With the recent retirement of Mike Modano
, the NHL lost its greatest American-born player. Having put up 1,374 points in 1,499 regular-season games and 146 points in 176 playoff games, it's hard to argue that the seven-time All-Star and 1999 Stanley Cup champion is anything less than the best.
Of course, that leads many to wonder who the best active American-born player now is. That's the obvious discussion to have after Modano hung up the skates, but the last thing I enjoy is things that are obvious. What I want to know -- and this relates in no way to anything you just read about Modano -- is who is the best American-born player currently on a Canadian franchise.
There aren't many from which to choose, but that doesn't mean there aren't talented Americans lurking in the Great White North, scraping mayonnaise off their sandwiches and trying to figure out why Pink Panther movies are constantly on the French-language channels.
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Here is one humble American's ranking of the six best U.S.-born players on Canadian franchises today:
6. Cory Schneider, G, Vancouver Canucks
-- The 25-year-old from Marblehead, Mass., made a name for himself last season, going 16-4-2 as the backup for Roberto Luongo
. His 2.23 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 25 games gave coach Alain Vigneault
enough faith to start him in Game 6 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks
with the Canucks' lead in the series slipping away. An injury forced him from the game, but his overall stellar play had many wondering if he should have been the Canucks' goaltender during the Stanley Cup Final with Luongo struggling. He's just a backup now, but there are plenty of teams who would covet this fine American.
5. Ryan Whitney, D, Edmonton Oilers
-- An ankle injury caused him to miss the final 47 games of the regular season, but the Boston native is one of the better offensive defenseman in the League when healthy. He's also prolific on Twitter (@ryanwhitney6), as his 50,000 followers show, and what's more American than believing all your thoughts are important enough to be shared with the world? At 28, Whitney's best years are ahead of him.
4. Phil Kessel, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs
-- The knock on the native of Madison, Wis., is that he's one-dimensional. But a one-dimensional player with 98 goals the past three seasons is a problem a lot of teams wish they had. The soft-spoken 23-year-old had his only significant taste of the playoffs in 2009, when he had 6 goals and 5 assists in 11 games with Boston. He had 32 goals and a personal-best 64 points last season. If he continues to improve, he could take a run at some Modano's scoring records.
3. Brian Gionta, RW, Montreal Canadiens
-- It takes a special player to wear the "C" for the Habs, but that's exactly what was bestowed upon the Rochester, N.Y., native last September. He won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils
in 2003 and hasn't scored fewer than 21 goals since 2004. His 48 goals in the first season after the work stoppage appear to be an aberration, but he's been as consistent as anyone in recent seasons and clearly has turned into a leader.
2. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets
-- There's not a lot the mountain of a man from Bloomington, Minn., can't do. Want to throw him on a No. 1 line with the likes of Jonathan Toews
and Patrick Kane
? Sure, he'll do that and help the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup. Prefer to have him patrol the blue line? He did that in fine fashion with the Atlanta Thrashers last season, reaching career-highs in goals (20) and assists (33). He had some off-ice problems this summer, but that doesn't take away from the talent he's shown all over the ice during his career.
1. Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks
-- After three straight seasons of at least 20 goals, the native of Livonia, Mich., broke out in a major way last season. He scored 41 goals and took home the Selke Trophy, wresting it away from three-time defending Selke winner Pavel Datsyuk
of the Detroit Red Wings
. Hobbled by a labrum tear in his hip during the Stanley Cup Final, Kesler showed his toughness in that seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins
. Kesler won't be ready for the start of this season due to surgery in August. It's tough to find a more complete American-born player.