the felony out of the way, here are three other misdemeanors on the NHL's list.
The snub: Jarome Iginla, Right Wing
The credentials: This may be the snub that's more confusing than Malkin and shows the panel cares more about championships than the quality of player. It's not Iginla's fault he had the bad luck of being a Calgary Flame for most of his career. He led the league in goals twice and won an Art Ross once, although he lacks much in the way of Hart support, which is more a product of his team always being bad than anything
Iginla has 617 goals and 1,285 points for his career; that's 70 more goals than anyone else since he came into the league in 1996-97, and only Jagr and Joe Thornton (more on this to come!) have more points. Turn the clock back to 1993-94 and Iginla's 617 goals are second to only Jagr over that 23-year span.
But the Flames lost Game 7 to the Lightning in 2004, so Iginla is out. He had a postseason-best 13 goals that year but hey, not a winner, apparently.
Who should go: Patrick Kane, Right Wing
Why: It's too soon. Kane's Hart Trophy win last year is the only time he's been a Hart finalist. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2015 but otherwise his trophy case is barren. He's trending toward being a top 100 player but he's not there yet. But hey, three Cups, so he's a winner, apparently.
The snub: Henrik Lundqvist, Goaltender
The credentials: He has been a Vezina Trophy finalist five times and won it once. During his first 10 seasons, he never finished lower than sixth in Vezina voting and would probably have one or two more if not for sharing his career with Martin Brodeur. Since Lundqvist came into the league in 2005-06—the start of an entirely new era of hockey—he's first in save percentage, wins and shutouts in both the regular season and playoffs.
Fuhr over Lundqvist? Nope. Photo by Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Despite this decade of dominance—see if you pick up on a theme with these three snubs—Lundqvist has no Stanley Cups to his name. Between 2012 and 2015, when the Rangers' Cup window was open, Lundqvist posted save percentages of .931, .934, .927 and .928 in 76 games.
Who should go: Grant Fuhr, Goaltender
Why: The "Blue Ribbon" panel loves Cups, and Fuhr has four. He was the backstop of the Oilers dynasty. He was a Vezina finalist in four of his first six seasons and won it in 1988, but weirdly, once the dynastic Oilers were broken up, Fuhr was never again a finalist over the 12 years of his career. Between 1981-82 and 1999-2000—the duration of his career—Fuhr is 13th in save percentage.
During his peak years from 1981 to 1989, Fuhr was fourth in save percentage at .882; over the rest of his career, he was 27th in save percentage at .891.
The "Blue Ribbon" panel chose to reward a good goaltender on a great team instead of a great goaltender on a good team.
The snub: Joe Thornton, Center
The credentials: Thornton is the best playmaker in the current era. He is eight assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 assists. Since 2005-06, Thornton leads the league in assists and trails only Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin in points. Thornton has a scoring title and Hart Trophy to his credit and he finished top-six in Hart voting six times.
Not a winner! Photo by Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Hey, guess what! This guy doesn't have any Cups to his name, either! Thornton gets massacred for being bad in the playoffs, but he has 121 points in 156 career games. This guy turned Jonathan freaking Cheechoo into a Rocket Richard winner. But Thornton is the exact sort of player that a stuffy panel of old guys hates because he's a loser or something.
Who should go: Adam Oates, Center
Why: It's not that Oates doesn't have a case; it's that if he's on the list, it can't be at the expense of Thornton. Both Oates and Thornton are going to conclude their careers with nearly identical numbers in goals, assists and championships.
But while Thornton has been in the Hart conversation six times and won it once, Oates' best finish in Hart voting was fourth. Oates has zero individual trophies to his name. Thornton has done much of his work during a time when goals are as rare as water was in Mad Max's world while Oates got a lot of quality 1980s and early-1990s time.
Other odd omissions: Marian Hossa (if you're going to have a very good two-way winger, why not him over Bob Gainey?), Zdeno Chara (was Mike Gartner really better in his era than Chara in his?) and Pierre Pilote (an old-timey Black Hawk that was likely the casualty of not being an old-time Canadien).