Exhibit A as to how hockey doesn't matter on ESPN:
Last night an ESPN program was discussing how the Detroit Pistons needed a hero citing the heroes on the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and no mention of the Detroit Red Wings. All this despite the Red Wings probably being the most succesful team in Detroit right now.
Keenan sort of had his own way of picking teams. The 1991 team also left off a ton of talent that would have left us wringing our hands to this day had they lost. MacInnis, Stevens, Roy, Yzerman, Neely and others were cut in 1987. It worked though. Keenan knew the Russians were the key to victory and picked the guys who could play against them the best. MacInnis was a 2nd team all-star in 1987 though, so it was a gamble.
I think you're far better off to do what Yzerman did in 2010. There were players he picked that were just too good to leave off the roster even if they played other positions. That's why Staal, Richards, Getzlaf, Toews, etc. made the team despite being natural centers. Other than Stamkos and perhaps Mike Green there wasn't a fuss about omissions on that team.
I'd go Yzerman's route because the Keenan route is awfully ballsy
People should really watch Perreault in those games, he was fantastic and probably is a good example of why we watch hockey.
Perreault's game was built for international competition. He had the space and time to show off his skill, which he had in spades. His NHL career may have been underwhelming by his standards, but when it came to playing for Canada, he was as impressive as any of the teammates/competition that surrounded him.
As I think about it more starting to think '76 should have bigger edge. Bobby Orr and Hull was outstanding in that series as was Gretzky and Lemieux. Probably slight edge to '87 team on those two, but the defense and Scotty Bowman should give '76 team sizable advantage.
The 1987 team had the "it" factor with Gretzky & Lemieux. It doesn't matter how good the 76 team was. 66 & 99 playing together was like the ying and the yang coming together -- the alpha & the omega -- it transcended everything. The rest of the puzzle became perfect because of them.
I honestly think the 87 team is overrated due to the novelty of Gretzky and Lemieux playing together. The top unit was absolutely great, but beyond that it was a weak Canadian roster. 1976 was probably the most talented national team roster ever assembled. 1976 clearly had superior coaching as well. Even watching them, the 1976 team just looks better (although they very likely faced weaker teams). I would go with 1976 by a decent margin, and I doubt that I would rank 1987 second all time in terms of Canadian teams behind them.