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Name game: Rating the top combos in NHL history

Tuesday, 09.25.2012 / 2:14 PM / NHL Insider

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Name game: Rating the top combos in NHL history
The thousands of players who've suited up for NHL games run the gamut of first names -- everything from Aaron to Zarley -- but what are the best combos when it comes to success? NHL.com takes a look.

The thousands of players who've suited up for NHL games run the gamut of first names -- everything from Aaron (Broten, among others) to Zarley (Zalapski -- the only player whose first and last names both begin with the letter "Z"). But if you want your son to have a career in the NHL, it might be best to name him Mike or Bob.

Michael and Robert (and their various derivatives) are by far the most plentiful on the NHL's all-time player list. There have been more than 200 NHL players named Mike/Michael/Michel (a recent count puts the number at 208), the most of any first name. Robert/Bob/Bobby is next at 194, with Dave/David/Davey a distant third at 135.

But which name would give you the best chance at winning the Stanley Cup? Compiling from a list of strictly non-active players, here's a look at some potential winning combinations:

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The Mikes -- Our coach, Mike Babcock (Mike Keenan has to settle for being an assistant) faces a dilemma when it comes to picking a first-line right wing: Does he go with 700-goal scorer Mike Gartner or 573-goal (in just 10 seasons) gunner Mike Bossy. Not a bad problem to have. Mike Modano would make a pretty nice No. 1 center, with Mike Bullard on the second line. Michel Goulet looks like a pretty good first-line left wing. My penalty-killing unit could include guys like Michael Peca and Mike Sillinger (and I'd win a lot of faceoffs, too). Mike Ricci adds offense, defense and plenty of feistiness.

My defense isn't as deep as the attack, but with players like Mike Ramsey on the blue line, my one-two goaltending duo of Mike Vernon and Mike Richter should get some assistance. Mike Liut can fill in if one of them gets hurt.

And should my broadcast team need some help, I'll move Mike Milbury from the ice to the broadcast booth to work with Mike Emrick.

The Roberts -- It will always be a great day for hockey for my coach, Bob Johnson, and if things get a little tough, he can turn to fellow Cup-winner Bob Hartley for some assistance behind the bench.

But with a top six like the one Team Robert can put on the ice, Badger Bob would have a lot to smile about.

My goalies, Bob Sauve and Bob Essensa, are solid NHL vets. Then again, they might not face a ton of shots -- not with a top defense pairing of Bobby Orr and Rob Blake. Think that duo might be good for a few points?

When Orr wasn't scoring goals, he could pad his assist total by feeding another Bobby -- Hull. The passing skills of my No. 1 center, Bob Clarke, might persuade me to move another 1,000-point man, Bobby Smith, to the wing. My checking unit, led by Bob Gainey, Bob Pulford and speedy penalty-killer Bob Bourne, would be pretty good too.

The Johns -- My coach, John "Jack" Adams was good enough to have an award named after him, so I don't think we'll have too many problems behind the bench. If he needs help, I'm sure John Tortorella would be more than willing. John Brophy can provide some color.

I have plenty of talent in goal, with Hall of Famer Johnny Bower, 300-game winner John Vanbiesbrouck and John Ross Roach as an emergency backup if either of them gets hurt. That's a good thing, because my defense might be a little thin -- although having three-time First-Team All-Star Jack Stewart is a good starting point.

My first two centers are virtual clones -- Jean Beliveau and Jean Ratelle give me skill down the middle and class all around. I'll have John Tonelli dig the puck out of the corner; he can get it to Johnny Bucyk, John LeClair and John MacLean. John Ferguson can score a few goals and keep opponents from taking liberties with my stars.

The Al/Alex/Alexanders -- My coach, Al Arbour, knows a thing or two (or four, actually) about winning Stanley Cups, so we're set behind the bench. I don't have the depth in goal that some of the other teams do, but having Alex Connell isn't a bad start, and Al Rollins is just fine as a backup.

My power play ought to score a few goals and scare a few goaltenders with Al MacInnis as my point man, and fellow Hall of Famer Allan Stanley makes a nice complement as a stay-at-home guy -- as would Arbour, if he decides he wants to be a player-coach.

My forward unit gets a lot of help from the arrival of Russian talent that began in the 1990s. Any team with guys like Alexander Mogilny and Alexei Yashin is going to score a few goals. Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio should find plenty of streaking wingers to feed, and I can use Alexei Zhamnov to add a little extra offense when it's needed.

The Bills/Williams -- Billy Reay coached Chicago for 14 seasons and won more than 500 games, though he never did bring home a Stanley Cup. Still, I'm more than happy to have him behind my Bills bench; Bill Stewart, who did lead the Hawks to a Cup (in 1938) can be his assistant.

I'm awash in goaltending talent -- Billy Smith and Bill Durnan are such a terrific one-two punch that two-time Cup-winner Bill Ranford figures to spend a lot of time in the press box.

My team is also in good shape on the blue line. Bill Quackenbush and Bill Gadsby are Hall of Famers, and players like Bill White and Willie Huber are more than adequate support.

Bill Mosienko won't score three goals in 21 seconds every night, as he did when he set the NHL record for the fastest hat trick, but he provides speed and skill in the middle to go along with Bill Cowley. They should get plenty of help on the wing from fellow Hall of Famers Bill Cook and Bill Barber.

The Dave/Davids -- David Gill led the original Ottawa Senators to a Stanley Cup in the 1920s, but Dave Tippett has been one of the NHL's best coaches during the past decade, so we'll give him the top job and relegate Gill and Dave King to assistants. Looks like a pretty good bench.

Tippett and Co. can call on Davey Kerr, who led the Rangers to the 1940 Stanley Cup, as their No. 1 goaltender. Dave Dryden may not have been as good as brother Ken, but he's a perfectly acceptable backup. Dave Babych and Dave Maloney will help on the blue line, where Dave Manson can provide some offense and lots of toughness.

Up front, I should get some power-play production with 600-goal scorer Dave Andreychuk making life miserable for goaltenders. Dave Taylor, a member of L.A.'s famed "Triple Crown Line," should fit in just fine. Dave Keon gives me one of the best two-way centers in any league and Dave Gagner provides depth.

The Steves -- You've heard of player-coaches -- but how about a player-GM? Not only would Steve Yzerman be the No. 1 center for my team, but judging by his success in building Canada's gold medal-winning team at the Olympics and his performance in two seasons with Tampa Bay, he can be the general manager as well (Steve Tambellini can fill in while Stevie Y is on the ice).

Yzerman may have to do some shopping for a coach -- Steve Sterling (Islanders) and Steve Kasper (Bruins) are the only coaches with that name ever to make the postseason. Steve Ludzik can serve as his assistant.

My goaltenders -- Steve Shields, Steve Baker, Steve Weeks -- are competent but don't have the star power of some of the other names. I'll get some offense on the blue line from Steve Duchesne, with assistance from guys like Stephane Robidas and Stephane Quintal (OK, so maybe I'm cheating a little).

I'm much stronger up front. Yzerman will unquestionably be my No. 1 center, and his passes should find a welcome target in fellow Hall of Famer Steve Shutt. Guys like Steve Larmer, Steve Thomas and Stephane Richer also know how to find the back of the net.

The Waynes -- They don't have the depth of some of the other teams, but any team with Wayne Gretzky can never be taken lightly. Gretzky can dish to guys like Wayne Babych while hoping that the defense can provide enough support for goalies Wayne Stephenson and Wayne Thomas.

Quote of the Day

It's really exciting. I'm pretty sure that when I play my first game I'm going to be emotional. To be back on the ice playing a game, being in game situations, with all the routines and rituals I do before games and during the game, I feel like I'm going to be emotional. I'm going to be really happy.

— Montreal Canadiens forward Tim Bozon on playing for the first time since his life-threaning illness